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Springfield music scene

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The music scene in downtown Springfield is good, constant, and has a lot of variety according Recycled Records co-owner Gary Kessler. Kessler’s shop is right down the road from Elf Shelf and co-owned by his brother Mark.  Recycled Records was originally a furniture store, but it has been in the music business since 1980.

Kessler explained that musicians will often stop to play at Marley’s Pub in Springfield, because it’s halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. “We’re extremely lucky to have the music scene that we do. With our store we have 40,000 records, which is far more records and styles of music than you’re going to find almost anywhere,” Kessler said.

Going to downtown Springfield is a hike for UIS students, but the trip is worthwhile. Gary Jones, owner of Elf Shelf Music and Books says many college-aged students aren’t interested in spending money on records or DVDs. “I see a lot of interest in people to buy music. Young people tend to be interested in hearing people perform rather than downloading a CD,” Jones said.

Jones said that younger people don’t come in his store as often, but he does see a lot of interest in music with bars and clubs. “The music scene in Springfield is great. When events happen down here, they usually pack them in,” Jones said.

Kessler agreed, he said that an average weekend could contain over a fifteen live performance at bars downtown. “We have some very fine local musicians. There’s live music, many times at Brewhaus, also at Marley’s pub.  There’s the Blue Grouch and some other bars on Maple Ave. We do have some fine bands and musicians,” Kessler said.

Kessler notices a difference in the way young adults consume their music in Springfield. “We’re seeing a lot more young people buying records than CDs or DVDs. Even the three dollar used ones aren’t selling as much as they used to. But we do still sell a fair amount of them,” Kessler smiled.

Both owners say that the performance venues have done a decent job in keeping the music scene alive in Springfield.

Freshman mathematics major, Devin McAtee, thinks the music scene in Springfield is on its way up. “I think so, I think it could be bigger. I think it’s growing and getting there,” McAtee said.

McAtee played in a local garage band and thinks that Springfield’s size has hurt its music scene. “There are a couple local places around like The Black Sheep and The Vine; I’m not sure if The Vine is still around. There are all sorts of bands that go around and play. It was always a lot of fun, but it got drama-filled and competitive at times. That’s why we stopped playing,” McAtee explained.

Ruth LaMaster, vocalist for local blues band Hurricane Ruth, said music venues need to encourage young people to perform in order to attract young people to the music scene.

“Yes, I’ve seen a lot of great musicians come out of Springfield. The venues are shrinking, but I think the music scene is alive and well. It’s growing. There are a lot of people playing and playing it well,” LaMaster said.

Hurricane Ruth has been together for more than a decade and they love to play at outdoors blues festivals and different performance venues; LaMaster agrees that the type of music style will alter the view of Springfield’s music scene.

“It really depends on what type of music you’re interested in; especially if you’re looking at different genres. With music concerts, Springfield may not be your choice. The jamming and acoustic scene from my perspective is pretty good. There could be a difference of opinion. If you’re looking for Hip-Hop or Metal, Springfield may not be it,” LaMaster explained.

There are opportunities for young adults to get involved with the music scene. Clubs and Venues have recently started to expand their hours to allow young adults and teenagers the opportunities to become involved and listen to music.

“Yes, I do think Springfield does a good job catering towards young people. Case and Point, we have a performance on Nov. 24 at Boondocks. We have band opening for us called Midnight Rush; they’re great dudes. They’re around 15 and 16 years old,” LaMaster said.

The Clubs and Bars allowing young musicians to refine their craft and gain listeners can eventually lead to paid work and solid booking. When talking with LaMaster, you start to see the different opportunities for young people to listen and play music in the Springfield area. “We played a lot of blues festivals, and our choice bars like The Curve and Crows Mill Pub. We like to play outdoor blues festivals; we’ve played the Chatham Sweet Corn Festival, and festivals in Champaign and Keokuk, Iowa. We even played at the Old Capitol Blues and BBQ festival last year,” LaMaster said.

The lack of energy from Springfield’s music scene has persuaded Political Science and English senior, John Tienken, to be not as excited about music in Springfield. “I think it could be better, I don’t think there are enough venues in Springfield. I do think the Student Activities Community does a good job of bringing bands into campus,” Tienken explained.

Thickened thinks students would appreciate the music scene in Springfield more if they saw the city trying harder. At the Food Emporium, junior Nakila Buggs and freshman Alex Camp suggest there could be a generation gap with the music scene in Springfield.  “It depends on your tastes. If you like classic rock, than Jackson Browne’s recent performance may be more your foray. If you’re a mainstream listener, and are into big acts like the Wiz’s or Kanye’s, even Big Sean or Lady Gaga; Downtown Springfield’s probably not the most attractive place,” Camp said.

Buggs agrees that Springfield has been doing a poor job of trying to promote and attract musicians to come play in Springfield. “They could be better, stronger in advertisement. Schools such as U of I Champaign and UIC always attract big artists. Springfield could definitely use improvements to attract music acts for students and faculty,” Buggs explained.

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