Frank's Weekend Faves, April 29, 2018

Frank's Weekend Faves, April 29, 2018

It's always cool to see a hometown artist make a local stop while touring and recording their way to the big time. Such a homecoming is in the works for this Friday when Tuscola High grad Christy Hays returns to her native county in mid-tour for her fifth studio album, "River Swimmer."

Hays will be making a tour stop at Loose Cobra, 113 E. Main St., Tolono, at 8 p.m. Friday, May 4, in support of "River Swimmer," released last Friday by Nine Mile Records. Although now based in Austin, Texas, Hays was born in Urbana and grew up in Tuscola, where she still has family, including her parents and a cousin. She says she lived there until she went to college — one year at Parkland College in Champaign before transferring to Southern Illinois University to study forestry in fall 2000.

But it was music where she has found her true calling, and it's no surprise as her musical roots run deep: "My dad was a guitar player in country and rock bands when I was growing up," she said via email. "I remember going to see him when the gigs weren't too late, and they rehearsed in our garage from time to time. I began writing songs when I was 14, but I was so shy and protective of them I didn't start performing until my mid-20s. I'd play at some friends' houses when we were in high school, but I never had a band or anything. I loved to see shows at The Canopy Club when I lived in central Illinois. I still have fond memories of great bands I saw there."

Her new album was recorded in Madison, Tenn., and features 10 tracks, all but one of them written by Hays herself. You can check out the wealth of work by this talented singer-songwriter on YouTube — or at the Loose Cobra in Tolono this Friday. I recommend both.

Like music from the silver screen? Me, too. But chances are you've never heard it played quite like this before.

Chicago-based bassist and bandleader Joe Policastro will bring his alternative jazz group, the Joe Policastro Trio, to the Iron Post at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 6. The trio, featuring guitarist Dave Miller and drummer Mikel Avery, recently released its third album, "Screen Sounds," featuring re-workings of music from films such as "Yojimbo," "The Godfather," "Cool Hand Luke," "Blade Runner" and "Midnight Cowboy," and TV shows such as "Taxi," "The Young and the Restless," "Twin Peaks" and "The Kids in the Hall."

The group has been heavily touring the new album (nearly 30 cities this past fall/winter alone) throughout the U.S. and Canada and has been featured at recent festivals and concert series including the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival, JazzBuffalo (Buffalo, N.Y.), CEFCU Center Stage (Peoria) and City of Asylum (Pittsburgh), among others.

If you're in a more fashionable, environmentally sustainable frame of mind, the 12th annual Arts299 Re-Fashioned fashion show this Saturday on the UI campus is just the ticket.

The show will be presented from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, in the lobby of Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, 611 Lorado Taft Drive on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. Free parking is available in the E2 lot in front of the building.

Students from Arts299 Fashion Design will be presenting their one-of-a-kind ensembles. Wearable works of art walk the runway, combining sustainability and creativity in a fun event for the whole family. Admission is free.

Want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this Saturday with a fresh start? Then you won't want to miss the dawning of a new era at The Vault Art Gallery in downtown Tuscola.

According to manager Kirby Pringle, the artists-owners of The Vault took over ownership in early April and are planning a grand re-opening from 2 to 5 p.m. on May 5 — hence the Cinco de Mayo theme, complete with a build-your-own taco table, sangria, soft drinks, beer and wine. The public will be able to meet many of the artists as well as to purchase ownership shares for the first time. Each share is $50 and comes with a card good for a 10 percent discount on artwork for sale in the gallery.

"We thought this would be a great way to reintroduce ourselves to the public. Many people support The Vault through their patronage, and this is a way to thank them for that. We receive a lot of positive public support, and so we want to offer shares as a way of lending financial support to the art gallery," Pringle said.

Rock University, which offers guitar, bass, drum, vocal and keyboard lessons upstairs at The Vault, is also having a grand opening with a bluegrass jam open to all local bluegrass musicians. Marty Gibson of Neoga is the owner and founder of Rock University, which began offering music lessons in The Vault's upstairs space a few months ago. His grand opening plans were foiled by bad weather in February, so he's anxious to introduce more area residents to his new space and the flexibility that it offers for those wanting to learn how to play an instrument.

Rachel Ray of Tuscola has also recently relocated her photography business to the southwest upstairs area at The Vault and will also be participating in the grand re-opening.

The Vault Art Gallery is located at 100 N. Main St., Tuscola. For more information, call 217-599-1215, email or go online to or

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