Since Rachel Otwell wrote 'On The Romance & Reality of Black Sheep Cafe', co-owner Brian Galecki responded with some clarification on behalf of the venue. Read it here. The following is an account from another co-owner with a lot of history and love for the space and scene.
Well as some of you may have read Black Sheep Café is coming onto some hard times. We deeply appreciate all the support, love, and kind words so many of you have shared with your interest into preserving Black Sheep and keeping Springfield as well as central Illinois DIY alive. Since it seems like a time we are being truthful and bearing our souls to the world, I wanted to share something with everyone that might make you think a little bit more about the environment of Black Sheep as well as the Illinois music scene in general. That is my story of how I became involved with the Black Sheep Café and Southtown Community.
When I was 15 I was in a few bands in Taylorville and we played the Taylorville Park Dining Hall, the KC Hall, and the American Legion. So many of my friends told me about Black Sheep and how every show there was crazy. My older friends used to say, “Once you play Black Sheep you really have made it as a band.” So one night I lied to my mother, (Mom I’m sorry), and I hitched a ride with a few of my friend’s older buddies who said they were going to Black Sheep. I didn’t know what the night would entail, I had only been to Springfield a handful of times to like the mall and stuff, but I was determined to see a show.
Little did I know it was a Metal show. I remember the graffiti, I remember circle (mosh)pits, and I remember that I stood against a wall and was blown away by what I saw. Everything about the show made me yearn for more. I could barely keep up with what band was playing I was so overwhelmed. In the midst of my show viewing, the people I came to Springfield with left. I had to walk down the street to Moto Mart or whatever gas station was there at the time and beg for change to call my parents. My mother came and picked me up at 12:45 A.M. I knew I was grounded but there would be nothing that kept me from going back again.
When I was 16, I went to my second Black Sheep show which was Upon a Burning Body. They played with Dreams May Fall, probably my favorite band from Peoria at the time, and I moshed my heart out and even punched the floor till my knuckles bled. I continued to go to Metal shows and mosh every other week until my own band Message at the Beep finally got to play Black Sheep and open for Close Your Eyes. A year went by, and my other band Cowards Plea got to open for them again on their music video shoot. It was wild and I knew that there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life other than play shows.
I played shows around Springfield, like in Taylorville and at The Vine in Rochester. I saw every band I could from Renae to Our Lady to Don’t Mess with Winkie to Battalion to my favorite band of my high school run, BIG MOUTH. After the music video shoot I decided to go to any show I heard about. I went to ska shows, got into a ska band called The Least of All’s and played my first Black Sheep Fest in 2011. I loved every second of it. BXS Fest 2011 was the last show I attended before I left for the Air Force in August of 2011.
In 2013 I came back to Illinois and was living with my parents in Taylorville. I was writing songs for about three years wherever I went and I created a project called Loses the Mighty. When I returned to Illinois I heard there was a show at Black Sheep and I brought my whole band to see Looming, Cloakroom, Run Forever, and Our Lady play. Mouth Sex also was a band that played at the end of the show for a surprise set. I was blown away and I really was so shocked to see how many people were still going to Black Sheep that I recognized. People like Drew, Mario, Clare, and Cody. I knew I wanted to get back into Black Sheep and I realized I didn’t want to move away. The place for me was Springfield.
So from 2013-2014 I played a ton of shows with Loses the Mighty. We played every other weekend. We played everywhere from Warped Zone in Peoria, to the Demo in St. Louis, to Error Records in Champaign. But out of all of those places to play, my favorite was always Black Sheep because of my history with the venue, and I came to grow a friendship with Kevin. I learned how to book shows on my own. I booked Cross Me, Bent Life, Until We are Ghosts, Nebraska Bricks, Resolute, and even booked Native at Error Records in Champaign to name a few.
Nathan Landolt, Brian Galecki and Kevin Bradford were the ones that taught me how to book shows however, I did have a lot of experience with booking from the Taylorville days. They were super supportive and gave me the knowledge I still use today. Without those first few stinker shows I booked on my own, I wouldn't have learned the responsibilities of being a promoter. I ultimately learned that just making a Facebook event was not enough to book good shows. I learned how to flyer and the importance of having good lineups. I went on to book shows at Black Sheep and everything seemed like it couldn’t get better.
In 2014 I went to Texas for some government stuff and when I came back the direction of Loses the Mighty began to change. I felt like it was my time to move out of my parents’ house on my own and I caught up with an old friend Zaxxon. He introduced me to the Radon Lounge (another DIY venue) and in a matter of weeks we found our first apartment together. I had done it. I had moved to Springfield. In November of 2014 I attended the Dumb Records / Black Sheep Record Fair and watched bands in Skanks Skates. It was the first time I saw Teen Freak and it was the first show I attended a show while living in Springfield. Kevin, Brian, Jake and I cleaned out the Black Sheep basement and found a Chicago Flag I still hang in my kitchen today.
