Musicians break the mold in BloNo

People say love is the universal language. Have they forgotten about music?

Music evokes countless emotions from people in all cultures. It connects us globally. It enables us to laugh, cry, socialize and harmonize.

Musicians in Bloomington-Normal recognize music as a universal language and strive to enhance it. They also recognize that sometimes people just want some entertainment on a Saturday night.

Senior Peter Jens loves to entertain. The singer, songwriter and guitarist performs in Bloomington-Normal venues throughout the year.

“You can find me at Lunker’s open mic nights at 10 p.m. on Thursdays,” Jens said.

“I also play at Bonker’s in Bloomington on Sunday nights and Six Strings on Wednesday nights, if I can make it. Emack and Bolio’s has [open mic] outdoors when it gets warmer in the spring. I hear the Coffeehouse has an open mic on Saturdays between 4 and 6 p.m., but I have yet to make it to one of those.”

Firehouse Pizza & Pub in Uptown Normal and The Castle Theatre provide great music as well. Jens recommends checking out the Facebook group called Bloomington/Normal Shows to find out about house shows and other music related postings.

Music events are a surefire way to meet new people and often lead to lasting friendships, Jens said.

“There are a bunch of musicians in the area, and for the most part, they’re great people. For instance I used to play with this guy Clarence. He is the best sax player I’ve ever met, and I met him at Lunker’s open mic. Sadly he moved back to Alabama, but that’s just an example of who you can meet out there,” Jens said.

Vidette Archive The Castle Theater is one of the many venues where local musicians enjoy performing for members of the community.

Vidette Archive
The Castle Theatre is one of the many venues where local musicians enjoy performing for members of the community.

Like other musicians, Jens makes an effort to advertise through social media before performances. He said he has no problem playing for one person in a small bar just for the novelty of it, but large crowds are more exciting.

“I rarely get on stage and finish my set and feel cheated. I play a lot of originals, because I think of myself as a songwriter more than anything else, but a lot of people stick to covers,” Jens said. “You can play whatever you want to bring to the table, even ‘Wagon Wheel’ and all the other ones we’ve heard a thousand times.”

Music has allowed Jens to connect with other artists that share the same passion as him.

“Alex and the XO’s are a pretty popular group at the moment, and they play some nice music. There’s a group called Chasing the Turn that I play with at Lunker’s every once in a while. I have some buddies in a band called The Jamokes. There are plenty of other indie bands out here too that I don’t really know. I’m more in tune with the acoustic-folk scene around here,” Jens said.

Senior Brett O’Connor is looking forward to his band’s first performance in the Bloomington-Normal area this month. His band, called Sneezy, will perform at 11 p.m. on Saturday at Daddios. O’Connor, the lead singer, said his band plays groovy, funky, bluesy, hip-hop.

“Right now I think [Bloomington-Normal] is a hard place for musicians to get recognized, because there isn’t a big music scene, in my opinion,” O’Connor said. “The good news, however, is that there are so many young people in this area that are looking for entertainment options.”

O’Connor believes that all it takes is a little determination to get your music across, and he really believes the students in this area will fully support local musicians.

“We just need a couple musical pioneers to break into the scene and pave the way for other aspiring musicians. There are so many venues to play at here, and not to mention the thousands of college students who are looking to have a good time.”

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