Friday, June 12, 2015

"A Day in the Country" to start off summer music season on the right note

The summer music season will start off on the right note with the eighth annual "A Day in the Country," which will be held June 14 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., Chicago.

Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys, Derek Hoke, Sarah Potenza, The Siderunners and The Lawrence Peters Outfit are among the acts that will perform at the festival. A full schedule is below:

Front porch stage:

2:00- 2:30- Hey, Chère!
2:40- 3:10pm- Blackest Crow
3:20- 3:50pm- Wandering Boys
4:00- 4:30pm- The Mountainaires
4:40- 5:10pm- Ground Speed

Backroom stage:

5:15- 5:45pm- Lonesome Still
6:00- 6:30pm- Katie Belle and the Belle Rangers
6:45- 7:30pm- Derek Hoke
7:45- 8:15pm- The Lawrence Peters Outfit
8:30- 9:30pm- Chuck Mead And His Grassy Knoll Boys
9:45- 10:15pm- Siderunners
10:30- 11:00pm- Sarah Potenza

Tickets to "A Day in the Country" are $10, available at 

I had the chance to talk to organizer Lawrence Peters about the festival.

Q - Great talking to you. This is the eighth year of "A Day in the Country." Did you ever imagine that it would last this long? What was your idea for the festival in the first place?

I started "A Day In The Country" because I couldn’t get The Lawrence Peters Outfit into the Chicago Country Music Festival. My friends’ groups didn’t seem to be getting that kind of attention, either, so figured I’d make my own damn country festival, with the kind of music I like.

We actually got into the CCM the following year, so that worked out nicely, and I got my own little reactionary country festival out of the deal.

I didn’t go into that first year thinking it would be an annual event, but you get the question “when is the next one?!" enough times, and it sinks in. I reserved a date for the following year, and started thinking about ways I could improve it.

I can’t imagine not doing it, at this point, even with all the work it involves, and it is a lot of work.

Q - How did you go about choosing the acts for this year's lineup? How do you think it compares to previous lineups?

Booking the festival basically comes down to getting in contact with the bands I like, and seeing if I can get them on board. It’s mostly local groups, but I also have my list of national favorites.

I’m very proud of this year’s lineup. I’ve been trying to get Chuck Mead for the festival, for longer than I can recall. Great to have him as the anchor for the lineup.

The rest of day is a real nice cross section of Chicago’s best current acts (I didn’t have the space to book everyone I wanted), plus some favorites from out-of-town. Derek Hoke and Sarah Potenza are both coming in from Nashville for the event.

Many high points for this year, maybe even more than previous years.

Q - You've been performing music for more than 20 years. How did you get involved with American country music in the first place? Who or what are your musical inspirations?

The radio was always on, when I was a kid, and it was usually the country station. I grew up in the 70s, when the current hits were played back to back with the classics of previous years, so I got an education on most of the greats.

I don’t remember when I first heard Ray Price, Webb Pierce, or Hank Williams, but those were early influences. C.W. McCall and Loretta Lynn were contemporary favorites, and still are.

Later, it was Dwight Yoakam, The Knitters, Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin… I like the raw, earthiness of Ola Belle Reed, Doc Boggs, Jody Stecher, Hazel Dickens...

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

I’ve seen many peaks and valleys in the Chicago music scene since moving here in ’92, and I think we’re at a pretty good place, currently. As for the country side of things, there lots of string bands, with some interesting variations on that style.

A good balance of scene stalwarts, and young blood. Not a lot of honky tonk, which is my favorite, but it’s encouraging that plenty of folks are writing their own songs.

My idea of where I fit in the Chicago music scene changes from day to day (grizzled veteran, lucky duck…), but I like to think that I’ve earned some respect in the country music side, as a singer and songwriter (The Lawrence Peters Outfit, Golden Horse Ranch Band, Songs: Ohia), DJ (Sportsman’s Club, WLPN), and festival booker (A Day In The Country).

I think that being an electric washboard player with the Velcro Lewis Group probably has some cache, too. Mutant cred with that one.

Q - I know you've been writing new songs. Will your band be releasing a new album anytime soon?

Yeah, I’ve been making the most of our monthly residency at The High-Hat Club (third Wednesday of every month), using it as a motivator in writing new material. I’m planning on finishing at least an album's worth of songs by the end of the year, and then starting to lay down the tracks in the winter.

I’ve got a good start with six, not including the two new ones we’ll be trying out on June 17. My hope is to get a new record out in late spring or early summer of 2016.

Not sure how we’re going to pay for it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Q - I understand one of your new songs is "I Didn't Mean to Go," about the death of musician and friend of K.C. Haywood. Tell me the story of the song. 

K.C.’s loss was brutal. It was really tough seeing a good friend, with so much going for him (young guy, recently engaged to a great woman, new album in the can…), lying in that coffin.

The only way I could think to process it was to write it out in a song. The first line that came to me was “I didn’t mean to go,” and that felt right.

Singing it from his perspective let me give him a look at his life, and how fully he had lived it. It gave me the opportunity to let him say goodbye.

Q - What are your future goals for "A Day in the Country?” 

I have a helluva list of favorites that I want to play the festival, but I also want to keep the underground feel that it currently has. It’d be great to get Caleb Klauder, Dale Watson, Robbie Fulks (local, but bigger than Chicago), Jim and Jennie And The Pine Tops… I talked to Kelly Hogan about putting together a country set, and I’m hoping the timing will work for that in the near future. 

Sturgill Simpson is on my list, but I couldn’t get him before his recent ascent, so that’s probably a pipe dream. I’d like to bring Red Meat and Freakwater back through. I’m not interested in anyone who isn’t playing music that I care about.