After just a few months of “retirement,” Northwest Indiana’s Charlie Blum is back to his old habits – booking bands and promoting concerts.
The man has spent 40 years in the entertainment business -- the last 27 of those as the talent buyer and show runner at Star Plaza Theatre. Blum called me last week to announce he has picked up the option on one of the Star’s long-running annual concerts originally scheduled for after the legendary venue shutters its doors forever.
“It’s true,” said Blum. “I love kicking back in Florida with friends and family but after a while you find you still have the itch. I’ve always loved my job and if you love your job, it’s not really a job, is it? So, I’m dabbling again doing shows that I’m hand-picking and working with old friends that I have a long history with like the ‘Salute to the Sixties’ show, because after so many years and so many shows, Peter (Noone), the Bucks (Buckinghams) and the (Grass) Roots are like family."
Carl Giammarese, lead vocalist of The Buckinghams, agrees.
“This would have been our 27th year of doing ‘Salute to the Sixties’ there in Merrillville, so naturally we were very disappointed to hear the Star Plaza Theatre was closing. It's been one of our favorite places to play every year. We are just a third of this show, but I’m sure I speak for the Grass Roots and Peter Noone when I say how happy we are that the relationship with Charlie Blum is continuing," Giammarese said. “Like Charlie said, it’s like family, there is a special chemistry when it comes to this line-up and this show.”
Blum said when it became known the show was not going to happen at the Star Plaza, he inquired about picking up the show and doing it elsewhere. That new location is The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. "It’s in the same general area for the fans who come out every year. It seemed the logical place,” Giammarese said. The show is moving forward with tickets on sale next week. More: horseshoehammond.com or 800-440-8539.
“I remember doing an interview back in 1967 and being asked, 'How long do you think you’ll be doing this?' and I said hopefully a few years anyway,” added Giammarese. “Here we are 50 years later and we’re still doing shows and singing these songs and honestly sounding better than ever. More importantly, we’re still having fun and people are still wanting to hear those old songs.” And those old songs will be sung again every January as has been the tradition, if Blum has his way.
Blum's return to “the biz” will be his 7 p.m. Oct. 28 presentation of “The Ladies of the ‘80s” at The Genesee Theatre in Waukegan (203 N. Genesee St.) and other venues around the country. The tour package includes Debbie Gibson, Lisa Lisa (of Cult Jam fame) and Jody Watley. Tickets now on sale: 847-603-4496 or geneseetheatre.com. It’s a little early to say too much, other than Blum mentioned he is working on “a major national project” with game show host/food network star Marc Summers. “I'm not looking to jump in with both feet, but looking forward to cherry-picking specific projects,” Blum said.
• The Prairie Magic Music & Food Festival celebrates its second year at Sunset Hill County Park (775 Meridian Rd.) in Valparaiso on Saturday. This year’s 1 to 9 p.m. event again features plenty of food vendors, a beer garden and several musical artists. Performing will be The Crawpuppies, The Planetary Blues Band, The Blues Project and The Nicolas Tremulis Band. Tickets are $15/$10 for students/Free for kids 12 and younger. More: 219-548-0219 or facebook.com/prairiemagicmusicfestival.
• The Valparaiso Family YMCA and Campus Life presents Battle of the Bands at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Valparaiso Family YMCA Pavilion (1202 Cumberland Crossing Drive) in Valparaiso.
• The Acorn Outdoor Concert Series at Taltree Arboretum (450 West 100 North) in Valparaiso presents its third show of the season Saturday with The Joe Marcenik Band and Chester Brown Band teaming up for an evening of eclectic music that fuses rock, jazz, funky and blues. Tickets are $15 and show is all ages with food and refreshments available, along with a craft beer and wine garden. More: taltree.org.
• Highland Wednesday Farmer's Market Concert Series features live swinging jazz and blues music at 5 p.m. Aug. 16 by The Flatcats. More: 219-838-0114 or highlandparks.org.
• The Munster Parks & Recreation Department's Sunday Concert Series in Heritage Park (1005 Ridge Road) welcomes Beatles Tribute band American English on Aug. 18 for a 6:30 to 8 p.m. performance. More: munster.org or 219-836-7275.
• At 8:30 p.m. tonight, Hobart Park & Recreation Department's Summer Market on the Lake presents country-pop group Capernaum live at the Revelli Band Shell (111 Old Ridge Road) in Festival Park. More: cityofhobart.org.
• Lakes of the Four Seasons in Crown Point presents classic rock with The Unstoppables at 7 p.m. today at The Clubhouse (1048 N. Lakeshore Drive). More: lofs.org/calendar.
• Internationally-acclaimed, award-winning jazz guitarist Bryan Lubeck and his band perform from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday on the new Indiana-American Water Amphitheater stage in Founders Square Park (6300 Central Ave.) in Portage. The Portage Parks & Rec Department then offers up a tribute concert to Neil Diamond and Elvis Presley at 6 p.m. Aug. 15 as the 2017 Portage Free Summer Music Series continues indoors at Woodland Park’s Oakwood Hall (2100 Willowcreek Road) in Portage. More: 219-762-1675 or portagemusic.org).
• Northwest Indiana guitar great Chris Bolint will open the show on Aug. 15 for Greg Howe and Stu Hamm at Reggies Rock Club (2105 S. State St.) in Chicago. Howe has been a sideman over the years to artists like Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, while Hamm has played bass in bands with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Michael Schenker. More: 312- 949-0120 or reggieslive.com.
• Blues-rock Region band C-4 will do a reunion show at Leroy’s Hot Stuff (333 W. Highway 20) in Porter at 8 p.m. Friday, followed by C Mo Blues Unlimited Band at 9 p.m. on Saturday. More: 219-926-6211.
• Join this columnist tonight and Friday for the last two "live from the midway" radio broadcasts from the Lake County Fair on the 89.1 Lakeshore Public Radio program "Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges." Tonight -- Soundz of Santana will be interviewed and will also perform live from the Lakeshore Public Media Showcase Tent stage between 6 and 7 p.m. From noon to 2 p.m. Friday, the live broadcast guests will include young modern rock group, Open Your Eyes, who will be the last live musical group to perform at this year’s fair. The radio shows are done just inside Gate #2 of the Lake County Fair. Lakeshore programs stream live online: lakeshorepublicradio.org