If you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Forest Park Historical Society is hosting its 2nd Annual FoPaPalooza, on Saturday, Feb. 13, starting at 7 p.m. It will feature an eclectic set of Forest Park musicians playing jazz, folk, blues and rock. The concert will be held in the society’s new home, the acoustically resonant sanctuary of 1st United Church of Christ, 1000 Elgin. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for youth 12-and-under and $8 for society members.
The concert will kick off with the Middle School Jazz Band. Bob Kelly is the new band director this year, succeeding Dave Weinstein. Kelly previously taught band in Gardner, Illinois. The Vernon Hills native is glad to be in Forest Park, closer to family and friends. He also enjoys teaching at a larger school with more musical resources. His nine-member band will play “Jump, Jive ‘N’ Wail,” “25 or 6 to 4” and “Jailhouse Rock.”
Cheryl Tomblin, a singer-songwriter who works at Kagan & Gaines, will follow them to the stage. Cheryl’s smoky voice lends itself to haunting songs of love and loss. Though her lyrics are intensely personal, she believes they hit universal themes that connect with concert-goers. Tomblin has played at FitzGerald’s and the Double Door.
John Milan, Forest Park’s harmonica virtuoso, will play the next set, featuring authentic Chicago blues. Milan started his musical career with one of the least appreciated instruments: the accordion. He graduated to crafting instruments for a number of years, constructing vibes for icons like Lionel Hampton and Gary Burton. He also took up the drums and teaches harmonica and percussion to local students.
Another change of pace occurs when John and Kathy Atwood perform. Kathy teaches piano in Forest Park and also plays the flute. John started out on trumpet and piano until he saw the Beatles debut on the Ed Sullivan Show and he switched to guitar. Both are history buffs and helped put together the History Singers, celebrating chapters of America’s past.
The Atwoods are also a powerful songwriting team, composing music for the production of “Des Plaines River Anthology.” They will perform their newest composition about the 100-year-old Eastland disaster. John laments the many young lives were cut short so quickly when the Eastland capsized, but no song had been written about an event that claimed 844 lives. The Atwoods also plan to perform songs from the early days of America, the Civil War era, WWII and a ’60s coffeehouse song.
Headlining the concert is a band of Forest Park rockers, The Redmonds. They play everything from country to contemporary rock and have developed a solid local following. Mike Redmond has been a professional musician for 30 years, playing with Cheap Trick, Molly Hatchett and America. His wife, Katie, joined him in music and matrimony in 2005 and sings lead vocals. Rounding out the band are Mike Gordon, bassist from Off Broadway; Rich Koc, a top pedal steel guitar player; studio drummer Rick Nelson; and L.J. Slavin on multiple instruments.
Last year’s inaugural concert was well-attended, despite some nasty weather. I will serve again as MC. If there is a pause between acts, I have some good Valentine’s Day stories, two of which I’m allowed to tell.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.