The folks at the Crawford County Tourism Council probably never thought one of Robinson’s prime tourist attractions would be a kind of Jurassic Park for rock n’ roll dinosaurs.
But that’s what’s happening as word spreads rapidly through the buses, bars and backstages of the rock world — or at least a certain segment of it — that the local bowling alley is a cool place for a gig.
It’s grown from an entrepreneur’s borderline wacky idea to a legitimate local phenomenon. Concerts by the likes of Dr. Hook, Molly Hatchet and the Little River Band have attracted big crowds. Many of those fans are coming in from out of town, and that’s where the phenomenon crosses the line from one guy promoting his own business to something that can have a big impact on the local tourism and retail scene.
After all, those concert-goers need meals, gas and often a place to sleep. They may stop in at the local discount store or auto-parts store; they may find their way downtown. Tourism-related dollars have a way of multiplying, and that’s good for everyone.
It may be time to start thinking about where this phenomenon goes from here. It’s been demonstrated that there’s a solid local audience for live music, and that opens up even more possibilities.
• How about pushing the boundaries a little beyond aging rockers and tribute bands? This week’s Warrant concert is a small move in that direction, headlining a band that’s still on the current music-industry radar. What might be neat is to try to attract some of the lesser-known “indie” acts on the road between Indianapolis and St. Louis, or between the campus music scenes of Bloomington and Champaign. Artists like the Black Keys, North Mississippi Allstars and Neko Case are starting to attract big-time buzz and critical acclaim, but are probably still quite affordable.
Just think of it as another stage in the experiment. Who thought a year ago that Dr. Hook or Molly Hatchet would pack the house and want to come back — to Robinson?
• How about looking at other venues, like Lincoln Trail College? Many colleges and universities have popular-music concert series. Set up some co-sponsorships and attract some artists who’ll draw crowds that won’t mess up that nice Zwermann Center upholstery — established acoustic acts such as Greg Brown or Robin and Linda Williams, or new jazz artists like The Bad Plus. The City Park has a bandstand that doesn’t get a lot of use. The library lawn has been used for concerts. Let’s get creative!
Tapping the potential in anything new that’s happening is a matter of vision, leadership and cooperation. Who’s got it and who’s willing to take the next step?