Cowboy Monkey’s fourth installment of their free Thursday night concerts brings Champaign’s Sangamon up on stage for a night of piano-driven pop and edgy, arena rock guitar work. The band, forming just over a year ago out of Decatur Illinois, has quickly found themselves at home in the CU music scene, performing at Pygmalion Music Festival last September and Canopy Club’s 10th Anniversary Show in May. Singer Shay Thiele has also frequented Canopy Club solo as The Piano Man, playing every Tuesday night during the school year.
Supporting their new EP, The Right Way, Sangamon capitalizes on their smart songwriting and catchy pop hooks to achieve a clean and polished live sound that insists clarity and freshness. While the piano-laden setting of each song, along with Thiele’s vocals, make it hard not to compare the quartet to that of the similarly instrumented power-pop groups of Coldplay, Muse, or Keane, Sangamon strays from the formula, exploring more abrasive melodies and tones through the bold guitar work of Tyler Bunde. With their controlled use of refined melody, stripped-down rhythm, and percussive piano motifs, Thiele and friends have not only mastered the art of pop songwriting, but have more importantly learned how to boldly perform their tunes live, transcending the limitations of the genre and discovering new meaning in their songs on stage.
With additional gigs already lined up at Mike ‘n Molly’s on June 21 and Canopy Club on July 3, Sangamon has quickly become a staple of CU music. With just a year under their belts, a lot can be expected out of the group this upcoming year. Be sure to check them out at Cowboy Monkey on Thursday, June 5 at 11 p.m.

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