Blue Eyed Bettys: From Theater Stages to Bandstands

Venues & Businesses
Hangar 9

Who: Blue Eyed Bettys
What: indie-folk-pop
When: 2017-06-23
The Blue Eyed Bettys bring a blend of indie rock, folk, and bluegrass Friday, June 23 to the Hangar
Leah Williams
Video Comentary

The Blue Eyed Bettys bring a blend of indie rock, folk, and bluegrass Friday, June 23 to the Hangar 9 and Saturday, June 24 to John Brown’s on the Square in Marion.

Featuring Daniel Emond on banjo, Sarah Hund on fiddle, and Ben Mackel on guitar, the group of singers and storytellers from the Sunshine State sends waves through three-part harmonies in each tune.

For more information, check out <>.


Nightlife talked with Hund about going from performing on stage as thespians to rocking on stage as bandmates, not staying in the confines of music genres, and returning to Southern Illinois.

It’s fascinating that you all met while acting in a play. How long have you been playing together?

We’ve been playing and singing together for about three years. We met doing a new play called Poems, Prayers, and Promises at the Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, in 2014. It had a lot of songs by American songwriters of the sixties and seventies, like Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and the like.

Though we all lived in [New York City] at the time, we had never met each other. We all hit it off right away, and we started hanging out and playing music during our off-time. Before long, we were writing songs together and playing open-mic nights in Sarasota. We all had to get back to New York City after the production ended, so we decided to tour our way back, playing shows along the way. And now it seems we just can’t stop touring!

When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I think all three of us decided to pursue acting at first. But we’ve all been drawn to music throughout our lives. When I was ten years old, I asked my parents for a violin for Christmas. They were a bit surprised, as no one in my family was particularly musical at the time, but they decided to rent a violin for three months, wrap it up, and put it under the tree. I’m so glad they did! I’ve been playing ever since. And as an adult, I’ve found that there are a lot more acting jobs out there if you can play an instrument or two.

What are you guys working on now? Any recording projects? Plans for the summer?

We’re in the midst of recording a new original album. We’ve recorded five songs so far, and we’re hoping to lay down another six or seven over the summer. We’ll be back in Sarasota for five weeks this summer— the same theater where we met has hired us as part of their summer cabaret series. We’re hoping to have some time to write and record some new tunes while we’re there.

How would you describe your sound?

Gahhh— don’t put us into a box! Ha!

We describe ourselves as a harmony-driven string band. We’re sort of indie-folk-pop, I suppose. We are heavily influenced by bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, but, you know, we play banjo, fiddle, and guitar. And we sing a lot of three-part harmony.

What goes through your mind while you are performing?

Because we are all actors by profession, I suppose we think a lot about the words we are singing. And I love looking at the audience, too, to see how they’re taking it all in.

What would you like to accomplish with this band?

I’m very much looking forward to writing more together. I think the songs we write together are some of our best.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

We can’t wait to play Southern Illinois again! We had a blast the last time we played John Brown’s, and Hangar 9 looks like a very cool spot. I grew up in Saint Louis, so it always feels more like home when we play nearby. I love seeing those Cardinals hats!

who: Blue Eyed Bettys

what: indie-folk-pop

where: Hangar 9

when: Friday, June 23

Porch Fire: Burning Down the House

Venues & Businesses
Hangar 9

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Porch Fire, Cornmeal, Way Down Wanderers, and Old Shoe, at the Sam Adams Bluegrass Festival: Six Shows, Four Bands, Three Nights

Who: Porch Fire / Chromophonic
What: Americana, bluegrass / jam band
When: 2017-05-13
Carbondale’s own Porch Fire has developed into the region’s premier Americana-fusion ensemble. Lead
Thomas Henry Horan
Video Comentary

words by Thomas Henry Horan

pictures by Jonathan Walters

Carbondale’s own Porch Fire has developed into the region’s premier Americana-fusion ensemble. Lead singer Dakota Yeck-Petty (SIU 2016) is already an accomplished songwriter. Several members have considerable classical training, including keyboardist Levi Jones. Liz Hartman (bass violin) and Cecily Rhodes (violin/fiddle) play in the SIU orchestra. All of the members have studied jazz, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll, even show tunes— every form of American music. Their high-energy live performances feature flame-broiled licks, rollicking rhythms, witty lyrics, and red-hot extended jams.

