It's safe to say there aren't many from Christopher who can claim to have opened for iconic rock star Ozzy Ozbourne. Yet, come August, Christopher's own Jake Burkitt will be able to put that down on his already growing list of musical accomplishments.
Burkitt, a Rend Lake College music student, is the bass player for one of Southern Illinois' hottest bands, Lori's Puppets. He and his bandmates were selected to take part in the four-day Moonstock 2017 Music Festival to celebrate the upcoming solar eclipse along with acts including Papa Roach, Five Finger Death Punch and Ozzy Ozbourne himself.
For his part, Burkitt called the opportunity "unreal and very exciting." But for the 2015 Christopher High School graduate, it's just another in a long line of musical achievements.
From a young age Burkitt has been involved in music. He credited his father as being the main reason he first touched an instrument.
"He's the one that put that first guitar in front of me. I really enjoyed it. So, I stuck with it and have been playing since I was little," Burkitt said.
That guitar launched quite the musical career. Lori's Puppets wasn't Burkitt's first venture into playing in front of crowds. He began playing with family before catching some attention and being brought in as part of a blues tandem that performed for several years.
Then, about two years ago, he met a former member of Lori's Puppets. The two got together to jam for a while and really hit it off. It just so happened that the band was in the market for a new bass player, and despite being primarily a rhythm guitar player, Burkitt jumped at the opportunity to join.
"I had heard of Lori's Puppets before. It took me by surprise whenever he asked me to join the band," Burkitt joked. "So, I've been with them for a few years now and have had a lot of fun."
It was fitting that Burkitt was tasked for filling in the missing slot. According to the band's website, Lori's Puppets was formed in 2012 at Rend Lake College by students from Sesser and Woodlawn.
So far, the band has played some impressive venues alongside some notable acts. They've performed at Herrinfesta Italiana twice now, sharing the stage with the likes of Third Eye Blind and Three Doors Down. At PointFest 2015 in St. Louis, they took home the top spot in the Battle of the Bands competition. Their victory allowed them to play on the main stage ahead of Seether, Chevelle and Breaking Benjamin.
"This whole thing just feels awesome," Burkitt said. "Really, to get up there and play those shows, it's a lot of hard work. You have to put a ton of time in. You have to get out there and play the smaller gigs to get the experience and exposure. It doesn't matter what the pay is. You have to put yourself out there."
In addition to getting out in front of crowds as often as possible, there's a lot of work that goes on in private, too. He said the band holds practice every Sunday.
For Burkitt, the work doesn't stop there. As a music major, the aspiring performer spends countless hours every week with either an instrument in hand or studying music theory. In addition to his guitar and bass playing, he also plays drums and performs back-up vocals with the band. Yet his true musical passion is studio work.
"Recording music has always been my primary interest," he said. "It's not a main objective for me to be the guy on stage. Professionally, I'm more interested in the recording and business side of the industry. Studio work and producing albums has always been the thing I've wanted to focus on."
To that end, Burkitt plans to transfer after graduation to SIU to study music business.
Before he came to RLC's music program, Burkitt played completely by ear, not understanding the technical side of what he was doing. Upon entering the program, he was able to go from having never read music to fully understanding written music.
When he's not working or studying, Burkitt has turned into a bit of a local celebrity.
"It's funny, my parents own Larry's Pit Barbecue in Christopher," he said. "So, people come in all the time and mention the band. I guess word travels pretty quickly in a small community."
Playing Moonstock isn't the only major project the band has on its plate. Last week, the band traveled to Los Angeles to record a new music video that they will launch in conjunction with an album that they just recorded during their previous trip to California.
"That was an awesome experience," Burkitt said. "Going out to L.A. to record an album was the most amazing experience I've ever had musically. We had a guy named Robert Davis, he was the guitarist for a band named Revis out of Benton, who heard about us through a mutual friend. He heard our stuff and dug it, so he got ahold of us and cut us a deal. So, before we knew it, we flew out there and got to business. He helped us rearrange and rewrite a few of our old songs. He also gave us some new material that he wrote himself."
Lori's Puppet's upcoming album will release in the near future, following the filming of the music video. The band also can be found on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and their own website and Facebook.