WPGU-FM and Buzz are presenting the first ever Local Music Awards to highlight our outstanding local artists. A committee of local music experts has nominated musicians in seven different categories. Anyone can vote for their favorites at cumusicawards.com. The ceremony, featuring live performances, will occur April 7 at the Highdive. This week, Buzz is highlighting the nominees in three different categories. Read Buzz and listen to WPGU for more information.
Best Rock Band
Headlights play hard and fast with the rules of dream pop. Stellar pop melodies take a warm bubble bath with narcotic keyboards and blissed-out guitar. The trio of Tristan Wraight, Erin Fein and Brett Sanderson recently released their debut EP on Polyvinyl’s Mail-order Series and has been involved in the C-U music scene for quite some time as members of Absinthe Blind and Orphans. As their recent live shows will attest the band may have finally found the perfect Zen-like balance between anthemic pop and shimmering, engrossing atmospherics.
American Minor, Rob McCutcheon (vocals), Bud Carroll (guitars), Josh Gragg (guitars), Bruno (bass) and Josh Knox (drums), play some serious-ass rock the way it was meant to be played. Pitched somewhere between the stomping, hard rock of Humble Pie, the southern boogie of the Black Crowes and the everyman anthems of The Faces, these guys mean it, and they are not afraid to solo. The band’s debut EP for Jive Records, Buffalo Creek, is out now, and they are currently finishing up recording on their first full-length for Jive due out this year.
The Living Blue
The Living Blue have a tendency to pulverize your puny expectations of what garage rock is. Subverting their ’60s-influenced, fuzzed-out shimmy with unconventional song structures and a dark, menacing undertone, not to mention a vicious live show, The Living Blue (previously known as The Blackouts) are quite the staple of the C-U scene. The quartet recently released their sophomore album Living in Blue on Lucid last year and are currently heading back into the studio with C-U producer Adam Schmidt to record their latest LP for Minty Fresh Records.
The sparseness of Triple Whip’s melodies is matched only by the power of their rhythm section. After Brett Sanderson’s departure from the group, Josh Birky took over drumming duties to ride alongside Holly Rushakoff’s thunderous basslines. Santanu Rahman is responsible for the Triple Whip melody, using lyrics inspired by B-movies and guitar riffs chosen explicitly for their dissonance and dissimilarity to classic rock chord progressions. Triple Whip lays down heavy grooves while managing to remain minimalist at the same time.
Best Roots/ Americana Band
The Beauty Shop play roots rock for the thinking man. Jon Hoeffleur’s clever ruminations on love and heartbreak and Ariane Peralta’s catchy, fluid bass work are the only common denominators in a setlist that ranges from raucous, urban honky-tonk to noirish, Leonard Cohen-esque ballads. And damned if it isn’t catchy. Their debut album Yr Money or Yr Life was released by Parasol Records and their latest, Crisis Helpline, was released in the United Kingdom by Shoeshine Records.
Formerly the house band at the White Horse Inn, Charleston natives elsinore play originals and a healthy smattering of covers during their live shows. Influenced by such bands as Radiohead, Ryan Adams, Elton John and Ben Folds, songwriter Ryan Groff channels all these along with his music composition studies at Eastern Illinois University to create technically diverse melodies. While they no longer have a Champaign residency, elsinore continues to maintain a strong presence in C-U, which allows them to be a part of the music scene here.
Green Mountain Grass
No style of music is invoked more quickly than bluegrass when discussing Americana. Thematically diverse and instrumentally challenging, bluegrass can keep toes tapping and couples two-stepping with the first pick of the banjo and pull of the fiddle bow. In Champaign-Urbana, no one does bluegrass better than Green Mountain Grass. Formerly of the Horny Fornicating Panzies, Spencer Savoie leads GMG with his banjo plucking and original melodies, while other ex-members of the psychedelic, and now-defunct Panzies round out the group, moving swiftly from cover to originals as quickly as the crowd can shout them out.
Jake Flieschli’s Tractor Kings redefine the alt-country moniker every time some misguided music writer decides to slap it on this Champaign outfit. Bob Dylan is a definite influence, but darker elements are pervasive in the Tractor Kings deliberate, murky undertones. There are pop sensibilities inherent in Tractor Kings’ composition, but Fleischli takes great care to deconstruct and reinvent that which was once easily accessible. There are no easy answers when it comes to this band, which make them one of the most interesting to follow in town.
Kilborn Alley (a play on the old joke of naming your band after the street you live on) is the sort of blues band that makes rockers look bad. Harp and guitars, originals and covers, they can do it all. Playing many gigs around town has made the band stronger than ever.
Best Hip-Hop Band
Animate Objects swiped the spotlight in Urbana-Champaign’s live hip-hop scene with their funk-rock-rap mix, much like the Dream Team did in Olympic basketball back in the day. The original members, Czar Absolute, DJ Spinnerty, Zirafa, A-dub, Pras and Steve, were already acclaimed artists around town when they formed to compete in Triangle Fraternity’s annual Battle of the Bands. It’s arguable that they took the whole live band scene by storm when they won first place after only three practices together. The band continues to rock shows in Champaign-Urbana and Chicago with new members, DJ Naboo, Brian and Wunder.
Though each member is originally from out of town, DJ MarMar, Wuk and Pinan made a strong enough presence in the local music and party scene to call Urbana-Champaign the Melodic Scribes’ home. Their eclectic mix of moody, boom-bap, thought tracks, various collaborations and energetic live shows made them a unique spectacle. As members graduated from the University of Illinois, the group left C-U with Se Formo, a full-length album showcasing their witty lyricism and suave beatsmithing, which also included a track paying tribute to Champaign-Urbana. The Scribes continue to make music with new member Anti-Matter Bonecrusher and honorary Scribe, Ro Knew.
Brain Housing Group
Brain Housing Group is the featured team of artists signed to the minds behind the head-turning, gossip-stirring “Hip-Hop Rots Your Brain” billboards. MCs Kalizion, Jus Cause and Jygsau represent Champaign-Urbana not only on the college campus but also within the community with their gritty beats and raw lyrics. With a album release party to be remembered, a slew of upcoming shows and a follow-up album already in the works, this crew is definitely one the hardest hustlers in the local scene.
The Champaign music scene has recently acquired KRUKID-one of Uganda’s most popular hip-hop artists. KRUKID now holds the number one most downloaded song on www.musicuganda.com. He also won Chicago’s Pass the Mic MC contest in 2004. From the depths of Uganda, East Africa comes a culture’s most lyrically deadly up-and-coming artist. An avid hip-hop fan himself, KRUKID, aka Edwin Ruyonga, was baptized into the Champaign scene when he saw his first hip-hop show at the Canopy club in 2003. Czar from Animate Objects was performing, and toward the end of their set they let him spit a couple of bars. He recently opened for Brain Housing and won the battle for Midwest Illest at Nargile. KRUKID will be playing with Treologic, Friday, April 29, at Nargile.
Founded in October 2003 by former Public Enemy affiliate Akdamo (formerly Prince Akeem), The Agenda is a six-man rap regime from the Champaign-Urbana area. Akdamo built his supercrew through recruitment at Premo Records weeklyemcee battles at Tonic. The group is composed of six emcees (Akdamo, Facta, Ro Knew, Rod Mac, Logik, and Law) that consistently dominated the freestyle competition every week. The group is currently working on some mixtapes to hold their fans off until the release of their first full-length album, tentatively titled First Edition.