Frank's Weekend Faves, Sept. 23, 2018

Frank's Weekend Faves, Sept. 23, 2018

East Central Illinois suffers no shortage nor lack of diversity among its music festivals, and certainly one of the most eclectic to grace multiple days, disciplines and venues across Champaign-Urbana is the 14th annual Pygmalion Festival, running this Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 26-29.

This four-day event has way more going on in more places than we can possibly do justice to here — from music of every stripe imaginable to comedy to literature to technology — plus podcasts, food and a "Made Fest." Your best bet is to check out the schedule and array of venues and offerings available for yourself online at

But I can tell you the Pyg gets off to a great start Wednesday with such live performances as Elizabeth Acevedo from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St.; Janelle James and Kristen Toomey from 8:30 to 10 p.m. at The Iron Post, 120 S. Race St., U; and Nectar, 9:45 to 10:30 p.m., and Anna Burch, 11 p.m. to midnight, at Blackbird, 119 W. Main St., U.

However, my favorite opening-night show has to be Urbana’s own ragtime jug-band Bones Jugs, scheduled to open for Billy Strings at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, 202 S. Broadway Ave., U.

Described as a 21st-century throwback to 1920s ragtime with a new­-agey jug-band twist, Bones Jugs itself lays claim to the title of premier xylophone-driven roots Americana act in the country. With bones, jug, xylophone, kazoos, resonator guitar, six-string banjo, upright bass, trap kit, horns, washboard and a medley of knick-knacks and noise makers, this four-piece band incorporates influences from ragtime and dixieland to bluegrass, swing and country, and puts their own good-humored, good-timin’ stamp on it all.

I caught up with bassist Charlie Harris ahead of a pre-Pyg band rehearsal last weekend, and he sounded pretty pumped to be making a return showing at the Pygmalion. He and co-founding percussionist Cody “Jens Bones” Jensen have kept their local group busily writing, recording, touring and performing for the past five years — most recently through a lineup shuffle and the addition of two new band mates, Sam Payne on six-string banjo, banjolin and guitar and Steve Meadows on six-string banjo, guitar, kazoo and vocals.

Originally called Bones Jugs N Harmony, these days they’re just Bones Jugs (basically to avoid confusion with hip-hop group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony), and they’ve slowed down a bit from their former pace of “well over 100 shows a year for about four years” to about 50 to 75 shows a year currently. Since their last appearance at the Pygmalion in 2016, Bones Jugs has released a full-length album of original music, “Don’t Waste a Drop” that same year; released an instrumental xylophone EP, “Rag Day II,” last April, featuring original arrangements of five xylophone rags by George Hamilton Green; and there’s no end in sight, as, says Harris, “Cody and me are pretty much always writing.”

Harris admits their normal pace of work has been slowed somewhat as they’ve been working their new players into their unique musical mix, but he noted, “We’ve just started introducing new songs, and we’re hoping to have a couple ready for the (Pygmalion) show. I would say by the this time next year, we’ll have a new album out.”

As for this Wednesday’s Pyg gig?

“That show is gonna be amazing,” Harris raves. “Billy Strings is a heavy hitter in bluegrass ... It’s pretty awesome that they got him.”

The Art Film Foundation has named a new executive director, and the Art Theater will be celebrating her appointment at 7 p.m. Wednesday with a screening of her favorite film, Robert Townsend's 'Holiday Heart' (2000).

Porshé R. Garner, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois with a doctorate in education policy studies and a graduate minor in gender and women’s studies, has been appointed to the Art Film Foundation’s newly created position of executive director.

Having spent the past 10 years organizing with Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT), a collective that engages artistic mediums to celebrate and empower black girlhood, Garner will lead and oversee the foundation’s fundraising, organizational management and community relations in its mission of promoting culture and education through film and cinema. In July 2017, the Art Theater Co-Op merged with foundation and became its main program.

In a news release, Garner said, “Joining the Art Film Foundation is an extraordinary opportunity. I look forward to collaborating with the AFF and the Art Theater staff to build, learn and connect diverse communities at the intersections of film and culture.”

To celebrate its new executive director, the Art Theater will host a showing of Garner’s favorite film, director Robert Townsend’s “Holiday Heart” (2000), starring Ving Rhames and Alfre Woodard, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, followed by a question-and-answer segment. Those attending are asked to “Match Your Admission” by donating the amount of their ticket price or more to the foundation.

The Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with an exhibit looking back a half-century to '1968: A Time for Every Purpose.'

Wow, 1968! I remember it like it was — well, half a century ago: the first trip around the moon, the Beatles, peace and love on college campuses, racial unrest ... and the Museum of the Grand Prairie first opened its doors. The museum is remembering that time all year with its new exhibit, “1968: A Time for Every Purpose,” as well as a lecture series focusing on major events from 1968.

Speakers will include WCIA archivist Matt Metcalf, UI professor of media and cinema Jonathon Knipp and Illinois State University history professor Andrew Hartman. The lecture series opens next Sunday, Sept. 30, with “Vietnam Veterans Against the War: A Q&A Discussion,” at 2 p.m. at the Museum of the Grand Prairie, Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve.

Joe Miller and Paul Wisovaty of Vietnam Veterans Against the War Inc. will briefly describe their experiences related to the war, and then the floor will be opened up for a question-and-answer discussion with the audience.

Allerton Park & Retreat Center is hosting its annual Music Barn Festival this weekend, featuring UI talent in the restored Dutch hay barn at the Monticello park.

The four-day festival at the Allerton Music Barn, 588 Allerton Road, Monticello, kicks off with two performances of the original Broadway musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” presented by Lyric Theatre at Illinois, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

The music continues at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with a blues-infused performance by the University of Illinois Jazz Faculty and Jazz Concert Band: “Jazz in Blue.” At 10 a.m. the following morning, the University of Illinois Chamber Singers — accompanied by a small orchestra and conducted by Andrew Megill — will present “Sunday Morning with Bach.”

Limited tickets are available online and should be purchased in advance at or by calling 217-333-6280.

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