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Mellencougar

Mellencougar

The hits-laden music catalog of Seymour, Indiana's famous son John Mellencamp will be celebrated Saturday at The Art Theatre (230 Main St.) in Hobart with a passionate, all ages, 8 p.m. performance by Chicago's seven-piece Mellencougar group. Tickets: $15.

"For the people that feel the same way about John Mellencamp's music as I do, we honor his songs while celebrating them and we certainly have fun doing it," said Don J. Wilson,  lead singer and founder of the band. "The Mellencamp albums we all bought meant something to us and still mean something to us. Those songs spark memories for so many people when they hear them, myself included."

For Wilson, one song that brings back a great memory is "Now More Than Ever" from Mellencamp's 1991 release "Whenever We Wanted." "When I hear that one, or perform it, I'm taken back to the first time I saw John and the band in concert. It was the Fourth of July at the Deer Creek Music Center in Indy. I asked my wife, who was then my girlfriend, to go to the concert with me. We bought tickets that were in the 36th row, but we wound up in the sixth row that night looking straight up at John and I remember that I was holding her hand when he sang that song. The second verse of the song always reminds me of that moment."

Saturday's concert will include all the hits a Mellencamp fan would expect to hear from the Midwest's only Mellencamp tribute group that has from time to time actually included former members of Mellencamp's own band. But Wilson promises it is much more than just a litany of greatest hits, which is why the show is billed as "Mellencougar: Mellencamp & More!"

"We do all the hits plus some of the deeper album tracks, and a few of John's newer songs like "Grandview" from Mellencamp's latest (2017) album 'Sad Clowns & Hillbillies,'" he said.

Wilson is quick to point out how Mellencamp himself loved covering songs by some of his favorite artists early in his career. "John recorded Elvis' 'Jailhouse Rock,' Orbison's 'Pretty Woman' The Door's '20th Century Fox' and Ray Charles' 'Hit The Road Jack' on his first album "Chestnut Street Incident" (1976), and even later in his career (1994's "Dance Naked" album ) did Van Morrison' 'Wild Night', so we also do some covers of our favorite songs and artists in that same spirit. Among the other artists heard during a Mellencougar show are John Fogerty, Eddie Money, Joe Cocker, Rolling Stones and a fair share of Tom Petty.

"Our keyboardist/guitarist Dennis Martin used to be in a Tom Petty tribute called Damn The Torpedoes and does an amazing job on Petty songs, so the audience really enjoys when Dennis breaks out some of those," added Wilson. Another highlight of the live show is when fiddle player Colleen Kuras rips into Charlie Daniels' "Devil Went Down to Georgia."

As noted, two of Mellencamp's former band members -- Moe Z M.D. and bassist Toby Meyers -- have spent time in the line-up of Mellencougar and performed many live shows with Wilson and company. While Meyers rarely performs any more, Moe Z M.D. still pops up at some of the group's concerts from time to time.

Mellencougar's current line-up performing Saturday is rounded out by Howard Rudney on guitar, Ken Eichman on bass, Ed Clemons on percussion and Tim Peterson on drums. Ticket info: 219-548-9137. Band info: Mellencougar.com.

MUSIC NOTES

The Nomad Planets will be among those performing at this year's 219 Day Party 2018 on Feb. 17 at the historic Hammond Civic Center (5825 S. Sohl Ave.) in Hammond, presented by Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr. Their set begins at 7:30 p.m., and is followed by The Crawpuppies. Also performing will be Rico Hampton as "Michael Jackson." A half dozen craft breweries from the Region will also be there as guests rock and take part in a variety of games and contests. The theme of this year's event is "Feats of Strength," so there will be events like Gladiator Joust, Punching Arcade, Thumb Wrestling, Climbing Wall and more. Free admission to all ages. Info: 219Day.com or 219-853-6378.

•International singer/songwriter Dan Navarro returns to Chicago Street Theatre (154 Chicago St.) in Valparaiso at 7 p.m. Sunday for his annual performance in the One Night Jam Series produced by Paul Braun. Navarro was once half of the famous duo Lowen & Navarro. They were the first artists to kick off the now long-running series. Navarro's music is folk with a rock edge.  Lowen & Navarro achieved national fame when Pat Benatar had a hit with their song, "We Belong." Also a successful voiceover actor, Dan's voice has appeared in such films as "Happy Feet," "The Lorax," "Rio," and "Envy," and such TV shows as "American Dad," "Family Guy," and others. More:  dannavarro.com. Tickets: $25. More: 219-464-1636 or chicagostreet.org.

The Marco Villarreal Trio -- with Frank Russell and Charles Heath -- will perform an 8 p.m. jazz and fusion concert at Front Porch Music on Friday. Northwest Indiana's Villarreal is one of the most brilliant guitarists this  columnist has ever seen and is a highly recommended treat for local fans of jazz and guitar music in general. Admission: $15. All ages welcome, non-alcohol show. More: 219-464-4700 or frontporchmusic.com.

Purdue University Northwest’s (PNW) Building Community Through the Arts program is hosting a poetry slam at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15. The event will provide a platform for poets to perform an originally written piece based on the commemorative theme, “Still I Rise.” The event takes place at the CHESS Art Gallery (6725 Kennedy Ave.) in Hammond and is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served and guests will receive complimentary poetry gifts.  More: pnw.edu/bcta or call 219- 989-2401.

• From noon to 2 p.m. Friday, the 89.1 FM Lakeshore Public Radio program "Midwest BEAT with Tom Lounges" will feature a bevy of special guests spotlighting the late 1950s Indiana rock band, The Jiants. The program's in-studio guests are The Jiants' late guitar player/co-founder Jerry Hedges' son and wife - Aaron Hedges (of The Crawpuppies) and his mother Linda Lane Hedges - with special call-in guests Bill Lee Balsbaugh of The Jiants and bassist Lisa Umbarger (formerly of The Toadies and daughter of Jiant's late bassist Ray Umbarger).

Then on Tuesday, Feb. 13's "Midwest BEAT" program from 7 to 8 p.m. will feature the Hobart High School vocal group WOLFFGANG. The group will sing live on air from the Lakeshore Public Radio studio to celebrate Valentine's Day with some special love songs being added to their trademark nostalgic medleys. The program streams live at lakeshorepublicradio.org.

Opinions are solely those of the writer. Reach him at beatboss@aol.com.

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