The Garage Collective offers local performers an archive of the music as well as a space to perform. (Photo by Jojo Wertheimer)

From the outside, the Garage Collective looks like any other garage on a small, quiet south Evanston street. The two-story building is inconspicuous from the outside, but the ascent up the wooden stairs leads to a different universe – a universe with haphazardly strung Christmas lights, a floor-to-ceiling CD collection, and Ferris Bueller smirking from the poster-lined walls. 

The Collective was unofficially started last spring by 2021 Evanston Township High School graduate Jacob Frischer as a “quarantine project.” Jacob and his brother spent the spring cleaning out the second floor of their garage with the hope of creating a safe space to hang out during the pandemic. The following school year, Jacob took Senior Studies, a class offered to ETHS seniors in which they create, complete, and present a community based project, and The Garage Collective began to take shape. 

“We cleared out the space even more, built the stage, and that’s when it really started coming together,” said Jacob. “I organized shows, reached out to people, and got a team behind the space in terms of production, videos, and the quality of the concerts.”

With the help of ETHS Senior Alejandro Quiles running audio and 2021 ETHS graduate Olive Cantor running video, the Collective began as a way to create an archive of Evanston musical artists. The garage is a place where bands from Evanston and the surrounding areas can go to play and receive an audio and video recording of their work, similar to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. However, the archive will be virtual, with performances accessible on a website that is currently under development. For Jacob, providing artists with this resource is as important as providing them with a space to perform. 

“We want to give something to the artist, as well as a space, something for them to show to the world,” he said. “A lot of people who are up-and-coming musicians don’t have a way to promote themselves in a professional way because it’s very expensive and very hard to do, so we wanted to provide that for people as well as a space to perform.”

Although the original plan was for an intimate recording space, it quickly became something bigger. At first, bands came, accompanied by a few friends for support, but after a few shows, people began to just show up, eager to listen to music and have a good time. 

“It kind of happened organically,” said Alejandro. “Word spreads quickly … Nobody’s played or seen live music in a year and a half or more, so I think people are very eager.”

After more than a year of isolation, young people are yearning to make up for the experiences they missed. The lost time was especially upsetting for musicians whose opportunity to perform was obliterated by the pandemic.

“This age, or year of high school, junior-to-senior year, is really when [artists] start to actually play and want to play their own songs and do their own gigs, and that has totally gotten killed this year,” said Alejandro. “It’s really nice to be able to offer that [space]. Another thing that I never expected is how much people who aren’t musicians or don’t even know the bands just enjoy being there.”

As Evanston slowly begins to re-open, The Garage Collective has also been able to function relatively normally. Vaccination cards are checked at the door, and unvaccinated people are only allowed up wearing two masks and with the consent of everybody else in the space. 

The garage also has a 30-person capacity, but more people are welcome in the backyard to listen to the music spilling out of the Collective. When asked whether they have ever received a noise complaint, Jacob laughed. 

“No, we have not. We’ll see how that goes. We’ve been making a point to stay ahead of City Ordinance so that they can’t call the cops on us legally,” he said. According to Evanston Municipal Codes, loud noises, including musical instruments and yelling, are prohibited past 11 p.m. if they disturb the peace of others.

“I don’t want to speak for my neighbors, but I think [based on] the fact that there haven’t been any noise complaints, people do want to hear the things going on around them, especially after a year and a half of dead silence. I think it’s a good thing to have noise from a house and have it spread throughout the block.”

Throughout the summer, Jacob hopes that The Garage Collective will fill the COVID-induced silence with music and laughter. Next fall, though, he plans to attend New York University, leaving the future of the Collective unknown.

“Maybe we’ll pick it up again next summer, who knows, but I think it’s just going to be a really good moment,” said Alejandro. “I kind of want it to be something that people really remember about this summer.”

So far, The Garage Collective has held three shows, all featuring Evanston bands: Monroe, Red Hook Jungle, and Ocean Child. In addition, it holds morning Jazz Cafés with live jazz, coffee, and doughnuts for sale to raise money for the space. Although donations are welcome, admission is free for any performance.

“This is a very community-driven project. It wouldn’t have been able to be done without the support of friends and family and friends of friends,” said Jacob. “Everybody seems so driven to help, help cultivate the space, be here, enjoy it, and be with friends, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s very needed and I’m very lucky to be able to provide the space for people.”

On June 17 at 7:30 p.m., Evanston DJ set Church and Dodge will be performing. Those who wish to have the address should DM @the_garage_collective on Instagram.