Music Scene Perks Up for Christian Bands Coffeehouses Give Artists, Fans an Outlet
Edman, Catherine, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Catherine Edman Daily Herald Staff Writer
Let's say it's the weekend in suburban Chicago and you want to take in a band?
Pretty easy, right?
OK, now let's say you're looking for something a little offbeat. Say, rock, hip-hop, or even punk music - but with a Christian spin.
Five years ago you likely were out of luck. A mere handful of places provided venues for contemporary Christian music, but they weren't well-known or well-publicized.
But the chances of finding clubs more likely to feature guitar riffs than organ medleys are improving.
In the past few years, such clubs and coffeehouses have cropped up in a storefront, the second floor of a music store and in converted, unused, church spaces.
They cater to the needs of performers as much as they appeal to the crowds.
Remember the adage practice makes perfect?
"Clubs are the farm league of the music industry," True Tunes music store Owner John Thompson explained.
A few years ago, Thompson, then a member of a band himself, sensed an upswing in the popularity of and cry for more live music performances. He opened a club connected with his Wheaton store.
It's an exaggeration to say he got a lukewarm response on some fronts.
"People said 'There's no crowd for the music.' Well, that's because there was no music for the crowd," he said.
Churches have in the past brought in contemporary musical performers. But what about outside a church setting? Well, there weren't many places.
The crowd and the music came together in 1995 with creation of Upstairs at True Tunes in Wheaton. Folks knew they could drop in on weekend nights and see bands anywhere on the quality spectrum from local-garage material to nominees for the Dove Award, the Christian music awards.
At least one locale in the lineup has been around since 1993: the Songwriter's Cafe at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington.
Two members of the church, who had an interest in music themselves, organized the events to provide somewhere close for performers to play.
"There's a huge amount of Christian talent in the Chicago area. There's just not many places for them to play," said Gregg Jones, who's now organizing the coffeehouse events.
But there are a handful of suburban spots you can choose from. Here's a sampling:
- Upstairs at True Tunes
Musicians and bands are booked through May, and the June calendar is filling up. A hotline offers the latest information on who's scheduled for the weekend. …