Under the dim glow of far-off streetlights on the concrete steps of the Krannert Center ampitheatre on Sunday night, 15 or so members of the C-U Collective put the finishing touches on their plans for last night's benefit show at Mike 'N Molly's. The group also discussed t-shirt designs, bake sales, album distribution, house show publicity, and other ephemera that go along with their wide-ranging goals.
According to their website, the C-U Collective "is a group of Champaign-Urbana residents involved in the DIY music scene who have organized to open an all ages venue/art space that will cater to the needs of all artists who come through it." Opening a venue is a longer-term goal, and they are hosting shows in the meantime as fundraisers in the hope to make that happen. Citing the dwindling number of house shows locally, the website notes "in opening a non-profit art space, The C-U Music Collective would have the freedom of being able to organize most any event without the legal issues of noise/zoning violations, or going through a middle man to set shows up, which can be inconvenient and undependable."
Collective member Ryan McCoy noted, "We would love to have our own commercial space to operate, but in all honesty, we don't have the means or resources to do that at this time. We're hoping if we keep up our work and continue to grow and build knowledge, this goal can be reached."
The members of the group have been doing their thing for quite some time, organizing said house shows, among other things, but only recently launched their website and began organizing under the C-U Collective name. McCoy said, "We launched our website two weeks ago, and that really was a great way of getting more people excited to help us."
McCoy pointed out that working together in a collective environment has its perks. "I'd say the first advantage is being able to expose an event to a wider variety of people than you would otherwise by doing it yourself," he noted. "Not just exposure to the public, but to more people willing to help you organize. Ask any artist, musician, promoter, writer, what-have-yous in the area and they will tell you that it wasn't difficult to get involved here. Most of the facilitators for art events are easy to get to know in this town. Eventually those people who organize will lend you the tools and resources to do it yourself. That advantage has always been in this town, we're just putting a face and a name to it."
While the Mike 'N Molly's show will likely be the last show that the Collective organizes before taking a much-needed holiday break, McCoy shared some of their plans for the near future. "In the near future, we hope to hold a C-U Collective sponsored show at an all-ages venue in town," McCoy shared. "One of our goals when we first started this was to get more people from the high school age range out to shows. I started coming to shows in this town when I was 13 and I don't see why that can't be more common today. We are extremely grateful to the businesses that have opened their doors to our cause, but they've all had age restriction policies. We're going to work to reach out to some places that can accommodate our artists in a friendly all-ages space."
Since turnover and burnout are a big obstacle to any DIY operation, McCoy thinks that the C-U Collective has some built-in aspects to combat that. "I think every person that has contributed to the Collective has at one time or another witnessed a beautiful, blooming scene that really does something significant for a community, whether they saw it here or somewhere else. And I guarantee you that those same people can tell you when they saw that same scene fall apart. It's a common trend for art scene's to burn bright then fade away. And it's our job to prevent that in Champaign-Urbana. And we believe that there are the people and resources, now more than ever, to make sure we're successful."
McCoy shared a long list of people who've helped make the Collective what it is today: "Obviously Red Star Liquors and Mike 'N Molly's have helped us by holding benefit shows for us. Obviously Smile Politely and The Buzz have been helpful by promoting us. Particularly the people leading the cause and making sure every event goes as planned are Darwin Keup, Jeanie Austin, Chris Wahlfeldt, Finn Smith, Nick Brannock, and Michael Thies. And the out-of-towners that don't even live here that are supporting us, Cole Rabenort and Amanda Eldred have been huge helps for us by what they've done through Dead Rodent and Red Dye. Really any person that has reached out to us, even just to give their opinion, has helped in some way, shape, or form."