BERWYN – A Berwyn music institution is gearing up to host more than 60 musical acts from across the country for the 37th annual American Music Festival, which kicks off June 29 and continues June 30, July 1 and July 3 at FitzGerald’s Nightclub.
The festival, which draws between 5,000 and 6,000 people, features musicians and bands playing continuously across three stages on FitzGerald’s campus. Fans can hear music from many genres, including rock, country, Americana, blues, jazz, soul and zydeco each day of the festival. This year’s headliners include Nick Lowe with Los Straitjackets, the Joe Ely Band and James McMurtry.
Donnie Biggins, talent buyer at FitzGerald’s, described the American Music Festival as the best music festival in the Chicago area. He said the festival organizers consistently bring in high-quality bands and musicians year after year.
“The talent is unique to this festival because it features a lot of American roots acts and New Orleans acts,” Biggins said. “People will get a taste of a lot of different music. I can’t define what American music is, but it all comes from the blues and is based heavily on one person and a guitar.”
Many FitzGerald favorites, like Marcia Ball, are returning to the festival, but this year also showcases a number of up-and-coming artists Biggins said audiences will enjoy.
“We have developing artists that we wanted to book to expose them to the culture of FitzGerald’s,” he said. “People have expectations of this festival, and they know what they’ll get. It might not be the same bands as last year, but there will be bands they’ll like. I encourage people to come early to see the new bands.”
Oak Park resident Loren Middleton regularly performs at FitzGerald’s with his band, Bitters. While Middleton has been to the American Music Festival many times, this is the first time his band will perform.
“We’re excited. FitzGerald’s is a great venue,” he said. “The bands can connect with the audience, and you get a magical feeling. FitzGerald’s puts this on for the love of music, and it’s going to be special. I feel honored to be performing.”
Guitarist and vocalist Terry White of Oak Park has been performing at the nightclub since 1985 and playing at the American Music Festival for more than 10 years with his band, Cannonball. He said he always looks forward to performing at FitzGerald’s, no matter the occasion.
“I like the sound of the room and the atmosphere, which reflects the artist who is performing,” he said. “It’s the Fourth of July, and the American music theme fits. The festival is a really great smorgasbord of American music over the four days from phenomenal artists. It’s relatively inexpensive, and people can see 20 acts in one day. Everything is really accessible. It’s the best festival in the city.”
Club owner Bill FitzGerald began the American Music Festival in 1981 after being inspired by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He said he liked the variety of musical genres and food the event offered.
“[The American Music Festival] is very intimate compared to most festivals. And it’s just fun,” he said. “This year is great because we have some good artists coming back and a lot of new acts. It’s a nice balance. It’s hard to pick which day has the best lineup because all four days are great.”
Chef Tom Cimms will once again provide a delicious mix of classic American cuisine and New Orleans favorites that are exclusive to the festival. Four-day festival passes are available for $140, while advance tickets for June 29 and 30 are $40 and tickets for July 1 and 3 are $50. Children 12 and younger are welcome to attend with parents until 10 p.m., and tickets are $10.
If you go
WHAT: 37th annual American Music Festival
WHEN: June 29 and 30, July 1 and 3
WHERE: FitzGerald’s Nightclub, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn
COST: $140 for four-day festival passes, $40 for June 29 and 30, $50 for July 1 and 3
For a complete entertainment schedule, visit the FitzGerald’s Nightclub website at fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.