On Wednesday, May 2, 2012 around 7:00pm, the sounds of banjos being tuned and guitar strums were filling up the stage as the weekly Americana Original Music Showcase began. Every show starts off with the J.C. Clements band. With heavy blues and bluegrass influences the trio certainly started the show off on the right foot. Musician J.C. Clements coordinates all of the showcases spanning across four other counties with shows in Indy, Nashville, and Martinsville.
As the next band, the Reckon Crew, started their set up and sound check, J.C. shared her plans for the future of the showcases and the network of musicians. Her goal is to provide a support system to foster growth and development and work together to put on a great show while bringing about awareness to the genre. She stated that the showcases do very well in Nashville and that Bloomington has a very strong Americana presence but many students are unaware of it.
The Reckon Crew started off with a very bold sound from a banjo, stand-up bass and two guitarists playing off of each other. The group played songs from each artists’ repertoire and those composed for the whole group as well. To break it up a bit they would simply lay down a jam between songs which added a nice touch to the performance as a whole. One audience member even indicated that the band could be considered “arguably one of the best bluegrass groups in the area.” Chill Billies was up next but there was no rush as laughing and good times filled the room. A sense of comradery could be felt between the groups.
J.C. came back up after the set to further explain her long term goals. She hopes to make Bloomington a hub for the Americana genre and create a conference similar to SXSW within the coming year. The networking/showcase group is a nonprofit and, therefore, all of the funds made from the shows are donated to the cause. After this discussion I was introduced to Dave Sharp, Ken Meadows, and Tommy Simmons of Chill Billies. When asked what they thought about JC’s hard work with the showcase, Sharp responded, “I think it’s really great what she’s doing. She gives a venue for original music.” I learned that all of the Chill Billies’ songs are written by Simmons and that the group has been together for about two weeks, which was surprising considering how well the band played together.
Overall, the showcase is a very cool way of bringing about awareness to Bloomington’s genre of bluegrass and Americana music. The shows take place every week within the four counties surrounding the Bloomington area and include National and local acts. For the Bloomington shows there is currently a venue change in the works for Max’s Place. Keep an ear and eye out for more American Original Music Showcases coming soon!