|Sister Groove jams out at Normal Amphitheater|
|Written by Kristen Bahler, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Monday, 22 September 2008 18:00|
Those who drove down Vernon Street on Sunday probably heard the zealous bellow of an amplifier and wondered where the noise was coming from.
Tucked away in an inviting little corner of the Constitution Trail, local band Sister Groove and the Cross Town Jam belted out renowned R&B hits, hidden from the roar of the traffic.
Mark and Kathy Olsen, Sister Groove fans who have seen the band play 15 to 20 times at private parties, the Loft and other bars in Bloomington-Normal, said they love seeing the group perform. "They're a fun band. We enjoy listening to them," the Olsens said.
On the warm, sunny day, Karen Berry, Sharon Harper, Duane Jessee, Tracy Campbell, Tim Bruker and John Clinton played an amazing show at the new Normal Amphitheater.
The sun shone unusually bright for a late September afternoon and 611 S. Linden St. comprised all the familiar scents of a little league game - long, healthy grass balanced the aroma of buttery treats from a vintage popcorn maker. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves based on the smiles on their faces.
Sister Groove's two lead singers, Berry and Harper, can sing soul like nobody's business. Both vocalists are extremely gifted and it is hard not to get an Aretha Franklin-esque shiver down one's spine when hearing these two crooners belt out the likes of Stevie Wonder and Janis Joplin.
Clinton (the band's keyboardist) also has a voice that was made for soul, and as background vocals he complimented the women quite well. It was evident that every member of the band loves to perform (as they should, from poignant drums and lead guitar to amazing vocals, the combined talents of Sister Groove make for an amazing performance).
The Amphitheater, which is located in a truly beautiful area of the Constitution Trail, had plenty of space for locals to spread blankets and lawn chairs. Some who were walking and cycling on the trail stopped to listen to the band, and their enthusiastic applause echoed pleasantly in the crowd. A modest concession stand sold popcorn, soda and water for $1.
Nearly every foot was bobbing to the rhythm of each song and the Sister Groove had soul fans young and old dancing in the wide-open lawn. The band members performed jazzy renditions of "I heard it through the grape vine," "Some kind of wonderful," "Chain of fools," the Beatles hit "Come together" and many more. They undoubtedly seized the attention of the entire crowd.
Halfway through the show, Berry yelled to the audience, "Hey did the Bears win?" Audience members replied with a disgruntled "no."
As the show was winding down, the pretty day turned into a beautiful evening (as noted by the band). One small audience member, Clinton's daughter Faith, had everyone smiling as she sang the chorus of "Mustang Sally."
John Shaulk, the band's sound technician (or, "just the sound guy," as he put it) said that even though every member of Sister Groove has jobs during the week, they consider themselves "weekend warriors." "Sister Groove has been together for about 12 years," Shaulk added.
It is hard to believe that the band rarely practices, but with full time jobs and other commitments, the band members are only able to rehearse around once a month. So how does the band have such a solid sound?
"We've all played in local bands for at least 25 years," Jesse said.
"Every good band needs a good sound man [referring to Shaulk]. We couldn't do it without him. We also play almost every weekend so we get a lot of practice. Everyone works Monday through Friday so this is our fun," Berry said.
"This keeps us sane," Harper added.
Sister Groove and the Cross Town Jam play next at Slick Rick's in Bloomington on Saturday and will also be doing a Susan G. Komen fundraiser for breast cancer at the Doubletree Hotel on Oct. 10.