Get ready for Springfield's Summer of Music

The "Summer of Music" here in Springfield all starts this weekend - May 13-15 - with the annual three-day indie music and craft beer festival - IndieCraft.

Then, rolling in with the summer, the music scene in Springfield will continue to offer a unique variety of free and low-cost music options for just about anyone to enjoy.

In between the Summer Arts Festival at Veterans Park and the "summer of music" wrapping up with the inaugural Springfield Kiwanis Jazz and Blues Fest in late August, multiple other local venues - including The Market Bar at COhatch, Fratelli's, Station 1, Mela Urban Bistro, Mother Stewart's Brewing Company and O'Conners Irish Pub - will have many summer nights filled with live music.

"Some of the pieces have always been there - from the Summer Arts Festival to the individual bars and restaurants doing music here and there - but it's really gelled the last couple years," says Kevin Loftis, co-owner of Mother Stewart's. "You do have a book-ended summer. Right along with graduation weekend (at Wittenberg University) you have IndieCraft to kick off the summer, and it's involving multiple venues this year and is going to continue to grow. 

"You then have a whole summer of music."

For the third year, IndieCraft will find a home at Mother Stewart's, with the festival also expanding this year to include performances on a stage in the alley next to COhatch - The Market. 

The three-day festival is chock-full of of free indie band performances starting at 4 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and noon Sunday. 

Only one performance - Guided by Voices at 9 p.m. on Friday at Mother Stewart's - is ticketed to control crowds and already sold out. However, there will be a free fan space just outside Mother's where attendees can still enjoy the music and see the band on a large simulcast screen. Find the full lineup and bands listed by location at www.IndieCraftOH.com.

The festival features national talent, including artists touring through other nationally-known music festivals and major cities like Chicago and Philadelphia. It also will includes regional and local talent.

IndieCraft also includes a variety of food trucks and a collection of craft beer options from other breweries that attendees can sample in addition to Mother's own selection.

Loftis says some of the local bars and restaurants have already released line-ups of their summer music schedules, including Station 1 and Mela. Fratelli's frequently has acoustic performances, and The Market Bar features a mix of free music at COhatch, all of which is posted on Facebook as it's scheduled. 

"Ourselves (at Mother Stewart's) have music Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and even some Sunday brunches that have live music," he says. "And all that is going on alongside the Summer Arts Festival."

Mother's tries to fill its stages with a variety of music genres, Loftis says, from jazz to blues to flunk to indie. And, the new outdoor stage in 2021 opened doors for the brewery to attract a broader audience,

"I think music is a vehicle for - personally - the brewery to differentiate itself from other breweries, but also for the community and Downtown Springfield at large to differentiate itself from other Downtowns," Loftis says. "We are a bar, obviously ... but we're not just that. We have these festivals that are accessible and open and free to the public ... Music can be a vehicle, one of many different ones, to get people from out of town to come here, and that's the tickets, is we get people from out of town to come here to see the improvements Springfield has made."

The Springfield Arts Council Summer Arts Festival (SAF) will kick off its 156th year of free music on June 9. This year's seven-week performing arts series at Veteran's Park features all kinds of live performances, including tribute bands, musical theater, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Grammy award winners All-4-One and more.

"I think it's become important to the community because it's so accessible," Springfield Arts Council Executive Director Tim Rowe says. "It's held in the center of town, and because it is admission-free, it breaks down barriers of being financially able to attend. And, because you don't have to reserve seats in advance, the Summer Arts Festival is accessible and easy to attend."

Though some people set up chairs at 6 a.m. to save their favorite seats for each night's performance, Rowe says, others arrive with chairs throughout the day or even at the time the show is about to start. The flexibility of all the shows being something individuals and families can either plan for or decide to attend on a whim is also a draw for many people with less-rigid summer schedules.

Rowe says its nice to see festivals like IndieCraft and the Jazz and Blues Fest taking hold in Springfield, and he added that the genre-specific events are a great addition to the SAF's more eclectic mix of performances.

"It's very exciting, and it's always great to see new things. I think it expands the experience of going Downtown," he says, adding that the music can often lead people to spend more time in local retail shops, in restaurants, and exploring the city in general. "This, to me, just opens up so many other opportunities for all of us to work together and for the community to extend the experience of going out together for live music."

Closing the bookends of Springfield's Summer of Music will be the highly anticipated new Jazz and Blues Fest presented by Springfield Kiwanis and supported by Springfield's own John Legend.

The free, two-day festival will take place during the evenings of Aug. 19 and 20 on two stages - at Mother's and at a stage to be set up at National Road Commons.

Kiwanis president and festival event chair Rich Carey says the concept for the Jazz and Blues Fest originated well before the start of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, and he's happy to see all the planning and preparation coming to a reality.

"There's an explosion of live, good entertainment in Springfield," Carey says. "It's becoming its own little mecca for live music, and we were looking to complement that with an event of our own."

With the help of Springfield-native and current vice president for jazz education at Lincoln Center Todd Stoll, Kiwanis is working to finish securing the line up of performers for the festival. 

Already on this list are John Pizzareli and Samara Joy, and Carey says a total of 16 local, regional and national acts will fill out the performance stages. Each night of shows will be followed by "late night jam sessions" at Mother's.

"We needed a new, fun, exciting, productive event we could jump on board with and something that would be of great interest to all kinds of people in Springield," Carey says. "We wanted something attractive to the community and something that would attract people to join Kiwanis."

Carey added that the music culture taking off in Springfield in the last couple years was a major driver for building this new event because Kiwanis wants to be part of continuing that forward momentum and energy.

"You'd be hard pressed to find another community with all this free music throughout the summer," Loftis says. "No one can say they don't have something to do."

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.