The Wherehouse Project
ALTON — The Wherehouse Project Band has been an iconic mainstay in the local bar scene since it debuted at Wick’s (now Roper’s Regal Beagle) back in 1999.
Now, 15 years later, the guys are opening for the United States Air Force Band July 3 at the Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater.
“I still can’t believe Dave Wickenhauser paid us to play back then,” Jay Hollinger said, laughing. “Our drummer, Jeff Walker, and I were friends and we bartended together at Fast Eddie’s. We just started having jam sessions and we knew we couldn’t be behind the bar pouring drinks and play on stage.
“We decided to quit bartending to play; granted, it was just for fun at first. The day before Thanksgiving 1999, Dave (Wickenhauser) put us to work with our first gig.”
The Wherehouse Project, known for its unique style of rock ’n’ roll cover tunes, will take the stage at 6 p.m. and warm the crowd for the United States Air Force Band, which had the honor to play for the president of the United States as well as the pope and will perform at 7:50 p.m.
“We all have military in our families,” Hollinger said. “Our military puts their lives on the line so we have the freedom to be who we are, so it’s exciting for us to share the same stage as the Air Force Band. We really want to thank the city of Alton for this opportunity.”
The Fourth of July weekend event is geared for family fun of all ages with a kid village that includes inflatables, face-painting and concessions. Fireworks are scheduled to begin at approximately 9:30 p.m.
The name Wherehouse Project band came from Walker’s mother, who would tell the young musicians to “take their project to the warehouse” when they began to practice. Gerald Walker was a local bricklayer who had room to spare for his son’s band to work.
“Jeff’s dad had a spot with an extra room that was about 80 by 40 feet where we would practice,” Hollinger said. “We were so fortunate we didn’t have to struggle to find a location to practice. We had the space and the time to polish and perfect the songs were we looking to play. We do covers of other artists, so we want to give the songs we perform justice.”
Moving up to the big stage at the Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater, the Wherehouse Project band finds itself standing in the same footprints as artists such as Smash Mouth, Uncle Kracker, Kenny Rogers and Union Station.
“I can’t think of a bigger honor for a local band,” Hollinger said. “We’ve worked hard for 15 years to earn a decent name for ourselves, but to be standing in the shadows of artists such as Alison Krauss and Sugar Ray — it’s hard to fathom that idea.
“We were in our early 20s when we started this adventure, now we have our own kids. We have our ‘future roadies’ with us and we’re able to enjoy it as a family.”
The Wherehouse Project band still performs with its original lineup and includes Jeff Walker on drums, Brian McKinney on bass, Waylon Schroeder on guitar, sax and vocals; Jay Hollinger on guitar and vocals and Mike Frazier on piano and vocals.
Follow the band on its Facebook page at Wherehouse Project Band. For more information on the weekend’s festivities, visit www.visitalton.com or call (800) 258-6645.