Riveting, I know this article is going to be riveting to those of you who already know the local scene, but remember, we were all new at one time or another. Hopefully you new readers will check out a show or two, and maybe find a band or venue that you like a lot. For those of you who are still 18 and just dying to go out and see a show, Champaign isn’t going to be as nice to you as Urbana, so keep hitting up the Canopy Club and Iron Post.
Aroma CafÇ, on Neil Street in downtown Champaign, is an exception to the steadfast 19+ rule of Champaign. Sadly, they generally only offer one show a week, showcasing acoustic artists on Thursday evenings (on the patio if the weather is right). The shows are always free — though tips for the artists are encouraged – and they are for all ages. This week’s featured artist is Patrick Mustain, who will begin at 8 p.m.
The busiest of the Champaign clubs, as far as live music goes, is usually Cowboy Monkey. Offering shows with some of the best local and regional acts, along with great national touring bands, the venue houses one of the best sound systems in the area, and a gigantic beer garden. Tonight the club will offer up Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, a funk-jazz-hip-hop band from New Orleans. The band’s performance will be bookended by DJ LEGTWO (Larry Gates, frontman of the now-defunct local juggernaut Lorenzo Goetz), spinning all sorts of excellent tracks. Start time is 10 p.m., and the show carries a cover of $8.
Back in Urbana, the Canopy Club will host a show from Will Hoge, the southern-rocker singer/songwriter with openers The Hard Lessons and Leslie. 8 p.m., $10.
The Highdive, big brother to Cowboy Monkey, hosts less shows these days than it did years ago, but there are still opportunities to see live music there. Opportunities that shouldn’t be missed, mind you, as the club is fantastic for live music. Friday night the doors will open for a show from Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. That’s right, you can catch some great reggae/afrobeat music all the way from Africa, with local openers Mhondoro/, who fit right in with the sound. Tickets are $15, with a showtime of 7:30 p.m.
Back at Cowboy Monkey on Friday, one of the week’s many Pygmalion Music Festival pre-parties will commence. Terminus Victor (truly one of the region’s finest hard rock bands, which I say a lot only because of how true it is) will headline a show also featuring: Pulsar47 — a fantastic multi-member band in the instrumental/post-rock vein, Lucky Mulholland — a quirky rock band, Triple Whip — a former rock trio now playing as a drum and bass duo of ladies, and Sangamon – new kids on the rock band block. 9:30 p.m., $5.
Saturday there’s yet another Pygmalion pre-party (scratching your head as to what all of the fuss is about? Check out http://2007.pygmalionmusicfestival.com right now!) Another five bands (that’s right, five — poor sound man) will pack the Cowboy Monkey — with action. Headliners New Ruins are a great band on local Parasol Records. They’ll split the bill with Royal Electric, Hypno Music Corp, Coco Coca, and Oceans. 9:30 p.m., $5.
Over on the Urbana side of things, an early show at the Canopy Club (before a DJ dance party!) will also host Pygmalion artists. Ryan Groff (lead singer of elsinore) will headline a show also featuring From the Tops of Trees, Chris Bathgate, That’s Him! That’s the Guy!, Drunken Barn Dance, and Cary Judd. Groff and Judd will be touring the Midwest together the week before and after this show, hitting up Michigan, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and more. Check out their MySpace pages for more info. This show will start at 6 p.m. and carry a $5 cover.
The other staple as far as downtown Champaign venues go is Mike ‘n Molly’s. This place is 21+. In the summer, when the weather is nice, the Mike ‘n Molly’s beer garden is a superb place to watch a band. The sound is good, as is the atmosphere. In the wintertime, the shows get moved to the second floor of the bar, which can be tight, but also offers some cool intimate show experiences. This Saturday, Pulsar47 will play their second show for the weekend, alongside another number-conscious band, Johnnie 23.
A quick rundown for new music: Exile On Main Street in downtown Champaign stocks the most diverse room – from used and new CDs, DVDs, and records, to new and old video games. It’s a great place to waste a lot of money. It’s right next to Merry Ann’s in One Main Plaza.
You can find Record Swap temporarly in a store across from Busey Bank in downtown Urbana, next to the Iron Post/Embassy Tavern until further notice, apparently they will soon become a downtown Champaign resident.
And then there is Parasol Records, tucked safely away on Griggs Street in Urbana. Sure, they’re mainly a mail order business that houses some small record labels, but they love it when you stop in to shop.
As I mentioned last week, you should familiarize yourself with openingbands.com, the local music resource. It has info on all of the shows I’ve listed here in this column, plus many more. You can find links to band webpages and info. about venues, and you can also submit your own band’s info. and post on the message board. Check it out.
Next week – Headlights/Poster Children! Angie Heaton releases a new CD! Seth Fein gets … sensitive?
Mike Ingram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or info about shows.