My previous blog mentions the idea that the RiverBend, starting with Alton, Illinois, is being primed to become the next MUSICIANS ROW --- a destination for musicians, singers, composers, lyricists, entertainers, and others involved in the arts --- specially suited for an active music community. This is one of many thoughts that may well come to be sooner rather than later because Alton IL and The RiverBend area, in general, is one of the easiest areas to access in the entire United States.
First off, discussing the accessibility issues of Alton vs Branson. Traffic jams: Branson can't stop the vehicle traffic from coming and going --- because it really has no other options. Alton IL, however, has all of the various modes of transportation. The obvious is --- the waters of the Mississippi River and Illinois River flow right to the RiverBend. The Missouri River, while lesser known for the traveler, exits at Hartford, just a short trip back upstream takes a traveler to the Alton Marina --- a magnificent piece of work which seems to become more vibrant every week. Water is not the only means of transportation to and from The RiverBend. Let's immediately go to the vehicle traffic. With Interstates 55, 44, 70, 270, and 64 all within 40 minutes of Alton, there is a plethora (always use this word to impress sports guys) of ways to get to here from out of town. And even once you're in the metro area, you have a choice of how to get to Alton. Via U.S. 67 (from 270, go north on Hwy 367, which becomes U.S. 67 at the end of Lindbergh/67 in North St. Louis County) --- continue north to the strikingly beautiful Clark Bridge --- and you're in for a treat: the bridge itself is a work of art and structure, but look at the skyline of Alton, the riverfront area --- especially the marina and Riverfront Amphitheater, and the beauty of the bluffs. If you're coming from I-270 from I-70 in Illinois, come north on Route 3 in whichever way you choose. You can go through along the "Berm Highway" just before you get to Wood River, or you can continue in to East Alton and take Broadway through town into downtown Alton.
What isn't immediately obvious is TRAINS. But, yes, the Amtrak stops in Alton. And for those who have missed the recent changes in local MCT/Madison County Transit routes, there is a bus route which comes to the Amtrak station and goes through town to the downtown bus depot, giving out of town people easy access to the RiverBend/Alton riverfront. So --- that leaves bus service. Well, okay --- you can still get to Alton using Greyhound to St. Louis and make the trip via Amtrak to Alton, or during weekdays you can grab an MCT bus in downtown St. Louis and get to the Alton area. But, there's always a friend who will help you get to Alton.
Once here --- the musicians will find that they're not alone. Sure, at the moment Alton isn't the sprawling music headquarters it is likely to become in the next 20 years. But it has a music and arts scene, tied into local musicians and venues. With the Riverfront Amphitheater now becoming a good place to stop (and the Argosy still books some interesting shows a few hundred feet away from the amphitheater), there has been interest building in the downtown Alton clubs where musicians come to perform. Bossa Nova has live music as an example. Most people who already know about Fast Eddie's Bon-Air also have come to expect live music there at least three times a week. The Jacoby Arts Center is already a local place where musicians are performing and works of art are showcased. And there's the Alton Municipal Band, the Alton Symphony Orchestra --- for the music lovers --- and if a composer writes a good piece, these organizations could be counted upon to perform a good work in a live setting.
This is going to be a fantastic move for Alton and The RiverBend area, too, to promote the wide variety of music heard here. Why, just the other day I saw them pickin' the banjo and gueetars in Godfrey. Them folk even had thems a string-bass player in the parking lot across from Lewis & Clark Community College! You NEVER know where you'll run into music, who will be performing, or lack varied styles and musical genres.
But --- the announcement isn't quite ready for "prime time". There are still some pieces of the overall puzzle to be worked out between businesses and civic organizations before a plan is announced. That shouldn't keep the music community from becoming excited about the future of MUSICIANS ROW in The RiverBend.
Musicians/singers/performers/composers/lyricists/entertainers already live here. We're just preparing everyone for the eventual influx of the same kinds of personalities to show up here between 2010 and 2030. By the time it's all done --- it may well be a city with 24/7 music in live venues, as well as a thriving writers group. We should keep in mind there are new business models being developed to replace the failing part of the recording industry --- and we should all encourage those new kinds of publishers and recording companies to locate their headquarters in The RiverBend MUSICIANS ROW, too.
Oh --- not saying it can't happen, but I'm not expecting Steve Jobs to show up in the RiverBend within the next couple of years with an Apple/iPod/iPad application to show off at the announcement for MUSICIANS ROW. Maybe someone will become brave enough to call Apple and get them to consider such a thing. You never know until you try --- and at least we are seeing people try to bring music alive in The RiverBend.
And that's going to be a great buzz for generations to come.