Oswego is not the most fabulous place for accessible live music for the masses. Especially since the closure of Firehouse Pizza downtown, and with it, its very quaint-but-fun open mic night. However, the live music lovers of Oswego shall not fear, as only 15 minutes away, Aurora has a venue—no, THE Venue—that has its doors open and its music explosive.

Guitar and decorations
A large guitar, along with other extravagant decorations, greets attendees as they walk in.

Simply entitled “The Venue,” this downtown Aurora outlet for live music is a fantastic addition to the town. The Fox Valley Music Foundation, the people who created and ran The Venue, have created something extraordinary for Illinois residents desiring their fix of some excellent live music.

When entering The Venue, you have to travel through this modernized alleyway full of shiny-clean buildings and star-bright lights, creating a warm and wholesome vibe. If your establishment is already providing a memorable experience BEFORE anyone arrives there, that said establishment is destined to be a success!

Venue merchandise table
A shelf of Venue merchandise also greets attendees with shiny drinking glasses and exciting posters.

I kept my expectations reasonable before entering the place; however, I was still blown away by how awesome The Venue looks and feels at first glance. Many other first time attendees had identical first impressions.

“[It’s] very quaint,” first-timer Bob Patrick said. “I didn’t expect to be this big; I thought it would’ve been even smaller.” 

The night I attended, the main act was this guitar player named Chris Duarte and his band, including a bassist and a drummer. Duarte is known for his blues-inspired guitar playing, heavily inspired by the likes of Stevie-Ray Vaughn. When asking Patrick about what drew him to see Duarte in the first place, he responded with resounding enthusiasm. 

“I’ve been trying to go down to Austin, TX, where I think he’s from, and he’s always out of town when I go down there,” Patrick said. “I’ve been trying to catch his act for a long time”.

Something important for a local live music venue, in particular, is the sound quality of any act during a show. Duarte in particular may be an excellent musician and stage performer, but if the sound quality of his playing is a letdown, then the show will lose its memorability.

“Until I actually hear how the sound is, that’s gonna make or break [The Venue] at the end of the day,” other first-timer Roger Erickson said.

However, once Duarte and his band were in the middle of their set, I made a realization that within The Venue walls, the sound of the band has never lost its outstanding quality. Duarte’s guitar sounded punchy and well rounded, while the drums and bass were perfectly mixed in, contemplating the guitar shredding brilliantly. In other words, the show was never hard to listen to, as there was not one instrument overpowering the others.

Venue stage
The stage of The Venue, as small as it may be, presents a great space for a big soundsystem and a large drum kit.

Furthermore, the stage setup, although simple, was cool to look at. On the stage, there is a large center logo showing off The Venue logo, colored stage lights, and some truly impressive sound gear. Sometimes, there can be beauty found in the most simple of things. The stage of The Venue is one of those things.

As Duarte and his band jammed on, the stage lights luminesced Duarte’s shiny guitar like a bunch of exploding suns. The lights reflected off of the drummer’s cymbals as well, creating these dramatic and sharp flares of light that only sharpened the intensity of the music on display. Due to the excellent setup and presentation The Venue had to offer, Duarte’s show was able to be one of the best local music shows that I have seen in a long while.

Chris Duarte shreds on his guitar with ease, playing through The Venue’s excellent-sounding acoustics.

In today’s times, it almost seems like the general idea of live music is dying out. While it may seem that live music is just another unnecessary pleasure, it is something that can bring human beings together in retrospect. With The Fox Valley Music Foundation’s contribution to create a place like The Venue, the very essence of live music can keep its heart beating fast and strong.  

“Music has been the thing in this country that has always brought us together than divided us as a country. I grew up in the ‘60s, [and] music brought a lot of people together, and I think it still does,” Erickson said.     

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