Nestled squarely between Effingham, Illinois to the north, and I-64 to the south is the small town of Flora, Illinois. The 30 mile long, straight, flat roads that carry you into town won’t make for the most interesting trip in the world, but the little entertainment oasis in the town of 5,000 will certainly make the trip worth it.
Johnny and June’s is a multi-purpose reception hall and entertainment venue playing host to everything from weddings, family reunions, and parties to concerts and other entertainment events. In a building that was formerly a car dealership, Dustin Smith and his wife Kathy have created one of the most spacious and inviting atmospheres I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The building inside is flawless. Adorned with a look that I would describe as comfortably industrial the hall has clearly been designed to serve crowds of all kinds.
Entering into the building you’ll find yourself in a spacious area where you can mingle, or head over to the bar if you so choose. The setting is the perfect place for merch tables to set up. Through two hallways on either side of a double sided slightly raised bar you will find yourself in the main hall. Strands of lights criss-cross overhead, and in the corner of the room stands a stage with an extensive lighting system overhead, and the sound system to match as well. For this particular night there were rows of chairs set up on both sides of the stage, and the middle of the floor was left open for those wanting to stand during the show. Even in the farthest chairs along the wall the views of the stage were great. In the back of the room is a raised area with tables and bar stools easily giving you a great view of the stage over the crowd.
The staff are all incredibly friendly, and they take security very seriously employing at least a half a dozen guards who conduct themselves with a highly professional demeanor. The bar is centrally located and easily accessible either from the main hall, or the entry hall. Even at capacity the building has plenty of elbow room so that patrons won’t be jammed in to the point of being uncomfortable.
The night we visited they had one hell of a lineup on the bill: The Steel Woods, Josh Card, and Channing Wilson were all set to perform over the course of the evening. The crowd poured in steadily from the time doors opened until brother Josh Card took the stage for a special intimate acoustic set. Josh doesn’t play very many of these sets at all, and getting to see him do just that on the stage at Johnny and June’s was definitely a treat. Playing songs from his album “With A Heavy Heart” and more Josh drew the attention of the room to himself and delivered a home run performance.
The powerful and deep Channing Wilson was up next. Just himself and a guitar Wilson stood center stage reaching into his deep bag of songs to perform for the crowd. Keeping his foot on the gas he kept the crowd squarely on his hook throughout his set with his raw, hard driving songs, and brought them back down with the softer songs, keeping the attention in the room funneling towards him.
The main event of the evening was up next as The Steel Woods climbed the Johnny and June’s stage, turned it up past 11, and rocked the doors right off the building. Launching into their set with “Rock That Says My Name” Wes and the boys grabbed hold of the crowd’s collective attention and excitement and refused to let go of it until after the encore of “Hole In The Sky”. The energy on stage was great, and the crowd soaked up every note from Wes, Rowdy, Johnny and Jay and feverishly begged for more.
The show was the kind of show you hope to experience when you leave home. Some badass music from a crop of world-class talent on stage, an excited, yet relaxed atmosphere where there was no pushing and shoving, no fighting, or other less than desirable experiences, and a venue that gives a damn about the show on stage and it’s patrons who pay to see it by creating the perfect atmosphere for all of that to transpire.
Because it’s not just a concert hall or nightclub Johnny and June’s doesn’t get to host these kinds of big shows as often as live show junkies like me would like, but friends, believe me when I say that when they do bring in shows like this it IS a destination worth traveling to for a damn fine evening.
If you’re free April 27th they have another huge bill coming to town with the Saints & Sinners Tour featuring James Carothers, the John D. Hale Band, Porter Union, and Jake Stringer and Better Than Nothin’.
Head on over to their website and Facebook now and follow all their updates so you can plan your own trip to the oasis on the plains at Johnny and Junes!