Music Features

Laura Jane Grace Of Against Me!: Talking Is Still Honest

9 hours ago
Casey Curry

Against Me!'s 2014's "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" was a coming out party for band founder Laura Jane Grace, who announced two years prior she was a transgender woman.  The punk-rock outfit with roots in Gainesville, Florida has been on Lilyana Arielle Fey's radar since the early 2000's. The Peoria native is also a transgender woman, who says she has found solace and community through the music of Against Me!.  
 

EMily Butler Photography

The viral 2013 video of Puddles Pity Party covering Lorde's "Royals" (see below) propelled the "sad clown with the big voice" to national and international prominence. The man who channels Puddles and his operatic voice is Big Mike Geier, who makes an appearance at the Castle Theater in Bloomington March 26. At 6' 8", Geier IS big, something he acclimated to at an early age.

Tyler Zoller

The line "I just want to make music and friends/Been that way since I was 12 years old" is from "Music and Friends" off Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band's recent "So Delicious" album. Hearing the words fed back to Josh"Reverend" Peyton elicits a smile from the trio's founder.

Jon Norton / WGLT

With Deafheaaven set to bring its black metal/shoegaze sound to the Castle Theater in Bloomington March 18, their last two albums are getting heavy play on the turntable at Waiting Room Records in uptown Normal.

Sue Sadzak

Normal, Illinois seems an unlikely landing pad for the lead guitarist and songwriter of an iconic Canadian rock band.

"My wife Deanna is from here," said Honeymoon Suite's Derry Grehan before smiling a deep breath while scanning his brain for a 30-odd year ago memory. "We we were opening for Heart at the Peoria Civic Center, and we met at a record store that day."

Colin Brennan

Similar to how Robert Glasper infused hip-hop into his jazz on his 2012 Blue Note Records album "Black Radio," Wilner "Wil B" Baptiste and Kevin "Kev Marcus" Sylvester use classical strings as the backbone to their hip-hop, rock, and bluegrass inflected major label debut "Stereotypes."  It's no coincidence Glasper makes more than a guest appearance.

Nicole Weingart

As a teen phenom growing up in a city many consider the Mecca of blues and soul music, Eric Gales didn't quite understand what he was absorbing.

"Growing up in Memphis had an impact on me in ways I didn't realize until later in life," said Gales.  "It was a big part of growing up there.  A lot of blues and other styles were there.  And now it's grown into a whole lot of other styles.  I am very proud to have come from Memphis, but there are many other styles attributed to the city."

ISU Center for the Performing Arts

 With the record-breaking popularity of the Broadway musical Hamilton, revivals of another show about the founding of America were sure to follow.

The musical 1776, on stage at Illinois State University's Center for the Performing Arts, tells the story of some of the other founding fathers -- those who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Director Lori Adams said the struggles to bridge division and reach compromise that the show depicts mirror many of the same challenges facing America today.

Singer-songwriter Nick Africano said songwriting is a craft he loves.

"As much as songwriting has been therapeutic for me in a way ... it has ultimately become something that I have taken great pleasure doing," said Africano.

Cody Diekhoff was clearly touched by the sentiments of Jack Dupp & the Empty Bottles member Mike Klug that Diekhoff was central to a revitalized Bloomington-Normal music scene. 

Klug said "Ed (Anderson) and Cody took this town kicking and screaming against their will and made a scene our of nothing.  I feel they're just such  genuinely nice people, they made the scene."

Sheryl Clark / Sheryl Clark Productions

Normal based singer-songwriter Sara Quah said her mother is the force behind her love of books, writing, and words.

"She read all the time when I was a kid," said Quah.  "I always had a book.  I ALWAYS had a book.  And still do."

Jon Norton / WGLT

The Los Angeles based bluesy roots-rock band "The Record Company" brings its swagger to Bloomington to play The Castle Theater February 26.  The band has seen its arrow pointing upward since the release of its debut album "Give It Back To You" last February.  Former GLT staffer and occasional music critic Taylor Bauer sat down in the GLT Studio's with Jon Norton to talk about the The Record Company and its critically acclaimed debut album.
 

Jay Miller

Old Shoe guitarist and vocalist Matt Robinson thinks the general understanding of what an "old shoe" represents fits the band's persona.

"An old friend of mine used to call me 'an old shoe,'" said Robinson.  "I thought that was a cool name and the light bulb went on and thought it would be a great idea for a band name.  Shoes are fashionable, and the 'old shoe' fit the idea of us being a retro band as far as where our styles come from."

Ralph Weisheit

A fixture on the central Illinois music scene passed away February 18 of a stoke.  Michael Cavanaugh could be seen in music clubs and festivals across Bloomington-Normal, usually dancing and chatting it up with anyone who approached him.

Jon Norton / WGLT

The idea to "second line" through downtown Bloomington on Fat Tuesday came out of a brainstorming conversation.  Jazz UpFront owner James Gaston said he was talking with one of his employees about potential Mardi Gras events.

"She said we should have a big Mardi Gras party," said Gaston.  "We began bouncing ideas around, and I said 'we should get everyone on Front street involved and we could 'second line' down Front street with the band.'"

