Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Grammy-worthy talent coming to 45th Sunset Concert Series beginning June 13
Grammy-worthy talent coming to 45th Sunset Concert Series beginning June 13
By Christi Mathis, SIU Communications • May 21, 2024

It’s the 45th season for one of Southern Illinois’ favorite summer traditions – the Sunset Concert Series – and this year’s exciting...

Saluki softball huddles together before facing the California Golden Bears in the first round of the NCAA Regional May 17, 2024 at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo provided by Saluki Athletics
Salukis split doubleheader, advance to first Regional final since 2003
By Ryan Grieser, Sports Reporter • May 18, 2024

The SIU softball team is headed to its second-ever NCAA Regional final after beating California in back-to-back days in the Baton Rouge Regional...

Saluki softball huddles together before facing the California Golden Bears in the first round of the NCAA Regional May 17, 2024 at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo provided by Saluki Athletics
Groff twins, defense send SIU to NCAA regional semifinals
By Ryan Grieser, Sports Reporter • May 17, 2024

Defense was the name of the game Friday as the SIU softball team took down the Cal Bears in the first round of NCAA Regionals in Baton Rouge,...

Shawnee Cave hosts music festival in celebration of total solar eclipse

Dominique Martinez Powell
The band Lone Howl plays on stage together during the Total Solar Eclipse Festival.

One hundred feet under the highway, live music blared so loud concertgoers could feel it in their chests. Surrounded by a lawn of fake grass and a picturesque background, guests laid out blankets and chairs, immersing themselves in the vibrant experience. 


“I came here from Tennessee with my nine-year-old son on a day’s notice because I saw the festival,” Jeremiah Priester said. “The venue is…beautiful.” 



As part of its Total Solar Eclipse Festival, Shawnee Cave Amphitheatre hosted four days of live music. The concert series kicked off on Thursday, April 5 with a VIP Pre-Party, featuring performances from Pity Thy Neighbors and Lucas Wayne & The Cottonmouths. 


“We felt that the eclipse was a great opportunity to bring everybody together and witness a wonderful event,” said Shane Wade, operator of the Shawnee Cave Amphitheater. 


The stage, which sits directly underneath the overhang of a sandstone rock formation, featured  17 artists over the four-day celebration. The performers were a mix of local bands and national musicians. 



Miss. Jenny and the Howdy Boys play live April 6, 2024 at Shawnee Cave Amphitheater in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Photos by Dominique Martinez-Powell | [email protected]

“We try to bring people the best acts that we can get nationally,” Wade said. 


Early Saturday evening, the crowd was small but lively. Families and guests gathered together, clapping and cheering throughout the various performances. Fresh Hops, a multi-genre band from northwest Indiana, was the first to go on. 


“We’ve performed in southern Illinois quite a bit, but this is our first time here,” said bassist and vocalist Ian Gill. “We’re all very excited about it…What cooler of a place could you find yourself in?” 


Being at the amphitheater reminded him of one of the many reasons he loves to perform. 


“That’s the best part about being in a band. Every once in a while, I find myself somewhere that I’m like, ‘I never would have gotten this opportunity if it wasn’t for this.’ You’ll just be, like, looking out at beautiful mountains or something and you’ll be like ‘thank God, I joined that band.’” 


He said that it can often be challenging for artists to get the sound they want at an outside show, but the Shawnee Cave Amphitheatre is “a natural loudspeaker.” 


“The acoustics are gonna be awesome, because there’s a huge rock bowl around you,” he said. 


Drummer Tommy Fell said he hasn’t “played in cooler places.” 


Jenny Pape plays the guitar and sings with her band Miss. Jenny and the Howdy Boys during the Total Solar Eclipse Festival.

The band also consists of violinist/singer Stephan Cook and guitarist Marty Gomez. 


“Our number one goal when we’re playing is just to foster a sense of having fun,” Gill said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.” 


He also said that intimate shows like this can create a sense of community. 


“That’s the biggest reason we keep doing this…” he said. “We’ve been a band for almost 15 years now, and we still host jam nights, because [of] that fostering of community, like, so many bands [and relationships] have met through it. So that’s why we do events like this where it brings together people that…don’t want to go spend a crazy amount of money at a festival [for one act]…At these smaller festivals, you really still feel that energy and appreciation.” 


The festival was not just a showcase of music, however. 


Wade said, “We have a lot of food and craft vendors out in the back. We do have camping on site. Folks can come down here for a weekend [and] kind of escape everyday life.” 


The venue area featured many local businesses, showcasing art, clothes, jewelry, food and much more for sale. Emery Rose, owner of The Awkward Octopus, paired up with her friend’s business Maverick Marvels to offer a variety of clothes and accessories. 


“We are a one-stop shop of having a bunch of this that, knick knack, patty wack, we can even give your dog a bone,” she said. “So like we have crystals, we have art, handmade art…painting, pens…just different little knickknacks.” 


Rose said it was her first time at the venue and she was “really excited just to show up.” However, she mentioned that due to the weather and conflicting activities, the attendance wasn’t what she was hoping for. 


“Just because of how cold it is and just because there’s so much other stuff going on, I feel like the turnout wasn’t the best,” she said. “Like as a vendor, that’s what we want is a good turnout to [hopefully go back] to feed our children. But I really liked the venue itself. Like the music sounds great, the lights are awesome, I mean, the whole setup is great.”


Wade said the turnout on Saturday was “right where [they] expected.”


“Early in the weekend’s always slow. Every day, it’ll pick up more and more,” he said. 


Another vendor present was Cheesed Out from central Illinois. The business had both a booth and food truck. 


“We started probably about eight years ago in a tent setup and was just doing it to go to festivals and stuff, so it just took off from that first fest and then it turned into having two booths now,” Owner Nick Solomon said. 


He said events like these help small businesses grow because it “gets their name out there.” 


“[At] every little event, there’s always new people, so you get new faces every time,” he said. 


Wade said, “These music festivals create a feeling of community. A lot of our guests, they may only see each other at our events. [They’re from] Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Washington, everybody comes together here. This is their community; this is their escape…And that’s one of the best things…really more important than music, is the feeling of community that you get.” 


Rose said opportunities like these have allowed her to build new relationships. 


“I’ve built so many friendships. I built great friendships with the people I work with through just working with them,” she said. “I met a bunch of new random people just because of being here at the same place at the same time. And that’s literally what life’s about is being in the moment of where you’re at.” 


The festival concluded on Monday night with a relaxation flow session. 


“By Monday, everybody has been here for several days, and you know, just kind of wanting to unwind,” Wade said. “So we’re gonna turn the lights on, turn some music on, and just let everybody stretch out and enjoy the beautiful views of the sky and relax.” 


The main goal of the amphitheater’s staff, Wade said, was “to have a smooth event.” 


“We want all of our customers, our fans, leaving happy,” he said. “Fan experience is the most important thing to us.” 


Staff Reporter Carly Gist can be reached at [email protected]



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