LIKE BOB DYLAN MET JEFF TWEEDY IN A BATHROOM STALL by The CBGB Festival THE ELUSIVE AND UNEXPOSED DONNIE BIGGINS EMERGES FROM PACK TO SATIATE HIS HOMEGROWN FOLLOWING AT THE INAUGURAL CHICAGO BLUEGRASS & BLUES FESTIVALUnexpected to festival organizers, the Chicago...
Chicago bluegrass, blues festival to feature IU se by Indiana Daily Student Senior Donnie Biggins sings and plays the guitar six times a week at venues throughout Chicago. He has played at Drake University in Iowa, and his MySpace page has logged more than 2,000 visits.But...
LIKE BOB DYLAN MET JEFF TWEEDY IN A BATHROOM STALL by The CBGB Festival THE ELUSIVE AND UNEXPOSED DONNIE BIGGINS EMERGES FROM PACK TO SATIATE HIS HOMEGROWN FOLLOWING AT THE INAUGURAL CHICAGO BLUEGRASS & BLUES FESTIVAL
Unexpected to festival organizers, the Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival’s “Last Banjo Standing” play-in contest has been a hit. With over 75 bands entered and over 25,000 votes cast, it’s clear that the indie roots music scene is far from dormant. Midwest musicians, don’t fret, as there’s clearly no need to include a DJ Set in your repertoire to move the masses.
After 15 grueling days of viral voting and myspace pleas, the votes have been tallied and the festival organizers and artists have spoken. Picking out of the Top 5 vote-getters caused more duress than one could ever ask for, but…… Donnie Biggins, an unpolished and unapologetic singer/songwriter that swears by the inspiration provided by solitude and a Dylan poster, will be opening up the Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival on the Main Stage this November.
Alongside an array of acts far more established and polished, Donnie sang like no one was listening and provided an artist bio that read like a journal entry you’d be embarrassed for your friends to read. While he’s surely not the first songwriter to pen a song about Barak Obama, he might be the first to avoid sounding contrived or trite in doing so.
So with a MySpace page void of videos showcasing his talents and a mere handful of public appearances under his belt, it’s hard to say what we can expect come November 22nd. But whatever Donnie has to say that day, you can count on the fact that he’ll mean it.
Chicago bluegrass, blues festival to feature IU se by Indiana Daily Student Senior Donnie Biggins sings and plays the guitar six times a week at venues throughout Chicago. He has played at Drake University in Iowa, and his MySpace page has logged more than 2,000 visits.
But Biggins hasn’t been performing his entire life, nor is he majoring in music at IU – he is completing his student teaching in the Windy City.
“I didn’t know I could sing until I started listening to Johnny Cash and thought, ‘I can do that,’” said Biggins, a physical education and health major who bought a guitar and started playing for fun with friends from high school.
After teaching himself to play the guitar and harmonica during the summers in Bloomington, Biggins won an online contest to be the opening performer at the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival on Nov. 22.
“Donnie did exactly the epitome of the contest,” Chicago Bluegrass and Blues organizer Michael Raspatello said.
After finishing the contest in the top five, Biggins was chosen by a committee that included the other artists who will perform at the festival. Biggins entered the online contest to get his name out to the public, but after the first day of voting, realized it was very possible he could be in the top 10.
“It was really impressive to see the community rally around him,” Raspatello said. “It was exactly what we wanted.”
Raspatello said he expected the contest to be filled with unknown artists such as Biggins, and was surprised to see established bands with a fan base entering the contest.
“He created a fan base for the contest that was very organic, and in 15 days, compiled more votes than established bands,” Raspatello said. “Donnie was the perfect underdog story.”
Although Biggins used two songs he previously recorded for the contest, he wrote three new songs to play in the festival. Biggins used his personal experiences and current events to help him write the songs. He added that he would watch the news or read the newspaper for inspiration and then write about issues he disagreed with or issues he believed were important for people to hear.
“The response that I’m looking for is if after I play, people talk to me and say that it’s a good song,” Biggins said, “but I think people have to listen a lot.”
He added that many of the songs he sings with the harmonica are quick and have a lot of words, so listeners have to pay close attention.
Crowds who talk over the music only make him want to work harder so the songs grab their attention.
“My goal is to keep moving upward. This has all been pretty quick,” said Biggins, who first performed in May. He said he hopes for a good reception at the festival so in a year he can be guaranteed to play in other festivals. After graduating from IU in December, Biggins said he plans to put more time into his music.
Biggins will open the first Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival with his guitar and harmonica. He will also perform with the Shamboney’s, a band he formed with four friends.The festival was organized by a group of independent music producers including Raspatello to give exposure to local up-and-coming artists and help charities such as the Saving tiny Hearts Society, which raises money for research of congenital heart defects.
Junior Lauren Pais, a volunteer with the Saving tiny Hearts Society, said a sponsor such as the Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival is a huge plus and hopes the event promotes awareness about congenital heart defects and how common it is. Raspatello added he hopes to make the festival an annual event.
“We want to help people like Donnie every single year,” Raspatello said. “It makes us feel good.”