By Lin Brehmer

If you don’t like the American Music Festival, then you’re probably one of those people that doesn’t like America either. Our favorite urban roadhouse, Fitzgerald’s, throws a party that spills outside the club underneath a giant tent. Tag team stages inside and out keep the music flowing as freely as the cold beer. And since the music starts in the afternoon and ends late in the evening, you will need to be nourished with their Cajun-influenced menu. It’s like going to New Orleans Jazz Fest without leaving the suburbs, but it’s only 4 days. Friday, June 30-July 3.

Friday night at 7:45pm those unrepentant roustabouts, The Waco Brothers, take their Welsh punk American country music to the limit one more time. They will be followed by the Grammy-nominated singer and fiery flat-picker Robbie Fulks, who will seduce you with his wit and crush you with his songs. And finishing up this Chicago hometown three-fer is Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering) and his band Expo ’76, who will rip into a flashback-worthy collection of near classics and never classics.

Saturday night they roll out the red carpet for the new Queen of the Blues, Shemekia Copeland, whose voice has enough power to electrify the grid of a major city.

You’ll have a chance to catch Los Straitjackets, a musical rumble of instrumental roots rock performed by men in Lucha Libre wrestling masks.
Why? Because they can.

los straitjackets Reasons to Celebrate the 36th Annual American Music Festival at Fitzgeralds [Watch]

(Photo By Jim Herrington)

Later Los Straitjackets will back up the legendary Marshall Crenshaw, who does not get to Chicago nearly enough.
This is also the day Semi-Twang plays in the afternoon and Terrance Simien cranks up the zydeco in the evening. And if you’re wondering if Curtis McMurtry performing in the sidebar is any relation. He is.

On Sunday, some rest. Fitzgerald’s just turns it up a notch. You may think you don’t know Eric Ambel but you do. You heard him with his band the Del-Lords in the late 80’s. You wondered who the hot guitarist was in Steve Earle’s band, The Dukes. Yep. Eric. He performs with the wonderful singer Sarah Borges at 9:15 in the club. Those of you with a whimsical frame of mind will be in the tent to see our friends Tributosaurus transform into The Monkees. Wake up sleepy Jean, the hits are coming. And if you can pace yourself with the elan of Keith Richards, you will embrace the late night antics of rock and roll poet Ike Reilly, who has promised me personally to perform his newest song “Bolt Cutter.” Shhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s a protest song.

Are you still with me? Because Monday night it’s an avalanche of American music excellence with C.J. Chenier and Marcia Ball and Dave Alvin all playing in the tent. Spencer Tweedy’s band The Blisters are in the club at 5:30 followed by Miles Nielsen.

Now let me share the best dirty little secret, you can bring the kids! Check the website for details.
How do they fit all that music into such a small club? It’s not the size of the club; it’s the depth of their heart. And Fitzgerald’s has plenty of that.


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