Highland Park, Community

Bitter Jester Music Festival’s rescheduled grand finale on Sunday, Sept. 4, will raise money for Highland Park businesses

Originally scheduled for the night of July 4, the Bitter Jester Music Festival’s grand finale is now set for Sunday, Sept. 4, as a charity show to benefit local Highland Park businesses that were impacted by the mass shooting on July 4 and the ensuing investigation.

The free finale of the music series, which is in its 16th year of supporting youth music throughout the region, will feature 12 bands starting at 4 p.m. Sunday at Madame Zuzu’s, 1876 1st St., in Highland Park — the cafe and teahouse owned by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, a Highland Park resident.

Donations, while not required, are welcomed at the door or beforehand online and will benefit the Business Recovery Fund, a joint effort of the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Highland Park/Highwood, Highland Park Bank & Trust, and First Bank of Highland Park.

Proceeds will go to the Business Recovery Fund established by the Highland Park Chamber of
Commerce, the Rotary Club of Highland Park/Highwood, Highland Park Bank & Trust, and BJMF Title
Sponsor First Bank of Highland Park.

“Over 150 establishments were shut down while the FBI investigated, many of them paying
out-of-pocket to compensate their employees despite being shuttered for a week,” said Nicolas DeGrazia, founder of the Bitter Jester Music Festival. “Turning our biggest show of the year into a helping hand for so many people that have supported us over the years is something I’m very proud to be a part of.”

The music festival is a product of the Bitter Jester Foundation for the Arts, which launched the music series in 2006.

So far in 2022, the festival hosted five concerts in May and June, featuring more than 20 bands in Port Clinton Square. The grand finale is set for Sunday and a special showcase Monday, Sept. 5, at Navy Pier in Chicago.

The City of Highland Park has sponsored the Bitter Jester Music Festival since its inception, and Mayor Nancy Rotering said it is meaningful that the show will go on.

“The annual Friday night concert series and Fourth of July Grand Finale Concert are mainstays of summer in Highland Park,” Rotering said in a statement. “In the wake of the Fourth of July Parade shooting, we have been leaning on each other as we find the strength to move forward as individuals and as a community. We are grateful for BJFA’s flexibility in rescheduling, collaboration, and support for our youth and business community.”

The finale’s 12 bands either were named winners of previous Bitter Jester competitions this year or were selected by the show’s producers as “wild cards,” the release says.

“All of the performers wanted to return, not just to finish this year’s musical journey, but also to give
back,” said Tyler Armstrong, a multi-year participant with the band Scorched Waves out of Stevens Point, Wis. “Highland Park is an amazing community. It always supports us when we perform there. Bitter Jester took care of us on the Fourth of July and we’re excited to come back and turn the Bitter Jester Finale into a fundraiser. Highland Park is our second home.”

According to the release, 60 percent of festival applicants are turned down each summer, “which ensures the quality of music is extremely high.”

A grand champion will be named at the grand finale and will receive a cash prize. MVP Awards and other prizes will also be given out that night.

The next day, Labor Day, MOnday, Sept. 4, six Bitter Jester bands — including recent winners Summer Drive and Pretoria — and a solo performer will perform from 1:20-8 p.m. in Navy Pier’s beer garden.


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