Fire Up the Mics for Some Live Entertainment

After more than a year away from the public, several area venues are bringing back their live music lineups, both outdoors and in. These six spots are bringing back the party.

Ask anyone what they miss about “The Great Before,” or rather, the time before the COVID pandemic, and you’ll likely hear about live events. The times when full throngs of concertgoers sang together at the top of their lungs, or when the lights in a theater suddenly dimmed and you knew the curtain was about to rise at any second.

 True, many large gatherings are still canceled or postponed until next year. But even so, live performances are making a comeback. Local bars, theaters and parks have full lineups of entertainment, and eager artists are ready to guide you into a musical oblivion, if only for a couple of hours.

Whether you’re near Rockford, Beloit, Freeport or Galena, there’s a lengthy lineup of live music and entertainment to discover this summer.

Prairie Street Brewing Co. Photo

Dinner on the Dock at Prairie Street Brewing Co.

The crowd-pleasing “Dinner on the Dock” summertime music series is back, presented by Prairie Street Brewing Co. at 200 Prairie St., in Rockford. Guests wishing to unwind on Monday and Thursday nights can experience free live music from local and regional artists while enjoying food and craft beer. The bar is open from 3:30 to 10 p.m., food trucks are on site from 4 to 8 p.m., and music fills the dockside from 6 to 9 p.m. Whether you arrive by car or by boat, try to arrive earlier rather than later to get a good spot.

Call (815) 277-9427 or visit for more information. 

Dinner on the Docks Lineup
June 21 Dan Maguire
June 24 Unity the Band
June 28 Dave Hayes
July 1 Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts
July 5 Ryan Swanson
July 8 That Gurl
July 12 Three Good Men
July 15 Petty Thieves
July 19 Honey Cellar
July 22 The Jimmys
July 26 Mana Kintorso
July 29 TRaSh 80’s
Aug. 2 Earthmother
Aug. 5 The Sensations
Aug. 9 Marques Morel
Aug. 12 Backcountry Roads
Aug. 16 Each Day
Aug. 19 Three Good Men
Aug. 23 Lief Sjostrom
Aug. 26 Boom Boom Room

Rockford Park District Photo

The Sinnissippi Music Shell

This summer, the Rockford Park District and MembersAlliance Credit Union are welcoming music-lovers to the (mostly) free “Music in the Park” entertainment series at the Sinnissippi Music Shell, 1401 N. Second St., in Rockford. It’s a great opportunity to take in local and regional talents on a Tuesday or Thursday evening while surrounded by nature. Performances at the shell begin at 7 p.m. and feature many styles of artists, from country bands to jazz musicians to full orchestras.

Visit or call (815) 987-8800 for more information.  

Sinnissippi Music Shell Lineup
June 17 Grand Groove Hotel
June 22 Rockford Concert Band
June 24 Back Country Roads
June 29 Rockford Concert Band
July 1 Shawn Holt and The Teardrops
July 6 Classical Blast
July 8 American English ($5 admission)
July 13 Rockford Concert Band
July 15 Harlan Jefferson
July 20 Rockford Concert Band
July 22 Blooze Brothers ($5 admission)
July 27 Rock Valley Summer Festival Orchestra
July 29 Steely Dane ($5 admission)
Aug. 3 Phantom Regiment

Rock Valley College’s Starlight Theatre 

Broadway is making its mighty return this September, but meanwhile, local artists are working hard at Rock Valley College’s Starlight Theatre to prepare five productions for this summer. Showcasing our community’s best talent in a beautiful setting, Starlight Theatre, 3301 N. Mulford Road in Rockford, is known for providing the community with an enriching cultural activity that’s both entertaining and affordable.

To ensure the safety of the performers and audience members, Starlight’s shows will operate at 20% capacity this season, meaning only 200 lucky people will be able to enjoy each performance.

Purchase tickets online at, by calling (815) 921-2160, or by visiting the box office Tuesdays through Fridays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

Starlight Theatre Lineup
July 7-17 “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”
July 21-31 “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”
Aug. 4-14 “Once Upon a Mattress”
Aug. 12-14 “Pinkalicious”
Aug. 18-28 “Little Shop of Horrors”

Galena Cellars Photo

Music in the Vines at Galena Cellars

One of the most beautiful places in the Midwest is found in Galena, Ill., with its hilly landscape and rolling vineyards. Whether you live nearby or plan to take a daytrip, a summertime staple is sipping wine at Galena Cellars vineyard while enjoying live music. The free “Music in the Vines” concert series continues through Labor Day weekend, featuring a different artist every Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. at 4746 N. Ford Road, in Galena.

Galena Cellars wine is available by glass, bottle or flight. Bring a picnic basket, blanket and your leashed four-legged friend, and visit or call (815) 777-3235 for more information. 

Music in the Vines Lineup
June 19 Mississippi Duo
June 20 John Moran
June 26 Keith Scott
June 27 A Pirate Over 50 
July 3 Big Medicine
July 4 Steve McIntyre
July 10 DR Duo
July 11 Ky & Ty Acoustic Duo
July 17 Steve Kalmes
July 18 Jordan Danielson
July 24 Meghan Davis
July 25 Dan Peart
July 31 Scott Waterhouse

(Geronimo Hospitality Group Photo)

Merrill & Houston’s Friday Nights

Known for its rustic atmosphere and uncompromised cuisine, Merrill & Houston’s Steak Joint, 500 Pleasant St. in Beloit, is now hosting some of the area’s most talented musicians on Friday evenings at 8 p.m. Enjoy a cocktail paired with steak or seafood while listening to pop, rock, folk or R&B.

Visit or call (608) 535-4394 to book a reservation.

Merrill & Houston’s Lineup
June 18 Rob Tomaro (classic rock/folk)
June 25 David Hayes (acoustic solo rock)
July 2 Gary the Band (pop rock)
July 9 Duane Worden (‘70s yacht rock)
July 16 Chris Kohn (acoustic singer/songwriter)

Wagner House Photo

The Wagner House’s Live Series

Located in the historic Wagner Print Building at 1 E. Spring St., Ste. 4338, in Freeport, The Wagner House is a beautifully preserved, three-floored venue featuring free live music on sporadic evenings throughout the summer starting at 8 p.m. Enjoy a burger, sandwich or entree ranging from salmon to rib-eye while local musicians entertain in an intimate setting.

Call (815) 232-4408 or visit to learn more.

The Wagner House Lineup
June 17 Ryan and Joe Trio
June 18 Jason Eady
June 24 Flaccid Pickle
June 25 Southpaw Stance
July 9 The Oxleys
Sept. 2 Nathan Dean and the Damn Band