News Column

Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill., Jim Vorel column

July 4, 2014

By Jim Vorel, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.



July 04--Here Come the Mummies and the Decatur Celebration seem to be a match made in fundraising heaven.

A major boon to the Celebration organization, the success of last year's mummy-centric "kick-off concert" at the Lincoln Square Theatre established a precedent: People are willing to pay for a ticketed concert the day before Celebration officially begins if it's a band that a large audience truly wants to see.

This year's re-booking of the Mummies quite clearly makes the point that in Celebration's eyes, they are that band, unofficial mascots of the entire festival.

On a few levels, though, this year's kick-off concert at the Decatur Civic Center will be different. Rather than the historic confines of the now-dark Lincoln Square Theatre, our venue is the Civic Center's ice skating arena. One might expect the experience to be more reminiscent of 2011 in this setting, when the mummies performed to a massive crowd of revelers on the Funfest Stage at the corner of Prairie and Franklin Sts. But due to the realities of this concert as a fundraiser first and foremost, it will actually bear much more resemblance to last year's show at the Lincoln -- and that's where some logistical issues may come in.

At the Lincoln, the infrastructure is firmly in place. You've got your rows of seating, your comfortable theater chairs and clearly numbered spots. The civic center show is being ticketed and sold in the same way, but it doesn't have any of those permanent seats--these are folding chairs we're talking about. Rows of chairs will be set up, and the Celebration website is currently selling reserved spots that get incrementally more expensive as you get closer, from $20 in the bleachers to $50 in the first few rows. The festival, obviously, has to maximize their profit on the show in order to make it an effective fundraiser. But in the Civic Center setting, it hardly seems like the most natural way to host a show as raucous as Here Come the Mummies.

This is, after all, one of the most high-energy dance bands out there. The setting in which they thrive most is an open stage in front of an open dance floor, where people are encouraged to let go, cut loose and "let their freak flags fly," as their popular song instructs. In talking to Celebration director Lori Sturgill, she expressed a desire to somehow fit a proper dance floor in somewhere, but she doesn't know exactly where it would go. She also acknowledged that some fans would no doubt want to move closer to the stage, but said precautions would be taken to keep people from trying to congregate in the aisles between folding chairs or the area in front of the stage.

"I've definitely thought about it, and we'll get it worked out," she said recently, as I broached the topic. "The Civic Center has rules against people rushing the stage, so we'll have security there to keep people staying where they should. I'd like to have a dance floor, but I can't cover up anyone's seats. It would have to be on the side or toward the back, because obviously if someone pays good money for a seat they want to feel they got what they paid for."

In terms of capacity, the Civic Center's arena is actually almost twice as big as The Lincoln, which suggests there may be room for a dance floor after all if a significant portion of the tickets remain unsold. Regardless, I can't help but think that the best and most memorable show would come about by losing the seating altogether, except for the bleachers in back. It's simply how a Here Come the Mummies show is best appreciated, and there's one notable person who agrees with me: Hand percussionist Java Mummy.

"Truth be told, part of me wishes we were back out on the street, sweating and playing for everyone," he wrote to me recently, as part of an interview for the upcoming show. Look for that full interview in a future Friday Life section of your Herald & Review.

More than anything, this is a reminder that the concert's function isn't purely for entertainment. Attending the show and buying a ticket is a vote of confidence in Celebration and a statement of support, just as buying a wristband is for the course of the weekend.

It's an ace in the hole that the festival has developed in order to get the weekend off on the right foot, and I applaud them for how successful it's been so far. Hopefully, the 2014 kick-off concert continues to build on that success.

jvorel@herald-review.com|(217) 421-7973

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(c)2014 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

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