Chicago lost one of its finest music festivals when Old Town School of Folk Music pulled the plug on its annual Folk & Roots event earlier this year. Taking its place is the new Square Roots Festival, sponsored by local chamber types and curated by Old Town.
There are no big names at this new event but Saturday night will be fun, nonetheless, with the Waco Brothers headlining. The Waco’s Jon Langford has been an Old Town staple, performing at the school and fest and creating promotional art work. It should be a great show. Ezra Furman opens. There are a number of interesting bands throughout the weekend. See the full schedule here.
In its 13th year, the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival looks a lot different than the fest I discovered more than a decade ago. In the past few years the festival has taken on a decidedly more world music theme, which is interesting but becoming tiresome. Closing Sunday night is Etran Finatawa, a band from Niger.
In 1999, in the fest’s second season, I saw Steve Earle and a set from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett. Robbie Fulks headlined the first festival. Jon Langford performed with the Mekons in the third year. I saw Richard Thompson open for Patti Smith that same year. And while Smith’s appearance raised eyebrows about her folk and roots credentials, the world music lineups overwhelmed the Americana acts in recent years. That’s too bad given Chicago’s strong foundation of roots and insurgent country.
Here are some tracks from that Tweedy/Bennett show, a pair of Wilco songs and two covers, including Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You in the End.
Jon Langford and the gang will be playing an all-day “beer-b-q” at the Hideout Saturday. It’s a full day of Bloodshot artists, starting at noon and celebrating the Chicago record label’s 15th anniversary. The event takes the place of the Hideout’s annual block party. Langford’s Waco Brothers headline.