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Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill., Tim Cain Column: Several Bands Among Acts to Check Out

July 31, 2008

By Tim Cain, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

Jul. 31–One good thing about Decatur Celebration entertainment is many of the acts perform at least two times. If an act is surprisingly good or does something unexpected, if you’re lucky, a friend finds you and points you in the direction of an act that increases your enjoyment.

But predicting which acts those will be? There’s the question.

The appeal of some of the main stage acts — Rick Springfield, Kansas, Boyz II Men — is never in dispute. So this year, Vince Vance and The Valiants (Friday), The Smithereens (Saturday) and Plain White T’s (a single show Sunday) will draw their crowds.

Keep an eye out for Vance’s frighteningly larger-than-life statue of his head onstage (assuming that wasn’t lost when Vance was victimized by Hurricane Katrina). The Smithereens will play a handful of early Beatles songs, and play them well. (They recorded all of the songs from “Meet The Beatles” on an album last year, and have a collection of Beatles B-sides coming out next month.) And Plain White T’s will presumably attract one of the youngest crowds in Show Stage history.

But what about those other acts?

In 2004, producer Fred Puglia booked an act called Big Nazo, and raved about how much people would enjoy it. All many of them saw was a bunch of people wearing oversized paper-mache heads and running around a stage playing mediocre music.

The year before, though, The Black Diamond played the first of what ultimately became four trips to the event. Who would have thought a Neil Diamond karaoke show would become so popular?

So here’s a few guesses and tips about acts that might be worth a sliver of your time this weekend. Some of these acts are new to me, so they’re the guesses.

First tip: If you’re a Paul McCartney fan, Band on the Run (three shows Saturday on the Goodtimes Stage) is a treat. The band is more enjoyable when they stick to Wings and McCartney solo songs, but with three sets, they’ll probably throw some Beatles songs in as well. They’re really good, as evidenced by them winning an award last year as Chicago’s best tribute band, and winning a Chicago Beatle fan convention battle of the bands in 2006.

Caedmon’s Call (two shows Sunday at the Christian Music Stage) may not attract Jars of Clay-type crowds, but that just means fewer people hanging out atop the municipal parking ramp across the street. Caedmon’s Call is the big name among the Christian acts at Celebration this year.

There’s also a handful of local acts set that you may have seen before, but certainly should see again. Rock of Ages plays a pair of sets on the North Street Stage tonight, and country singer Justin Von Cleve does three sets Saturday on the Heritage Stage.

A capella band T.S.E., with its ever-rotating list of members, has moved off its traditional Mini-Place Stage location to the Heritage Stage (Sunday). Even if you think you’re not fond of a capella stylings, these guys might change your mind. Maybe they’ll throw out their version of Indigo Girls’ “Galileo.” That will make you find a friend and tell them T.S.E. is something they need to see.

If traditional a capella is more to your liking, Harbor Lights will be busy this weekend with a whopping 11 shows at the Main Street Stage (which happens to be co-sponsored by the Herald & Review). Harbor Lights appeared at Celebration a couple of years back, and in addition to doing pure doo-wop, they featured a female member.

Yours truly will be blogging all three days of Celebration. It won’t exactly be a live blog, but if you see something worth passing along, post on the blog or fire me an e-mail, and the news and notes will be passed along.

Hope to see you down there.

Tim Cain can be reached at timcain@herald-review.com or 421-6908.

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