American Music Festival

The American Music Festival at FitzGerald’s is often the best fest going anywhere in the Chicago area over the Fourth of July week. Not as big as things such as Taste of Chicago, of course, but the musical selection tends to trump everything else. Don’t expect much that’s cutting-edge, but for a broad range of the music that makes up the American spectrum, it’s always enjoyable. I missed the first three days of the fest this year, but I got to the final night (July 3).

Jon Dee Graham was in an especially talkative mood during his set. That can be a bad thing with some musicians, but Graham was funny and wise with his stories, and his music sounded strong, too, with some searing guitar solos. Incidentally, near the end of the set, when he was taking requests, someone yelled out “Aqualung!” and he said it was a creative alternative to yelling “Free Bird!” How strange – for a while I had been promoting the very idea of substituting “Aqualung” as the song title to yell out when you want to make a stupid request at a concert. I’m thinking, however, that “Radar Love” may be the better choice. Depends on the band, I guess.

Out in the tent, Robbie Fulks was in full-on shtick mode. I missed the first half of his concert and enjoyed what I did see, and I do like his sense of humor, but sometimes he needs to rein it in a little bit. I caught a little bit of Jeff and Vida in the Sidebar, doing some pleasant folk/country songs, and then I saw Tributosaurus in the tent transforming itself into The Band. (It’s odd that I’ve seen Tributosaurus, a band that pays tribute to a different group each month, and two of the three shows were Band tributes. The other was The Replacements.) They did a good job of capturing the rollicking fun and the grandeur of those old Band tunes.

Ian McLagan and The Bump Band closed out the festival inside the club. For a guy who’s known almost strictly as a keyboard player, McLagan actually sings pretty darn well, in a hoarse voice reminiscent of his old Faces bandmates Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane. The old Faces tunes sounded great and McLagan’s solo music sounded pretty good, too. It was a nice way to cap off the night.

See my photos from the American Music Festival.

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