Ahead of the band’s Saturday, May 13 show at the Hangar 9, Nightlife recently roasted a wienie with Porch Fire members Jones, Troy Hutchens (percussion), and Blake Bledsoe (guitar).

What’s the origin of the name Porch Fire?

Troy: It happened at Levi and Dakota’s house. Let’s just say, it was a fiery affair. And the porch paid the price.

How did you all get together?

Troy: I was already Cecily’s boyfriend at the time.

Levi: I was Dakota’s girlfriend at the time. We’re just friends now. But sometimes, I do get paid.

Blake: We all live in Carbondale, a big small town, full of music and musicians. So, each of us just hooked up with the first people who walked by. And here we are.

How and why did you get started playing music?

Blake: I don’t know. But I do remember hearing Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and I’d never heard anything like it. So, I locked myself in my room and started playing guitar. All the time.

Levi: If a guitar had wheels, Blake would be [BMX champion] Matt Hoffman.

Troy: I started playing in fifth grade. I wanted to play clarinet, but my cousin gave me a free snare drum, so my mom made me play drums. If I had learned to play the clarinet, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here today. But I like playing drums. To me, it says rock ‘n’ roll.

Levi: I started playing keyboards and percussion in middle school. Then I was in some bands in high school. After graduation, I studied music and composition at Southern Illinois University.

Are you graduating soon?

Levi: Uh, I’m hoping. I’ve played in metal bands, stoner-rock bands. I used to play tablas with a friend in high school. We played Indian classical music.

Now, you’re playing Americana fusion. What is Americana fusion, exactly?

Blake: It’s not really bluegrass. It’s not really folk or rock. Whatever the heck Americana is, we build on that. Then, we encounter some other American music, like blues or jazz or metal, and we try to incorporate that.

Troy: We do it 99.9 percent wrong, but then again, that’s what makes it Porch Fire.

Levi: I’d say Porch Fire is like a six-pack of [Pabst Blue Ribbon]— definitely refreshing, and inflation- and recession-proof.

Troy: We certainly haven’t seen any inflation. But plenty of tin cans.

You’ve sort of inherited the Woodbox Gang mantel.

Troy: One of our favorite bands! We have covered some Woodbox Gang tunes. We played a show with them once.

You mostly play original songs.

Blake: We’re always throwing in a cover or two, but we wanted to fit the show. When we play a cover, it’s a song where we feel, “This is the important musical idea here,” and we take that and build it out.

You’ve had a lot of success representing the region at music festivals and out-of-state gigs.

Troy: We call it home— Carbondale in Southern Illinois. Blake and I are from the area. As a band, we have a distinct Southern Illinois sound. We get so much of that energy from the Southern Illinois crowds. Sometimes they seem to have a better idea than we do what we’re going to do next.

Troy: We’re regional right now, but we’re reaching out into Indiana, Kentucky, all over the Midwest. We’ve been playing a lot of festivals. We get a great response each time.

Blake: Our goal is this: Every time we play somewhere, people say, “They’re even better than the last time.”

You’ve been recording and releasing your own tracks, one at a time, without a label.

Troy: We’re working on a full-length album. But the industry today is, recordings promote the tour, instead of the way it used to be, and so, we don’t want to just put out an album every couple of years and let it get stale. Instead, we’re steadily releasing one new track on a regular basis.

Levi: I call it the Chief Keef business model. We release a continuous stream of content.

What does the future hold for Porch Fire?

Blake: We have big plans for [a] Halloween show.


Blake: I don’t know.


Blake: I don’t know. But we have big plans. The Porch Fire Halloween Extravaganza.

Troy: We have an awesome show coming up [Saturday, May 13] at Hangar 9. We’ll be playing with Chromophonic. These are two bands everyone in the area will definitely want to come out and groove to.

Any plans for a Porch Fire holographic show when you’re gone?

