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Arts & Culture

Greater Lafayette's Burgeoning Concert Renaissance


I didn't realize how lucky I was at the time.

As a lad growing up in St. Louis, I would pour over the concert listings in the local art weekly newspaper.

I was a music fiend. And I wanted to be around live music at all times.

Several clubs would display their show calendars. It was like a beautiful buffet of sonic delights spread out before me. My mind would spin trying to decide on what shows to hit. Or at least try to attend. Since I was a teenager, money was tight and transportation never a sure thing.

Flash forward to last month, a social media post by indie rock legends Pavement displayed a scan from the calendar of the historic Philadelphia venue, Trocadero. All in the same month, acts like Beck, Rancid, The Offspring, Dead Milkmen, L7, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Guided by Voices and even Deee-Lite were slated to perform. This was from 20 years ago, at least. It brought me back to the my youth in the '90s.

In Lafayette-West Lafayette 2016, We're not there quite yet here. Greater Lafayette and Philadelphia are two different markets and we will never attract the same volume of great, amazing shows. But Local music fans’ prayers were answered in 2015 when multiple Lafayette venues upped their games. Improvements were made and daring shows featuring national talent were booked. This positive trend continues in 2016.

The one-two punch of Lafayette Theater and Carnahan Hall have made things year very exciting. Nationally touring acts from almost every genre have made a pit stop on Main Street in the past year, usually to enthusiastic crowds. Longtime promoters like the Friends of Bob live music co-op and others now have more and better options to work with. Smaller venues like The Spot Tavern and Knickerbocker Saloon improved their sound systems and showed better dedication to shows. The variety of shows booked has been appreciated.

On April 8, I had the pleasure of attending a Friends of Bob presentation of The Bottlerockets and Marshall Crenshaw at Lafayette, two national acts of the roots rock/alt country styles. This same bill came through the Lafayette Brewing Company about five years ago. Both were great performances but at the Lafayette Theater, the show seemed larger, bigger deal. The sound and sightlines were incredible. The crowd was healthy and enthusiastic.

Looking around at posters for upcoming shows at the theater, I realized that we are currently experiencing an unprecedented era of national acts -- or at least the potential of quality, national acts -- coming to Lafayette. Can there be improvements? Of course. Is there room for growth? Definitely.

Led by these downtown Lafayette venues, never has there been more out of town talent coming to the 47901. Unfortunately, local bands aren't as plentiful as they once were. The peak of local talent came in the late 00's. But there are certainly amazing Lafayette acts like Fergus Daly Band, Lucifist, and various bands with a member of the Miller clan in it that are benefiting from this venue renaissance as well.

I've been an avid supporter of Lafayette since the second day I lived here 16 years ago. But I've never been more proud to watch the activity of the aforementioned venues. If you were here in the abysmal scenes of 2000-2001, you would relish and be amazed at the state of the live music scene is today. Daring, young entrepreneurs like Dusty Schreiber and Jeff Hammann at the Knickerbocker, Paul Baldwin and Zech Baumhover at The Spot, Seema and John Warner at Carnahan Hall, and Nate Pientok and Jordan Scott should and must be commended. There are many others who must be thanked, including the thousands who go to shows every week.

While we're not quite there yet, someday soon, a teenaged music nut will find the show listings of these aforementioned venues and will be in awe of all the amazing shows happening in his or her backyard. I bet that time will come sooner than later. 

Tim Brouk covered the local music scene for 12 years as Arts and Entertainment Reporter for the Journal & Courier. Today, he is a proud employee of the Purdue College of Science and a music writer, photographer and videographer for thinklafayette.com. 

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