You might think that a band playing classic rock would be made up of mature, experienced musicians who grew up during the glory days of Led Zeppelin, or who attended the multi-act rock concerts in 1970s stadiums, or who own complete collections of vinyl record albums from Ted Nugent, Aerosmith and AC/DC.
An upstart quintet from Harrisburg in their twenties quickly manage to perform a mix of classic rock and original songs in their newly formed group, The Trade.
Aged 18 to 24, the band recently won a top prize of $750 for winning a two-day battle between the bands at a music festival in Belleville.
“Their stage presence was incredible and their musical talent was out of this world,” said Shannon Stelling, General Manager of Silver Creek Saloon. “Their potential as a band to make albums and be successful was clear to me. They were so good.”
It may be hard to believe that five Gen Z musicians from Harrisburg, Illinois, a Saline County town of 8,000 people, somehow found each other and found their desire. common to play the same kind of music.
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“It’s our appreciation of classic rock that’s our tying knot,” said The Trade frontman Cody Morris. “After finding our lead singer, it was easy to find the other band members because we all wanted to play rock and roll.”
At just 24, Morris is the oldest statesman of the bunch. He was giving a guitar lesson in his basement when Cameron Wendler, the 22-year-old younger brother of a friend, showed up and sang.
“He came over and started singing like Robert Plant,” Morris said. “It was ridiculous.”
Wendler said he had always been a fan of classic rock.
“It’s the kind of music I’ve always loved,” he said. “That’s what I would play on my car radio and just try to sing along to.”
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, 20, on lead guitar and 18-year-old bassist Jevin Johnson.
While The Trade officially merged in November 2019, Morris said he learned the guitar several years before.
“My uncle taught me the 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 still have in the closet.”
Securing a spot for the band at Creek Fest last month was a tribute to Morris’ PR ability. While most bands had to audition in person to be selected for the event, The Trade was chosen based on videos sent to the club owner.
“I made an exception,” Stelling said. “They couldn’t make the two-hour drive to audition. So I watched the videos Cody sent in and I was like, wow these guys are really good.”
Creek Fest, held the last weekend in June, was the first-ever music festival at the Silver Creek Saloon. The Belleville club has two music stages, four bars, 600 seats and a full-service restaurant.
Stelling said, “It was a multipurpose event – putting on a battle of bands, providing a music festival experience for this region, and raising money for music education in 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 funds. Attendees at the event also donated 40 or 50 used musical instruments which were donated to schools, Stelling said.
“It was a free event,” she said. “We hosted approximately 3,800 people and nearly $4,000 was raised for band and choir programs in schools.”
Stelling also credited sponsors like the First Student bus company which provided free shuttles to parking areas, the city of Belleville, the police department, ME Gaming and beverage companies Monaco, Red Bull and Blue Cheer rum .
21 different bands auditioned for the 16 spots in the Battle of the Bands, with the precondition that each had to be in existence for two years or less.
“It was a chance for up-and-coming bands to perform on a festival-sized stage that was brought in,” Stelling said. “The judges chose the winners based on stage presence, overall sound and crowd reaction. It was clear that The Trade was the best of the group.”
With only 30 minutes to play, the band played six songs including: 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).
After private parties the next two weekends, The Trade will take some time off to work on their debut album.
“We have about four new songs already done,” Morris said. “We hope to have enough to record our first album this winter and then release it in the spring. We want to focus on our shows by having a majority of original songs with very good covers.”
The next time The Trade performs in public could be at the All American Dairy Show or the Shawnee Sasquatch Festival, both in Harrisburg this fall.
Reflecting on his continued desire to play music, Morris said: “I never want to look back one day and wish I could put more time and effort and energy into it. I want to do all of this now, when I Have luck to.”
“If you want to play music, you have to believe you can do it,” echoed Wendler. “Don’t just think about it, go ahead and do it. Let it out and put yourself out there.”
For more information, The Trade can be found on Facebook and Instagram.
Gary Gibula is a SIU alumnus, musician, writer, editor and author of the Music Historicity Columns. He can be reached at email@example.com.