Musicians get first chance at the big time
Theres nothing like a moment in the spotlight to help change the life of an aspiring musician. After all, anyone can practice chords and scales in their basement, or jam with buddies in a neighbors garage but when the opportunity finally comes to hit the stage and play in front of people youre not necessarily related to, theres nothing like it.For the past two years, Larry Gruber, owner of Glenwood Music, has been helping aspiring performers make that leap. Gruber is the guiding force behind Wednesday Night Live, a weekly series that offers area musicians the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a live audience, as well as recording the results for posterity on a professionally produced CD.During the course of its run, the Wednesday Night Live series has attracted everyone from seasoned bluegrassers to singer-songwriters who were literally shivering in their boots when they first stepped on stage. But with a warm, inviting and completely casual atmosphere, the shows held right in the middle of Grubers musical instrument shop are a great opportunity for musicians to show off their chops. Or, in some cases, realize that they need to retreat to the basement before they head off in search of paying gigs.This week, the Bluegrace Mountain Band, a Gypsum-based old-time bluegrass group led by the husband and wife team of Dave and Julee Kramer, took the stage and offered up an evening of traditional Celtic and Gospel-inspired tunes. With their son Phil on fiddle, the band roared along with a series of songs full of high-lonesome vocals and the occasional flubbed chord. Performers get a high quality demo CDAt Wednesday Night Live, where all is forgiven, the audience has learned to take it in stride and that means an almost universally positive experience for those who step on stage, Gruber said. So many people had been coming in and saying that they needed a live recording of their original material, so I thought, Lets do a live music series and start putting out live CDs at the same time and that will be their payment for bands to perform, Gruber says. It was really just an affordable way to get a high-quality demo. Now its kind of morphed into a real music venue, with an endless stream of people signed up.Glenwood Musics Wednesday series has seen everything from first-time singer-songwriters to full-on rock and country bands. Gruber says the free event attracts an eclectic crowd sometimes a handful of family members, and occasionally a full house, settled into the shops delightfully mismatched rows of seats, stools and chairs. Glenwood Music provides the PA system and the CD recording facilities; local performers offer their talent.As weve gone along, a new undercurrent has emerged and people know that this is a venue to see completely original music, he says. Ive had bands that were literally finishing off a song in the back room before they came out and played. And the quality of the original music is really good. Theres some really incredible talent in the area, but theres such a lack of venues in the area, we even get requests from professional touring bands. But we actually discourage that, Gruber said. Im really just trying to bring out new bands with about 80 minutes of material that theyd like to perform.As one of the valleys only smoke-free and entirely family-friendly music venues, Wednesday Night Live has also become a great place for folks who wouldnt normally head out to see live music to do so and still be home in time for the late news.A springboard to paying gigsWednesday Night Live has helped give a few local performers a foot in the door when it comes to landing paying gigs. Performer Steve Jueneman (who doubles as Wednesday Night Lives CD recording engineer) has found a bit of success with his band, Scooz, after making a public debut at Glenwood Music; local duo SoulFeel also worked their magic on a Wednesday night before becoming a regular fixture on the local circuit.Julee Kramer, Bluegrace Mountain Bands stand-up bassist and part-time vocalist, says she and the band jumped at the opportunity to play at Wednesday Night Live. And while the groups Wednesday night show was admittedly a little rusty around the edges, she and her fellow performers enjoyed the experience.Its sort of like a rite of passage for all the musicians in the area … everybody comes and does it, she says. And it seems like a great opportunity for us. We started as a church band and weve been playing a little bit at places like Main Street Grill in Edwards but the CD will really help us out.To help prompt more people to come out to the shows, Gruber recently began holding a drawing for free musical equipment those who come by and check out a performer theyve never heard before are invited to put their name in the draw box and sign up to win a $450 bass guitar and amp set.Hes also hoping to work out an arrangement with KDNK or KSNO to play some of the series recorded results. In the meantime, the music continues drop by any Wednesday at 8 p.m. and youll be amazed at what you hear.Upcoming Schedule:March 23: Big Daddy Lee and the Kingbees, Chicago bluesMarch 31: Ragged Mtn. Meltdown, bluegrassApril 7: A.O. Forbes, solo guitarApril 14: Ellen Stapenhorst, singer/songwriter guitaristApril 21: The Bottomfeeders, rock
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Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org