By Gary Kohn
Summer is almost over, which means Rockford’s best music festivals are just around the corner, including the Block 5 Festival Aug. 25.
Warm weather, great music, tasty food and loads of fun … what could be better? This year’s Block 5 Festival has it all. Up-tempo beats with gusto, twangy guitars with an unusual mix of rockabilly and a local indie band sound to round out an explosive evening of music fusion sure to make attendees want to get up and dance!
“Block 5 is a great way to end the summer,” said Sandi Kohn, co-owner of Medicine Man Creative and event coordinator. “The business owners on the 500 block really enjoy putting together something special each year for the Rockford community.”
Headlining this year’s Block 5 will be the Honey Island Swamp Band. Described as “Bayou Americana,” with timeless songs, four-part vocal harmonies, and a powerful Louisiana groove, the Swamp Band draws from a variety of influences in the world of roots music, including artists such as Lowell George and Little Feat, The Band, Taj Mahal, Gram Parsons, Jerry Garcia, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Reed, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and New Orleans’ own Earl King and Dr. John. The Baltimore Sun describes them as “utterly refreshing, with first-rate instrumentalists,” and The Palm Beach New Times wrote, “Honey Island Swamp Band provides soul, country, R&B and blues on equal footing. Their expressive, hook-laden tunes are as delicious as their name.”
Anyone who has been to Block 5 knows the event aims to bring all of the best food (and music) to one street, once a year, to celebrate the talent, the taste and the entrepreneurial spirit of people making a living doing what they love. This year will be no different with Abreo, Deli Itallia, Bamboo, The Office, Social, the Irish Rose and Minglewood all planning to offer a variety of drink specials, a large menu of amazing cuisine and shopping on the side for people of all ages to enjoy.
Block 5 is known for booking talent on the verge of breaking out. The Swamp Band introduced itself to the world in 2009 with the release of its first full-length album Wishing Well. The debut earned the Southern groovers the distinction of “Best Blues Album” and “Best Emerging Artist” by OffBeat magazine. By the summer of 2010, the band’s sound began gaining traction earning heavy radio play in the New Orleans area and on Sirus/XM satellite radio. In 2011, the band was named the “Best Roots Rock Artist” at the Big Easy Awards — New Orleans’ most prestigious arts and entertainment honors.
“Every year, we want our music lineup to be a perfect blend of local talent and upcoming national acts,” Kohn added. “This year is no different.”
While the Swamp Band is the headliner, the middle act for the evening, Fresh Hot Fritters, is known to “delight your ear buds,” with their melted, twangy guitars and thumpin’upright bass fiddle. This quartet plays an unusual mix of Western swing and jazz that promises entertainment that is “slightly off the beaten path.” According to a recent review, “the Fritters’ music is just like a culinary treat that is fresh, hot and, well, just a bit greasy!”
Mana Kintorso will be the opener. This four-piece band has been rocking clubs and festivals for more than five years, building a large catalog of original songs that they play with a mix of popular covers. They have been described as a modern version of The Kinks, Dandy Warhols, Smashing Pumpkins, Neutral Milk Hotel and other psychedelic indie rock bands.
Along with the aforementioned Block 5 businesses, additional event sponsors include REACT, the RLDC, Bud Light, the Element, La Monica Beverages, SupplyCore, Alpine Inn, Catalyst Business Solutions and Maverick.
Block 5 begins at 6 p.m. and runs until midnight in the 500 block of East State Street in downtown Rockford. The festival is open to all ages. Tickets are just $5. For more information, call (815) 969-0960.
From the Aug. 22-28, 2012, issue