Welcome to 2015! Along with each New Year come new shows to anticipate and enjoy at area venues. Among the most anticipated is the eclectic concert series brought to the 364-seat historic Memorial Opera House (104 Indiana Street) in Valparaiso each year by Northwest Indiana’s Imagine Music (imaginemusicvalpo.com).
Over the last half dozen years, Imagine Music has become an important part of the regional music scene for booking artists that might otherwise never have come to Northwest Indiana.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a loyal audience who come out and support us each season,” said Rob Harkel, half of the Imagine Music team with his partner Brad Koeppen. “We’ve now got about 180-190 season ticket holders each year. We listen to their comments and suggestions. Some like the acoustic type shows more while others like the full band shows more, so we try to keep things evenly balanced.”
Over the years, the series has presented little known but hugely talented singer/songwriters, up and comers, veteran performers who remain under the commercial radar, and forgotten radio favorites who continue to deliver the goods live.
Now celebrating its seventh season at the venerable venue built 122 years ago to honor the Civil War veterans, Imagine Music has lined-up a six-pack of shows for the 2015 series that marks the return of a few past favorites and some first time visits for a few others.
The 2015 talent line-up features -- Will Hoge (Feb. 6 - $37.50 & $47.50); Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express (April 11 - $25 & $35); Roger McGuinn (May 1 - $37.50 & $47.50); The Bottle Rockets (June 6 - $25 & $35); Over The Rhine (Sept. 19 - $35 & $45) and Willie Nile (Nov. 7 - $40 & $30) – each performing a 7:30pm show. Opening acts for the 2015 shows are still to be announced.
“When Brad and I first came up with the concept for Imagine Music, we both still loved music and seeing shows, but we had gotten frustrated with the inconvenience of having to leave work early to drive to Chicago, deal with really high ticket prices, having to pay for parking, and after all that, not getting a very good seat. So we decided to create something right here for people who felt like us, those who still loved music but were tired of the inconvenience that goes along with attending a concert,” explained Harkel.
“When this all started, we weren’t sure we’d make it through the first few shows and now suddenly here we are starting our seventh year,” he continued. “Because we only book five or six shows a year, we are very selective who we bring in for each series of shows. Brad and I kinda bounce ideas off each other as to who we book.”
“We kick things off February 6 with country-rocker Will Hoge from Nashville, Tennessee,” said Harkel. “Will is a really interesting guy. He’s a native of Nashville who began his career writing songs for other artists, including The Eli Young Band and Lady Antebellum.” More willhoge.com
Returning to MOH is Chuck Prophet & The Mission whose rockin’ sound – that falls somewhere between Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and The Kinks -- made a strong impact with their first visit. As a songwriter Prophet has written tunes for the likes of Peter Wolf, Solomon Burke, Heart and Alejandro Escovedo. More: chuckprophet.com
Harkel is clearly thrilled Roger McGuinn is also returning. “Our patrons loved him when he was here five or six years ago. Brad and I loved him. He’s a living legend,” said Harkel. “Roger is a great storyteller. He still loves performing and likes to play in more intimate venues like Memorial Opera House. He shares stories about his days with The Byrds, about Bob Dylan, about the songs. He plays all the big hits - ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and all the other songs we grew up with.” More: rogermcguinn.com.
“I’m really looking forward to having the Bottle Rockets on June 6,” said Harkel. “Bottle Rockets are a great live band and they are excited about coming to the opera house. They were a big part of that (1990s) country-alt scene and have roots that go back to bands like Uncle Tupelo that eventually evolved into bands like Wilco and Sun Volt with folks like Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy.” More: bottlerockets.com.
Over The Rhine is a rising folk-rock act currently making a name for itself through opening slots on bills with Bob Dylan, Adrian Belew, Ani DiFranco and My Morning Jacket. More: overtherhine.com.
Closing out the season with his fourth MOH appearance for Imagine Music is New York rocker Willie Nile. This high guy is “dynamite in a bottle” with an energy level rivaling his close pal Bruce Springsteen. After seeing Nile live on stage, it’s easy to understand why this guy is frequently invited up on stage to jam with The Boss and his E-Streeters.
HOLIDAY QUIZ ANSWERS:
Thanks to all who took part in the “Local Scene” Holiday Music Quiz published in last week’s “GO!” section. Those who answered all six questions correctly had their names entered into a random drawing to win the 12-pack of music DVDs. Drawn from that group was: Congratulations! Here are the quiz answers:
1) One of the most popular holiday groups, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a spin off project of what heavy metal rock group?
2) This musical artist enjoyed his first ever #1 album in 2014, but years earlier had written a disturbing Christmas song in which poor Rudolph was ground into reindeer sausage. Who is the artist and what was that song?
A: Weird Al Yankovic in his song "The Night Santa Went Crazy"
3) This solo member of a classic rock group sang about being sold “the dream of Christmas” and the “dream of a silent night” while professing a belief in “Father Christmas”
A: Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) in the song "I Believe in Father Christmas."
4) “Jingle Bell Rock” has been recorded by dozens of artists over the years. Name the artist who first recorded it and landed it on the radio and record charts?
A: Bobby Helms in 1957.
5) This popular TV character showed up one holiday season with a macabre CD full of dark comedic revisions of popular Christmas carols with new lyrics about murder, mayhem, and decking the halls with body parts of some poor sap named Charlie.
A: The Crypt Keeper -- host of "Tales from the Crypt" from the album "Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas."
6) Name the kooky pair of pop culture icons of the 1970s who gave the world the story of “Santa Claus and his Old Lady.”
A: Cheech & Chong