DAWSON: Mine was the Jesus Lizard, Sidekick Kato and Nora Hate at the downtown American Legion Hall (a show Jon put on, though we didn’t meet until years later). I had the flyer on my wall for years. It was the summer of 1995, between my 7th and 8th grade year. My buddy’s mom, our chaperone, sat in the back the whole show.
I remember nervously asking David Yow and Mac McNeilly to autograph my ticket stub. I’m sure they thought I was ridiculous (which I definitely was), but they were both very nice about it – and obliged a dorky and awkward 13-year-old. That show turned my world upside-down. All three bands were incredible, and it was the first time I really felt like maybe I might, someday, fit in somewhere. I knew I wasn’t cool, but boy was I hooked!
The Jesus Lizard plays Peoria, 1995
JON: I saw Dollface at a party in 1993, and I couldn’t believe they were from Peoria. They seemed like rock stars – and they played the part. I just remember thinking… they should be touring with Nirvana or something! Then I saw Three Boyfriends and Frozen At Sea at the Madison Theater not long after that. This was really my first local show. Three Boyfriends had their psychedelic army of guitarists, and Frozen At Sea was this beautiful, circus-like spectacle of incongruity.
Seeing other kids my own age up on the stage of that magnificent and historic venue was thrilling! Through the DIY punk scene, we were creating our own opportunities to build something new and different. Little did I know, I would be right in the thick of it just a few months later.
So… what was YOUR first Peoria punk show? Leave a comment below!
From shared band members to college transplants, Peoria’s punk scene has long been intertwined with the scene in Bloomington-Normal. Chapter Six of our book is dedicated to this connection. Pictured are a handful of great bands from the Twin Cities:
1) Dr. Butcher & the MDs 2) Nameless Dread 3) The Outbreaks 4) Naked Hippy 5) Semicids 6) The Defilers 7) The Resinators
Like so many music scenes, it started at a record store. And like Chicago had Wax Trax, Peoria had Co-Op. The Midwest chain’s flagship location was on West Main Street. At its peak in the early eighties, there were more than two dozen Co-Op locations across Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Photos ca. 1979-82 via Ken Christianson/Todd Kiel, MEMORIES OF PEORIA
Dan brought people together by booking great punk rock shows in the Peoria area. One that is prominently featured in the book was a two-day benefit festival at the Morton Optimist Club in March of 2000. It was a huge amount of work – and ultimately raised $1,600 for the TAPS no-kill animal shelter.
In our conversations, Dan offered the following:“The Peoria punk scene really felt like a community, and for the first time I felt like I ‘belonged.’ Most of my friends, even still today, I met through the scene — some very good, kind-hearted people. Seeing how well the punk community worked together made me realize that with the right attitude, punk rockers can get it done! Thank you to the Peoria ‘kids’ for making the ‘90s living in Peoria enjoyable!”
A wave of bands in the early 2000s reflected the growing influence of metal in the hardcore scene, including Angeltread, Metal Warriors, Declaim, RyeFieldCrane and Nonetheless—who soon changed their name to Burning Love Letters and later morphed into The Serpent Son. BLL/TSS attracted a dedicated following and was one of Peoria’s biggest acts for the rest of the decade.
In 1977 Jon Ginoli, a junior at Richwoods High School, created Peoria’s first punk rock zine, Hoopla. He formed The Outnumbered as a student at the University of Illinois, releasing three LPs and touring with the Replacements, Violent Femmes and Soul Asylum.The Peoria native co-founded Pansy Division in 1991—the world’s first openly gay rock band featuring predominantly gay musicians. The band first garnered international notoriety as the opening act on Green Day’s 1994 Dookie tour and is still active today.
Punk rock and skateboarding always went hand in hand. In the mid-’80s, the Stepe brothers and their central Illinois skate crew made Fulton Plaza in downtown Peoria their central hangout, rechristening it the “Bum Box.”
The Stepes also had a half pipe in their backyard in East Peoria, which their parents gifted them as atonement for their move from Chicago.