Picture yourself on Saturday: It’s late in the afternoon, a cool breeze cuts through the heat while a cold glass of beer sweats in your hand. Summer is officially here, and this year it kicks off with a new local craft beer festival: Ravenswood On Tap.
Taking place on June 25th in front of Empirical Brewery (Foster and Ravenswood), the fest features Andersonville Brewing, Aquanaut Brewing, Band of Bohemia, Begyle Brewing, (the brand new) Dovetail Brewery, Empirical, Half Acre, Metropolitan Brewing and Spiteful Brewing. Music for the day will be provided by a lineup six local acts who all certainly qualify as purveyors of drinking tunes.
Kicking things off is rock n’ roll strummer Andrew Kent Wittler, a man who cites Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson and The Temptations as influences. Wittler’s recent single “Mulberry Hill” is a classic, punchy pop tune that feels so good to put on repeat that it probably causes cancer or something.
Nothing says drinking in the summer quite like a little country, which is exactly what comes next courtesy of Big Sadie. While the quartet is capable of kicking up dust with bouncing melodies, some of their most impressive moments come when the trio slows it down. Jess McIntosh’s fiddle sounds like its savoring each moment it drifts over, and singers Elise Bergman and Collin Moore shine together when not rushed.
For those whose idea of country sounds a little more like backpacking and train hopping, here comes Johnny Young. We last caught up with the folk guitarist in 2015, talking about the release of Johnny Young – II on Portland’s Voyager Golden Records. Back then Young said of his playing, “it’s evolved past fingerstyle and into something more exotic.” He’s currently at work on the follow-up, which he’s recently teased as “less folk, more contemporary and melodic.” Perhaps some of that new material will make its way into Saturday’s set?
Indifference by Bowmanville
Blending elements of swing, jazz and bluegrass, Bowmanville are a wild card. Songs like “Swing Gitan” have enough fiddling and strumming that moonshine feels appropriate, while numbers like “Indifference” sizzle with urgency. Either one is going to sound great tucked in on this typically quiet and pleasantly scenic stretch of Ravenswood. These guys are big fans of the area too- they’ve got regular gigs at Red Lion Lincoln Square and Artango Bar.
The Morphtet describe themselves as a “barrelhouse piano groove trio,” which is absolutely perfect. Their boogie-woogie runs from playfully boozy to raunchyily rude, and fans of saloons and speakeasies alike will dig the jangling keys and cool beats. Chris Paquette (percussion), Joshua Siegal (piano) and Josh Therriault (tenor sax) can all not only play the hell out of their instruments, but they can do it in a variety of styles.
Closing out the night is Midwest Action favorite Mike Maimone, frontman of local bluesy grunge outfit Mutts and host of Collab/Corrupt Fridays at High-Hat Club. Vern Hester at Windy City Times is on the record praising Maimone for having “the keyboard style of Fats Waller and Jerry Lee Lewis combined.” Add a voice reminiscent of Randy Newman with bursts of Tom Waits-gravel, and yeah, that’s about what you can expect at a Mike Maimone show.
Ravenswood On Tap takes place at Foster and Ravenswood on Saturday, June 25th (3-9PM, $5, all-ages). Along with music and beer, the festival also features food trucks, CHIRP Radio DJs inside Empirical’s taproom, a signature cocktail from Band of Bohemia and Koval Distillery, and a few local vendors.