Local and national musicians alike have played in Pekin. Several hometown bars offer a place to catch live music especially on the weekends.
Capitol Street Sports Bar and Grill located at 219 N. Capitol St. has been open for 18 months, as of May. Owner Jim Reames grew up in Pekin and currently lives in Peoria. He said he decided to open a bar in Pekin because it is his hometown.
Reames books bands from different genres of music. He said more people come to Capitol Street Sports Bar and Grill when the band is from Pekin because band members tend to bring their friends to come and watch them.
Not every band is local though. In May, Reames had Chicago Blues Hall of Fame musician Michael Charles in for a show. Charles was on his A to Z Tour taking him all over the United States, Canada and Australia.
“People like coming here because there’s plenty of room to see a band,” Reames said. “They like the atmosphere. It’s a good place.”
Reames, himself, is a musician. He plays guitar and sings. All year round Capitol Street Sports Bar and Grill offers open stage time from 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. He said there is usually a pretty good crowd then. Fall and winter are the busiest seasons for Reames at his business.
Reames tries to have bands on weekends especially on Saturdays. On Friday, June 29, Spurs & Lace will return for a show.
Over the summer months, business slows down at his bar. Dan and Sammie Steinbach said the same about their business. The two own Twisted Spoke Saloon located at 251 Derby St. in Pekin.
Dan said the outdoor events along the Peoria Riverfront have an impact on their business and that usually once the event has closed along the riverfront, his business picks up around 11:30 p.m.
He has seen this trend since opening Twisted Spoke Saloon in December 2009. With all the outdoor music festivals and concerts in the summer, it decreases business inside bars even when they are offering a musical guest.
Steinbach said Fridays are always acoustic music. Saturdays are his busiest day of the week. Sundays he has open mic night from 6 to 10 p.m.
He tries to book a combination of local central Illinois talent and national talent. There is never a cover charge on nights when the band is local. However, he does charge a cover for national bands.
Some of the big name talents who have played at Twisted Spoke Saloon include Hank Williams Jr. and some of the members of Motley Crue. Sometimes bands stop in on Sunday nights for open mic night if they are passing through Pekin en route to another city on tour.
Alternative rock band Blacklite District played there in April and were back again in May, Steinbach said.
“It used to be that you’d have a band set up on Thursday night and they’d play Thursday through Saturday and people would come, but it isn’t like that anymore,” said Steinbach.
Music has always been part of Steinbach’s life. He recalled getting a Twisted Sister cassette tape as a child for Christmas in 1988 from his mom. As an adult he worked at Caterpillar as an engineer until he was laid-off in 2007. Owning a bar was not originally his plan but it is now.
“I do it for the enjoyment, not the money,” Steinbach said. “I have a lot of people who help me. What separates us is our set up. The sound stage sets us apart and it’s mine.”
His wife Sammie said, “I think people keep coming back because people know we have good live music and it’s usually free unless it’s a national act.”
In August, Twisted Spoke Saloon is having a two-day event to benefit TAPS called 2018 Pekin Palooza. Circled Son, A Kingdom in Peril, Syntax Error and Trench will perform on Aug. 3. The next day Circled Son will return along with Shadows Inc., Life in Cycle, Hollywood Dirtbags, Evergloom and Godspeed. There will also be a car show on Aug. 4 from noon until 4 p.m. While the music events are free, there is a $5 admission fee to the car show.
Local musician Brian Carroll said Steinbach does a great job booking at the Twisted Spoke Saloon. Carroll is the vocalist, guitarist and manager for JammSammich. He is also the guitarist and singer for Corn Wolves.
JammSammich has been a popular local band for approximately 20 years. They play “party rock” music, funk, R&B, 1980s hits and popular current dance music. Corn Wolves is an acoustic-based band. They play mostly requests. Carroll said they get requests to play The Beatles, his favorite band, Eagles, Prince and Jimmy Buffett.
Carroll, too, found that live music inside bars during the summer months has decreased.
“I bet 20 years ago you could find five or six bars in Pekin a weekend who had bands,” he said. “I’m finding it less of an option. People are always trying to find music in the summer and people seem to like outdoor festivals. Summer festival crowds are always bigger. We play outside from about mid-May until mid-September. I like playing at Mackinaw Vineyards. It’s fun and outside with about 2,500 people.”
He will play with Corn Wolves at an outdoor venue at Buffalo Wild Wings in Pekin on Saturday, July 14, from 5-9 p.m. in the parking lot for St. Jude’s Parking Lot Party. The band will also play at this year’s Pekin Marigold Festival on Sunday, Sept. 9.
“We try with both bands to play a lot of charity events,” Carroll said. “We probably do eight or nine St. Jude events each year. We’re doing one for the American Cancer Society, too.”
Carroll said it is not always easy for people to book bands who will bring a lot of people. He attributes it to the evolving tastes of crowds who go out.
Upcoming concerts for live music can be found on the Facebook pages for Capitol Street Sports Bar and Grill, Twisted Spoke Saloon, Corn Wolves and JammSammich.