Jack Koshkin, left, and Rafael Gandre of Wisconsin funky prog-rock band Fightin' Bob leave it all on the stage at the Bitter Jester Music Festival's summer finale concert at Madame Zuzu's in Highland Park Sunday, Sept. 4. // Brian Shamie

Bitter Jester wraps up its 16th season with tribute to Highland Park community

Sunday’s Bitter Jester Music Festival grand finale was part concert, part contest and part reunion.

Two months to the day after its postponement due to the tragic attack on the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, founder Nic DeGrazia and the Bitter Jester community gathered together to celebrate music once again — many of whom haven’t seen each other since huddling under the bleachers not far from the parade grounds.

All eight finalists from across the Midwest — Fightin’ Bob, Fluctuation, Keep the Eleven, New Age Americans, Scorched Waves, Summer Drive, Summer League and VENGANZA — played to an audience of friends, families and fans at Madame Zuzu’s, as well as a panel of judges and commentators. Special guests Linda Therese, The Peter Dankelson Band, Exit 122, Opening Day and Pretoria added to the festive atmosphere.

In the end, defending champions Summer Drive from Oak Park took top honors, while jazz-pop band Summer League came in runner-up. Scorched Waves of Wisconsin earned honorable mention.

“They really make sure that everybody here feels special,” said New Age American’s Jake Smith, formerly of West Chicago. “Usually a band plays and maybe a couple people standing outside say ‘Hey, good set.’ How often do local bands get to be on a podcast, on the news, talking to the paper and playing all these shows?”

While the theatricality, the rock, the funk, the jams and the jazziness were all in good fun (not to mention some prize money), the concert served another purpose — to help raise funds to benefit the Highland Park Business Recovery Fund, assisting businesses shut down after the Fourth of July shootings and subsequent FBI investigation.

Donations are still being accepted for the fund via PayPal or at checkout.stripe.com.

About Post Author