You might think a band playing classic rock would be comprised of mature, well-experienced musicians who’d grown up during the glory days of Led Zeppelin, or who attended the multi-act stadium rock concerts of the 1970s or who own complete collections of vinyl record albums by Ted Nugent, Aerosmith and AC/DC.
An upstart quintet of 20-somethings from Harrisburg is fast making a successful job of performing a blend of classic rock and original songs in their newly formed band, The Trade.
Ranging in age from 18 to 24, the group recently claimed a $750 first prize for winning a two-day battle of the bands at a music festival in Belleville.
“Their stage presence was unbelievable, and their musical talent was off the charts,” said Shannon Stelling, Silver Creek Saloon General Manager. “Their potential as a band to make albums and succeed was clear to me. They were that good.”
People are also reading…
It may be difficult to believe that five Generation Z musicians from Harrisburg, Illinois, a Saline County town with a population of 8,000, somehow found each other and discovered their shared desire to play the same kind of music.
“It’s our appreciation for classic rock that’s our tying knot,” said The Trade band leader Cody Morris. “After discovering our lead singer, it was easy finding the other band members because we all just wanted to play rock and roll.”
At the age of just 24, Morris is the group’s elder statesman. He was giving a guitar lesson in his basement when Cameron Wendler, the 22-year-old younger brother of a friend, showed up and belted out some vocals.
“He came down and started singing just like Robert Plant,” Morris said. “It was ridiculous.”
Wendler said he’d always been a fan of classic rock.
“It’s the kind of music I’ve always liked,” he said. “That’s what I’d crank on my car radio and just try to sing along with it.”
In addition to Led Zeppelin, Wendler said he also listens to classic rock ballads such as King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Then Came the Last Days of May.”
The rest of the band members include drummer Seth Martineau, 22, and Norris City brothers Jadon Johnson, age 20, on lead guitar and 18-year-old bassist Jevin Johnson.
While The Trade officially coalesced in November of 2019, Morris said he learned guitar several years prior.
“My uncle taught me guitar when I was 14 or 15,” he said. “He showed me the basics but then I ran with it. My first guitar was a Sunlite acoustic, which I’ve still got in the closet.”
Getting the band a spot at Creek Fest last month was a tribute to Morris’ public relations ability. While most bands had to audition in-person to be picked for the event, The Trade was chosen on the basis of videos sent to the club owner.
“I made an exception,” Stelling said. “They couldn’t make the two-hour drive to audition. So I took a look at the videos Cody sent and thought to myself, wow these guys are really good.”
Creek Fest, which took place over the last weekend of June, was the first-ever music festival at Silver Creek Saloon. The Belleville club has two music stages, four bars, seating for 600 and a full-service restaurant.
Stelling said: “It was a multipurpose event –to have a battle of the bands, to provide a music festival experience for this area and to raise money for music education at our local schools. We accomplished all three.”
Belleville Screen Printing donated t-shirts that Belleville East and West High Schools sold at booths to raise money. Event attendees also donated 40 or 50 used musical instruments that were given to the schools, Stelling said.
“This was a free event,” she said. “We had around 3,800 people attend and nearly $4,000 was raised for the band and choir programs at the schools.”
Stelling also credited sponsors like First Student bus company that provided free shuttles to the parking areas, the City of Belleville, the police department, M.E. Gaming and beverage companies Monaco, Red Bull and Blue Cheer rum.
21 different groups auditioned for the 16 spots in the battle of the bands, with the prerequisite that each had to have been in existence for two years or less.
“This was a chance for up-and-coming bands to perform on a festival-sized stage that was brought in,” Stelling said. “The judges picked the winners based on stage presence, the overall sound and the crowd response. It was clear that The Trade was the best of the bunch.”
With just 30 minutes to perform, the band played six songs that included: Joker and the Thief (Wolfmother), What Is and What Should Never Be (Led Zeppelin), Helter Skelter (The Beatles), War Pigs (Black Sabbath), Whipping Post (The Allman Brothers Band) and Gimme All Your Love (Alabama Shakes).
Following private parties the next two weekends, The Trade will take some time off to work on their first album.
“We’ve got about four new songs already done,” Morris said. “We’re hoping to have enough to record our first album over this winter and then release it in the spring. We want to zero in on our shows having a majority of original tunes with some really good cover songs.”
The next time The Trade will perform in public could be at the All American Dairy Show or the Shawnee Sasquatch Festival, both to be held in Harrisburg this fall.
Pondering his ongoing drive to play music, Morris said: “I don’t ever want to look back some day and wish that I’d put more time, effort and energy into it. I want to do all that right now, when I have the chance.”
“If you want to play music, you’ve got to believe that you can do it,” Wendler echoed. “Don’t just think about it, get out there and do it. Just let it out and put yourself out there.”
For more information, The Trade can be found on Facebook and Instagram.
Gary Gibula is an SIU alum, musician, writer, editor and author of the Music Historicity columns. He can be reached at [email protected].