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    Am I the only one who thinks of Ken Curtis' gruff but lovable barely literate deputy on Gunsmoke when they hear the word "Festus?" Or perhaps you think of the similarly named Festivus; you know it better as the Seinfeld-inspired holiday for the rest of us. Well, FESTUS, the concert that takes place this Saturday June 19 at the Iroquois Amphitheater, is neither.

    Instead, Pilgrim Productions has gathered an impressive line-up for the show that starts at 4:30. Gates open at 3:00. The bill is Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Paul Thorn, and Chris Knight. One link between all of these artists that hover around the Americana genre is their impresive songwriting. Saturday should be a great day of storytelling at its finest from great songwriters who often write from personal experiences. If you feel typical mass marketed Nashville music is a little sanitized, FESTUS offers true and honest country music with a healthy dash of rock.

    Headliner Cross Canadian Ragweed - This Oklahoma quartet has been together for a decade and a half and known for their frequent touring. Their most recent release is Happiness and All the Other Things, which came out last August. It peaked at #10 on the country charts and #33 on the pop charts. Last month, the band announced that upon completion of their current tour, they will be taking an extended break from the road to spend more time with their families. From the slow Country charm of Sick and Tired to the rock of Fightin' For, to the Red Dirt sound of Alabama, this band does it all well. Imagine a little more country John Mellencamp via The Drive-By Truckers, and it gives you some idea of what to expect. 

    Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit - Alabama native Isbell was in The Drive-Truckers from 2001-2007. In 2007, he released his first solo effort Sirens of the Ditch. In 2009, he releasd his first with The 400 Foot Unit. Isbell has enjoyed nearly universally acclaimed reviews for his solo work, and he can write a mean song, too. One listen to songs like Dress Blues and The Day John Henry Died is proof.

    Paul Thorn - Thorn was raised in Tupelo Mississippi, the hometown to some other pretty big name in American music. Thorn was a professional boxer before getting into music and signed with major label A&M Records for his debut release in 1997. He performs a stew of Blues, Rock, Americana, and Gospel and is out supporting his brand new album Pimps and Preachers. It's his 9th release and it's on his own Perpetual Obscurity label. The son of a Church of God Pentecostal minister, Thorn brings real world experiences into his songs and can be funny and poignant with equal success. See Things Left Undone and Joanie the Jehovah Witness Stripper

    Chris Knight - Supporting his 2009 Trailer II release, Kinight, a Slaughters, Kentucky, native, is probably the most traditional country artist in the line-up. A product of a Western Kentucky mining town, Knight has written hits for many country stars. He also has a degree in agriculture from Western Kentucky University and worked for nearly ten years as a mine reclamation inspector and as a miner's consultant. He brings his own interesting stories to his music, and that can be heard in songs like It Ain't Easy Being Me and Enough Rope (On the Edge of Country). Seven albums into a respected career, people can finally stop making any Brady Bunch jokes or asking him if he played Peter.

    FESTUS Tickets are $30 in advance and can be purchased at ear-X-tacy or at You can also get them for $35 on Saturday at the ampitheater. Parking is free.

    Even if the line-up weren't so solid, it would still be a great afternoon at a great venue. Nestled in scenic Iroquois Park, the 2,400-seat outdoor facility is one of the city's hidden jewels for concerts. Pilgrim Productions claims "Festus" is Latin for 'joyous, festive, holiday, steadfast' That sounds about right because it seems like there is going to be one, long party going on Saturday.

    Kevin Sedelmeier's picture

    About Kevin Sedelmeier

    I am polite, and I'm rarely late. I like to eat ice cream, and really enjoy a nice pair of slacks.

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