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Storytelling Open Mic Night starting at Seven Saints August 27th

"Do Not Submit Chambana," a new local outpost of the popular Chicagoland "Do Not Submit" storytelling movement, will start a monthly open mic series at Seven Saints on August 27th. As a word nerd and lover of all things literary and narrative, I'm excited to see "Do Not Submit" take hold in our community. These events provide a safe environment for story sharing that is both free of judgment and cover charge. 

Find out more on the Facebook event page.

Do Not Submit Chambana
Seven Saints
32 E Chester St, Champaign
Every 4th Tuesday, starting August 27th
Sign up a 6 p.m., start at 6:30 p.m.

Photo from Facebook event page


Rodney Davis was so offended by the President’s racist comments that he did absolutely nothing

Congressman Rodney Davis is a feckless coward.

I’m aware that this isn’t a very civil thing to say. I’m also aware that Rep. Davis hates incivility.

Luckily, an opportunity presented itself this weekend for Davis to prove that his concern over the absence of polite and respectful political discourse was more than self-righteous moral preening or a transparently calculated attempt to stifle criticism.

Unfortunately, Congressman Rodney Davis is a colossal hypocrite and cynical political opportunist who is more interested in keeping his nativist base happy than being consistent in his beliefs, so he didn’t do that.

When the President (who benefits from Davis’ overwhelming support) told four women of color (three of whom were born here) to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” in an explicitly racist attack, Davis had the chance to be as clear and as forceful in condemning those comments as he is when his constituents beg him not to take away the healthcare they rely on to not die.

Instead Davis has been completely, utterly, deafeningly silent. It’s a weird choice for a guy that never misses an opportunity to paternalistically lecture his constituents about how we need to return to the halcyon (see also: mythical) days of reasoned dialogue with those who disagree with us.

It’s not like Davis hasn’t been given ample time and opportunity to respond. It’s been over 24 hours. I’ve called his DC office and e-mailed his communications director requesting a statement. Actual journalist Mark Maxwell over at WCIA 3 has been after Davis since last night with no success. If Davis actually had something to say, he would have said it by now, which tells me one of two things:

A.) Davis sees nothing wrong with the comments


B.) Davis hasn’t been told what to say yet

Neither option makes Davis look particularly good. If it’s Option A, Rodney Davis is a racist, full stop. If it’s Option B he’s little more than a child who isn’t allowed to cross the (political) street unless someone holds his hand. It’s on Davis and his team to help those of us justifiably appalled by the President’s comments to figure out where he stands. The absence of an answer is itself an answer on something as blatant as this.

In contrast I reached out to his opponent, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, for a statement and got this back in five minutes.

"We need leaders who are more afraid of losing their moral compass than they are about losing an election. We deserve a representative who isn't afraid to raise her voice against racism and injustice."

**Editor's Note, 7:40 p.m.: Rodney Davis has made a statement, per WCIA's Mark Maxwell. See Maxwell's tweet below with the rather unsurprising response where he basically turns it back on Democrats and squeezes in a reference to the congressional baseball game shooting. 

Photo from Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images


Rose Bowl Tavern undergoing new ownership March 1st

The historic Rose Bowl Tavern, located at 106 N. Race Street in Downtown Urbana, will undergo an ownership change starting on March 1st. Steve Campbell has transfered ownership over to Charlie Harris, Marten Stromberg, and Sam Payne — all three are a part of the local music scene in a some capacity. Rose Bowl Tavern has been open since 1946, and Campbell has owned the venue since April 1994.

Harris stated that there will be some changes, but "same vibe, more music — and 'home of country music', but what country?" We'll be sure to provide a full rundown of what they have to say soon enough, but that's the news for this legendary hootenanny.

Here's the new crew with the old crew:

Top photo by Patrick Singer


The Art Theater launches $25,000 fundraising campaign to remain open

The Art Theater in Downtown Champaign has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $25,000 in the next 25 days. The single screen cinema states that they need to raise the funds "immediately to remain open". Read the statement below, as per their website:

Dear friends of The Art,

The Art Theater needs your help! For years, the Art Theater has provided the Champaign-Urbana community with world class film experiences as the only independent non-profit theater in the area. Through Hollywood classics, eye-opening documentaries, foreign films, children’s features, avant-garde experiments, midnight cult favorites, and everything in between, the Art has offered a haven for movie lovers. And for a community of our size, having a resource of this caliber available to us 365 days a year is truly precious.

As a single-screen theater that focuses on the exhibition of independent films, we need your financial support to maintain our offerings. As you may know, in 2017 the Art Theater became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and we now depend on personal and corporate donations for our lifeblood. I therefore call out to fellow cinephiles who want the Art Theater to remain a vibrant facet of our community. Due to a slow end of 2018/beginning of 2019, we need $25,000 immediately to keep us open.

