Not that there was anything particularly wrong with a facility for simultaneously watching movies and getting drunk, but the transformation of the movie theater Brew and View into the Canopy Club has definitely proven to be a good decision. It’s been 10 years since the Canopy Club opened the doors for its first performance in 1998 and since then, the club has continued to be the hub for the local music scene, as well as a great place to stop for nationally touring acts.
“We’re the only actual music venue in downstate Illinois, period,” said Seth Fein, talent buyer for Canopy.
Although there are other locations in town that host musical acts, such as the great arena of Assembly Hall and the Downtown Champaign bar the Highdive, the Canopy Club remains the only one that solely makes their business off of hosting shows and developing the local music scene. Throughout the years, the venue has served the community, supporting local bands and treating them just the same as any national act by giving them a great stage to play on and proudly publicizing their shows. “They’re the ones that keep the engergy pumping,” said Fein.
The local artists are the ones that fill the stage and keep people coming to Canopy every week. Fein and fellow talent buyer Mike Armintrout agree that the area has some really talented musicians, some even having the potential to “make it, whatever that means,” Armintrout said.
The club has gone through a lot stylistically. When the club opened, the emphasis was mostly on jam bands, which is what founder Ian Goldberg was mostly into, according to Fein and Armintrout. As Canopy grew, however, so did the diversity of the bands playing on Canopy’s stage. Now, the club that often hosts musical acts five days a week features a diverse array of hip-hop, hard rock, indie and jam bands, demonstrating the true versatility of CU’s music scene.
Fein, who was a member of the band Absinthe Blind, played at the Canopy Club several times before being recruited by founder Ian Goldberg to be a talent buyer. He left his position at Urbana Booking Company to join the team at Canopy.
For the past three years, Ian has brought a lot of the indie sound to the club. Through his business, he has helped develop smaller, local bands into nationally-touring acts such as Champaign’s pop-rock group, Headlights, who continue to return the favor with frequent performances at the Canopy.
Although local acts continue to be the top priority for keeping up the energy at the club, nationally touring artists often make stops at the Urbana venue, recognizing its prestige and importance in Illinois as a concert venue. Thanks to good relationships with many national booking agents, Canopy has treated CU with their ability to bring those acts to the area. It’s about a 50/50 split on artists who contact the club themselves, looking to fill gaps in their tour, and the Canopy Club persuing their agents when the act is performing near by. “It’s easy for big venues in Chicago, LA and New York to host only nationally touring acts, but in an area the size of Champaign-Urbana, there has to be a scene to sustain a club, and there is a music scene here,” Armintrout said.
The Canopy is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a tribute to local bands, showcasing 16 local bands May 8. “I hope that [the Canopy Club] continues to thrive and grow, and be a hub for the Champaign-Urbana music scene,” Fein said.

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