Levi: Oh, no! We’ll be a gameshow called Mama Chad. I will be hosted by Chad— the lighting wizard at Hangar 9— dressed as a character from Mama’s Family, but a gameshow. The contestants will have to guess what’s for dinner. First prize will be hanging out in the kitchen, cooking with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Troy: What was the question?

who: Porch Fire / Chromophonic

what: Americana, bluegrass / jam band

where: Hangar 9


when: Saturday, May 13

Varsity Center • Carbondale: Eclipse Festival w/ Bankesters (inspirational bluegrass) / Chicago Improv Olympics featuring Elaine Phillips / Tom Garland / Brian McDowell (live comedy)

Bankesters - Sure as the Sun - The Bankesters

Sure as the Sun

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Bankesters - Looking Forward to Looking Back - Looking Forward

Looking Forward to Looking Back

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Bankesters - My Love Will Follow You - The Bankesters

My Love Will Follow You

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Bankesters - When You Put Your Hand in Mine - The Bankesters

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Common Pleas Courthouse Gazebo • Cape Girardeau: Old Town Cape Tunes at Twilight series presents Rural Kings (bluegrass, Americana)

Rural Kings - Dandelions - Dandelions


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Rural Kings - I Don't Hear The Whipporwill - Dandelions

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Henhouse Prowlers Bring Their World-famous Shindig to Carbondale

Friday, February 3, one of America’s official bluegrass ambassadors to the world, the Henhouse Prowl
Thomas Henry Horan
Video Comentary

Friday, February 3, one of America’s official bluegrass ambassadors to the world, the Henhouse Prowlers, will make America great again at the Hangar 9.

Formed in Chicago by Ben Wright (banjo, vocals), Jon Goldfine (bass, vocals), Aaron Dorfman (guitar, vocals), and Kyle O’Brien (fiddle, mandolin), the Henhouse Prowlers soon won the Cold War by sharing their infectious brand of bluegrass with people all over the world as part of the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad program.

Each member of the band also instructs young musicians at Chicago-area schools, and together they have created a bluegrass music and history curriculum for elementary and middle-school students, which they enjoy sharing with schools who ask. And of course, the Henhouse Prowlers routinely raise every roof with one of the finest bluegrass music shows anyone has ever bucked and flatfooted to. Find out more at <>.

Nightlife recently cut the following verbal still with founding member Ben Wright:

Have you played in Southern Illinois before?

Oh, sure. We love playing gigs in and around Carbondale. Our first gig there was at Booby’s on the Strip. Hangar 9. Tres Hombres. We’ve made a lot of friends there, and often end up back at our hotel picking and singing with them all night.

You’re all from Chicago?

Actually, I’m from upstate New York, near Syracuse. Our fiddler, Kyle O’Brien, is from Colorado.

Do you come from a musical family?

My mom played the flute, but I never played music at all until I was twenty-three. After I moved to Chicago, I bought a banjo on a whim from the Old Town School of Folk Music. It was love at first pluck, and I very quickly became obsessed with learning to play. I made friends with Jon Goldfine— he’s from a musical family— and then we found some other guys who were into playing serious bluegrass as much as we were.

How did you get in with the State Department? Or is that top secret?

Ha! Not at all. Back during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was busy sending out all sorts of “cultural ambassadors”— musicians, dancers, that sort of thing, publicity tours to make Communism more popular in other countries. So our own State Department came up with the Jazz Ambassadors to compete with the Russians. We applied, and they let us join the expanded American Music Abroad program, and they sent us to some foreign countries to share American bluegrass music. After we got known for that, we were sent to more countries. We’ve been to quite a few countries in Africa, Europe, even Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan? How’s the Mexican food?

Uh, I couldn’t say. But we did learn one song in the Kyrgyz language, and jammed with some guys playing the komuz. It’s a fretless, three-stringed kind of lute. We have an entire album recorded live in Kyrgyzstan.

You’ve performed in several languages.

A lot of the countries we visit have no idea what American bluegrass sounds like. If we start off a show with a song they’ve heard before, in their language, they just lose their minds. It’s a great icebreaker. And then the bluegrass goes over very well.

We’ve played in Russia, Saudi Arabia, so many awesome places. It’s an honor to represent American musical culture. But you also have an audience who has no idea what to expect from you.

