One good thing about the end of summer is that it coincides with festival season in these parts, and this weekend that means (pause here to salivate) the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. And, of course, where there are celebrations of good eating, tasty vittles for the ears are never far off. We're talking live music in downtown Urbana, and one of this year's headliners is the Energizer Bunny of local guitar legends — Lou DiBello just keeps going and going ... and before he gets going on the main stage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, we had a go with him for a quick game of catch-up:
It's good to see you headlining one of Champaign-Urbana's main events of the year, but this isn't the first time you've played the Sweetcorn Festival, right? Out of the thousands of local gigs you played in this area over the years, how many have involved sweet corn? Any special memories from sweetcorn festivals of years past — musical or otherwise?
I always really enjoy the chance to play the Sweetcorn Festival. I have played previously in 2003 and 2004 with ESP, 2011 with the instrumental Lou DiBello Band, 2017 with ESP and this year with the current Lou DiBello Band. So at least my fifth time; I think I played sometime in the '90s once, too, but not sure, lol! I am up to over 3,000 shows in my career at this point. 2011 was a really great crowd and performance, and in 2004, we played to a great crowd before Head East, who got rained out about a half-hour into their set. Always good to beat the rain!
You're playing with the Lou DiBello Band, a power trio with whom you've had some recent success on the heels of last year's CD, "Heat Wave." Is your playlist more evenly divided these days between original work from your three albums and covers of guitar-hero classics? What do you enjoy playing most — or more specifically, what's your favorite song to play in concert? And what will we be hearing from you Saturday night?
"Heat Wave" featured both instrumental and vocal tracks, with a fantastic German singer, Carsten Schulz. With the Lou DiBello Band, I am handling vocals, in the power-trio style, and we are playing instrumentals from that album, one or two cuts from earlier albums "The Axeman Cometh" and "Pile-Up," and some newer tunes that I am singing that will be on next year's release, "American Hard Rock". So, yes, live shows now feature a mix of my originals and classics by Hendrix, Clapton, Nugent, Montrose, and other iconic guitar players and groups. Really enjoy playing my original "Full Throttle," a new tune "Jack & Coke" is turning into a crowd favorite, and I also really enjoy doing our take on the Edgar Winter classic "Frankenstein".
What's ahead for you and the band? Another album any time soon? Any bigger and better venues in the near future? Any openings in your teaching schedule?
Lots of gigs on the books, also doing a solo act that features a lot of blues and original music, and the band bookings are filling in nicely as well. New album to be released next spring, "American Hard Rock," will be my fifth solo CD. I made some really significant gains last year with the "Heat Wave" record as far as national exposure goes, and I have some people helping with putting an East Coast trip together next spring, with some solo shows and also a band format with a group of East Coast musicians. Busier than I've ever been and loving it! And yes, still teaching. To date, I have given over 30,000 individual guitar lessons, so I encourage anyone serious about getting better to look me up!
Of course, the Lou DiBello Band is only one of many musical acts scheduled for the Sweetcorn Festival's two full nights of live entertainment. Friday's bill features We The Animals (with Kayla Brown on lead vocals) from 5 to 6 p.m.; Avon Dale from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.; Mojo: A Tribute to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from 8 to 10 p.m.; and '90s Daughter, A Tribute to Boston from 10:30 p.m. to midnight. On Saturday, bookending the Lou DiBello Band from 8 to 9:30 p.m. will be Ant Dogg from 7 to 8 p.m. and New Souls from 10:15 p.m. to midnight.
In conjunction with the main-stage acts, the festival also offers a full daytime musical lineup on its One Community Together stage, as well as nightly performances both days on the Folk and Roots Stage. For complete schedule, lineups and even a parking guide, visit the festival's website at urbanasweetcornfestival.com. And of course, the best part is that admittance to the festival is free, and that includes all the live entertainment. In fact, this year's Urbana Sweetcorn Festival is completely ticketless, so bring either cash and/or credit card if you expect to get either hungry or thirsty while you're there.
And you will. Besides the more than 20,000 ears of hot, buttered sweet corn consumed at the fest each year (locally grown and cooked via antique steam engine), more than 80 food and drink vendors will be on hand as well, plus informational and merchandise vendors to learn from and shop at, dozens of kids activities and a vintage car show. The festival itself runs 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday. Musically or literally, it's definitely an event you can sink your teeth into!
If your tastes are more of a global variety, how about some Czech folk music to season your late summer?
The VojoDeyl Trio (comprising Radim Vojtek, Martin Deyl and Karolina Magdelena Kupczyk) from the Czech Republic will be offering a sampling of folk music from their homeland at 1 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., U.
Admission is free for the youth musicians' performance, which comes after an appearance this weekend at Pilsen Fest in Chicago, followed by a week spent in Mahomet, hosted by Trudy and Gary Matthews, Debra and Dennis Kimme, and the Matt DiFanis family, all of whom visited the Czech Republic last year and heard Radim perform during a visit to Prague.
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