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Story by Tony Bonyata
Illustrations by Johnnie Cluney
Popular music site brings live indie music to Lake Geneva barn
April 23, 2010
Music fans in Walworth County usually have to trek to Milwaukee, Madison or Chicago to see national touring indie-rock bands perform live. But next Thursday locals here can enjoy a full night of great live music from five up-and-coming national acts without having to travel much further than their own backyard... or neighbor's barn as the case may be.
This show is part of the third annual Barnstormer tour and will feature the soulful rock of Delta Spirit, NY-based chamber-pop band Ra Ra Riot, along with Philadelphia rockers Free Energy, and indie-singer/ songwriters Nathaniel Rateliff and Pearly Gate Music (aka Zach Tillman).
This uniquely Midwestern tour is put together and presented by the popular music website Daytrotter, run by Sean Moeller who records an eclectic mix of music acts touring through the Rock Island, IL area and then features these live in-the-studio recordings as free mp3 downloads to viewers via their website. They currently record seven bands each week for a total of 28 new songs uploaded to the site weekly. The site is also unique in its look, thanks to resident Daytrotter artist Johnnie Cluney. His whimsical colored marker illustrations of each featured act helps give the site a fresh, hip and highly individualized appearance. Daytrotter has reaped "Music Blog of the Year" awards from Nielson Online and Billboard.com and has also received praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Esquire, Wired and numerous other publications. And with artists such as Vampire Weekend, Spoon, Kris Kristofferson, Fleet Foxes, Death Cab For Cutie and Wisconsin's own Bon Iver recording unique tracks for the site, it's little wonder Daytrotter has become such a popular online destination for music fans. As of this writing over 10.2 million of their songs have been legally downloaded - all free of charge.
Despite Daytrotter's worldwide notoriety, Moeller is quick to point out that many Midwesterners closer to the site's operations aren't as aware as they should be of the site; which is the primary reason for taking the Barnstormer tour on the road. "Every day, we have bands coming to our studio from all over the world, "Moeller stated, "and all of them know about Daytrotter and are excited to be here. At the same time, we put on shows around here in Rock Island and the crowds are okay. It's wild because we have a huge fan base and yet, our awareness here in the Midwest, outside of Chicago is lagging. I've lived in Iowa my whole life and I love it here. I think the Midwest is amazing and I want the Midwest to be proud of Daytrotter. So, we're taking these great bands to the barns. I think it's helping to raise awareness of the site and even if it's not, it most certainly is expanding the awareness of this concept called Barnstormer. I think, especially for this tour, people are really anticipating it and looking forward to it. It's definitely become this incredible link between what we're actively doing on a daily basis with the recording studio and the website to putting these bands into these pure and wonderful situations where they can shine live. It's really what we're all about."
When asked why the shows for this tour are taking place in barns and not more traditional rooms for live music Moeller explained, "They're pretty natural venues, really. It's been incredible - the vibes and atmospheres created with these shows. They're wholesome and fun and really magical. I think it must be the barns. People can see shows in clubs and bars all the time. Our tour needed to be a little bit different and I think these barns are just so beautiful that it can't help but affect the music in a positive way."
The Lake Geneva stop on this five-city Midwest tour will be held in a barn on Knotty Pines Farm just south of town on Highway 120. Kate Gardiner, whose family has owned the farm for the last seven years, is co-hosting the event. "My parents own Knotty Pines Farm," she said. "We're hosting via a friend who recommended the space to Sean." While admittedly rather new to Daytrotter, Gardiner sounds excited by the type of music and bands featured on the site and this tour. "I'm becoming a fan," she said. "I didn't know Sean until after my friend recommended our space to them. I'm looking forward to seeing Ra Ra Riot. Also Delta Spirit, and of course I've heard great things about Free Energy."
The barn where the local concert will take place dates back 80 to 90 years when it was originally a working dairy barn. "These days," Gardiner says, "our sheep live below in the dairy stalls and chickens live in the milking parlor during the winter."
Tickets prices for the show are only $10, and along with paying all of the bands from this, Daytrotter is also donating a portion of the proceeds to a local charitiy in each respective tour market. "We're taking nominations through this email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) of people/families who are going through a hard time financially, maybe had some tragic health problems or losses, not been able to make ends meet," Moeller explained. "We're hoping to help some people, so we're seeking nominations from people in the communities we're playing in to send us stories of people they think are deserving. I don't think we've had any nominees from Lake Geneva yet, so please send some. We hope to be able to help some needy people out with the rock and roll."
So far the Barnstormer tour has yet to travel outside of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. When asked if he had plans to expand the tour on a larger, national level beyond America's Heartland Moeller was quick to respond, "Nope, we're sticking around here. We're Midwest and we're proud."
Thursday, April 29 6:00 pm DAYTROTTER presents BARNSTORMER III featuring Delta Spirit, Ra Ra Riot, Nathaniel Rateliff, Pearly Gate Music and Free Energy at Knotty Pines Farm, N1204 S. Hwy 120, Lake Geneva, WI Tickets are $10 and can be purchased the day of show at the farm, or online through www.daytrotter.com (tickets purchased through the Daytrotter site also includes a free mp3 track recorded from last year's Barnstormer II) All ages. Limited on-site camping on the farm will also be available. For more info call: (312)725-0146
To download free Daytrotter audio sessions from all of the bands featured as part of this year's Barnstormer III show in Lake Geneva (along with hundreds of other acts) log onto: http://www.daytrotter.com.