Have you been influenced by the local music you’ve picked up?

Absolutely. You can hear it in our songwriting. One of our latest tracks is “Chop My Money.” You can hear Nigerian music in that one. In fact, we were playing a show there, and P-Square heard about it. They’re the biggest rap duo in Africa. Well, Peter Okoye [of P-Square] came to the show and got onstage and performed with us. We were like his backup band. The crowd went insane. We went a little insane.

Who does most of the writing?

We all write songs. With four songwriters, we come up with a good variety of songs. For example, we’re in the process of starting a new album now. What we’ll do is, we’ll bring in twenty-five or thirty songs and play them a few times. Eventually, we’ll pick the twelve or so best songs, and those will be the album.

Still no label?

We love our independence. What could be more American than that?

Not a thing. One last question—if you could perform with any Deleb hologram, who would it be?

I’m glad you asked. For next New Year’s Eve, I’d love to countdown to midnight by performing “Major Tom” with David Bowie.

who: Henhouse Prowlers

what: bluegrass

where: Hangar 9


when: Friday, February 3

Kelly Sims, Mila Maring and Friends: Celebrating A Musical Legacy

Rural Kings

Rural Kings

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Old Feed Store, The

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Rural Kings CD Release Party: A Reunion of Family and Friends

Who: Kelly Sims, Mila Maring and Friends
What: Level Best (bluegrass CD release party)
When: 2016-12-09
Pictured: The Rural Kings featuring Mila Maring-Sims and (far right) Kelly Sims.
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

Southern Illinois acoustic-music icons Kelly and Mila Maring-Sims, along with a host of fellow musical friends and performers, will present their latest CD, Level Best, Friday, December 9 at the Old Feed Store.

Kelly and Mila Maring-Sims have written and performed around Southern Illinois for more than two decades. Now, with the release of their latest CD, Level Best, the notion of music having healing power takes on a whole new meaning as the two attempt to channel it into the fight of a lifetime. Sims, like more than forty-four million people around the world, is currently waging a valiant fight against the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

As the illness progresses, the healing power of music has been central to the battle that he and his wife put up on a daily basis. Level Best, with its seventeen joy-filled tracks, is a celebration of the music that continues to bring healing into Sims’s life, beginning with its leadoff song, “Still Standing.” Cowritten by Sims and Scottie Palmer and recorded live with an iPhone around the couple’s kitchen table, the song celebrates the strength and endurance of the human spirit.

The album’s remaining tracks follow suit, with sweet harmonies, haunting melodies, and soulful musicianship. From Maring-Sims’s aching lyrical tribute to estate sales, “A Dollar for Your Memories,” to Sims’s heart-wrenching vocals and stirring guitar licks on Doug Anderson’s “Last Ride,” the collection of music runs the entire gamut of human emotion, and leaves nothing unsaid.

“We feel like, with this album, we’re inviting folks to sit down and hear what we’ve been doing for years, which is making music around our kitchen table,” Maring-Sims tells Nightlife. “We’ve talked about doing something like this for many years, but time got away and circumstances became complicated. A friend of ours, Doug Anderson, who used to play with Ol’ Moose and Bone Dry River Band, told us that he was going to be taking a new job in Texas. He told us, ‘I’d like to help you record this. How about if I take care of all the studio work on this, and we make this project with half my tunes and half yours?’ So we mapped out five or six of our songs and five or six of his songs, but we only got through two of his songs before he moved away. It forced me to take a couple of more originals of mine, so between July and two weeks ago we recorded pretty much all of it.”

Level Best’s release is bittersweet for the duo, as, at present, no further performances are planned beyond Friday night’s concert. The unpredictability of Sims’s symptoms has made planning live performances difficult. Maring-Sims tells Nightlife that Doug Anderson wrote “Last Ride,” one of the album’s most touching songs, with this in mind.

Unlike most Alzheimer’s sufferers, Sims has no hereditary history of the disease, which struck when he was just fifty-three years old. (He’s now fifty-eight.) The diagnosis was a shock to both doctors and family, but Maring-Sims hopes that sharing their story will educate people, especially those in rural areas who could fall victim to similar circumstances. Sims probably got Alzheimer’s from complications that arose from a tick-borne illness, Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Sims, however, like a handful of people who contract Rocky Mountain spotted fever, didn’t develop the rash that is one of the disease’s hallmark symptoms.

