Mike Trizna turned around and couldn't believe his eyes.
About 700, he estimated, came to the Rialto Square Theatre on a Monday night in April to hear "The Tim Placher All-Stars" – last show in his "Local Music Monday" series.
"I was sitting in one of the first rows, and when I turned around the entire bottom looked completely full," said Trizna, owner of Chicago Street Pub in Joliet, who was with his wife, Kathy.
But would the Rialto let a collaboration of local musicians and songwriters perform at the Rialto on a Saturday night?
It would certainly be a wonderful opportunity for the artists – and an excellent addition to their resumes, Mike said.
So Mike asked – and received.
"That is where we stand now," he said.
Tim Placher’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Songbook, Plus!"– which will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 – will include 30 musicians with 17 different singers, a brass section, violinists, a 70-student choir from Drauden Point Middle School in Joliet.
“Last year, we filled most of the first floor,” Placher said. “I’m hoping they’ll have to open up the second floor balcony.”
In addition to performing their original music, local artists will also cover songs by The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Tom Petty, Buddy Holly, Queen, Linda Ronstadt, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Jackson, The Everly Brothers, John Mellencamp, The Police, Hall and Oates, Pink Floyd, The Jackson 5, Van Morrison, Talking Heads and The Band.
Yet even the cover songs will "feel" somewhat original because many of these performers don't often do cover songs, Mike said.
"You could say it's something new for them," Mike said. "It's a new experience for them to go on another path and learn how to make someone else's music new."
Placher, a choir and music teacher at Drauden Point Middle School in Joliet, can recall the night his collaborative music shows were born.
He was sitting at the bar inside Chicago Street Pub in Joliet with Mike Trizna, co-owner with his wife Kathy of Chicago Street Pub, and mentioned he would like to host a Buddy Holley tribute show.
“He and I both like Buddy Holley music,” Placher said. “So he looked at the calendar and said, ‘Pick a date.’”
But Mike, who doesn't allow cover bands at his pub, had one condition: Placher's performers had to be musicians who typically performed original music.
"The music on the radio is formulaic," Mike said. "And when I go to a low show with original music, they [musicians] don't have the ability to be formulaic; no one will come see it. They have to be incredibly original."
Placher hosted that show in February of 2017, with local musicians playing the songs. The following February, Placher hosted a Traveling Wilburys tribute show, which, again, featured local musicians.
By now, Placher’s show were so popular, he hosted two performances of a Prince tribute show in April and then two performances of an Elton John tribute show in February of 2019.
Having outgrown Chicago Street pub, even with doubling the performances, Placher hosted a “Best Of…” show last April, which was the third and final show in Mike’s Local Music Monday Series, Placher said.
Placher said his father played trumpet with the Joliet Township High School band and later with the Marine Corps band and then some dance bands.
“By the time I came along, he wasn’t playing music anymore,” Placher said.
What led Placher, who has also worked in the Joliet area lawyer and newspaper columnist, to assemble these collaborative music events with fellow area musicians for the last three years?
Mike Trizna, he said.
A local musician himself, Placher understands Mike’s sentiments.
Placher started taking piano lessons in the second grade after someone gave his mother a piano, “free for the hauling,” he said.
Placher took lessons to the eighth grade and then begged his mother to quit. She agreed – and then bought him an Elton John songbook.
Now that Placher had both the tools and the knowledge, he worked very hard to improve his playing and found he loved it.
But he also knows his limitations. He can play a little guitar and he can’t write songs.
“Which is one reason why I admire the talent of all these incredible [local] songwriters,” Placher said.
But many musicians are not very organized people, Placher said. But Placher is, and he uses that skill to put together these shows.
“We get them up in front of these bigger audiences so they can see what they do.”
They’re getting paid?
“Yes, of course,” Placher said. They are all getting paid. I would never ask anyone to invest their talent in my project unless they’re compensated fairly.”
The main sponsors for the event, Placher said, are Hawk Auto, Chicago Street Pub, City Center Partnership, Irish American Society Of County Will and Milano Bakery.
Elder Brewing Company will be pouring beer that night, Placher said. Milano Bakery will be selling refreshments. And Audiophil’s Records in Joliet will coordinate sales of the performers’ merchandise, Placher added.
Mike, who is not a musician but is impressed at the local music talent, encourages people to come out and see "how great this community can be."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Tim Placher’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Songbook, Plus!"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 8
WHERE: Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St. in Joliet
TICKETS: Tickets are $20 (free for ages 12 and under). Purchase at the Chicago Street Pub, located at 75 N. Chicago St. in Joliet or the Rialto box office.
INFORMATION: Visit rialtosquare.com or call 815-726-6600.