BLOOMINGTON — For most 18-year-olds, graduating from high school would ranks as the Big Life Experience of the Year.
For Bloomington’s Matthew Curry, being handed his diploma with Bloomington High School’s Class of 2013 last string was just one in a series.
The veteran blues prodigy is putting a capper on his amazing ’13 by headlining this year’s New Year’s Eve at the Castle party at 8 p.m. Tuesday, along with musical cronies the Turncoats and Kyle Yap.
It’s Curry’s second NYE in a row headlining at the Castle — still, he notes, his favorite musical space.
That’s saying something, since 2013 saw the singer-guitarist performing in major venues during his first national tour, opening for rock legends Foreigner in arena spaces and playing a flurry of summer blues fests, from the Chicago Blues Festival to the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.
“I love the Castle,” he says. “It’s so historic and not so huge like, say, the Coliseum (U.S. Cellular) … you get to be more up-close-and-personal with the audience.”
Don’t get him wrong about the Coliseum.
His gig opening there in September for Foreigner and 38 Special “was a pretty huge deal and a huge honor … to play the Coliseum finally. It was really cool being on that big stage in my hometown.”
The Foreigner teaming extended to a string of opening dates elsewhere with the rock veterans (including Chicago and Nashville), a result of Curry having being signed with the same talent agency that handles Foreigner and other acts.
Among the latter is another rock legend whose heyday was forged long before Curry was even born: the Steve Miller Band.
In his next big career step, Curry will be opening for Miller & Co. in April along dates of their spring tour in Canada, starting in Winnipeg and ending in Vancouver.
As Curry heard it, “Foreigner’s people were happy with us and began raving to Steve’s people.” Such is the power of word of mouth.
Never mind that he comes from an era several times removed: “To me, these guys are huge inspirations who’ve made a huge mark in rock history and I’m hugely honored to being sharing a stage with them. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around that.”
Speaking of which:
As if the globe-trotting to Canada weren’t sufficient for one month, Curry will follow that gig with a trip Down Under for Australia’s all-star, five-day Byron Bay Bluesfest, the roster of which includes Gregg and Devon Allman (the latter at the Castle this week; see today’s cover story), Aaron Neville (kid brother Cyril is also at the Castle), the Dave Matthews Band, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Elvis Costello, the Doobie Brothers, Steve Earle, Dr. John, Boz Scaggs, Suzanne Vega, Booker T. Jones, Erykah Badu and dozens more.
“Mind-boggling” is Curry’s succinct assessment of that impending life experience.
Another big deal, one being unveiled at the New Year’s Eve show, is Curry’s new band, not to be confused with the former group’s handle, The Fury, which is being retired.
“I really loved playing with the old group, but they all have day jobs and kids and it just was not possible for them to out on the road and tour,” says Curry of keyboardist Erik Nelson, bass player Jeff Paxton and drummer Greg Neville (no relation to the other Nevilles afoot in today’s GO!).
Paxton is remaining with Team Curry in the role of band manager, while the other departing members will continue to collaborate on the songwriting front.
On stage with Matthew at the Castle will be drummer Tim Kramp (late of Backyard Tire Fire), keyboardist Mike Nellas and Peoria music scene vet Tim Brickner on bass.
Out in the lobby will be another big deal: the just-pressed vinyl edition of Curry’s sophomore album, “Electric Religion.”
“I really do think vinyl has the better sound … cleaner … crisper,” says Curry of the format whose passing from the mainstream predates his birth.
As for the year ahead, Curry, though still technically a teen, speaks with the careful cadences of someone who’s been around much longer.
“I do feel an interest in getting out of Bloomington and touring every part of the world,” he says of his future here. “But is also nice to always come back home to our nice little blues scene here, where I’m thankful for my family and all the great people I work with … it’s all very humbling.”
At a GlanceWhat: New Year’s Eve at the Castle, with Matthew Curry, featuring The Turncoats and Kyle Yap
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Castle Theatre, 209 E. Washington St., Bloomington
Tickets: $50 (includes food, 5 drink tickets)
Box office: 309-820-0352
Ring-a-dingIn addition to Matthew Curry’s show at the Castle Theatre, a sampling of other events around the area poised to help us ring in ’14 includes:
-- New Year’s Eve Comedy: Featuring two shows with funny man J Chris Newberg, at 7:30 and 10 p.m. via Bloomington’s Laugh Comedy Club ($25 and $35).
-- Noon Year’s Eve: Annual family-friendly fete in the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with admission $8 ($2 for members).
-- Bellflower Country Opry New Year’s Eve Show: Featuring the house band, guests and a potluck dinner, 6 p.m., Bellflower Community Center, 202 Center St., Bellflower ($15).
-- Deck the Halls: Final performance of the Barn II Dinner Theatre’s holiday offering on the stage near Goodfield, with dinner and a show at special rate of $125 per couple.
-- Get Lit New Year’s Even Fun Run: Annual grand finale to the East Peoria Festival of Lights, featuring a con-competitive run/walk on a 2-mile paved course through the Winter Wonderland display, 11:50 p.m. ($14).
-- First Night Springfield: Last of the First Night fetes in Illinois, kicking off at 6:15 p.m. with ceremony and fireworks and continuing through midnight at assorted downtown locales ($5 to $15).