AURORA – After performing a sold-out show at The Venue in Aurora during its grand opening last June, Chicago blues musician Toronzo Cannon will return to the now empty music performance space at 8 p.m. Friday as part of the two-day Virtual Blues on the Fox festival.
The 200-seat performance space remains empty due to restrictions put in place statewide to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Virtual Blues on the Fox festival is being organized by the nonprofit Fox Valley Music Foundation, which operates The Venue in downtown Aurora. The festival will be livestreamed on The Venue's Facebook page, facebook.com/TheVenueAurora.
RiverEdge Park – where the festival was supposed to take place this weekend – is closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fox Valley Music Foundation President Dave Glynn put together the film "The Story of Blues on the Fox" in collaboration with RiverEdge Park and the city of Aurora. Part 1 of the documentary will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by a performance at 8 p.m. by Toronzo Cannon. Part 2 will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by a performance at 8 p.m. by Billy Branch.
By day, Cannon is a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority. His 2016 debut on Chicago-based Alligator Records, "The Chicago Way," is a nod to his Chicago roots.
Shaw Media reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Cannon about the upcoming show. The interview has been edited for length and style.
Eric Schelkopf: Things are certainly different these days. Are you learning to adapt to this new normal?
Toronzo Cannon: I'm trying to get used to it. It's going to be a little strange that The Venue will be empty.
My show is about relating to people and I gain energy from them. There's going to be a camera crew there, and maybe I can mess with them a little bit to get some sort of human interaction.
Schelkopf: I know that you were well-received when you played at The Venue last year. Did you like playing there?
Cannon: I dug it. It was cool. The audience participation was cool and I liked the stage. The sound was great. It was very cool.
Schelkopf: Like you said, you do like interacting with the public. Has that been the hardest part of all this, the fact that you're not actually able to interact with your audience?
Cannon: You do like having faces looking at you, and again, I react off of that sometimes. Also, I'm used to working with my own band. But if there is a silver lining to this whole thing, it's that the words in my songs are in the forefront.
It's a little more intimate when I'm singing the songs.
Schelkopf: When's the last time you played with a band?
Cannon: I think it was March 13 at FitzGerald's in Berwyn. We had a nice crowd, you know. But everybody was very conscious of what was going on because of coronavirus.
Schelkopf: But, of course, things are different as well in your day job as a CTA bus driver. How has that been going?
Everyone is trying to be as safe as possible with a virus that you don't know where it is coming from. We're provided PPE and everything, every day.
Everyone is being as safe as they can working with the public.
Schelkopf: I see you have been doing more on Facebook lately. I watched your recent Facebook discussion with fellow Alligator artist Selwyn Birchwood. Did you like having a discussion like that?
Cannon: Yeah. It was a good way to talk about our songs and keep our faces out there, to keep in the presence of the fans. If you don't keep visible, I feel you might get lost in the mix.
You have to be innovative to try to stay viable.