For this column, I’m going to go so far as to name a show of the week, which I don’t do very often. This Monday night, at the Embassy Tavern in downtown Urbana, Dawna Nelson and Brian Wilke will play an acoustic set. This is a combination of one of the best vocalists in the area (Dawna) and one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen play (Wilke). Brian doesn’t pop up very often (though he was seen recently playing with Jazz Sandwich – something that needs to happen again soon), but when he does, it is always impressive. You might have seen Dawna singing with the Impalas, or even recently reprising her former role as a singer for the Brat Pack (this time to help Lynn Canfield whose voice was in need of some rest). The show will run from 8-11 p.m., and it seems as though it will be free. I urge all music fans out there to check this one out.
Getting into a more ordered pattern … there’s a new Green Street Records compilation coming out, with two record release shows at the Courtyard CafÇ. The comp is called No Rights Reserved, and will be the third release from the label, which is the only student-run record label in the Big Ten. The label has put out two compilations previously, always limited strictly to bands with members who are U of I students. To my knowledge, this tradition was kept for the new disc as well, and a lot of those bands will be performing at the release shows. Tonight is the first of the two, and features Lynn O’Brien, Butterfly Assassins, Zmick, Sidewalk Radio and Plezby. It will begin at 8 p.m. and carries a $7 cover charge. Copies of the CD will be free though, so that $7 isn’t much at all. The second show will be next Thursday ( April 26) at the Courtyard, and among the bands slated to play are mad mardigan and The Dakota.
As for more Thursday fare, there’s Adam Wolfe (in one of his 37 acoustic appearances this week) at Potbelly at noon, and while panties will surely be flying there, they will be flying much more at the Canopy Club in the evening when Matt Wertz returns to the stage. Matt will be bringing Jon McLaughlin and Jessica Songer along with him this time, and just remember that if he teases a little bit of the epic ’80s song “King of Wishful Thinking” by Go West at the end of one of his songs, that he stole that from me after a show we did together at the Iron Post back in, like, 2003. I’m on to you, Wertz. Tickets are $10 in advance at canopyclub.com.
This weekend is the Boneyard Arts Festival, and Paul at the Iron Post did some savvy booking work by getting the Boneyard Jazz Quintet for Friday’s free happy hour. The names match, people. Free jazz is good, but do you know what’s even better? Free outdoor rock(ish) shows that block off streets. You’ll find one of these beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday right in the middle of downtown Champaign, blocking off Chester Street (between the City Building and the old Lox, Stock & Bagel). The show will kick off with the Edison Middle School Jazz Band (always one of the best bands in the state), followed by Angie Heaton doing an acoustic set, then Kayla Brown and myself, followed by Triple Whip and then The Living Blue will wrap things up. There’s also talk of belly-dancing happening in there somewhere – I’m looking at you, Angie Heaton.
Also at 7 p.m., and right down the block at Aroma CafÇ, Ryan Groff (of nu-metal band elsinore) will be performing a solo set, but come on, this place won’t even have belly-dancers. Ridiculous, Aroma CafÇ – get some. Around the corner, you can catch the eclectic sounds of (no, not Eclectic Theory, ladies – that’s on Saturday) Fotomana at Cowboy Monkey. The campus crowd will find Santa – the 2007 WPGU/buzz Music Awards winner for Best New Band – at Courtyard CafÇ with The Redwalls.
Saturday’s big show will take place at the Highdive. Pedro the Lion/Headphones frontman David Bazan will perform alongside Will Johnson (of Centromatic) and Iowa native Caleb Engstrom. Back in September, Bazan opened for Danielson at Krannert as part of the Pygmalion Music Festival. I was busy with other shows and couldn’t make it to that one, but luckily we had David scheduled for a secret show at Cafe Paradiso. That show still stands as one of my favorites from the weekend. Engstrom opened that show, as well, and he managed to silence a packed house with well-written songs that were sung incredibly. Bazan also took the audience for a ride, taking requests for old Pedro the Lion songs and even busting out covers of songs by The Flaming Lips and Randy Newman. The Highdive show won’t be quite as intimate and casual, but it will surely be just as mesmerizing. Tickets are only $10 in advance (check out thehighdive.com), and the show starts early at 7 p.m.
Looking ahead to next week, The Living Blue will play Foellinger on Thursday with viral-video-on-treadmills band OK Go. I doubt they will recreate the video right there on stage, but you never know. Tickets are still on sale.
Mike Ingram can be reached at email@example.com.