Some say that music heals the soul and soothes the mind. After the horrific events of November and the tumultuous days that followed, the talented men and women of State College’s music scene knew their craft could help ease the souls and minds of Centre County residents and Penn Staters.
It all started on a Thursday night at The Phyrst. Dan Collins was talking to guitarist Ted McCloskey during a benefit concert that was raising money for a charity that supports victims of child abuse.
Collins took the spirit of the event and ran with it. He got the buy-in from many of the bands that performed that night to make an album of original State College music. All proceeds would go to a similar charity.
“It happened after Sandusky, and we were looking to do something positive,” he said. “We asked bands to donate one song and a lot of people were really into (the idea).”
What started off as an ambitious undertaking to showcase current State College artists suddenly became even more ambitious. Collins took on the task of telling “the story of music in town” by chronicling bands dating back to when his parents were his age.
The album, “Now and Then: The State College Music Scene 1968-2012” features 40 songs of creative energy that has filled area bars, theaters and festivals dating back four decades. It’s the solos and rhythms that have made generations of Penn Staters dance, clap and sing along.
The CD, which was produced by Apache Records, will be on sale at several locations in the area, including Webster’s Café, Café Lemont, Elk Creek Café + Aleworks and Rainbow Music. Proceeds benefit Happy Valley Cares, a charity that strives to help victims of child abuse through education, prevention and assistance.
Collins, who produced the record and was born in 1988, said it was a thrill to reach back into the annals of the State College music scene and find such an array of styles.
“There’s been some really great music that’s come out of here,” he said. “You don’t get that from every town. I think it’s definitely a testament to the quality of musicians around here.”
And that’s the beauty of the double-disc anthology. It’s not 40 tracks of gritty college rock. It’s an intelligent assortment of many sounds from many eras. Amazingly, Collins found a way to seamlessly tie each song into the next like a Happy Valley time machine.
The first disc, “Then,” features groups that haven’t seen the stage in years and others who are still around today. It’s a fascinating trip through an earlier time of State College music. Influences from the Beatles and Beach Boys shine through some of the early songs, as well as country and bluegrass twang as well.
Collins said Facebook was vital in contacting some of the now defunct bands. Many were delighted to be involved and to dig up old tapes and posters for the project.
“A lot the music here wasn’t available, it’s been sitting in garages,” he said. “Until now.”
Many of the songs had to be converted from cassette tapes. “Younger than Yesterday,” a song by The Seen, was pulled from an old vinyl record.
“It was fun to listen to how the recordings were made back in the day,” Collins said. “You could tell bands would practice a song 200 times before they cut it. Today, with home studios, it’s completely different.”
It’s not better or worse, he added. “It’s like HD TV versus regular. There is charm in both.”
The “Now” disc features a similar unpredictability. The sultry sounds of Pure Cane Sugar lead into the grungy hip-hop of Atlas Soundtrack. The deep bluesy sounds of Triple A Blues Band nicely give way to the poppy dance grooves of My Hero Zero. Somehow, it makes sense.
“This is just celebrating pop music in town the last 45 years,” Collins said. We wanted it to be all original ... and we wanted it to be a memory for Penn Staters.”
Although through difficult times, music may not erase the bad memories. Instead, the talent and creativity that has resonated through Happy Valley the past four decades can help it move forward — through direct support, as well as giving everyone a reason to dance.