Rockford Rocked: Inspired local music coverage

By Todd Houston 
Contributor 

Randy Keho saw a hole in the Rockford entertainment media market, and since January he’s worked tirelessly to fill it out. Our Todd Houston talked to him about his new project, Barjammers.com.

Rockford Rocked Interviews: Good morning, Randy. I understand you’re the person behind the new Barjammers.com local Rockford music calendar page.  Tell us what it’s all about and what inspired you to create the website.

Randy Keho: Yes, Barjammers.com was inspired by the continued evolution of the internet and advances in computer technology, making it easier and much more affordable to reach a particular audience. In this case, fans of live music performed locally. As a former print journalist with experience in radio and marketing, I’ve always wanted to create a music-related publication. However, for me, creating a start-up print publication was a cost-prohibitive and time-consuming venture. However, all you need today is a website – which, in comparison, is extremely affordable and very manageable. I’m able to hold down a fulltime job at the same time.

RRI: You’re a Rockford West graduate who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s listening to and seeking out live music. What were some of the best clubs to see bands perform during that time?

RK: I grew up near the intersection of North Main and Auburn, which, at the time, was the epicenter of live music in Rockford. I could walk to venues such as the Great Illinois Purchase. There was also the Continental Lounge, The Barn, Bourbon Street, et cetera. They were all within a block of each other. And, over the years, every band you can think of played at one or more of those venues, including Chicago, The Ramones, Off Broadway and, of course, Cheap Trick.

RRI: Do you think local bands get the attention that they once did  here in the area? I remember a time when local radio was a big advocate of area music.  There were contests, radio shows and even compilation albums all geared toward promoting and showcasing Rockford talent. Why do think it all sort of just went away?

RK: It’s ironic that the area’s live music scene doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s more vibrant than ever.  Even I was surprised when I began developing the website to see how many bars and bands are devoted to the local scene. As of today, there are more than 40 bars and 40 bands featured on the website and there’s more to come.

Unfortunately, I believe today’s corporate, multimedia, big-box-store mentality has devalued the individuality of a local consumer base. It’s all about the numbers. The return on investment is too low these days to focus on a relatively small demographic, such as fans of live music even for a radio station.

RRI: Speaking of Radio shows, have you listened to the new Sound Matters show (with Tom Leu) on WROK 1440? Good stuff.

RK: I’m sorry to say that I haven’t really listened to traditional radio in years. I guess I became jaded after serving a short stint as a studio engineer at a local station right out of college.

RRI: The Barjammers page must take up a lot of time.  Would you call it a labor of love?

RK: Barjammers.com is definitely a labor of love. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, which makes it rewarding in itself.

Basically, it’s a one-stop shopping network for live music fans. The weekly listing of which bands are playing where is just the tip of the iceberg. The site offers much, much more. However, I’ve never kept track of the time I devoted to making it a reality. I would probably be surprised.

RRI: You’re constantly posting great photos and videos. Do you have someone helping out with that?

RK: I’m a one-man band. Everything begins and ends with me. I spend my weekends filming local bands at local venues, which are then featured on the website. There are two video screens that allow viewers to scroll through a growing number of videos. I’ve heard it’s a quite popular feature.

RRI: How do you decide on where to go and who to see on a typical Friday or Saturday night?

RK: At the moment, I’m just trying to visit as many venues and film as many bands as possible. I believe the website should be representative of every venue and band listed. It’s going to take some time. There are only so many weekends per month. I’ve only been at it since the first week in January, when the site went live. Nonetheless, it’s approaching 5,000 hits with virtually no advertising. So far, all I’ve done is distribute a handful of flyers and business cards at a few venues in addition to promoting it on Facebook. Apparently, word of mouth is as powerful as reported.

RRI: Tell us about the Barjammers official kick off party and who will be performing.

RK: The official kickoff party will be held at Tad’s on the Rock on Memorial Day, which is Monday, May 29. Minimal will be performing from 2-6 p.m. on the deck, weather permitting. If not, the event will be moved inside. There will be food and drink specials and a promotional giveaway while supplies last.  I’d like to thank everyone from the local community who’s helped me along the way and encourage them to continue spreading the word. Rockford Rocks.

Find more at Barjammers.com.

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