Bitter Jester Music Festival returns with purpose 2 months after deadly Highland Park parade shooting


HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) — They returned to Highland Park on Sunday to do what they love for a community in need of love.

“Being part of something that’s reinventing itself and we’re kind of taking over Highland Park,” said Anthony Marvle, lead vocals and guitar at Exit 122.

The Exit 122 group is back in suburban North Shore for the first time since the July 4 parade attack.

The pop-punk band was one of more than a dozen acts scheduled that day before a gunman opened fire.

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“We heard the gunshots originally, so we kind of knew what was going on,” said Exit 122 guitar and vocals Jaydon Pokryfke.

However, on Sunday, for a 16th year, the Bitter Jester Music Festival returned to center stage.

“I think everyone is very respectful that there are people in the audience who are survivors of the parade. One of our judges was dodging bullets on Central Avenue,” said Nicolas Degrazia, organizer of the parade. Bitter Jester Music Festival.

Organizers say all of the originally scheduled acts have returned for the concert hosted by Madame Zuzu’s. There will be 13 different artists performing, eight of whom are competing for prize money and bragging rights.

Alternative funk band “Summer Drive” from nearby Oak Park are the defending champions.

“Just the fact that we’ve been able to do this is kind of a symbol of resilience as a community,” said Summer Drive guitarist Alex Johnson. “How important the arts and music are to all of us.

The return of this Battle of the Bands style event comes on the second anniversary of the tragedy, but it returns with a different purpose.

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The Musical Series Free Grand Finale is also a charity show. Donations will benefit local businesses in Highland Park affected by the mass shooting.

Something that those who live in the suburbs say is necessary.

“I think every event we put on that brings people back downtown – that brings people together – rekindles the community,” said Highland Park resident Ali Tubero. “And gives us a sense of hope and life that we can move on and move on and everyone will be fine.”

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