Entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

Seems like this has been a pretty great year for local music so far. We haven’t gotten much in the way of major arena-fillers coming through town, but I honestly haven’t felt deprived because of the sheer amount of local talent we have and because of all the smaller venues that have brought in a steady and varied parade of musical amusements from far and wide.

This weekend might be the toughest of the year, in terms of music. And I don’t mean there’s a lack of it. There’s so much going on that it almost makes my head spin. I haven’t felt so conflicted since April when we had two days of Mid West Music Fest.

Friday night we have the kickoff of the Great River Folk Festival, featuring a concert by the Steel City Jug Slammers and Kind Country down in Riverside Park. There’s a full weekend of great music, food, arts and crafts and camaraderie planned down in the park for the folk fest, and even if it rains the concerts will proceed as planned. Big tents. Good thinking, folk fest folks.

There’s more bluegrass, too, out at Leo & Leona’s Tavern and Dancehall, where you can catch the Kevin Prater Band, an acclaimed combo coming all the way from the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.

If you feel like a country fix, the Crawford County Fair in Gays Mills has the Kentucky Headhunters on Friday night with the top-notch local musical stylings of Blue Collar 40 thrown in as a bonus. All for just $15. Closer to home, The Howl Inn plans to let it rip with their high-energy brand of country Friday night at the Freighthouse, and there’s no cover.

For something completely different, the Trempealeau Hotel offers the triumphant return of Lillie Lemon, a fantastic duo that does melodic synth pop as well as it can be done.

One show I’ll be hitting for sure on Friday night is the benefit at Boot Hill Banquet Hall for Marty Severson, who for years and years made us laugh and boogie as radio disc jockey Brucie Bumchuckles — if there’s a hall of fame for old-school deejays, Brucie ought to be in it. Severson’s home got wiped out by the flash flooding in July, and he has meant so much on the local music scene that people were lining up to help from the git-go.

The benefit has an amazing lineup of local musical talent — Blind Baby Olin & the Workbenches, the Shufflin’ Duprees, Mr. Blink and The Classic Rockers — and for a $25 donation you get all that music, a pulled pork dinner and two beers. For all those years that Brucie Bumchuckles brightened our days with wisecracks and pranks between spinning stacks and stacks of wax, it just seems right to pull together for him and his family.

Saturday offers just as much good stuff, with Pop Rocks and Tragic Americans playing at the annual Rockin’ the Prairie fundraiser for the Brice Prairie First Responders, a killer Saturday night lineup at the folk fest (Natalie Gelman, Chicago Farmer, Annie and Rod Capps, The Barefoot Movement and The Last Revel), and Andy Hughes and Gregg “Cheech” Hall heading up a Johnny Cash tribute show at the Pettibone Boat Club.

Personally, I’m very excited about an event celebrating the opening of the new Gundersen Hotel & Suites. OK, that doesn’t sound that exciting, but I should mention that they’ve got a great mini-blues fest planned, including two local favorites — the Shufflin’ Duprees and Howard “Guitar” Luedtke & Blue Max — and a set by Samantha Fish, a Kansas City-based recording artist who is a top-flight singer and guitar player. She just released her fourth album this year and it’s fantastic.

On top of the fine blues being served up, the hotel event also features food from Famous Dave’s and Stumpy’s, which offers “fair” food that’s going to make the hotel parking lot smell like the Minnesota State Fair. Sweeeeet! And the music is free.

I’m also pumped about the Think Floyd USA show at the Cavalier Theater. I’ve never seen Pink Floyd — and there’s a 100 percent chance I’ll never get the chance unless guitarist David Gilmour has a big change of heart — so this show should help fill that Floyd void.

You’d think there’d be some let-up on Sunday after a Friday and Saturday of so much music, but, nope, it’s another day of awesome opportunities. Driftless Books and Music has Grammy nominee Cory Chisel (he’s there Monday, too), the folk fest features a closing concert with Grammy winner Bill Miller and Pigtown Fling String Band, String Ties is at the Halfway Creek Park band shell in Holmen, and the Cavalier Theater has a five-band evening of metal planned, topped by DevilDriver and 36 Crazyfists.

Sunday also has what will likely be the last Lindy Shannon rock ‘n’ roll reunion show. This show at the Moose Family Center offers a chance to see some of the early pioneers of the La Crosse area music scene performing, bands from the 1960s including all four original members of the Molly Maguires and singers from other very popular local bands performing their hits, including Alex Campbell and Randy Purdy.

The live music events I’ve mentioned here just scratch the surface for what is going on this weekend, and there are so many others that didn’t get mentioned here that are going to be a lot of fun. For Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we’ve got 54 live music events listed in the Tribune’s online and print calendar, and quite a few of them feature more than one band. I put this calendar together every week, and I’m pretty sure this is the most music I’ve ever seen on that calendar in one weekend. With that much music, there’s just one thing to do.

Rock on …

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