The Art is fortunate to have a dynamic new Executive Director, Dr. Porshé Garner, and she and my fellow Board members are determined to ensure that the Art Theater flourishes as an essential ingredient of the quality of life we enjoy here in Champaign-Urbana. So, please, join us by making a contribution today – donations can be made at the box office or online using the button below. And come see a movie soon!

Thank you,

Jerry Payonk
President, Board of Directors, the Art Film Foundation

We reached out to Executive Director Porshé Garner for comment, and she elaborated on the campaign.

SP: Can you detail what these dollars will directly benefit?

Garner: The ask we are making would go directly to the daily operations of The Art Theater. As a non-profit organization we depend on individual and corporate donations to continue our compelling programming. Most people do not know, but in the film exhibition industry as much as 51% of our ticket sales go back to the distributors.

SP: How close is the Art Theater to closing its doors without these funds?

Garner: We absolutely need these funds within the next two weeks or so that we can continue meeting our total expense lines.

Top photo by Anna Longworth

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Untitled 2019: a Friday night 80’s-style party to support local art

Whether the 80's were a time you actually lived through, or something you experienced secondhand through music, TV, and film, you know that they were "extra" before "extra" was even a thing. Big hair, bright colors, and, of course, the films of John Hughes. Leave it to 40 North to choose this decade as inspo for Untitled 2019, 40 North's only fundraiser of the year.  It was a big decade, and let's hope it inspires big support. Because support for the arts is like gloss for 80's girls. You can never have enough.

“The services 40 North provides to this community are so vital to our way of life, contributing to a lot of the arts & culture that we often take for granted throughout the year. Untitled is the one time we are able to support 40 North for all that they do to improve our quality of life, so we can sustain events like Friday Night Live, the Eric Show, Boneyard Arts Festival and so much more. Not to mention, it is quite simply the most fun fundraiser you’ll ever go to.” Terri Reifsteck, Board Treasurer and Event Chair.

So grab a gloss, get a ticket, and help guarantee that these programs that enhance our quality of life don't go anywhere.  

“Art is fundamental to our quality of life – from its impact on social issues to education to general vitality of the community – the arts are essential for a successful and functioning society. 40 North and our programs require support and nurturing just like any other mission-driven non-profit in this community. This event is a chance to not only celebrate what we have but to help build what we still need.” Kelly White, Executive Director, 40 North

Enjoy the nostalgia, the adult beverages, and the amazing local art. Go home happy knowing you did something that would make John Hughes smile. And can someone save me a Pretty in Pink cupcake?

Untitled 2019
Orpheum Chidren's Science Museum
346 N Neil St, Champaign
February 22nd, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Tickets are $45 and can be ordered online 

Photos from the 40 North Facebook page.


51 Main open as a warming center today for those in need

51 Main in Downtown Champaign will be open for those in need during this deep freeze here in Champaign-Urbana. They'll be providing socks, gloves, blankets, food, hot beverages, and more for those who need a place to go — and rides are available via this number: 217-520-0580. 51 Main is located at 51 Main Street, Champaign. 

Remember — a lot of things are closed today, and there's more information about warming centers and such via the City of Champaign. If you need a ride, MTD's got you.

If you're located in Bloomington-Normal, you have options as well.

See their Facebook post:


Innocent Words magazine shuttering after 17 years

Innocent Words magazine has announced they would be ceasing operations this month after 17 years of publising. The Danville-based magazine has been a source for independent music for nearly two decades, and made a statement on their website which sums up their feelings about calling it quits.

Read this interview with Michael from 2003 from

Read the full statement below:

After 17 years, over 1,200 interviews, and roughly 4,500 reviews, Innocent Words Magazine is shutting down in its current format after the February issue.

During the two week break over the holidays, I took stock in what we’ve accomplished and where we’d like to go. Then it was time to get back at it on January 2, and I just couldn’t do it. My tank was empty after doing Innocent Words literally every day for nearly two decades. The funny thing is, I wasn’t even considering shutting it down at the end of 2018, I just felt tired and drained all year. I guess that should have been a sign, huh?

As most of you know, I have had health issues my whole life, and as I get older, it’s not getting any better. My vision is getting worse, my kidney isn’t working as well as it once was, and the diabetes is starting to have its effects. There are still things I’d like to do before it’s too late.

I am not leaving music; I would never do that. I am keeping Innocent Words active with a retooled name – Innocent Words by Troy Michael. We will be building a new site to use as a platform for my writing, my interviews, blogs, and future projects. One thing I will be working on is writing books about bands I love and working toward getting them published. So, I guess you could say I am going to be a full-time music author.

I’ve never looked back on Innocent Words; I always tried to focus on the future. So maybe I will realize what we did with this little DIY publication over the 17 years after it’s all said and done. I do know life and music is weird. Some of my music heroes have become my friends and I have met more wonderful people than I could ever dream of in this industry.

