Google “Groov’n in the Grove” and you’ll get everything from classic car shows to 5K runs around the country. But for many who are on the beat around Madison Street, “Groov’n in the Grove” can only mean the monthly summer music festival held on the grounds of the Altenheim Home at 7824 W. Madison Street in the village of Forest Park, Illinois.
This free festival has often been likened to a “mini Ravinia,” thanks to the grove’s expanse of green space and mature trees trimmed with tiny Italian lights. But unlike Ravinia, “Groov’n” is easily accessible for west suburban residents, who also relish the fact that they can bring their own food and booze to the outdoor gig.
The final 2015 event is on tap for Tuesday, August 18th with perennial favorites “R-Gang” taking the stage beginning at 7 pm. While information on Forest Park’s “Groov’n” event might be hard to come by, R-Gang has their own website, which states “they are considered one of the best R & B dance bands in the Chicago area.”
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone certainly seemed to agree with this assessment as he took the stage with R- Gang at a 2012 event. Barbara Weigand of R- Gang’s ArtsWarrior management team noted that, “Tony Calderone is a long time fan of R-Gang and a fun- loving guy!” She added that the band is “a favorite of many of the local politicians.”
Whether your political leanings run red or blue, it’s sure that R-Gang will have the perfect song for you. Warner said, “Brickhouse” is probably the band’s most requested song, “though there are many favorite songs for fans.” She added that, “pretty much anything that’s good to dance to. As one of their clients once said, “If you can’t dance to this band, check your pulse!”
R-Gang has been providing the soundtrack for local festivals, outdoor events and area nightclubs for 30 years running and they play approximately 125-140 gigs per year.
With such a long and successful track record, it’s pretty obvious that R-Gang is no fly by night crew. In fact, its ranks are comprised of some top-flight musicians including lead vocalist Robert Davis who has opened for the likes of Joe Tex, the Staple Singers and Stephanie Mills. In addition to this, he was a finalist in the open auditions when Kool & the Gang was looking for a lead singer.
Anthony (Rick) Owens is another vocalist with the group whose clear falsetto serves them well when playing early Motown hits. Owens has a history with Davis as they performed together with Chambers of Time.
R-Gang guitarist Wil Crosby has a background in blues and gospel music including stints with Eddie Clearwater, Mighty Joe Young and Otis Clay. Crosby also has performed with gospel greats including the Staple Singers and recently toured with Mavis Staples.
Longtime bass player Bill Syniar also boasts an impressive musical resume with everything from co-founding the group “Tantrum,” appearing on Star Search with Alan Hewitt & 88 and touring the world with Survivor.
Drummer Linard Stroud brings an impressive lineage to the stage as well. Stroud began his career performing with his dad in the now-legendary lakefront drum circles at a young age and counts many Chicago-based musical luminaries as part of his extended family.
Rounding out the R-Gang roster is keyboard player and vocalist, Mike DelValle, who joined the group in 2011 after doing everything from forming bands, backing vocalist Cat Cox and recording with Magpie on Chicago’s Northport label.
Don’t let this summer slip away without getting a chance to get your groove on in Forest Park’s outdoor grove. Bring your family and friends out to Altenheim and plan on dancing under the stars to R-Gang. The “Grove” is located at 7824 W. Madison, between First and DesPlaines Avenues.