When Normal native Ryan Weisheit played the GLT Summer Concert in 2104 with Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers, he gushed at the time about the thriving "Hot Jazz" scene in his current home base of New York City.  Three years later, he said the scene is still growing, and wondering if the bubble will eventually burst.

"I wonder if there are going to be too many bands and not enough demand, but I think it's still at a pretty healthy ratio right now," said Weisheit.

Trevor Basham

GLT's Jon Norton likes to stop by local record stores to hear what's on the turntable while customers browse the bins.  He recently dropped in on Jared Alcorn at Waiting Room Records in uptown Normal to hear a sound that flashed him back to the 1980's.

Jon Norton / WGLT

WGLT picked up a coveted "Keeping The Blues Alive" award presented by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee.  GLT Morning Edition host and Music Director Jon Norton accepted the award for the station during the KBA awards luncheon February 3 at the Doubletree Hotel in Memphis. The ceremony coincided with the annual week-long "International Blues Challenge," where musicians from around the world compete for cash, prizes, and industry recognition.

Nathan Bridges

On the pleasure/pain continuum, Karen Bridges and Clint Thomson of the Bloomington-Normal folk duo "Stone & Snow" concede the latter often wins out.

Jamie Day

Psychedelic-rock in its late 1960's heyday was an attempt to enhance and replicate the effects of psychedelic drugs.  It was also a reaction to the social and political turbulence of that era.  Aesop Adams and Aaron Dooley of the Bloomington-Normal based psych-rock band Gay Neighbors see a correlation between the late 1960's and today.

Colin Marshall

Mucca Pazza ("Crazy Cow") founding member Rick Kubes said the forming of the 30-odd member marching band was organic.  He gives kudos to fellow founder Mark Messing, the band's original director, choreographer, and music director.

Ryan Kindig

Brandon DaZ recalls playing beats and singing by the time he was barely one-year-old.  As the son of legendary Bloomington-Normal DJ Joe Beck, who has also been a drummer for a number of central Illinois bands over the last three decades, it's not surprising the apple fell close to his father's tree.

"From my Dad practicing with his bands and me going to his gigs, it was always music," said DaZ

Jon Norton / WGLT

GLT's Jon Norton occasionally drops by local record stores to hear what's playing on the turntable while customers browse the bins.  This week, Trevor Basham of Waiting Room Records in uptown Normal introduced him to a quirky Australian who both conceptually and physically adopts the persona of a failed lounge singer.

Karen Bridges

Bloomington's Dan Hubbard recently made the transition from fronting his band "The Humadors" to solo artist. He has also adopted a storytellers point-of-view to his songwriting, crediting Tom Petty producer Ryan Ulyate, who he got to know by phone. 

"And when I was in L.A. doing a couple shows, he invited me to his house.  He listened to my stuff, critiqued me, and said I needed to consider something Tom does, which is tell more stories instead of talking about my feelings and what I'm doing," said Hubbard.

Jon Norton / WGLT

Reverberation Vinyl on Main street in Bloomington is not unlike other local record stores.  As you're browsing the bins, the music playing on the stores turntable or CD player is fairly representative of the owner's personal taste.  But at Reverberation Vinyl, you're likely to hear sounds that color a bit more outside the lines.

Joe Borbely of Bloomington-Normal's Jack Dupp & the Empty Bottles said Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam taught him to sing.

"As an awkward teenager, I recall listening to a lot of Pearl Jam.  They were the first band I connected with, so Eddie kind of taught me how to sing ... in my car.  I'm still learning how to let go of him and let myself be him," said Borbely.

hurricaneruth.com

"Hurricane" Ruth LeMaster came to music through her parents. Her father was a trumpet player who fell under the spell of all kinds of music, including Dixieland, blues, jazz, big band, R&B and bluegrass.  As a young girl she absorbed that music, as well as the different sounds from the Friday night jam sessions along the Illinois river during the summers in her hometown of Beardstown, Illinois.

jgullo / Flickr

It wasn't just Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, and Earth, Wind & Fire that caught the ear of a young Karl Denson in the 1970's.

"The jazz was really funky too," said Denson.  "Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis and all that stuff was going on. It was a pretty fertile time."

"Lay These Weapons Down" is a musical departure for Rebecca Rego & the Trainmen.  Where their now two-year-old "Tolono" album is firmly rooted in folk, "Weapons" shows the quartet veering into more contemporary territory, including horns and other colors.  Rebecca Rego said that musical evolution coincided with personal difficulties the band experienced since "Tolono."

http://madisonhouseinc.com/delta-rae/

Brittany Holljes of Delta Rae said Joni Mitchell was her go-to music while growing up, and the one artist who stuck with her over the years.  Give credit to her parents, as Mitchell was also her mother's favorite singer, and said her father would even pump himself up for high school and college wrestling matches listening to Joni Mitchell.

"I can image Michael Phelps making that face before he swims listening to Joni Mitchell," laughed Holljes. "His connections to her lyrics calmed his nerves and centered him."

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