At a crossroads
Unlikely pairing of bands helps ring in this year's Sangamon County Fair

Published Wednesday, June 14, 2006

If a double-bill pairing of a band that could cover Lil Jon with a group versed in Lynyrd Skynyrd doesn't sound like a surefire idea, Michael Webb questioned it, too.

"At first, I wasn't sure if this was going to work or not," said Webb, guitarist-vocalist for the country-tinged City Limits Band, who will share the Sangamon County Fair's grandstand stage tonight with Top-40 and pop-hits band F-5. "But then somebody mentioned that this is the sort of thing that CMT does, throwing two genres of music together, and it's very successful."

Webb refers to "Crossroads," a program pairing country acts (such as Brad Paisley and Sugarland) with rock names (like John Mayer and Bon Jovi) to duet on each other's repertoire. In fact, "Who Says You Can't Go Home?," a collaborative country-chart hit between Bon Jovi and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, got Webb to thinking the idea just might work for the two local bands.

"It's time that somebody stepped out there and tried it," Webb said.

After individual sets, F-5 and the City Limits Band will join forces for a 30-minute encore extravaganza that blends together '80s rock and country twang. It expands on the idea of opening the Sangamon County Fair grandstand's lineup with local names rather than costlier national acts.

"Last year, it was a great time," said Tom Gaskins, band manager and keyboardist for F-5, who shared 2005's opening-night stage with metal cover-band Lost Boys. "It's a national-act stage with all the backstage amenities, and that's not treatment you're used to having as a cover band."

Because gate admission includes grandstand entry, exact attendance numbers are unavailable. But Steve Neuman, the fair board's director of entertainment, said last year's crowd was good enough to pursue the idea again - this time with the twist of the bands performing together.

To maintain surprise, neither Gaskins nor Webb wanted to reveal specifics of the supergroup set list. Gaskins said the set would contain a rock-song medley and close with "an extremely well-known country-rock song."

"I've played everything from Van Halen to Donna Summer to Neil Diamond to Alabama to Merle Haggard to George Jones," Webb said. "Really, this is no transition. It's just a matter of going back and remembering that the chops need to be this way or that way. We're fortunate enough that the caliber of musicianship between both bands is so strong that we're going to pull this off."

Nick Rogers can be reached at 747-9587 or


Want to go?

WHO: Sangamon County Crossroads, with F-5 and the City Limits Band

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. today

WHERE: Sangamon County Fairgrounds grandstand, New Berlin

TICKETS: Fair admission, which includes grandstand entry, is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors 60 and older and children 3-10 and free for children 3 and younger.