Dear Lord, the students are back. The days of easy-to-find parking and a quiet Campustown are behind us again. This means there are thousands more music fans in town, though. And for those of you who are here for the first time, or those of you who’ve never bothered to check out the excellent music scene that CU has to offer, now is your chance. Several of the area’s best bands will play shows this weekend in an attempt to catch your ears before you get too serious about school (ha). If you want to access a calendar with music listings for all venues, check out openingbands.com. It’s a great resource that we’re lucky to have – now we just need more people using it.
The best thing to check out this weekend is the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival in downtown Urbana. It’s a quick walk to the east, down Springfield Avenue, from campus, and it’s free. On Friday night you can catch the Kilborn Alley Blues Band and the Boat Drunks (a Jimmy Buffett tribute act) starting at 7 p.m. Saturday brings two stages, with funk legends Parliament/Funkadelic headlining (9 p.m.) after performances from Doxy (college acoustic-pop, 4 p.m.), Candy Foster and the Shades of Blue (blues/soul covers, 5:30 p.m.) and the Tons of Fun Band (fun, of course – 7:30 p.m.). Will George Clinton perform with Parliament? Well, no, probably not. But they had a shitload of original members, so we can assume that one or two will be up there.
The second stage on Saturday will feature elsinore in the headlining slot. The band is a winner of several CU Music Awards, and has been touring the Midwest over the summer. Their sound is in the realm of Wilco/the Decemberists/Andrew Bird, and that will begin at 6 p.m. Before them, the Chemicals will play their smartly written garage pop tunes in the 4:30 p.m. slot. Dark Meat, a band from Athens, Georgia, tours with something like 13 players who put on a show that has to be seen to really be understood. They hit the stage at 3 p.m. Local acts Third Flight and Shoelove will play at 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., respectively.
Again, the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival is free, and offers the chance to catch some great acts, eat some real sweet corn, and scope out downtown Urbana. You’ll see: the Iron Post – a venue with a surly owner and live music going on most every night; the Embassy Tavern – a bar that has recently started hosting shows again; the Office – not much for music except for Monday night jams; the Rose Bowl – as real a country bar as you’re likely to find with music to match, and if you take a peek behind that big hotel, you’ll see the IMC, located in the old post office. The space hosts shows, art and a community radio station.
The Canopy Club (on Goodwin, just east of the quad, next to Krannert) is a place you’ll hopefully come to know well if you’re a music fan. The club hosts all genres and has something happening nearly every night. This weekend they’ve got several great shows to get you in the doors. Tonight (Thursday) there is a show with two fantastic local bands (Shipwreck and the Beauty Shop), who will share the stage with Inspector Owl (great band from DeKalb), Neoga Blacksmith, and Kristov’s Agenda. The show is $5 and starts at 8 p.m., and the club is 18+. It is also a pre-party for the Pygmalion Music Festival, and if you’re asking yourself what that is, get to http://2007.pygmalionmusicfestival.com right now.
On Friday night, the Canopy will present two shows. The early show (6 p.m.) is with Rooney, the Hush Sound, and Hello Stranger. A late show at 10 p.m. will be with college favorite Santa and the previously mentioned elsinore. Tickets for that show are $5 in advance or $7 at the door.
The Courtyard CafÇ inside the Illini Union is also a great place to go to see a show – especially when you’re not 19 yet. Tonight they’ll put on a free show with Treologic (a hip-hop band from Chicago) at 8 p.m. Check out myspace.com/iucourtyard for more show info. Treologic will also play on Friday night at Champaign’s Cowboy Monkey, alongside the outstanding instrumental band Pulsar 47, and rapper Krukid (a Ugandan transplant, now local, with ties to Rawkus Records). That show will be $6 (well worth it) and will start at 10 p.m. 19+.
The Iron Post will forego shows for the weekend days due to the festival, but will present an installment of the 7 to 9 p.m. Sundays series, which features three bands in town for only $3.50. This week’s lineup is mad mardigan, Casados, and Five Oh First.
For those of you wanting to get a head-start on going to clubs where popped collars are still popular, head to Firehaus on Saturday, who will inexplicably host live music for the night. Luckily, the bands are good, even if the bar isn’t so much. Brother Embassy, the funk-rock band fronted by an Apollo Creed wannabe, will play with Trouvere, the rock band with a conscience. The show starts at 9 p.m., and carries a $1 cover (I’m apparently serious about this).
A quick look at openingbands.com will get you information on all of these venues and bands, and they of course all have MySpace pages if you’d like to take a listen. While you’re checking out elsinore and the Beauty Shop, also take a listen to Headlights, Terminus Victor, Kayla Brown, and the Tractor Kings, as they are some of the best bands that the scene has to offer.
Next week: in another page-turner, I’ll cover the Champaign scene’s ups and downs.
Mike Ingram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with scene questions, show info, and marriage proposals.