April 26, Joni Laurence played her last local show to a packed lobby at The Canopy Club. Laurence did her best to accommodate “about 23 song requests,” and the intimate set spanned a solid hour and 56 minutes. Seven songs were duets: six with elsinore frontman Ryan Groff, and another with Linda Owens. As two-thirds of Dear Connie, Laurence and Owens made the 1992 cassette Nothing Better to Do. “Crushes” and “Poky Puppy” represented that, and Owens sang and strummed guitar on the latter.
Four songs provoked peals of laughter, and none more so than “Contentedly Ever After.” The music stopped cold only once, when the audience broke up at the end of the first verse; not even the inexcusable volume of the bar telephone was able to interrupt the concert. Laurence closed with a new song written on tour and never before publicly performed: “Have a Drink on Me.” Crowd noise for the next show was steady, but Laurence’s voice overcame it with grace and gravitas. May 14, Laurence and Mary Cloos move to Portland. Laurence has lived in Champaign since 1988 and told the audience, “People just like you make it all worth staying here.”
A studio version of “Ramblin’ Cowboy” went on sale last week on the Artists Against AIDS compilation Give It Up Hand It Down Put It On. A live version will appear on Laurence’s album out next month, as will as a live version of “Breathing.” Both songs are duets with Groff.
Saturday, Groff and the rest of elsinore celebrated their first full-length record release at Cowboy Monkey. At the same time very elegant and very accessible, Nothing for Design consists of twelve songs (all on the set Saturday) and attractive artwork by Meg Dolan.
Cowboy Monkey was at capacity all night, and a long line snaked out the door until several songs into the set, although everyone who waited was admitted and able to hear everything. The vibe was simple, warm, and an awful lot of fun.
The alternate record release is tomorrow, across the street from Jackson Ave. Coffee in Charleston, where elsinore formed. Laurence will be on hand, Theory of Everything will open, and anticipated showtime is 8 to 11 p.m.
In addition, Groff and Them Damn Kids perform tonight for Acoustic @ Arìma from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Both shows are all-ages and free.
Tyson Markley, known in Champaign-Urbana as keyboardist for The Red Hot Valentines and luchador for outer-space go-go-dancer revue Analog Saves the Planet, announces his new electro-surf-punk project, Mandroid (Destroyers of the Human Race).
Conceived as a sort of Devo-meets-Man-or Astro-man? mÇlange, Mandroid (Destroyers of the Human Race) cajoles, “Live show features costumes, a video install, and death to humans.”
In a calmer moment, Markley clarifies:
“I just want people to understand this is a show, not just a band. It’s more like watching a music video come to life.”
Mandroid (Destroyers of the Human Race) will play May 11 at Cowboy Monkey. Show time is 10 p.m., and cover is $4. Mandroid (Destroyers of the Human Race) then will play May 13 at Peoria Pizza Works and May 16 at Main Lounge, Memorial Student Center, Illinois Wesleyan University to open for Smoking Popes.
Todd J. Hunter hosts WEFT Sessions and Champaign Local 901, two hours of local music every Monday at 10 p.m. on WEFT 90.1 FM. Send news to email@example.com. Support your scene to preserve your scene.