Holiday break season is here, which means many of us will be spending money on traveling home, gifts for friends and family and a beachside winter vacation … well, that might just be me. Though money is tight from Wall Street to Green Street, you should still be able to go out and enjoy great live music at a great venue for a reasonable price. The Courtyard Café, located in the Illini Union, continues to book great acts through the winter that should convince anyone to think twice about spending those $20-plus evenings at Canopy Club for Puddle of Mudd or Dropkick Murphys.
Kristin O’Brien, the Courtyard’s assistant manager and a student at the University, explained the background of the venue.
“We’re completely student-run, from the manager and techs to ticket-takers,” she said.
This perspective is exactly what sets the Courtyard Café apart. Besides having an awareness of what type of events their peers would enjoy, the student commitment also means that providing the University community with quality shows at a low cost is a priority.
“Our main objective is providing an alternative to drinking and keeping [the price] low, usually three to five dollars,” O’Brien said.
Diversity is also important to the Courtyard, as artists from all musical backgrounds are encouraged to utilize the venue. While both young and established bands are equally welcomed at the Courtyard, space is limited, and spots fill up fast. Artists can easily contact the Courtyard managers via their MySpace, http://www.myspace.com/iucourtyard, which is checked and updated regularly. Besides providing a means for artists to get in contact, the site also lists upcoming events and shows. Denison Witmer, David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion), Smoking Popes and Headlights are just a few of the artists stopping by in the upcoming months.
Though it is one of its most notable features, music isn’t all that the Courtyard has to offer. Registered Student Organizations frequently use the space for everything, from date auctions and comedy nights to cultural events and dance performances. With the increasing number of campus RSOs and popularity of both the national and local acts that have been booked in the past, one would be hard-pressed to find a night that there isn’t something going on at the Courtyard.
Entertainment aspects aside and crucial to impending finals, O’Brien also stressed that “[the Courtyard] is a good study area outside all of our events.”
Whether enjoying a noontime performance between classes or taking in an open-mic comedy night with friends, the Courtyard Café has the rare distinction of being a convenient location with cheap prices and a complete diversity of entertainment.

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