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Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2006 03:46 pm

Crock o' memories

Mantra plays at a reunion party on Saturday at Café Kanichi-wa

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Anybody remember a bar in Springfield’s Southtown called the Cracked Crock? It was popular in the late 1970s and early ’80s as a counterculture hangout for refugees from the repressing (and depressing) world of American middle-class normalcy. There were odd objects and antiques hanging from the walls and ceiling for patrons to admire or purchase. Musicians and others of the artistic persuasion used the Crock as a regular hangout. Deals and happenings seemed to occur at a rate not seen in the average watering hole. Romances blossomed, marriages went asunder, drinks and “things” flowed, talk of revolution and reinvention slipped through the air as naturally and easily as the smoke that filled the room. The essence of the scene echoed what those wild and crazy ’60s were for the rest of America.

After the rollicking pub disappeared, other bars came and went, but people still identified the space as the Crock. The Bank Saloon was there for a time, as were several other short-lived taverns I can’t remember. Then Jerry Nelson took over as proprietor of the space a few years back, named it Café Kanichi-wa, and the joint is jumping once again (if you know what I mean). The Crock hasn’t been forgotten, though — if one wants to explain the location of the Kanichi-wa to a lost soul, often a simple “You know, the old Cracked Crock,” will suffice.

On Saturday, Oct. 21, you are invited on a trip down memory lane as the Kanichi-wa proudly hosts the Cracked Crock Employee and Friends Reunion. The party starts at 5 p.m. with “BYO munchies” (a potluck), and remembrances — photographs or any other means of jogging, walking, or crawling the memory back to those times, nearly 30 years ago, where things just seemed a little different — are encouraged.

Mantra, a new local band that featuring veterans Rick Mari, Jim Schroyer, and Ed Tinsley, plays 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. The group does a ton of Led Zeppelin plus favorites by Jimi Hendrix, the Who, and more current artists.

The poster advertising the reunion proclaims that the event celebrates “50 years of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, plus 10,000 years of friendship and fun.” Now, I’m not sure exactly what that means or whether the computations are correct, but the overall picture is not as blurry as it once was, and the message is still the same.

Mantra performs at the Cracked Crock Employee and Friends Reunion, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at Café Kanichi-wa, 1117 South Grand Ave. E., 217-544-3500.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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