Your guide to the Firecracker 500 Festival

Firecracker 500
The Firecracker 500 Festival is returning for its third consecutive year. — photo by Adrianne Behning
Full disclosure: Little Village is among the many local businesses sponsoring this event.

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and that not only means grilling out, day drinking and illegally setting off fireworks in your yard, but also the return of the Firecracker 500 Festival. For the third consecutive year, Firecracker 500 will feature some of the coolest garage, psych and soul bands both from the midwest and beyond, including a ton of local favorites like The Ills, Lipstick Homicide, Good Habits and Autodramatics. Spanning four nights, the festival’s first half will take place at The Mill ($10 cover each night), but will move to Blue Moose Tap House for both Friday ($12) and Saturday ($15) evenings. Below are a few highlights that attempt to capture the diversity and awesomeness of this year’s line-up (full schedule).

Wednesday, July 3

The Mill at 7:00 p.m.

Headlining night number one, which also features the return of Jerome & The Psychics from Bloomington, Indiana, is Chicago psych rock band, Verma. Following the success of their self-released debut LP, EXU (2012), the Trouble In Mind label recently put out one of their cassette recordings (a soundtrack for VICE magazine’s “Guide to the Congo”) on vinyl, Coltan (2013). Coltan may only be four songs, but two of the improvisational droning soundscapes clock in at over 12 minutes. As someone who gets antsy listening to anything beyond a 60 second punk song, I found those 12 minutes to be pretty amazing. Fans of Acid Mothers Temple, Agitation Free, or Tjutjuna should definitely check them out.

Thursday, July 4

The Mill at 7:00 p.m.

The dudes from The Blind Shake hail from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I honestly don’t know a ton about this trio of fuzzy-garage music creators, but I’ve had their album Seriousness (2012), which is out on Learning Curve Records, on heavy rotation for over a month now. They have the whole LP available for streaming on both Bandcamp and Spotify, so it’d be worth at least giving the songs  “Man Leaves House” and “They’re All Gone” a listen before seeing them.

You should also check out Racket Ghost (Lansing, Michigan) and The Delphines (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). This is in the running to be my favorite night of Firecracker, for real.

Friday, July 5

Blue Moose Tap House at 7:00 p.m.

The Fleshtones formed in 1976 in New York, and have been producing a retro mix of rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and surf ever since. They’ve released more than a dozen albums over the years, but my favorite is their 2003 album Do You Swing?, put out by Yep Roc Records. The songs “Hard Lovin’ Man” and “I’m Back Again” off that album are major earworms.

Whenever I head back to the land of cheese, beer and legally purchasable patriotic explosive devices, Static Eyes is one of my favorite bands to see! Full disclosure: I like them so much, I specifically asked Joe Derderian (the guy we should all thank for putting this on each year!) to see if they’d play. Luckily for Iowa City, these garage rockers from Milwaukee accepted the invitation. Within the last year, they’ve released a 7 inch on Windian Records, Trouble, and were featured in this sick music video made by Rock ‘n Roller Remote Controller:

Saturday, July 6

Blue Moose Tap House at 7:00 p.m.

The last night of Firecracker features a killer line-up, including the 60s style garage band Uh Bones. From Chicago, Uh Bones shares members with The Yolks, who will also be playing the same night. Their seriously danceable Only You EP, released by Randy Records, will definitely make it into the top tier of my “Best of 2013” list. And yes, I use a tier ranking system because sometimes you just can’t pick a favorite.

Self-described as a post-punk soul band, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound are also from Chicago (who isn’t?!). They recently released their third album, Howl, on Bloodshot Records, and are currently on tour making some major stops along the way, including Summerfest and Austin City Limits. Their sound ranges from rhythmic beats that will keep you dancing to sad bluesy ballads and everything in between. Plus, their video for the song “Rouse Yourself”  features Aubrey Plaza from Parks ‘n Rec and Jake Johnson from New Girl. Music and TV unite FTW!

More information can be found on the festival’s official website.

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