You’ve been there. You’ve shoved in the fluorescent orange ear plugs, saddled up to a Long Island iced tea, braved the crowds to catch your favorite band and maybe even seen a comedy show or two. The Canopy Club is Champaign-Urbana’s sole strictly music venue, but how much do you know about its 10-year history and what’s to come?
Believe it or not, it all started at Brother’s — well, sort of. Throughout the ‘90s, Ian Goldberg promoted shows at Brother’s predecessor, Mabel’s. The Canopy at the time was a brew and view called The Thunderbird Theater. The Canopy Club started churning in 1998 and has thrived off its live music ever since.
From bartenders and security to sound and light engineers, the club employs anywhere from 30 to 50 people at any given time. These workers ensure that the day-to-day functions of Canopy run smoothly. Behind the scenes, there are three talent buyers who book all the bands, comedy shows and miscellaneous events. The staff also includes a graphic designer, a marketing staff and a team of interns.
“In all seriousness, there’s things I do everyday that mimic a normal office, like checking e-mail, voicemails, talking with co-workers, but there’s not really a ‘typical’ workday,” explained Mike Armintrout, a talent buyer and the director of marketing for Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment. “Some days I go to the office and sit at a computer, talking on the phone for eight to 10 hours. Some days I wake up, go to the office for a couple hours, and then get in the car and drive a couple hundred miles for a show I might be promoting in another city. It all just really depends.”
Armintrout explained that sometimes the most outlandish experiences stem from the bands themselves. Artists can be drama queens, and The Canopy has done its fair share of band-sitting.
“The best was probably when Everclear played the club, and I watched singer Art Alexakis literally stomp his feet and flail his arms like a spoiled brat during an argument with club owner Ian Goldberg in front of about 75 fans,” Armintrout said. “That was the best.”
Armintrout said some of his favorite shows have included The Flaming Lips, Talib Kweli, Arlo Guthrie & Friends, Social Distortion and The Avett Brothers. Other noteworthy shows from Canopy past have been Man Man, Atmosphere, VHS or BETA, Okkervil River, of Montreal, British Sea Power and, most recently, Girl Talk.
With our soggy economy and campus-wide resistance to pay a paltry sum to see live music, the future of The Canopy Club will surely have its ups and downs.
“All we can do is continue to be on the forefront of live music industry trends and keep booking acts that push the envelope with their talent, and challenging fans to do the same,” Armintrout explained. “I think this is what a number of people really look for in their entertainment. I know I do.”