Shoe Fest Approaches!

Shoe Fest Approaches!

Well, I’ve returned safe and sound from LOCKN’ Festival, and reintegrated myself reasonably well back into my daily life. I’m trying not to get too complacent in my routine though, because in just two short days the venerable, the magnificent, the last dance of the summer, Shoe Fest, will be upon us, and Shoe Fest is anything but routine.

Like a familiar safe haven for those who have spent festival season traveling, waiting in long lines, and battling the omnipresent threat of unacceptable portable latrines, Shoe Fest is a welcome dance to turn summer over to fall. Anyone who has been before knows one of the best things about the festival is how clean it is: not a piece of trash on the grounds, clean toilets and (free!) public showers. It makes an incalculable difference to be able to be clean every day at an outdoor festival.

In addition to the cleanliness, Shoe Fest is a family-friendly affair, with patrons being highly conscious of their surroundings and making an effort to keep adult behavior away from the families with children so everyone can enjoy the quality tunes, take a dip in the river, or sample local cuisine and craft beer without fear of negative consequences. It really is just like a big family, as every year everyone seems to know each other a little bit better.

The music is also a big draw, as the focus is centered around funk, bluegrass, reggae, roots rock, folk, and jazz; for those looking for a festival without the requisite electronic music, this is the fest for you. Returning acts include Jaik Willis, Chicago Farmer, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, the Lowdown Brass Band, Miles Over Mountains, The Way Down Wanderers, Mr. Blotto, EGi, Henhouse Prowlers, among others, and of course, two nights of festival hosts Old Shoe.

Last year Old Shoe treated us to their rendition of Phish’s album Story of the Ghost in its entirety, and the year before they blew us all away with the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station, also played straight through, with guest fiddle and horns. There is rampant speculation about what they will do this year, be it another band’s album, new material, or something else entirely. One thing remains clear: Old Shoe is full of surprises. You can also bet on unplanned collaborations (such as Jaik Willis joining Chicago Farmer for a slowed-down acoustic version of the CCR hit “Fortunate Son” last year) and tasty jams throughout the weekend.

Shoe Fest 2016 also has a killer addition to the lineup in the legendary Jerry Douglas. Having performed on somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,600 albums and boasting a total of 14 Grammy awards to his name, the storied musician has played with too many artists to mention, but just a few of his sonic co-conspirators include Phish, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, and Paul Simon. He also appeared on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The Jerry Douglas Band promises to be a doozy, in addition to Keller Williams with More Than a Little. Those are some big names coming to the party, people. You won’t want to miss it.

There are simply too many good things to say about Shoe Fest in one article, and anyone who has read my column with any regularity knows how special this festival is to me. It’s really starting to catch on in the Midwest, with many concert goers reveling in the small size, the family-friendly atmosphere, the beautiful creek (we all know about the bridge lights and the rock messages), and the beauty of being able to see every single show if you desire (no overlapping sets!). Last year was one for the books, and those who were there will look forward to the repeat of the Shoe String Jam that closed out the weekend in the wee hours of Monday morning.

As I said, I just got back from LOCKN’ and my brain is still a bit all over the place from the drive, but I know just what will get me set right again. If you’re a fan of quality music, great food and beer, beautiful art by local craftspeople, live painting, fire spinning, and so much more, head on over to and pick up your tickets. You won’t be sorry.

For more information/tickets, head here:


Login or register to post comments