Frank's Weekend Faves, Aug. 12, 2018

Frank's Weekend Faves, Aug. 12, 2018

Just when the August lull starts giving me the idea that summer is packing its bags, along comes Taste of C-U — this Friday and Saturday in Champaign's West Side Park — to make everything all summer again. And this one carries a special musical sweetener — the return from "creative hibernation" of local indie pop/rock faves Elsinore.

Yup, in just their second performance since recording their new, as-yet-untitled, but "90% done" album, Ryan Groff and friends will be headlining the weekend musical bill, wrapping up the two-day festival with a 9:30 to 11 p.m. set on Saturday. And you can bet they'll be debuting songs from their new album.

Groff eked out a few minutes from his similarly busy domestic schedule to play catch-up:

I understand next Saturday's show will be the second for you guys since finishing your new album (the first being at Seven Saints a couple weeks ago), but you've been doing solo shows all over the C-U area almost nonstop for some time, right? Are you looking forward to a concert tour to promote the new album's release? And when will that be? What's next for you guys?

Well, the album is very, very close to being finished. We stopped touring on the release of our 2013 record, "PUSH/PULL," in April 2014, and that's when we dove into the collaborative songwriting hibernation that has filled the last four-plus years for us. We decided we were so happy with how that record had turned out and would continue playing in the Midwest, but we were also collectively so excited to work on the next round of songs that we wanted to dive headfirst into the creative process. And we decided we would try self-producing it and to let the whole process take as long as it needed as long as we were working consistently and felt great about our workflow. JamesTreichler, our drummer, and I have our own studios, ... (and) both work with a lot of other people in our own spaces, so we are always sharpening our skill sets and buying more instruments and recording gear, which of course has allowed us to keep everything in-house. Now, here we are having just hit the four-year mark, which included two of us having our second children, which has been part of the reason the writing, arranging, recording and mixing have taken as long as they have. Family and home life has to take priority sometimes even when you're passionately serious about your art. But with the addition of our new bass player, and with the new album being so close to finished, we decided we were ready to start playing shows to tighten up some of the musical details, and also because we love playing live so much. We have missed our fan base both here at home and out on the road, so the outdoor show two weeks ago and this big Taste headlining set were the right reason to flip back into live set mode. I've definitely tried to keep my performance chops up by playing as many solo shows as I can, but I've been missing the full band performance adrenaline. So, we're buckling down to finish the new record so we can finally start touring again.

How's it feel having the band back together on stage — and a new bassist as part of the mix? How's Adam Wayne working out so far?

Well, we've grown and transformed quite a bit since "PUSH/PULL" came out, and despite getting together pretty much weekly for the last four years, sometimes the writing process felt like we were wandering around in a dense forest just after sunset not always knowing where each other was. We were definitely lost in the creative hibernation at some points, but the record we're now on the verge of finishing is proof that every week we spent snapping pieces together, pulling them apart, then trying it a completely different way was worth it. And with our previous bass player, Brad Threlkeld, deciding he had to leave the band just this past November, we were able to add Adam Wayne, who actually is a longtime friend of me and Mark Woolwine, our keyboardist. We all went to music school together at Eastern Illinois University and have played shows together quite a bit over the past 12 years. He's a true gentleman and one monster bass player, so the rest of us feel very fortunate to have had him so close (Chicago) ... He has brought so much to the band creatively and personally. He's an amazing collaborator, an exciting and passionate performer and always has the right thing to say at the right moment. He's totally the wildcard we needed when we needed it.

I know you've played just about every venue hereabouts. Does that include Taste of C-U, or is this a first for you and Elsinore?

My amazing wife, Jody, actually worked for the park district as the special events coordinator a few years ago and booked an all original and mostly local stage separate from the main stage, and it went over really well. That was our first time playing Taste. Then two years ago, Zoe Stinson reached out and asked us to play on the main stage, which also went very well. We were very honored and excited when she emailed us about headlining this year. ... The band and I are very excited to get to debut a lot of the new songs and hopefully will have a few thousand people there to spend the evening with!

Rounding out Saturday night's lineup are King T'z from 5 to 6 p.m., Ausar from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Emily Blue from 8 to 9 p.m. Friday's performers will include Whiskey Racoons from 5 to 6 p.m., Champaign Freight from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., New Souls from 8 to 9 p.m. and C-U's favorite party pack, the Tons O' Fun Band from 9:30 to 11 p.m.

Of course, there's lots more to Taste of C-U than tasty tunes. There's FOOD, of course! Vendors from many of C-U's finest eateries will again be peddling their sumptuous wares in the park. Beer, beverages and activities are also available, but all require tickets, which are sold in sheets of 5 for $5 and can be purchased at the ticket tent in the center of the park. And you don't need tickets to enjoy the arts and crafts on display for sale, or for the music, as admission is free (though a $5 donation is suggested). The fest itself runs 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. For more info online, visit champaignparks.com/taste/.

Then again, how far off can autumn nights be when the Summer Singers of Monticello are presenting their finale concert next Sunday at the local United Methodist Church?

Considered one of the Piatt County seat's pride and joys, the Summer Singers, under the direction of Kathy Brown, will perform a finale program with a love theme at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, at the Monticello United Methodist Church, 2020 E. Washington St., Monticello.

Selections include "Cheek to Cheek" from the 1935 movie "Top Hat," "Slow Dancing for Two," "That's Amore" from the the 1953 comedy "The Caddy," "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," "When I Fall In Love" and a medley from the 1950s.

As is tradition, the performance will also include a tribute to the military. Admission is free. Refreshments follow.

Another harbinger of summer's end is the seasonal wind-down of the area theater scene. Pretty much everything on our theater calendar wraps up its run this week, including the Station Theatre's "Sweat" on Saturday and Monticello Theatre Association's "The Wizard of Oz" next Sunday (if you haven't caught either yet, you're not too late). Still, you have to look all the way to Sullivan and the Little Theatre on the Square for the last show opening of summer: "Noises Off!"

The Little Theatre On The Square is closing its 2018 summer season with "Noises Off!" — a slapstick comedy, once called "the funniest farce ever written," which premiered on Broadway in 1983 and features a manic menagerie of itinerant actors rehearsing a flop called "Nothing's On." Doors slamming, trousers falling, on and offstage intrigue, and flying sardines all figure in the plot of this classically comic play.

The cast includes Audrey Layne Crocker, Corey John Hafner, Luke Rose, McKinley Carter, Rachel Hafell, Shannon McEldowney, Patrick Clements, Tim Mason and Travis Smith. Direction will be by The Little Theatre's associate artistic director, Therese S. Kincade.

A complete schedule of show times and ticket prices can be found at thelittletheatre.org. Tickets, priced at $37.50 for adults; $35.40 for seniors (62 and older); $21.75 for students (under 22); and $34.88 for groups of 20 or more may be purchased by calling 217-728-7375 or ordered online at thelittletheatre.org.

Have a question, suggestion or fave nomination for Frank? We'd love to hear from you. Please email it to fpieper@news-gazette.com.

Topics (4):Food, Music, People, Theater
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