“When he finally did get antibiotic treatment and all the bacteria was killed out, he had some lasting damage to the blood vessels supplying his brain,” Maring-Sims says. “The neurologist described it as a brain injury resulting from this tick disease. We followed up and went to Mayo Clinic, and they diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s. They said he had developed the classic Alzheimer’s plaques as a result of the Rocky Mountain spotted fever.”

“I say this is a public service,” Maring-Sims adds. “Who in Southern Illinois does not get tick bites? Everyone here gets tick bites, and it’s important to be very mindful of what follows a tick bite. If you have any inkling at all that you aren’t feeling well, if you have any flu-like symptoms, you should really follow up on it. It’s important to get treatment for these tick-borne illnesses. All it takes is a very simple antibiotic. If we had gotten that kind of treatment early on, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today. We want people to know that these tick borne diseases can lead to very dire circumstances and that they should be very mindful of that.”

What has not been lost to Alzheimer’s is the way that Sims’s fingers fly up and down the strings of a guitar.

“Fortunately, with regard to music, Kelly is just so intuitive, and he just feels it,” Maring-Sims days. “That’s all on autopilot for him. It’s ingrained in his soul. We play music every day. He still plays the most amazing licks you’ve ever heard. But we can’t always pick and choose how energetic he’ll be on a given a day. We spend a lot of time tending to our pets now. Music is a key. Music and our pets are very therapeutic for us now. And we are very hopeful. Usually early onset Alzheimer’s progresses very rapidly, and we’ve done really well for five years. There have been gradual and subtle changes. They are marked changes, but we just adapt our day to day lives.”

The Simses’ demonstrate their passion for animals and animal rescue through their not-for-profit organization, the Angelina Foundation, which will benefit from a silent auction held at the concert. In addition, the couple will donate $5 of each $20 ticket to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.

“They are very, very efficient and dedicating in directing all of their donated funds toward their mission,” Maring-Sims says. “Their mission is to directly fund cutting-edge research that will ultimately lead to a cure. We really wanted the funds to go toward research, and we are going to have a PayPal link from our song ‘Level Best’ linked to their organization specifically.”

Doug Anderson, Josh Morrison, Mark Stoffel, Nate Graham, Robert Bowlin, Jenny Johnson, Geoff Maring, and Lew Hendrix will join the Simses at the Old Feed Store.

“We are so blessed in so many ways and on so many levels,” Maring-Sims says. “With regard to this project, the musicians have been so gracious in lending their talents and their time. It really is a who’s who of folks that donated to this project. This is definitely a celebration. That’s the spirit with which we embarked upon the project. We’re celebrating all of these folks that have been part of our journey and all of the music that we’ve made around our kitchen table. This may very well be our last project. We don’t have anything else waiting in the wings, so we want this to be a celebration.”

Search Facebook for more about the Angelina Foundation. For more about the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, go to <>.

who: Kelly Sims, Mila Maring and Friends

what: Level Best (bluegrass CD release party)

where: Old Feed Store


when: Friday, December 9

Bankesters: Family, Faith, Fans, and Fun


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Old Feed Store, The

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Bankesters: Looking Forward
Bankesters: Southern Illinois's First Family of Bluegrass Returns With a New CD

Who: Bankesters
What: CD release party (bluegrass)
When: 2016-10-22
The Bankesters will celebrate the release of their new bluegrass collection, Nightbird, with a CD re
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

The Bankesters will celebrate the release of their new bluegrass collection, Nightbird, with a CD release party Saturday, October 22 at the Old Feed Store.

Since 2004, Phil Bankester, his wife Dorene, and daughters Melissa Bankester Triplett, Emily Bankester Pitney (the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2012 Momentum Award vocalist of the year), and Alysha Bankester (the 2015 Momentum Award nominee), along with Melissa’s husband Kyle, have mesmerized Southern Illinois audiences with master musicianship, heartfelt songwriting, and sweet family harmonies. Since the release of their first collection of music more than ten years ago, much has happened, including two marriages and the birth of a new generation of singing Bankesters. And while mom Dorene retired from live performing in favor of playing off-stage grandma, Phil, his daughters, and son-in-law are keeping the music and family legacy very much alive.

