Urbana eighth grader Saskia Bakker got tired of hearing about local shows she is too young to get into. Instead of complaining, she decided to buck up and do something about it. And so she started the Undercut Collective.
“My first live concert experience completely changed my life, and enormously upped my love of music,” says Bakker. “I want the younger members of C-U to be able to experience the energy of a concert atmosphere as well as learn to appreciate local speakers, poets, and musicians.”
A year ago, Error Records owner Nathan Landolt opened his all-ages, alcohol-free performance space to achieve a similar goal. Landolt believes having access to all-ages venues as a teen changed the course of his life.
I started this interview by asking Saskia Bakker about herself and this amazing concept, Undercut Collective. She seemed like a younger version of myself — ambitious, passsionate, and organized — and I was eager to give her a platform to promote her project. Bakker quickly suggested bringing in her mentor, Lindsey Barr, for her perspective and musical know-how.
Smile Politely: Lindsey, how do you know Saskia?
Lindsey Barr: I have a pre-teen daughter, Delaney, who has been involved in youth theater through the park district for the past six years. I met Saskia because [she] and Delaney have been in many musicals together over the years and both her mother and stepmother are clients at Ippatsu, the salon I work for. Because I am a local musician [with] Wicked Walls, I have many friends in the local music scene, so I was interested in connecting Saskia with some people who could help her make her idea a reality.
SP: How did Undercut Collective get started?
Saskia Bakker: It all started with me getting a book about the Feminist Movement, Riot Grrrl, for Christmas. One quote in the book stood out to me: “A special atmosphere, spirit, and attitude was created within the Olympian (WA) music scene, fostering upbeat all-ages community shows.” Another from Slim Moon: “The Olympia music scene, anytime anybody tried to do a bar show it would always be a flop. Like the only thing that would fly here was all-ages shows… People still danced at shows in Olympia, and everybody knew each other… The energy here is really different…”
I thought for a while and realized… I have been to concerts before, but they have always been expensive affairs with a couple hours of driving. I have never been to a local concert in Champaign-Urbana because it’s very rare that there are all-ages performances, and, when there are, the word is never spread in a way that would reach audiences my age.
Barr: Saskia did it herself. All she needed was a few willing helping connections, and we are grateful that Nathan at Error Records was into being that helping hand. I met Nathan when my band played a show at Error back in January of this year, so I knew his space was the perfect place for an all ages event.
SP: What draws you to music and performance specifically?
Bakker: I love live music. Seeing a band you enjoy live in concert, with other people who enjoy the same band, is always such an incredible, uplifting experience. I know so many teens who haven’t yet experienced live music because of cost issues or the fact that big bands/artists rarely come to our town. It’s just not a very accessible thing for kids my age.
SP: What are you hoping to accomplish with Undercut Collective? What’s the big goal?
Bakker: I decided to start Undercut Collective to give kids a chance to hear all different genres of live music. To be introduced to local bands, and to eventually form a sort of teen community by going to concerts [that are] focused on people their age being in the audience. I always feel so small and inexperienced when going to a concert; adults always seem to kind of take over. By starting this program, I’m reaching out to kids mainly between the ages of 13 and 18, hoping to broaden their horizons and give them a slightly alternative place to hang out with a chill vibe.
SP: That’s a great focus! Tell me about the big event tonight! Why go?
Bakker: It’s hard to say exactly what it will be like, because this is our first event. I think it’s just going to be like any other local concert atmosphere but with more teens in the audience, because we’re reaching out to them. The focus will be on appreciating great local music and being with other people who love music. Besides the great music and poetry, people should go because it’s only $3! I wanted to make sure money wasn’t an issue for anyone.
Barr: I am also a Champaign native who grew up going to local shows. I felt like, as a teen, those shows were a lot more accessible around here [back then] and I wanted to help Saskia organize that for her time as a teen. I feel that it is important to “pass the torch” to the next generation of Champaign kids. I hope the turn out goes well, so Saskia can continue to bring shows to the youth in this community.
Tonight’s Undercut Collective show at Error Records will open with Juan Chapa, a U of I student and guitarist for the band The Bonobo Alliance. Emily Otnes & The Weekdays will follow. Otnes graduated from Urbana High School Recently. The event is topped off by We the Animals. Poetry by Amy Ali will take place between sets.