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By Emily Weiss
When I was 18, nothing was more important to me than seeing Ike Reilly play his four-night stand at the Turf Club. As with almost every show at the Turf, Reilly's sets were restricted to those 21 and over, but my boyfriend and I weren't about to let a little thing like legality stop us. We had a plan.
The first night, we got an older friend to take us through the front door and vouch for us as a stand-in legal guardian. The bouncers weren't too pleased, but they eventually caved and drew a big black X on each of our hands, like a semi-permanent tattoo of our adolescence for everyone in the club to see. By the next night, we had made friends with some of the band members and had them sneak us in through the kitchen. By the third night, we had gotten so confident in our bar-crashing abilities that we sauntered in through a side door we had found propped open. Sure enough, we were tossed out the same door an hour later by the owners, exhilarated from the thrill of breaking the rules and the two and a half phenomenal sets we had seen Reilly play over those three glorious summer nights.
It wasn't that we wanted to get drunk, or even be around drunk people or adults—the sole reason for our uncharacteristically rebellious behavior was that it was our only chance to see Ike Reilly play. And when you're young, every concert feels like it might be your first and last chance to see your favorite band.
1922 University Ave. W.
for a complete schedule of upcoming shows visit their MySpace page
In the years since, I have crossed the 21+ threshold, and my passion for supporting all-ages shows has waned significantly. It's easy to forget how frustrating being locked out of a show can be once you've gotten old enough to be admitted into everything. I hadn't even thought about the subject recently until I saw the announcement that Champaign, Illinois-based indie-pop band Headlights would be playing an early show for underage kids at Eclipse Records. Headlights were also scheduled to play later in the evening at—where else?—the Turf Club, but Eclipse wanted to offer the youngsters who couldn't be admitted to the Turf a chance to see the band play.
But there was a catch: Just as the Turf wouldn't allow anyone under 21 into their show, Eclipse announced that anyone 21 or over would be turned away.
Never one to submit to age restrictions, I shamelessly flashed my press credentials and got myself admitted to the show, despite being far too ancient at 25 to fit in with the high schoolers in attendance. It was my first time visiting the new Eclipse since it reopened last year—a fact that I am greatly ashamed of given my fandom of local record stores in general—and from what I could tell, the store is shaping up nicely. What was once a giant open room has been sectioned off into a front retail area with CDs and vinyl, a black hallway that will host a row of arcade games, and a closed-off, 170-capacity music venue with a stage, black walls, black curtains, and a sound system.
The vibe was considerably different from the average club show: It was still light out when the first band started (and, for that matter, when the last band finished), and rather than rush to the bar between each set, the kids lounged inside the record store on old couches and talked quietly among themselves. There was no screaming, no drunken dancing, no migrations outside for cigarettes; it was one of the most civilized rock shows I had been to in ages.
After the charming shoegazers Now, Now Every Children finished their opening set of ethereal noise rock, I instinctively craved a beverage. Ironically, the closest place to grab a Gatorade was the neighboring liquor store; the other thirsty underage attendees walked down the block to Porky's for a soda. By the time One for the Team finished playing and Headlights began setting up their equipment, the venue was about half full. Headlights looked more than pleased to play for the small crowd, and plowed through their set of buzzing, harmonic pop with the energy of a band playing the Mainroom at First Avenue.
Though Eclipse re-opened over a year ago, the music venue portion of the store was only recently finished. The Headlights show has been the only one to enforce an age restriction; most shows at Eclipse are open to everyone. Co-owner Joe Furth says that one of the biggest challenges of promoting his all-ages shows has been keeping up with the constantly shifting market of teens. Kids only stay underaged for so long before they turn 21 and can go to club shows.
"People move away, go to college, that type of thing," Furth says. "Which is inevitable; it's an evolving industry." He says he relies mostly on word of mouth to spread the word to a new generation of music-hungry kids. "We don't have a huge advertising budget, so we just stay focused and keep doing what we're doing. It seems to be working out."