While previous Bankester recordings have given fans a taste of the group’s love of roots and Americana, Nightbird returns the family band to its bluegrass roots.

“On Nightbird, people are going to hear a little bit more of a traditional bluegrass sound than on our past couple of albums,” Melissa tells Nightlife. “We really wanted to try to stick pretty close to bluegrass on this one. Our last album, Love Has Wheels, kind of ventured a little more into Americana, and we wanted to try to get back into bluegrass roots a little more with this record. Hopefully, that will come across. We’ve got a couple of band originals on this album that I wrote with Rick Lang, who is a great, great songwriter. It was wonderful getting to work with him. One of the songs is called ‘Wild Bill and Vivian,’ and it’s about my grandparents. My grandma died many, many years ago, and my grandfather passed away last February. When he passed away, I was just moved to write a song about them and their story and their life and how they impacted me. I’m really excited about that song— it’s very meaningful to our family.”

Family is a word one hears a lot when speaking to the Bankesters. They are a cohesive unit, both onstage and off, and the love within the family is always expanding. Emily Bankester, for example, recently married rising country star Mo Pitney, known for his top-twenty country song “Country” and “Boy and a Girl Thing.” Melissa says that the family’s deep love for each other and deep love of music are two forces that drive the group’s evolution.

“I think that’s the nature of a family band,” Melissa laughs. “You get to see that whole progression of everybody’s lives. Mo has been a really longtime family friend, and we have known him since he was playing bluegrass, back before he started his country thing. He and Emily met when they were fifteen. He’s a wonderful person, and we absolutely love having him in the family. When he’s around, he just tries to be really present, he just focuses on family relationships. He and Emily are expecting their first child in February, so that’s really the latest development with the family. But when Mo’s with the family, he doesn’t really talk about his music career. He just focuses on the family. He’s a beautiful person and we just love him to pieces.”

One thing that doesn’t change with the Bankesters is their deep and abiding faith, which Melissa credits keeping the Bankesters together as a band and as a family.

“Our faith has always been a huge part of our lives, since well before the music started,” Melissa says. “The music was just a natural spinoff of that. We still incorporate a lot of gospel and faith-based material into our music. It’s really important to us. And we love that bluegrass is a place where you can do that. You can let your faith be a part of what you do in the music that you play, and it is really celebrated and accepted. That’s something that we really value.”

Another cornerstone of the Bankester family musical experience is fun. While audiences have come to expect studio recordings filled with expert musicianship and stunning vocals, another key ingredient in the group’s success is the spirit of fun that they bring to live performances. While some might think that working with family all year round could create tension, according to Melissa, nothing could be further from the truth.

“We have a really good time,” she laughs. “My sisters and I are so lucky in the sense that we are all really best friends with each other. We get along great on stage and off stage. They are my favorite people to play and sing with. It’s probably because we’ve just done it for so long together. It’s a very intuitive experience at this point. I always have fun!”

A lot of the fun comes from playing in front of Southern Illinois audiences. While the Bankesters have crisscrossed the map while touring and have recorded and performed in Nashville, Melissa says that no experience beats that of being able to come home and play for the fans who have been with them since the beginning.

“I think the Old Feed Store is honestly one of our favorite places to play.” she says. “That’s where we wanted to do this CD release party, because the people that go to the Old Feed Store are truly there to celebrate music. It’s a wonderful venue, and we always leave there feeling so positive and upbeat. It’s really special. People who come to the Old Feed Store are always super enthusiastic. Our fans in Southern Illinois have always been so wonderful, and we love to play here.”

Nightbird is set to be released by Compass Records in January, but the audience can purchase advance copies of the new collection at the CD release party.

While the group doesn’t want to give away too many of the album’s secrets, Melissa says fans should expect to hear one surprise that has been several years in coming.

