Central Illinois is often overlooked as a hotbed of tourist attractions and entertainment options. However, as has been previously documented, underneath the area’s cornfield-covered exterior and past its small-town aura is actually a surprising amount of history and culture. But perhaps the area’s best-kept secret is that it’s also the home of an inordinate quantity of appealing concerts, featuring both up-and-coming bands and well-established artists from a wide variety of genres.
Over the past year, various venues from the area have hosted energetic punk acts, like Yellowcard and Bayside, country stars, like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, and classic rock legends, such as Styx, REO Speedwagon and Chicago. This spring central Illinois is primed for another round of exciting shows, ranging from acoustic folk to commercial hip-hop to ska punk and just about everything in between.
Here are five enticing concerts coming to central Illinois this spring that will remind you that you don’t always have to hit big cities to find quality live music. (It doesn’t hurt that you can usually do it on the cheap either.)
Crosby, Stills and Nash (Peoria Civic Center)
Crosby, Stills and Nash, composed in 1968 of The Byrds’ guitarist David Crosby, Buffalo Springfield guitarist/singer-songwriter Stephen Stills and The Hollies’ guitarist/vocalist /song writer Graham Nash, was one of music’s first famous super groups. Together, Crosby, Stills and Nash (or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as they were known when they were accompanied by fellow folk-rock legend Neil Young) have been performing folk jams and country-tinged acoustic ballads for over four decades now.
This week, they will be bringing their trademark beautiful harmonies to Peoria. Come to Peoria Civic Center on March 12 at 7:30 PM for a chance to see a band whose members have remarkably each been twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There you will get to see them play classic hits, like “Teach Your Children,” “Suite: Jude Blue Eyes,” “Southern Cross,” and many more. Ticket prices are higher than most — they range from $83-$103 — but they are definitely worth it.
Reel Big Fish (The Castle Theatre)
By the mid-90s, grunge music had peaked and alternative rock had become the new mainstream. The inevitable shift in the popular music landscape led to the rise of unexpected subgenres, the most notable being post-grunge, Britpop and pop punk. But before pop punk took off, its upbeat, Caribbean cousin ska punk had a fun moment in the limelight, producing such memorable bands as Sublime, No Doubt, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish.
By now, most of the bands born during ska punk’s wave of popularity have either trickled out or adopted other styles. But eighteen years after the release of their hit album Turn the Radio Off, Reel Big Fish is still rocking out, recording albums and touring relentlessly.
Friday March 14, Aaron Barrett and Co. will bring their unique brand of gleeful cynicism to The Castle Theatre in Bloomington. The show will start at 8:00 PM and the doors will open at 7:00 PM. Ska up-and-comers, Beebs and Her Money Makers and the Disney song-covering Suburban Legends will be opening to guarantee an entire evening of high-energy and good vibes. Tickets are still available for just $20-$22. (See you there!)
Brantley Gilbert (US Cellular Coliseum)
As you might have guessed, the central Illinois area is also the home to thousands of country music enthusiasts. Peoria and Bloomington in particular regularly attract the biggest country names in the industry. On Friday March 28 at 7:30 PM, Bloomington’s US Cellular Coliseum welcomes one of the rising stars of the genre, Brantley Gilbert. He’ll likely be playing hits from his Gold-certified 2010 album Halfway to Heaven, as well as songs from his upcoming May release, Just as I Am. Tickets cost $25-$37 and are on sale now.
T-Pain (Peoria Civic Center)
Now, if you are looking for something completely different, you can head west on 74 the very next night and go see T-Pain, along with Young Cash and Vantrease, at the Peoria Civic Center. The Civic Center has yet to add the show to its website, but T-Pain, best known for his string of Auto-Tune-laden hits in the mid to late-00s, announced it as a stop on his 34-city “I Am T-Pain” tour in support of his forthcoming comeback album Stoicville: The Phoenix.
The date is March 29, but the time, ticket price, etc. have yet to be announced, so be on the lookout for more information on this in the next couple of weeks.
A Metropolitan Guide (Peoria’s Ear in the Envelope, Inc.)
However, central Illinois is not just a destination for touring bands. It’s also teeming with young local acts, like A Metropolitan Guide. A Metropolitan Guide, otherwise known as Peoria native Brian Davis, is among the area’s most promising rising artists. He’s released five albums overall – two as A Metropolitan Guide, two under his own name and one with the now-defunct folk/bluegrass band Something with Trees – and he’s toured as far as Knoxville, Tennessee.
This spring, he’ll be touring the state to support A Metropolitan Guide’s most recent album, Pioneering. You can catch him on April 4 at Ear in the Envelope Inc. at 6:30 PM.
You won’t have to go far and you won’t have to spend too much for good times and great music from a wide variety of artists and bands this spring; the central Illinois area will be the host of an array of shows that will satisfy concert-goers of all musical tastes.