South Siders revel in Jeremiah Collier’s ‘uplifting’ porch session music jams
A Facebook video of Jeremiah Collier’s Park Manor-based band collective that went viral with the tagline “There’s more Beauty in Chicago than there is Ugly... believe me there is…” has over a million views to date.
Jeremiah Collier and the REUP’s name is getting out there via social media as well as good, old-fashioned word of mouth.
Since mid-June, Collier and his band have been playing every Thursday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. in front of his parents’ Park Manor bungalow in the 7300 block of South Indiana Avenue in an event providing free entertainment to his neighbors, and anyone else who shows up, dubbed “Porch Sessions with JC and the REUP.”
Collier, 20, plays drums and is joined by a rotating set of musicians. For a recent set, he enlists his cousin, bass player Micah Collier (filling in for regular collaborator Jeremy Jones), 19; keyboardist Chris Allison, 22, and Isaiah Collier, 22, Jeremiah’s brother. who plays the saxophone in his own band, Isaiah Collier & the Chosen Few.
Other artists including poets, singers and other musicians are invited to join in the sessions.
And as the band plays a meticulously curated set featuring original music and jams from Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu and Slum Village, among others, the crowd around them starts to rise in numbers as the young, the not-so-young and the “seasoned” members of the community turn the weekly event into a “kickback” — an impromptu, small gathering.
“We play mostly jazz standards,” said Jeremiah Collier. “We just take those and rebasing them with our own little spin because not everybody wants to hear the same stuff all the time.”
The gatherings have grown week by week, the band says.
“We’ve reached many different neighborhoods, many different areas of Chicago and the whole world at this point,” Micah Collier said. “So, I think that’s definitely the goal, and that goal is definitely coming to fruition.”
Some folks pull up with lawn chairs, their coolers and their favorite adult beverages, while others stay in their cars nodding their heads to the music. Others folks were pulled in when their interest piqued while they were driving by (all while practicing social distancing guidelines, of course); one man did just that when he posted a Facebook video of the band that went viral, garnering over a million views to date.
The video has a tagline saying, in part: “There’s more Beauty in Chicago than there is Ugly ... believe me there is.”
“He [Jeremiah Collier] just embraced me, man; he had a warm spirit about him. ... And that struck me even more so than his actual playing of the drums,” said Joseph Saunders, the South Side man who recorded the viral video. “But man, you saw what you saw [viral video]; the boys are bad.”
The band — and its production — is truly a family affair. His father, Irving Collier, plays multiple instruments, while his mother, Cynthia Collier — the band’s manager — is a singer.
Jeremiah Collier, who attends Olive-Harvey College, has been playing the drums since he was 2 years old. If the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t destroyed his plans, he says he would’ve been on tour right now. But as one opportunity faltered, another one presented itself.
The band recently secured a Friday night residency at The Woodlawn, a Chatham eatery and event space that has one of the few rooftop patios on the South Side, while gaining fans by the second.
Educator and South Side resident Kemba Kelly is one of the people who heard about the band and its unique setup from social media and a co-worker.
“This is a relaxing way to take our minds off of things before we go back [to work],” said Kelly. “This is my first time out here, and it definitely won’t be my last. This is a positive, uplifting way to be outside of the house under COVID restrictions; this is a positive and safe place.”
Jeremiah Collier aims to host the porch sessions until the fall when temperatures drop.
And, hopefully, release an album.
“Most of these guys I’ve been knowing ever since we were kids,” said Collier. “I trust them to give me the musical vibes that I currently want … because we all work together; we all want to help each other succeed.”
That familiarity and cohesion keeps things light within the rotating band, as their “Good Vibes Only” motto suggests.
While Collier is being interviewed by a Sun-Times videographer, one of the band members yells in his direction with a wry smile, saying, “You still ugly.”
Collier shakes his head and laughs.