“We have a song on this record that has been requested to be recorded for a really, really long time,” Melissa says. “We went ahead and put that song on this record, and hopefully fans will be excited about that one.”

Melissa says that anyone who comes out to the Old Feed Store this weekend will leave feeling good.

“It’s going to be a really positive experience,” Melissa says. “That’s what we love to do, is to leave our audiences feeling happy and excited and positive about music and about life. There’s a lot of negativity in the world, and we just really try to bring out the positive in the presentation and the song material. We just want everybody to come out and have a great time.”

For more information, visit <>.

who: Bankesters

what: CD release party (bluegrass)

where: Old Feed Store


when: Saturday, October 22

Big Muddy Monster Brew Festival 2016: Seven Years to Cheer More Beers!

Venues & Businesses
Big Muddy Monster Brew Fest

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Rusty Nail: Rowdy, Rocked-out Irish Punk

Who: Friends of Murphysboro
What: Big Muddy Monster Brew Festival w/ Nine88s (bluegrass) / Rusty Nail (Irish punk)
When: 2016-10-15
Pictured: Rusty Nail.
Leah Williams
Video Comentary

Beer lovers, rejoice, for a local fall festival has you in mind.

The seventh-annual Big Muddy Monster Brew Festival returns Saturday, October 15 to Riverside Park in Murphysboro. The ever-expanding event has new attractions and conveniences to help make the afternoon as smooth as possible.

The festival begins at 1 p.m. and continues until 4 p.m.

Brad Fager, an organizer for the event, tells Nightlife the festival had lined up forty-six vendors and hopes that more will sign on in the coming week, topping off the event with more than fifty.

“That’s the most we’ve ever had,” Fager said. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. We’re expanding to the whole park.”

Vendors will bring in food and about three-hundred different kinds of craft beers. Most are from the local area and Midwest, with a couple from California.

Murphysboro has a brewing legacy. According to the Murphysboro Brewing website, Prussian immigrant Conrad Broeg started a brewery in the city in 1870. In 1886, Rudolph Stecher, a German immigrant, purchased the brewery. By 1912, the Stecher Brewing Company produced more than forty-thousand barrels of beer each year, a stellar feat for a local business.

After Prohibition and Stecher’s death in 1926, however, Murphysboro’s local-beer industry remained quiet until Chuck Stuhrenberg opened Big Muddy Brewing in 2009. Since then, Von Jakob, Scratch, Little Egypt, Abbey Ridge, and Saint Nicholas all began producing local beer. In 2009, the Friends of Murphysboro began celebrating the local craft-beer scene with the Big Muddy Monster Brew Festival.

New this year: Organizers will provide free, safe transportation to and from the festival. Buses will run back and forth between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and again from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with stops at the Brews Brothers Taproom in Murphysboro and near Pagliai’s and the Hangar 9 in Carbondale.

Fager also said patrons may take photos with a seven-foot tall Big Muddy Monster photo board. The Big Muddy Monster is a legendary creature that reportedly haunted the region about forty years ago.

A vintage base ball game between the Murphysboro Clarkes and Belleville Stags is also scheduled for the day. So is the announcement of the winners of the festival’s home-brew competition.

Fager said the Big Muddy Monster Brew Festival provides an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Southern Illinois autumn with unique craft beers.

“Every brewery can always make it different,” he said. “They may use a different recipe or different water. That’s why there are so many popping up here and all over the place. I think it’s good for tourism. Every year it grows and gets better.”

General-admission tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the gate.

Event-goers can also buy tickets to the Imperial Tent, which includes a meal with food from local eateries, a special tasting snifter glass, and general admission to the festival. Imperial Tent tickets are $50 in advance and $60 on the festival date. Only 250 tickets to the Imperial Tent will be available, so if this sounds ideal, act fast.

Advance tickets will sell at Illinois Liquor Mart locations in Carbondale, Murphysboro, and Marion.

Proceeds from the fest support the Friends of Murphysboro’s continued efforts to improve Riverside Park.

For more information, check out <>.

who: Friends of Murphysboro

what: Big Muddy Monster Brew Festival w/ Nine88s (bluegrass) / Rusty Nail (Irish punk)

where: Riverside Park


when: Saturday, October 15

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