The newly repaved and redecorated Madison Street will lose its “small-town charm” this weekend, replaced temporarily by rockin’ to the amped-up music of 25 bands.
Star Events, which organizes the three-day festival — as it did with last year’s inaugural event — proclaims on its website, “The summer’s biggest street celebration will hit Chicago’s West Side as Forest Park Music Fest will take over the city’s downtown for one fun-filled weekend. Thousands of local residents will come together to enjoy everything Chicago has to offer, including an amazing musical lineup.”
Here’s a sample:
Infinity (Friday on the East Stage, 8 p.m.)
“Classic to Current: The Ultimate Rock Experience. More than a Journey Tribute band. One of the top drawing cover bands in the Midwest. Infinity maintains the intangible ability to include the audience and make them feel as if they are part of the show.”
The Boy Band Night (Friday on the West Stage, 8 p.m.)
“A live band event paying homage to everything that is boy bands! We cover Nsync, Backstreet Boys, New Kids, Boyz 2 Men, One Direction and more.”
Too White Crew (Saturday on the East Stage, 8 p.m.)
“A tribute to the fun hip-hop classics of the ’80s and ’90s, feature all-live music from a six piece band, accompanied by choreographed ‘Fly Girl’ dancers. It’s a party band — it’s a show — it’s madness on stage — all packaged in an unprecedented way. Their playlist includes all the popular songs requested to a DJ but performed live in a high energy, interactive setting.”
Blooze Brothers (Saturday on the West Stage, 8 p.m.)
“This high-powered, choreographed, 11-piece show band covers music from the ’40s to today: Motown, Soul, R&B, Classic Rock, Swing, and, of course, the music and crazy antics of the famous original Blues Brothers!”
16 Candles (Sunday on the West Stage, 8 p.m.)
“16 Candles makes it their personal duty and pleasure to bring all the great ’80s songs you love to life in full force. The members are five fun-loving guys with a simple love for the music of years gone by and a mission to fuse nostalgia and style to create a sight/sound spectacular.”
In addition, between the music stage at Desplaines and the one at Circle avenues, Madison Street will be lined with things to taste, see and do. According to Star Events’ promotional materials, “Music Fest will offer guests two beer gardens, food from some of the neighborhood’s top vendors, as well as a wide variety of carnival games, arts and crafts, and a sidewalk sale of boutique, gallery, and special items. Saturday’s festivities will also include a number of family-friendly activities, including a giant slide, pony rides and face painting.”
Laurie Kokenes, the Executive Director of Forest Park’s Chamber of Commerce, talked about why the Chamber has hired Star Events to put on “the summer’s biggest street celebration,” especially when some Forest Park residents and merchants have complained about the “inconveniences” that accompany the event.
“The purpose of this event,” she explained, “is to keep Forest Park’s name out there, showcase our village and local businesses, and create an opportunity for Madison Street exposure. Last year, I alone heard from a number of people who said things like ‘I’ve been going to the Park’s softball tournament for years, but have never come to Madison Street. I’m definitely coming back.’ One Music Fest volunteer visited a local merchant on her break, then came back the following Monday to purchase a number of things.”
The consensus among Star Events staffers and the FP Chamber Commerce was that the terrible weather was to blame for last year’s event not living up to expectations. Kokenes said that therefore Music Fest will repeat last year’s format but hopefully with better weather.
“Our goal for this year’s Music Fest,” she added, “is to have an increase in local participation, giving the event a more ‘local’ feel. Additional participants this year include O’Sullivan’s, Creativita, Team Blonde, Accents by Fred, Centuries and Sleuths, Elements Massage/Fantastic Sam’s and Smokey Joel’s Hot Dogs.”
Augie Aleksy, president of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, acknowledged that blocking off Madison Street from Circle to Desplaines creates some inconveniences for customers and challenges for business people. That and charging a $5 admission fee has kept some of his customers away. He said the volume of the music and the resulting bass guitar vibrations can be annoying.
But the advantages, in his opinion, outweigh the temporary frustrations.
“The advantages,” he said, “are that it exposes Madison Street to new people who will become customers. It will attract tourists who are in Chicago near Forest Park looking for something special nearby. Also, it’s a great way to ‘showcase’ the village of Forest Park with the attractive buildings and great restaurants and shops.”
Aleksy himself has big plans to try to capitalize on the expected crowds. During the three-day weekend, he will have over 15 authors present in his store to chat with customers and sign books, in addition to three musicians playing outside to draw people in. Chicago musician and author Bob Shiel, for example, will be singing Bob Dylan music on Saturday from noon till 1:30 p.m., which ties in with his book 61 Highways Revisited. Inside his store, Aleksy is hosting the Historical Society’s First Annual Bake Sale to raise funds, and the editors of The Hidden Hemingway: Inside the Ernest Hemingway Archives of Oak Park will be discussing and signing their book on Sunday afternoon.