Illiinois blues bands perform in Bloomington Friday

  November 4, 1999
Sarah Anderson, E-Zone Staff

With nearly as many similarities as differences, two Illinois blues bands are coming together this weekend for a performance at Ju Ju's in Bloomington.
One band's members have been together 11 years, since they were 10-year-olds. The other band's members have been together for 12 years - since meeting at college at Northern Illinois University.

According to Joel Matter, Liberty City's guitarist and vocalist, playing with Chicago's Howard and the White Boys means a lot to his band. A long-time fan of Howard and the White Boys, Matter says he first saw the band at a music festival in St. Charles after having heard about them on the radio earlier that day. "I checked them out and really liked them. About a year or so later I introduced myself, and then Dan and I started doing gigs together," he explains.

Since doing their first gigs together, the bands have developed a friendship. Matter says Dan played on his and his brother's 21st birthday, and on Dan's 35th birthday Liberty City opened the show for Howard and the White Boys at Buddy Guy's.

And while both are blues bands, Matter says their styles are relatively different. "Our sound is a little more West Coast blues, and Howard and the White boys have a very unique style of blues that is really their own style, I would say," Matter says. "Liberty City takes a lot of areas of the blues, but I'd say we're more West Coast than they are, we do a lot more swing-type, jump blues."

Howard and the White Boys' Howard McCullum agrees. "It's hard to compare the two bands," McCullum says. "I love what they're doing - they're so young and they're really good musicians. It makes me feel like an old man!," he laughs. McCullum says Howard and the White Boys consider themselves a blues band, but he describes his band as a combination of R&B, blues, funk and rock, "just about everything, more of a contemporary sound," he says.

Originally from the Chicago suburbs, three of Liberty City's members now go to ISU together. The band generally consists of four to six members, Matter says. The four primary members being himself, his twin brother Jeff and Larry Andersen and Andrew Maas. "We started the group to explore other music styles not available to us through school," Matter says. "It started out being just a rock band, and then gradually progressed to blues and then stayed there."

While Liberty City are not yet signed to a record label, they released their first album last week, entitled "Four Guys and a Cadillac." Howard and the White Boys' latest album, their third album to date, came out in March on Evidence Records, McCullum says.

Matter says Liberty City has getting signed to a major blues label as a major goal for next year. "We're going to start sending out packages to record companies and to bars to try to get more gigs." he adds. In an effort to get their name out, Liberty City has also developed a website at, with information on upcoming shows and links to other blues bands.

While the band hasn't played much in the Bloomington-Normal area (Matter says they've played at C-II, The Stadium and Rocky's among other local venues), Matter says the band plans on playing more local shows in the future. "We're trying to play more in the area now," he says. "Right now we mainly play in the Chicago area at Buddy Guy's Legends, we're a regular band at Walter Payton's Round House in Aurora and we've played the Chicago Blues Fest."

According to McCullum, the bands performance together at Ju Ju's this weekend will be their fourth or fifth time playing together. Like Liberty City, this will not be Howard and the White Boys' first time performing in the Bloomington-Normal area. In addition to a performance at Hot Shots a couple years ago, Howard and the White Boys played at Braden Auditorium with Buddy Guy several years ago. "It's been great touring with bigger acts," McCullum says. "We've gotten the chance to meet so many legends of blues."

Liberty City and Howard and the White Boys will perform at Ju Ju's in Bloomington Friday at 9:30p.m.


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