In these tough economic times, it’s hard to find a silver lining. Local arts especially have taken a hit, and that includes venues and performers alike. The reality is that bands everywhere are struggling to find ways to convince their fans that it is well worth it to spend a few bucks on an evening of live music.
Enter The Chicago Roots Collective.
The Chicago roots Collective (CRC) is a group of ten highly motivated, independent, local bands who have defied the urge to step on the other guy to get ahead. Though their genres range from reggae to pop to Americana, the CRC has banded together to form a community of musicians. The premise is simple: by working together, each individual band and more importantly their fans, benefit.
The history of the CRC traces back to last year’s Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival, where members of the collective preformed at the Congress Theater along with The David Grisman Quintet and The Avett Brothers. Mike Raspatello, one of the founders of the festival, and current friend of the collective, explains how it all started: “It was a really exciting night for local music. We had independently thrown this festival, and it allowed area bands who had been carving out separate niches in the Chicago music scene to connect with each other and realize there was a shared experience among them.”
Donnie Biggins of The Shams Band, initially proposed the idea of playing Pre-Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival shows throughout the summer to promote the 2009 festival in December. When proposing the idea to Tate Troelstrup of How Far To Austin and Danny Surico of The Future Laureates, the three brainstormed and realized that they could take the idea even further.
Once setting initial goals and extending the offer to 7 other Chicago bands, the reaction was more than receptive. Everyone that heard the idea wanted to get involved.
Peter Manhart of Molehill explains: “We share the struggle of independent musicians, but we also share the dream. And in that sense, there is a genuine respect and appreciation among the bands for each other’s music, and desire to help each other along the journey to success.”
The CRC recently put on their first show, an ambitious affair that included performances from all 10 CRC member bands at the well known Cubby Bear across the street from the historic Wrigley Field. Charging a wallet friendly $10 for the evening, the CRC put on an affordable night of music for their individual fans. With each act preforming a short set throughout the evening, and going so far as to share drum set and guitar amps, the showcase allowed for fans of all ten bands to see performances from bands they may not otherwise have seen. With over 200 tickets sold in pre-sale, and a total of over 500 excited live music supporters in attendance, the collective exceeded their expectations. Bands worked one anothers merch table, and supported each other throughout the evening – hanging out in the audience rather than hiding out backstage. Chicago Acoustic Underground founder and CRC supporter Michael Teach summed it up best – “The experience overall was so positive and encouraging, the bands all had a great time preforming, and the audience saw that and it built their excitement – there was a feeling of community and that was what we wanted people to walk away with”.