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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hopstring Fest and a new song

The Righteous Hillbillies
By Ted Slowik

The weather was awesome Saturday for the second Hopstring Fest celebration of craft beer (hops) and Americana music (string) in Joliet. Chicago Street Pub owners Mike and Kathy Trizna deserve a lot of credit for putting on a great festival on so many levels.

First, the location is awesome. Downtown Joliet has had its struggles over the years and hey, it's no Naperville. But The Pub is a fantastic restaurant, craft beer house and venue for live local music. There are other restaurants and venues downtown now, like Mojoes, The Department and McBrody's. There's the Rialto Square Theatre, and the University of St. Francis has its arts program downtown now and Joliet Junior College is building a great new facility for culinary arts and other programs.

The Steepwater Band
Silver Cross Field, the city-owned ballpark that opened in 2002, is an absolutely perfect venue for Hopstring Fest. The two stages are set up on the concourse and in the picnic area beyond the outfield wall. There's no actual use of the field (for now), but there was plenty of space for people to sit in camp chairs they brought and watch the bands, and get great brews from the many vendors, and fantastic food. The tacos from Stefanich's are to die for! There are great views overlooking downtown Joliet and the castle-like Joliet Central High School. It's great that it's an all-ages festival, and kids 12 and under get in free!

Scott McNeil and Allison Flood
Hopstring Fest is a much more enjoyable experience in my opinion than Taste of Joliet, held out at the Park District's Joliet Memorial Stadium. I hope Triz and Kathy raise the bar again in 2014, because Hopstring Fest has tremendous potential to grow in popularity and become Joliet's premier summer festival for food and live music.

Tom & Becky
The entertainment was awesome. On the main stage I caught performances by The Steepwater Band, Righteous Hillbillies, John Condron and the Old Gang Orchestra, Chicago Farmer and Magic Box. They were all phenomenal, and the sound was outstanding. 

The family!
It was great seeing so many people! Way too many to name them all, but must acknowledge several. First, it was awesome that Jo, Hannah and Noah came to the fest. It's always great to spend quality fun time together as a family. Brother Mike made the trip down from Bolingbrook to hang. Nice of City Manager Tom Thanas to say hi--I think the most of Tom and all he's done for this town. Sorry he's leaving the job earlier than he'd like but hey, that's up to the voters here who elect the City Council. It was also good seeing friend and former council member Tim Brophy.

Chris Flood
Big thanks to Chris Flood, who managed entertainment on the acoustic side stage and added me to the lineup--the only write-in performer at Hopstring Fest 2013! Thanks Scott McNeil for an awesome job running sound, and Aly Flood for singing "Red Rover" with me. Had a wonderful time talking songwriting at length with the great Matt Biskie. Great seeing good friend Ron Kostka, and Tim Placher, Chuck Pelkie and Harold McCay, Jodi Wartenberg and her sister Jane and Jane's husband Jim, Pat Otto, Alex Hoffer, Tom & Becky, Charlie Champene, Don Nudi, Kevin Krauss, Kevin & Pete Hegarty, Joel Arhweiler, John Green, Chris Foray, glass artist Sue Regis, Eric Johnson and many, many others. Nice to meet Bill Startz.

Triz asked if I'd blog about Hopstring Fest for Joliet Patch, and I was happy to oblige. Thanks to Karen at Patch for the coverage and to everyone who shared the posts about the performers. I think it helped generate some buzz about the Fest and I know it helped get at least a few more people there. I think the publicity also earned me a spot in the lineup--like a guy who works hard in training camp and earns a spot on the roster. Sometimes good things happen to good people.

It was awesome to play in a great time slot for Jo and the kids and for many good friends and some new ones who said they liked the show. I played five songs, "Record Store," "Springfield," "Hinsdale," "Red Rover" and "Back To You."

"Back To You" is a new song. I've been toying with the basic chords for a couple months, ever since I learned Joni Mitchell's "Coyote" in open C tuning. I owe a great debt of inspiration for the music to the guitar playing and writing of Matt Biskie, and also the guitar stylings of Tristan Charles, who makes it look so easy. Also directly and personally to thank for this song are John Condron, who provided the inspiration for the opening line along with Aly Flood, and Alex Hoffer, whose diligence and hard work as a songwriter inspired me to finish it.

It's the first new song I've finished in five months, since "Red Rover." I think part of it was mental, that I wanted to get "Red Rover" recorded before moving on to something new. Next time I know to not book studio time four months in advance! I'm really happy with it though, on many levels. Since switching from bass to acoustic guitar two years ago, I've made it a point to explore playing and writing in different keys (with a capo), in different tunings, with slide and with other accompaniment (harmonica). These all help broaden my range as a writer and performer and keep the material from all sounding the same. It's all good.

So, I finished writing "Back To You" Friday night and recorded a video demo of it. On Saturday morning I also recorded the first audio demo for it, with a little upright bass and backing vocal accompaniment.