In past years, this writer has been less than thrilled about the overall performance lineup of the On the Waterfront (OTW) Festival. But giving credit when credit is due, this years OTW schedule is definitely one of the best in my opinion.
Because theres a million schedule pamphlets circulating already, and because theres so many acts booked, Im just going to focus on what I think is worth really checking out this year, beginning with the Ethnic Stage, which always has at least one good act.
Make some time to see the Polkaholics, who will kick off the evening at 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 3. This punk-polka fusion group was first introduced to me by Scott Richert of The Rockford Institute. He had wanted me to book them for the regular Sunday nights at the Irish Rose, but I couldnt afford them. Glad to see Craig Nagus of the Ethnic Stage got on the ball about that one, as this Chicago-based band is hysterical.
Also, shoot over to the Verizon Wireless Left Bank Stage to check out a great night of bluegrass with Cozmic Donkey, Dirk Powell and the Alison Brown Quartet. See the Waterfront Music Schedule on page V7 for times and information. I wouldnt miss a single one of these acts if I didnt have to buzz around downtown trying to see everything.
Over at the Riley Windows stage on Saturday, my favorite native guitarist Ernie Hendrickson will bring his folk/rock/funk group at 4:30 p.m. Make sure you check out Natyarpana at the Ethnic Stage at noon to see some classical Indian dance, which should prove to be intriguing if its genuine.
The Ethnic Stage is also dragging in one of my favorite Irish Punk bands, The Tossers from 9:30-11:45 p.m. This rowdy group features an electric fiddler who plays with such a ferocity and spirit that it doesnt really matter how loud it gets because it sounds so fresh.
Sundays schedule brings The Whiskey Store, featuring Tab Benoit, at the Wireless Left Bank Stage at 7 p.m. Ive never heard them, but their name definitely sounds like their worth checking out. Opening for The Whiskey Store is The Blooze Brothers at 5 p.m.; a full-on stage show recreating the John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd movie performances. Some could accuse them of being campy, but they put on a good act with fly girls dressed as police officers.
If thats not up your alley, go to the Ethnic Stage and see the reptile Palace Orchestra, who have played Rockford before for Charlottes Web. Pegged as Balkan lounge music, theyll bring a musical novelty to OTW after Yid Vicious klezmer band takes the stage at 1:30 p.m.
There are tons of other great acts over the weekend, but you all have the pamphlets and/or The Rock River Times to make up your own mind. For the $9 in advance or $14 at the door, its money well-spent this year. For more information, call the OTW office at 815/964-4388, or go online, www.onthewaterfront.com.