As the sun cuts a more southerly swatch across the sky, the days shorten, and the nights get a little chillier, east central Illinois will experience the most glorious time of year for weather. The angle of the sun produces exquisitely lit landscapes and bold shadows. The air has lost a lot of its humidity, and being outside, awash in beautiful weather, is as good as it gets. What a perfect time for a weekend-long music and arts celebration that’s practically right in our backyard.

Widespread Panic, Phases of the Moon Fest's headliner.

The inaugural Phases of the Moon Music and Art Festival will take place Thursday, September 11th through Sunday, September 14th in beautiful Kennekuk County Park, located in Vermillion County just outside of Danville. If the weather holds, and the forecast calls for bright skies and cool nights — it may be one of the best locations to be in east central Illinois.

Phases of the Moon is the inspiration of a father and son team of music-loving impresarios, Sam and Barry Shear, who believe the world can be made a little better through music and art. The festival features an outstanding array of musical performances, as well as performance and visual art by nationally and internationally known artists. “We want to create an environment that would foster creativity and emotion through something as powerful as music, art, community and nature”, says Sam Shear, the younger. Kennekuk County Park, wrapping as it does around Lake Mingo, seems a perfect location.

The Shear’s have a great respect for nature, and Barry Shear, the elder, spends much of his retirement time out of doors, including a great deal of time in his garden. It’s no wonder that they have adopted a theme many other festivals have pushed to the forefront of their operation: “Leave Nothing But Footprints” in the hopes of encouraging attendees to make sure their respect for the land is on par with their hosts’.

Kennekuk County Park — VIP camping area

With the desire to produce a music festival firmly set, they were introduced to the Kennekuk site by the Jeannie Cooke, of the Danville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, according to Sam Shear. Once selected, the process of site plans, permits and permissions is never an easy one, but thanks to Ken Konsis, head of Kennekuk County Park, Gary Weinard, Chair of the Vermillion County Board, and Danville Mayor, Scott Eisenhower, the festival was set for September 2014.

Music, of course, is the major organizing principle of Phases of the Moon, and the lineup clearly reflects that. The Shear’s drew inspiration from the Furthur Festival, touring performances by the band Furthur, made up of surviving Grateful Dead band members. The shows have taken on a joyous, festival atmosphere, not unlike Grateful Dead shows of the past. Phases assembled an eclectic mix of music performers renowned for their loyal and participatory fanbase. String Cheese Incident is one such band, but so is Widespread Panic, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Tedeski Trucks Band and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. These bands, and the others programmed, have the ability to lift an audience in both body and spirit. They will also share a stage with the legendary Leon Russell, an icon of American music. In case the name doesn’t mean much to you, Russell has “tickled the ivories” for the likes of, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Gram Parsons,  Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson,  Frank Sinatra, The Band, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, and The Rolling Stones. 

Some local and regional performers included in the lineup are: the Flatland Harmony Experiment out of Indianapolis, a non-traditional, vocally driven bluegrass band, the James Jones Trio, playing blues and hailing from Danville, fifteen year-old singer-songwriter Kasey Burton, also from Danville, and Abnormous, a dance and funk band from Champaign. The lineup also includes a band that doesn’t mind jumping into politics on occasion, Boat Drink Caucus. The band includes Illinois State Representative from Danville, Chad Hayes, Representative Mike Tryon, and Illinois State Senator Don Harmon. They will be opening the festival on the Town Square stage, Thursday at 1 p.m.

Phases is primarily a camping festival. You can camp with your vehicle, which is good in case the weather turns sour for a spell. There are also hotels nearby with shuttle service, and an on-site shuttle for getting around the festival grounds. The festival has announced that they will also be selling tickets for Saturday and Sunday only, or Sunday only, in addition to full weekend admission.

Phases of the Moon will be making its first impression on east central Illinois this weekend. It has all the makings of a good, and long-lasting one.