Joliet Big Bash a boon for local bands

11 bands play almost nonstop for 11 hours at Old Joliet Prison on Saturday

Big Bash at the Big House is a big deal for local musicians.

At least, that’s according to Tim Placher, who is organizing the music side of the Saturday event.

The party at the Old Joliet Prison is a nearly all-day, all-night concert combined with art exhibits, a farmers market, a kids zone and a prison tour within the walls of the refurbished property. For the duration of the event from noon to 11 p.m., music from 11 bands will play almost nonstop.

“Literally, it should be a five minute break between acts,” Placher said.

Placher was in the prison yard Thursday with crews setting up two stages that will make it possible to move almost seamlessly from one act to the next for 11 hours.

A musician and music teacher, Placher devotes most of his extracurricular time to organizing concerts. However, he hasn’t had much to do for more than a year with stages shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of these people are full-time musicians who normally play four, five times a week. Some supplement their income, and they missed all that the last year,” Placher said. “Hopefully, we can draw a really big crowd that will give musicians a great experience and a healthy pay day, and benefit the prison as well.”

The Big Bash at the Big House also will serve as a fundraiser for the restoration efforts at the former Joliet Correctional Center.

Tickets are $20, and with children age 12 and younger are admitted for free.

So far, about 1,200 tickets been sold for the Big Bash at the Big House, said Greg Peerbolte, executive director for the Joliet Area Historical Museum. The museum manages the Old Joliet Prison and events held there.

“We’re very happy with that,” Peerbolte said. “We want everyone to be comfortable, and there should be plenty of room.”

The numbers make it a bigger venue than usual as event organizers try to climb out of the pandemic.

“This is our first big event of the year,” said Jim Richards Jr. of RME Audio Video, which is providing sound equipment for the Big Bash. “We’ve had a few things here and there, but it’s been kind of slow.”

For Placher, it’s the first concert he’s been able to organize since Rock and Roll Songbook concert on Feb. 8, 2020, at the Rialto Square Theatre.

Placher hopes the broad scope of the Big Bash – the variety of activities beyond music and the appeal of getting inside to see the historic prison – will draw a new audience for some of the bands.

He also looks forward to potentially bigger events and is thinking in terms of a future music festival in the unique venue the Old Joliet Prison offer.

“I go to a lot of festivals,” Placher said. “They’re in the mountains or in a forest or on a beach. We don’t have any of those. But we have this thing, which no one else has.”

The musicians will have a chance to gather in one segment of the show for a special act featuring prison-themed music, including an old Memphis Blues song called “Joliet Bound.”

Headliner acts are Chicago Farmer & the Fieldnotes and The Big Lagniappe. The roster includes, John Condon & the Old Gang Orchestra, J Ross Green Band, Cheryl Rodey Band, Alex Hoffer, Phoebe Hunt, Laney Jones, Crooked Tails, Vaudevileins, and Nashville Up-and-Comers.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News