Youth no barrier for budding impresario
CHAMPAIGN — As Saskia Bakker read a book over Christmas break about the "Riot Grrrl" movement in Olympia, Wash., the proverbial light bulb went off in her 13-year-old head.
It seemed music concerts in Olympia, a university town, flopped unless they were open to people of all ages.
"I was thinking I had never been to an all-ages concert in Champaign-Urbana," said Saskia, then an eighth-grader at Urbana Middle School. "I didn't know any people my age or in high school who went to local concerts. They were not able to get in or not able to get in without a parent."
So Saskia, now about to begin her freshman year at Urbana High School, decided to start the Undercut Collective to organize and promote all-ages shows here.
She put on her first show on March 28 — her 14th birthday — at Error Records, bringing in three indie-rock bands, an acoustic set and a poet.
Her second show starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Error Records. It seems a bit of a coup — the headline act is Elsinore, perhaps the best-known indie pop-rock band on the current scene.
The show also will feature two other indie bands, an acoustic act and a poet reading from his work. Saskia wants to introduce acoustic musicians to other teenagers, and she wants poetry readings because she really got into watching poetry slams, or contests, on YouTube.
"When Amy Ali was reading her poems at my last show the room was absolutely silent," Saskia said. "When she was done there was an encore."
Saskia plans to put on four shows a year, arranging details by email. The hardest part is waiting for bands to get back to her after she makes initial contact.
"There was a last-minute scramble to get the third band for my first show but it all turned out OK," she said. "Once the show happened, there was a great turnout. I never expected that to happen."
Besides contacting bands, Saskia schedules the dates, makes promotional fliers, posts them around town and creates and updates event pages on social-media sites.
Error Records owner Nathan Landolt, who has been a mentor, is impressed, calling Saskia well-organized and in tune with the indie-rock scene, particularly underground bands that tour through Chicago and St. Louis.
Another mentor to Saskia is Lindsey Barr, keyboardist for the band Wicked Walls and the mother of a friend.
Saskia was to meet today with Seth Fein, a seasoned promoter who organizes the annual Pygmalion Festival of indie-rock bands.
So far, the indie-rock bands Saskia's worked with have been aware of her age and supportive. And though she's soft-spoken and modest, she feels proud she's started something that excites people.
"I like meeting people that are part of the C-U music scene and forming connections," she said. "What I don't like is getting stressed out when I'm trying to hire a band."
If you go
What: Saskia Bakker's Undercut Collective presents an all-ages show featuring (in order of appearance) acoustic musician Fiona Kimble, who is a Champaign Central High School student; poet Bill Gillespie; the Champaign-based Withershins; the Pittsburgh-based Action Camp; and Elsinore, a Champaign-based indie pop-rock band.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Error Records, 702 S. Neil St., C
Information: email@example.com or 217-552-1080.
Note: The all-ages show welcomes adults, too.