The Underground Fight to Foster Community

It’s March of 2023. Amidst the blooms and blossoms of spring lay a DIY music venue on life support. Jonathan Vota ’21 and his roommates/partners in crime scramble to pick up the pieces in the wake of a heavy blow — the city has caught wind of the live shows in their living room, dubbed “Mt. Moon.”

“We were breaking zoning codes by [hosting house shows]. And so they not so politely said, ‘Stop or we'll fine you into oblivion,’” Vota explained.

Suddenly, despite their prime location close to Bradley’s campus, they’d been shut down. But, backed by his Bradley music business degree and over a year of experience booking indie bands, Vota was prepared to pivot.

“I think the most value I got from Bradley are the ways in which I went out of my way to connect and learn,” Vota said. “It wasn't necessarily the structured academics. It was the people there and what they had to teach me.” His standout lessons coming more from experience than textbooks, Vota cites the vibrant discussions from Carl Anderson’s music business courses and his “incredible” time in Bradley Chorale as formative.

The cease and desist had come not long after the one-year anniversary of Mt. Moon’s inception – Mt. Moon Fest. With a substantial turnout and all proceeds donated to Jolt Harm Reduction , Vota was delighted at the time with the success of his first music festival.

“That was a big day when I realized we had something pretty special going on,” Vota said. “People were watching what we were doing in a really good way. Also a bad way.”

The writing was on the wall. The city’s eyes were all over Mt. Moon and yet, Vota didn’t want the awesome lineups to fall through. Just like in college, he had gone out of his way to connect with musicians and learn from experience. 

So Vota moved the shows to different venues across Peoria. Suddenly, Mt. Moon became more of a concept than a single place. In closing the doors to his home, he opened up to a breadth of opportunities across the city. By their second anniversary, Mt. Moon Fest 2 raised over $5,000 for Planned Parenthood of Illinois. 

“These shows have always happened because there's an audience and a community that very adamantly wants to be a part of them.” Vota said. The resulting world he found himself in remains special to this day.

“The underground indie scene here has always come in waves,” Vota said. “But right now there's something more consistent happening, and more reliable. I think everyone's expectation is that it's not going anywhere, at least for the foreseeable future.”

To learn more about Mt. Moon and upcoming shows, follow them on Instagram @mt._moon.

– Jenevieve Rowley-Davis

Jonathan Vota and his fellow Mt. Moon volunteers pose for a polaroid after a hard day hosting Mt. Moon Fest