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Bring on the noise (and alum Jake Hertzog): A preview of the Ellnora Guitar Festival

Hear that? It's the sound of wall-to-wall guitars at the Krannert Center this weekend

Uni grad Jake Hertzog, shown here at Montreux in 2007, will perform at the Ellnora Guitar Festival this weekend.

URBANA — One of the biggest and most ambitious music fests in the Champaign-Urbana community will begin on Thursday: Ellnora | The Guitar Festival, which will last through Saturday at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Ellnora, previously known as the Wall to Wall Guitar Festival, has been an every-other-year extravaganza with performances from some of the most diverse and talented guitarists in the world.

Showcasing virtually every genre of music that involves this amazing instrument, from classical and rock to folk, jazz, and blues, the festival has highlighted virtuosos such as Kaki King (whose music was the inspiration for the movie "August Rush"), Los Lobos, and the legendary bluesman Buddy Guy.

This year the Krannert Center will bring to town another slate of celebrated artists, even shining a light on Jake Hertzog, a Uni High alum from the Class of 2003.

Hertzog, who just finished a national tour with The Naked Brothers, a Nickelodeon hit group, is returning to C-U with all of his guitar brilliance for Ellnora. The Jake Hertzog Trio will perform with Harvie S and Victor Jones at 1 p.m. Saturday on Krannert's Stage 5; the show is free.

A shot of Jake Hertzog at last year's Sweetcorn Festival. The 2003 Uni alum will perform Saturday as part of the Ellnora Guitar Festival. Gargoyle photo by Sindha Agha.

Upon graduating from Uni, Hertzog received a scholarship to study jazz guitar at the esteemed Berklee School of Music in Boston. Ever since then Hertzog has been on the fast track to success, releasing his first major album, "Chromatosphere," this year to critical acclaim.

“It’s amazing to have the guitar festival in my home town,” Hertzog said in an interview with the Gargoyle. “Taking all the guitarists that I love and appreciate and bringing them back to my hometown, that’s awesome!

“I’ve always wanted to bring my New York trio back home, and this is definitely the best way to showcase it. We are so lucky to have a place like the Krannert Center; it just goes to show you the appreciation for the arts in our small town.”

This time around the Krannert Center has brought together a mesh of artists spanning numerous genres, from blues sensation Keb’ Mo' to the alternative band The National. Other well-known musicians on the schedule include slide guitarist Derek Trucks and folk legend Ani DiFranco.

“The amount of talent we have this year is amazing,” said Krannert Director Mike Ross. “I just can’t wait to see all the sets and performances. These artists bring such a passion to their work that it’s impossible to say who is better than the other.”

Trucks, named one of the next "Guitar Gods" in a 2007 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, is known for his unique style of slide guitar. Ever since age 9 this prodigy has worked with the cream of the crop in the guitar business and is now one of the very best himself. The Derek Trucks Band will play in the Krannert lobby at 9 p.m. Thursday as part of the opening night party.

Keb' Mo', a talented blues guitarist and winner of three Grammys for best contemporary blues album, will bring his rich soulful music to Krannert's Tryon Festival Theatre for a 10 p.m. Friday show. Always a charismatic entertainer, Keb' Mo' is one artist who should not be missed for lovers of the blues.

DiFranco has been one of the most prolific women in folk music over the past two decades, releasing more than 20 albums and earning four Grammy nominations. Her combination of creative guitar techniques and sophisticated lyrics are sure to draw a large crowd to her 7 p.m. Saturday show at Krannert's Colwell Playhouse.

The National, a Brooklyn-based indie rock band, has been a critically acclaimed group whose latest album, "Boxer," was named the No. 1 album of the year in 2007 by Paste Magazine. On the strings of brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, The National is sure to please. The band will perform 10 p.m. Saturday at the Tryon.

But don't think all the action happens at night. Saturday morning rings in Ellnora's Bachfest featuring Nigel North, Paul Galbraith, and the Brazilian Guitar Quartet — all giving props to Johann Sebastian Bach. The program begins 10 a.m. at the Foellinger Great Hall.

Along with the regular concerts in different settings around the Krannert Center, this year's festival sees the addition of the “Not So Silent Film” series — instrumental acts supplemented by slideshows and films that are sure to be a delight to the ears and eyes. On top of this, while waiting for the next concert to begin, you can stop into the Krannert coffeehouse and enjoy one of the free concerts from a number of artists.

Ellnora Krannert, the festival's new namesake, was one of the Krannert Center's founders and a thoughtful benefactor of the arts.

“Ellnora’s gift and philosophy runs through our institution's DNA,” says Ross. “Her generosity and interest in the arts is in the backbone of what the Krannert Center is today. She wanted a place where people of all different walks of life and interests could come to see something and then interact with others with a true sense of community.”

Schedule for Ellnora | The Guitar Festival

Thursday, Sept. 10: Opening Night

Friday, Sept. 11: Day Two

Saturday, Sept. 12: Day Three