The life of a local scene rests in the hands of those who adopt it. It’s a matter of everyone, from the acts that play, the crowd that attends, the owners of venues, and most importantly, but often overlooked, is the coordinator. The coordinator is usually the glue binding their scene together. It’s solely up to them to book bands (both local and not so local), find a willing venue to host the show, find a day and time that will net the largest audience, and overlook the events that happen at that show. With the herculean task of setting up shows and constructing the scene around them, the role of the coordinator is paramount. Despite this, not many people think of the coordinator and their never-ending logistical nightmare of prep work. To help rectify this, I reached out to one of the largest coordinators in the Champaign-Urbana DIY scene, Vincent. In addition to being a paramount member of the local scene, he’s also a tattoo artist. So, what better way is there to kill two birds with one stone than conducting an interview while getting a tattoo? This interview was conducted as Vincent gave our production manager, Glenda, a sick tattoo.
Ryan: Why are people attracted to Champaign’s DIY scene?
Vincent: I think generally the people who are attracted to the DIY scene go to school here and are looking for something to do. Maybe my friends who are not in school will take offense to that… I feel like out of town bands usually come here because it fits their route and maybe they’re having trouble getting a show in Chicago. [Referring to acts] it’s hard, it’s kind of hard to get people to play because it’s so close to Chicago and St. Louis. I’ve even had good friends that will skip [Champaign] over Chicago and St. Louis. The people who do make here like the small-town feel, they like the grateful and engaged audiences. Even if the audience doesn’t really like or know the acts, their appreciation is still great. And you have people like me, that are vested in making sure that these bands are provided for. Maybe they hear a good thing from someone else who has been here and they will try Champaign out. As for the audience, I really wished I knew. My cynical view is something a little different, people who go to the shows are mainly students. Having lived in places with a high student population, some venues have dedicated fans, some just seem to have the general student body looking to party.
Ryan: How long have you been involved with the Champaign-Urbana DIY scene?
Vincent: Probably since 2009. I went to school at ISU and booked a band from Champaign, called Commodity. I also booked this band Horrible Things, and later joined. [I] Had them play at ISU. I booked them first in 2010.
Ryan: Is there a lot of work?
Vincent: There’s a f*ck ton.
Ryan: Hardest part?
Vincent: Different things depending on the show: venue availability, band availability, day availability. Everybody has a difficult schedule and it rarely goes smoothly. If you give yourself enough time, it’s really not that bad. It’s about juggling multiple things. When you don’t have a venue, you know that you can just default to, or a band drops out last minute, then it could be bad.
Ryan: In what ways has the scene change over the years?
Vincent: I’ve been aware of [the scene] since 2009 and lived here since 2016. Back when I was first aware of it, there was way more of a local, homegrown presence. A lot of those people have gotten older and the way they interact within the community is different. They have less free time and more things going on outside of music, I definitely do. I have difficulty going to shows I’m not booking or playing, so I get it 100%. Now it’s disproportionately students. Not a lot of non-student locals doing things. Also, there used to be a LOT of punk and hardcore – not so much now.
Ryan: Are there any aspects of the scene that you particularly like or dislike?
Vincent: Not a whole lot of cool guy attitude [elitism] here. If people can’t play a show, I rarely feel like it’s because they view themselves above it. It’s a nice aspect that you can’t find everywhere. Generally, people seem grateful for the music they have here. It’s not unique to just Champaign, but, it’s a nice feature. There’s nothing I can look at and say I specifically dislike as if someone or some group is doing something I look at as wrong or bad – nothing’s perfect.
Ryan: Are there any particular aspects of the scene that you’re especially proud of?
Vincent: It’s really cool to do a benefit [show] and have people come together and give a whole lot of money. Also, people generally give more than the asking cover. I don’t feel like I need to harass people for money at shows or deal with people who question why I’m even charging in the first place. People can go the extra mile, that happens a lot. It’s pretty cool. For a small-town music scene, especially a college town, you don’t get that everywhere.
Ryan: Are there any major difficulties that come with being so involved with the scene?
Vincent: Venues, the places aren’t as reliable here as in other larger scenes. There’s not a lot of venues around here, DIY or not. The lack of venues is a difficulty. The IMC is very open as long as you do what they ask, Exile on Main Street is pretty open too. But I wish there were more house venues, or more people, in general, trying to do that kind of that stuff. I wish there were more bands or people trying to start new things, especially among locals.
Ryan: What qualities of the scene do you feel like you had a direct impact on?
Vincent: It’s hard to say…
Ryan: Do you have any favorite memories involving the scene?
Vincent: Too many great shows to list. I loved it when people were doing shows in parking garages and had the ‘do what you want, when and where you want’ experience. I did a show at my friend’s skate shop in 2010/2011, we played on the ramp in the back. After his business shut down another friend started a record store there called Error Records and they did shows there for a while…The building is torn down now. In the past few years, I was really happy about the second band lotto benefit I did for Puerto Rico. It was very successful. [People] were down to help out and everyone involved was very enthusiastic.
If you want to participate in the scene, join the Champaign/Urbana Area DIY group on Facebook. The group is dedicated to spreading the word of shows, updating the community with the latest news of local groups, and general discussion. Everybody’s welcome!