By Clay Riness —
Everybody knows Cheech. That is to say, anyone familiar with the regional music scene does.
At 38, Gregg “Cheech” Hall, who grew up in Smith Valley, has been actively making music for nearly 30 years, and organizing and producing it for nearly 10.
“I started playing guitar at 9 years old—I think because I wanted to be Elvis,” he confesses with a chuckle. “I remember seeing ‘La Bamba,’ you know, about Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly.”
He’s quick to admit that he comes from a musical and artistic family. One cousin is a professional artist. Others are very active in local community theatre. His father, a strong music advocate, took him to his first concert … Johnny Cash and the Carter Family at the La Crosse Center. It left a mark. Music, he says, was his calling from a very young age. “It started there, you know, with the country thing,” he admits, “then as I grew I came to rock and roll, then Green Day and Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, Phish. I did the jam band thing, and the blues thing. Now I’m kind of coming back around to that roots category.”
Hall has been doing solo gigs since he first began performing, but the list of local and regional bands he’s been a part of is a familiar read: Mitgee Evers, Smokin’ Bandits, White Iron Band, and currently, Gregg Hall and the Wrecking Ball.
In 2010, Hall had an idea to organize a tribute concert by recreating Martin Scorsese’s musical documentary, “The Last Waltz,” featuring local musicians. He mentioned the idea to his then drummer, Frank Utecht, who responded, “Well, what are you waiting for?” They went to work, pulling together 35 musicians, including a horn section. The show was an enormous hit.
It was just a beginning. In subsequent years, tribute concerts were organized and performed in honor of Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps” and “Woodstock,” as well as tributes to the Allman Brothers Band, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, The Doors, The Beatles and more. After three or four tributes, Hall made the decision to incorporate his production company, and Deece Productions LLC was formed.
It was probably inevitable. With all the successes steamrolling their way onto his resume, it was time to move toward a longtime dream.
“I’ve always wanted to do a festival,” Hall admits. “I’d love to make it an annual thing. I’m catering it to families with children. It has to be family-friendly, not some raging party. I’ve got The 3 Dads playing. I’ve hired a magician. Some of my students are playing. We’re working on some arts and crafts at both the campground and at the big tent outside the Creekside Grill & Pub.”
It’s important to Hall that the bands and the content they offer are clean, respectable and appropriate for all ages. While the festival, which will be held at Creekside Grill & Pub and Bluebird Springs Campground on July 26-28, will feature many local musicians and bands, Hall also managed to bring in some pretty heavy hitters. “The Crush Brothers are probably my biggest act,” he opines. “It’s just this big, all-star band of Midwest musicians. I also have Heatbox, and he’s hard to describe. He uses a loop station and he takes it to another level. Reed Grimm, who was in Three Beers ‘Til Dubuque and on ‘American Idol,’ will also be with us.”
“I’m really working on making this event an annual thing, comparable to Larryfest,” he says. “Start small and keep it growing.”
Details, Details …
While ticket sales have generated early funding, Hall has also secured, and is still seeking, some sponsorships. He was also awarded a sizable grant from Explore La Crosse to use for out-of-town marketing.
Pearl Street Brewery will be offering its craft beers and is also providing a shuttle service both to and from the festival. Shuttle users will park in the Brewery’s parking lot. For those camping at the festival, there is a fee of $5 for all single-ticket holders. Private and RV sites will also be available.
Tickets are available at www.deeceproductions.com, Deaf Ear Records, Old Towne Strings, Instrument Repair of La Crosse,
Tree Huggers Co-op, Garden of Eatin’, 4 Sisters, and Creekside Grill & Pub.
Ticket prices are $20 for Friday and $30 for Saturday. You can also download Pearl Street Brewery’s free app for tickets and/or a shuttle bus for each night.
A percentage of the proceeds of Deecefest will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs, Guitar Academy, and the Town of Medary’s Fun Days.
For more information and the schedule, visit www.deeceproductions.com.
Deece Wednesdays Concert Series
Another of Hall’s projects is the Deece Wednesdays Concert Series, in partnership with the Pettibone Boat Club. This series features many of the very talented musicians our region has to offer. Concerts at the club are free every Wednesday through August, from 6 p.m. until dark.
2019 Summer Lineup
July 3 Cheeba
July 10 Kaleb Harris
July 17 Dave Orr
July 24 The Pinch Hitters
July 31 Mike Caucutt
Aug. 7 Teague Alexy
Aug. 14 Adam Palm
Aug. 21 Nick Dearman
Aug. 28 Andy Hughes