Monday, June 14, 2010

Check this out: The Chicago Roots Collective

One year ago in this fine city, several musicians got together with the common goal of supporting each other and each others' music. The idea emerged among them that perhaps they could further their progress, professionally and creatively, while traversing Chicago's music scene in a unique way - as a collective. Yesterday I sat down with founding members of this group, the Chicago Roots Collective, and we talked about our fair city, all it has going for it, hopes for the future and making it work in the modern age.

I was very interested in the origins of the collective and the goal of the endeavor when setting out. Founding member Donnie Biggins, of the Shams Band, described the idea of a community where musicians supported each other by attending shows and spreading each others' music, and weren't constrained by the "one against the world" odds that many bands feel they are facing in trying to do what they love.

"It is important for everyone to let their guard down and to support each other because we all have similar goals," Donnie said.

Additional founders Peter Manhart and Trevor Jones, of Molehill, agreed, saying that the idea of uniting to achieve more in a city with so much potential seemed like a much-needed one.

In the past year, the CRC has presented several impressive showcases, drawing some of the largest hometown crowds in the city. These showcases always feature a lineup drawn from the 10 CRC bands and have been met with serious success and community response.

Going forward the collective hopes to expand, having already incorporated visual artists by hanging work in venues to represent a community that is achieving a great deal very visibly in Chicago. The fellas I sat down with were completely invested in the idea of partnering with radio stations, record labels and anyone who would like to get involved. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw them with a Lollapalooza showcase next summer.

I have often heard and observed that here in Chicago, due to extreme competition among venues and bands, there is no distillation of scene, so to speak. That is to say that at any given venue on any given night, one might see traditional Japanese folk music one night and then cosmic death metal the very next - hell, maybe even on the same bill. With the departure of legendary poet Thax Douglas, who left Chicago for Austin late last year - a decision he described as a direct response to an observed atomization of and lack of hunger in the Chicago music scene - some Chicago musicians want to prove just how hungry this city can be. In the case of the CRC, hungry enough to work together for a common goal. While the CRC isn't exclusive with regards to genre and style, they do set up a cohesive show, where the people paying for the music know they are getting a set of kick-ass independent bands.

In a day and age where it is becoming increasingly common to see groups of musicians creating a scene and mutually benefiting from the exposure, the CRC seems to have the right idea.

The CRC will host its fourth Lincoln Hall showcase on Sunday, June 20 from 7:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Tickets (available here) are $7 and the show will feature The Gentlemen's Club, Soul Vendor, Molehill, Jackpot Donnie and Jimmy Zangrilli.

If you would like to learn more, get involved or simply check out upcoming shows you can find the collective at

1 comment:

  1. The Shams Band plays Taste of Chicago on Friday, June 25!

    ***4pm-5pm on the Taste Stage (Americana and Folk Friday)***