Over the next few months I decided to part ways with Loses the Mighty and to continue playing guitar in a band called Warrs. I also became the drummer of Bad Banshee. While I lived in Springfield I tried to get more involved in shows. I started to go to punk, hardcore, and even hip hop shows at Black Sheep just because I loved the atmosphere of live music. I started a flyer wall in my bedroom and thought things couldn’t get better. Over the course of the winter, I started Leech Pit with Gus and Drew. It was a really fun band to be in. We had a few member changes and finally settled on naming the band Gush and adding Nyx to the crew. I recorded in South Town Studio with Brandon Carnes on many projects. This is when things started to change for me.
Being in the Springfield community at this point opened my eyes to social issues, it made me recognize the power of music, and it overall showed me that music can be more than fun chaos like the shows I grew up with. I cleaned Black Sheep after shows, I ran sound, and a few times I took door for the shows I would book. I also got to play my first Dumb Fest (Dumb Fest 3D) with Bad Banshee and Warrs. Just about half a year after being in Gush, Warrs and playing in Bad Banshee I was approached by Brian, Clare and Drew who wanted me to join them as a co-owner of Black Sheep. If 15 year old BJ was here at this moment he probably would have sobbed with excitement and drank a nice cool Propel to stay hydrated.
Once I became an owner I attended every show. I ran sound, swept, made projects for the grounds of South Town and organized clean up groups. It seemed we were making very good strides in making the Black Sheep interior what it is today and removing old broken items. It was a little while after this I was asked by my new roommate Milk if I wanted to be in a band with him. I said yes. Then there was Living Thing. Around this time I also made the band Starlorde. On top of that I created my solo project Pretend I’m Not There. I also was asked to play in the band I had looked up to since I was 17, Our Lady. After I joined Living Thing it would be a few months before preparations for Dumb Fest 4 would occur. I assumed responsibilities for running sound for the Skanks stage and I also pieced together a PA system that became our current mobile system and has been used for almost every show that has occurred in the past two Dumb Fests. During Dumb Fest 4 I played five times over the course of three days and I loved every second of it. Dumb Fest 4 gave me the experience I needed to run any fest in Southtown.
After Dumb Fest 4 things became a little noticeably slower in the community. I kept practicing with bands and prepaid for Dumb Fest 5. In the fall of 2016 I also played an extremely important show which was Our Lady’s last show. It was surreal to be a part of something I had watch evolve for over 6 years. After Dumb Fest 4 however; I got in contact with Kyle Noonan, the real big brains behind South Town Sound. He moved to Springfield to build a studio in a space that was more far from studio ready. Kyle, Mario, Jim and myself took many late nights on work days, weekends, holidays, before and after shows, and sacrificed valuable practice time in order to get the studio done for our deadline. All of our goals were met through our KickStarter and our own money, which went into every piece of material we needed - from the studs down to the gear we use daily.
After the studio was completed, we recorded a live session for Looming and immediately began planning for Dumb Fest 5. We wanted to make the fest as big as possible and when it was all said and done we recorded multiple bands, housed bands from all over the country, and had over 50 bands play. Dumb Fest 5 definitely was a big moment for me. With that just a few months ago - it leads us to now. I am a co-owner and operator of Black Sheep Café and South Town Sound. It has been many years, there have been many shows, and there have been ultimate highs and extreme lows. I would not trade any of these moments away for anything else.
If Black Sheep had not given me a place to express myself and to explore musical creativity I simply would not be here. Southtown/BlackSheep/Dumb Records/Skanks Skates/South Town Sound/Boof City Skate Shop are all examples of making something out of being here in Springfield. There are so many names I have not mentioned in this thing because there are so many people that have touched my life and have made something out of Black Sheep.
What I hope all of this shows you is that you too can make something out of our community. My hope is something will make you as happy as it has made me. I run the sound board every show because Black Sheep is my home and it has made me the person that I am today. Through it, I continue to learn and grown as a person. With all of this said I did not become a co-owner just because I showed up and asked. As you can see I have been involved with music for many years, wearing many different hats and that’s all because I simply attended shows and wanted to be a part of something that seemed to be greater than myself. Being at Black Sheep every day is what I love to do and I’d rather be no place else. Moving to Springfield and breaking out of my comfort zone and attending shows led me to adventures that give me priceless memories. Moving here allowed me to preserve so much work that the people before me put so much time and energy into. Heck, Kyle barely knew me and moved into a house with me to start a studio. Being in this community is a gift and I am so blessed to be surrounded by amazing history, good friends, and good tunes.
You too can be a part of this. It takes a little hard work, working around schedules, and finding time - but this community will reward you. It will reward you with stories, friendships from around the world, and a sense of being involved in a community that will continue on into the future with things that will hopefully last past our lifetimes. I encourage you to attend any show you can. To help flyer. To ask how you can help. To ask what could you set up at the Black Sheep. Ask me anything and I will always be here with a fire in my heart and enthusiasm for a community that has changed my life. I will always be willing to listen.
Short version of this story: The space we have is for you. If you want to be involved just simply show up, come to shows, and have a good time. We would love your help with everything we do to make Black Sheep what it is and even better.