If you saw John Music, the lead singer of Provoke, you would probably be able to guess he was part of the hardcore music scene, with the tattoos that peak out from his chest and run down his left calf. But looking at Terry Johnson from another local hardcore/progressive band named Transmission 13, you could never guess that they had any affiliation at all. Terry is tall and innocent-looking, his shaved head reminiscent of Stain'd's Aaron Lewis but without the eyebrow ring. Members of local punk bands On 3 and Closed on Sundays look like any random student from a local high school.

These people might look different, but they all share one thing: They are active members of the local youth music scene (whether they're still teenagers or not). The scene is diverse, and although hardcore and metal dominate, they're by no means the only components. The punk scene here will fight 'til its last breath, there is a rising emo scene (though much stronger in acoustic rather than electric form) and a strong death-metal scene, and there are bands that glide along the boundaries and remind us that it's not important what kind of music you listen to as long as it sounds good to you.

While the scene is thriving, its youth makes its continued health tenuous. Kids do not have the money or age to frequent the bars where most bands in the area play, so they have to find somewhere else to both play and listen to their music. Places such as Peabody's in Davenport, the Eagles Reception Hall in Rock Island, The Pig Pen in Clinton, and the Chai Café in Moline all allow minors to listen to and play live music. While many of these places have made sacrifices for the music scene, none has done as much as the Chai Café, which is in serious danger of going under.

The Chai Café is one of the first places to start offering all-ages live music on a regular basis. The café started booking gigs early this year, and as a result, daytime customers - businessmen in downtown Moline - consider the Chai a youth establishment. Owners Mike Tertipes and Rob Schmitt say they've lost money because of that, but Tertipes said the café will continue to host live music "until the landlord kicks out."

That might not be too far off. Because it hasn't paid its rent, the Chai Café received its 30-day eviction notice on May 29.

Yet the owners hope to raise enough money to start another establishment. One place they have been looking is another former safe haven for the hardcore community, the Corner Loft in Moline.

The café believes in the local youth music scene. They are trying to create a place where both bands and kids can feel comfortable while sharing music together. Owners of the café assert that by allowing a true scene to establish itself, larger acts will want to stop in the area for shows and festivals. At a May 19 show at the Pig Pen, punk bands from Los Angeles (Homegrown), Chicago (Allister), and Jacksonville (Yellowcard), as well as an opening band from Clinton, all played. (All of the headlining bands will be on this year's biggest punk festival, the Vans Warped Tour.) The Pig Pen, with its bigger space and higher cover charges (compared to the other venues for youth in the area), can attract major acts, pulling heavyweight bands such as Kittie, Sevendust, Adema, and Ill Nino.

The Chai Café is also valuable because it does not require bands to play cover songs, allowing bands to perform their own music and giving them the opportunity to break out of Iowa. (Most of the venues in the Quad Cities are looking for good cover bands, and are willing to pay good money for them.) At a May 30 show at the Chai Café, Voodoo Sun decided to play as many original songs as possible because they were about to embark on a tour of bars and were only able to play cover songs. "People need to know that there's real art being made here," said Transmission 13's Terry Johnson.

That art is maybe one of the more overlooked aspects of the scene. Cynical viewers might look at the neon-haired, spiked, pierced, and tattooed crowds (as well as bands) and think of these shows as just a gathering of troublemakers and degenerates, but these people are creating music that is being absorbed and enjoyed by a wide variety of individuals. Younger and older listeners (ranging roughly from 14 to 25) and males and females come to shows, there is no racial trouble, and the music is as diverse as the crowds.

A sense of community and brotherhood has been fostered through the scene. Bands interviewed for this story all felt that the strength of community within the scene was rock-solid and improving.

What's amazing is that traditionally, different music scenes don't get along. As the movie SLC Punk described: "Rednecks kicked the shit out of punks, punks kicked the shit out of mods, mods kicked the shit out of skinheads, skinheads kicked the shit out of heavy metalers, heavy metalers kicked the shit out of new wavers, and the new wavers did nothing; they were the new hippies."

But nobody in the Quad Cities feels there is animosity between the tribes. "There's sometimes a guy in the pits who is just looking to hurt people, but otherwise, it's all pretty good," said Adam Hernandez, the frontman for Closed on Sundays. The cooperation, benevolence, and unity provide unique opportunities in the area.

That comes, in part, because bands that are playing in the area are doing it for the love of the scene. They're willing to sacrifice, playing for little money or nothing more than the delight of doing a great show for a crowd of people who feel like they do. Stories of bands traveling out-of-town for a competition and having to spend more than the prize money on repairs to their van are not uncommon. Extremely hardcore bands must pay a $50 security deposit to play the Chai, and if nothing gets broken, the bands get the money back.

Owners make sacrifices for the scene, too. The Chai has hurt its business because of its evening shows, and those concerts are only marginally profitable. (Bands receive a cut of the door.) The Eagles Reception Hall has dropped its rental prices from around $200 to approximately $75, significantly lowering its profit margin but making the venue more affordable for bands and their fans. The Pig Pen takes a major chance in allowing people under 21 into the bar at all, let alone kids 17 and under. The Pig Pen makes sure to segregate of-age adults from the kids, but mistakes or problems could cost the club its liquor license.

The scene to this point has largely been a live one; bands have found it hard to capture their sound on CD, and recording is an expensive undertaking. Even when bands do have enough cash to spend time in a studio, the difficulty in generating the energy they have in live shows while playing into a wall makes it difficult to reproduce a sound they feel is typical of a show. While that might be an issue of youth and experience, some big bands - notoriously KISS - have had problems selling albums but never selling out a stadium. The members of Provoke hate studio time, and they've been figureheads of the hardcore scene since they formed in 1996.

Selling CDs, though, isn't a priority for these bands. They play for the love of the music, for the love of the lifestyle, and for the love of their listeners and band mates. People are willing to sacrifice their businesses and futures to keep alive this dream for all the people who feel like they need somewhere to go to feel alive.

The value of the local underground community is impossible to quantify; it resonates on a personal level for each person that experiences it. With any luck, places like the Chai Café will stay alive so that the music community can continue to prosper here. The culture and publicity that it brings to the Quad Cities can do nothing but good, and hopefully people will begin to see its value for the area as a whole but also for all the people who have experienced it.

Aldino Frassinelli wrote this story as part of a work project for his graduation from Rivermont Collegiage in Bettendorf. He plans to attend Columbia College in Chicago next year to study music business and vocal performance.

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