More importantly, Innocent Words Magazine wasn’t about me. It was about the people that helped make this happen. It was about the music and the people who love music. I couldn’t have done this without an amazing group of people over the 17 years including my right hand man John B. Moore; my talented graphic designer Brittany Bindrim; the editors who made us all look smart, the webmasters behind the scenes and the long list of writers who contributed. And to all those who read Innocent Words and shared our interviews or reviews, you are why we lasted 17 years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This was a hard and scary decision, but I feel like the future gives me more options, and I am excited to see where things go from here. I hope you will all come along for the ride.

Troy Michael

“It’s time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing”
~ Tom Petty



Top photo from Innocent Words' website


I regret to inform Rodney Davis that there are no “hamberders” left

Just in case you've been living under a rock for the last 24 hours, last night, President Trump and the White House hosted the Clemson Tigers football team — undefeated national champions this year. Trump decided to serve McDonald's and other forms of fast food, because that's just the type of "human" he appears to be. 

As Trump tweeted this morning, all of those "hamberders" are now gone. "Big eaters" he said!

That said, our IL 13 Representative Rodney Davis wants in on this action. There has to be some hamberders left, right? And he doesn't just want in, he wants the leftovers because he's "a @McDonalds family", whatever that means.

Who is going to tell Hot Rod there isn't anything left?

While I'm not above McDonald's, you can just peer directly into the world of Rodney Davis, who we know sides with Trump often.


Hot Rod tried to “own” a high school student like a boss

Rodney "No Vitrolic Rhetoric" Davis proved his prowess in talking to constituents who may not agree with him in this masterful exchange with a local high school student:

That local high school student was Juliann Xu, pictured below, who was just named a 2018-2019 Student Ambassador to the Champaign Unit 4 School Board. Let's hope she's planning to run and replace those like Rod sometime in the future. 


HUM close to completing new album, reissuing Downward is Heavenward

I've been posting quite a bit about HUM as of late, but that's only due to Matt Talbott's touring activity, which is worthy of noting here on SP. That said, this is worth some attention: HUM is nearing completion of their first new album in 20 years, a follow up to 1998's Downward is Heavenward. Speaking of which, they are reiussing Downward fairly soon. Check out their band's Facebook post from Talbott:


Champaign County calls out Bruce Rauner, causing him to “apologize”

ICYMI, our governer made it a point to disparage C-U in an interview with WGN radio this week, as he was attempting to make a point about University of Illinois graduates seeking jobs elsewhere, rather than staying in here. 

"There are several reasons, but part of the reason is Champaign-Urbana is wonderful. But it’s very hard to keep a company of more than six people there. There’s no convenient transportation, not much of a workforce, and it’s very hard."

Yeah, he poked the bear on that one. We "down-staters" tend to be pretty fiercly defensive of what we have going on here, and the backlash was swift and pointed. It took less than a day for those who have a stake in the well-being of our community to jump on this and release a statement:

In response to Governor Rauner's comments on the radio yesterday, we have the
following statement:

Champaign County has been a shining star of economic growth in the State of Illinois for a number of years. Home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the top research institutions in the world, and also employers like Wolfram, Heinz Kraft, Carle, FedEx, Parkland College, OSF HealthCare, Christie Clinic, Oath (Yahoo), Amdocs, Agrible, Granular, and Busey, not to mention the University of Illinois Research Park which is home to 115+ high-tech companies, from startup to Fortune 500, and has 2,000+ employees combined, we are proud of the following:

- We have direct access to three interstate highways, plus rail and air
- Champaign-Urbana was the state’s fastest-growing city in 2017 – when looked at
together, Champaign-Urbana is the sixth largest city in the State of Illinois, ranking just ahead of Springfield and Peoria
- A low unemployment rate of 3.5% (Champaign County)
- During the past five years, Champaign has added 2,589 jobs
- The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District had more than 12 million riders in 2016 and 2017 – in 2016, ridership topped that of Rockford (IL), Indianapolis (IN), and Nashville (TN)
- 156,000+ Amtrak passengers from Illinois Terminal
- Added United Airlines service from Willard Airport to Chicago in 2017 and set a 10-
year record in enplanements
- Consistently ranked as bike friendly, a top college town, age and family friendly, and was recently named Best Midwest Food Town by Midwest Living Magazine
- We are a diverse and welcoming community

We recently celebrated a homegrown success story – the expansion of II-VI EpiWorks,a leading provider of compound semiconductor epitaxial wafers. The expansion, which included support from the State of Illinois through an EDGE grant, included the building of two new structures, a 17,888 SF clean room and 24,966 SF office building. The project has enabled the creation of 100+ technology jobs and numerous operations and administrative support positions. This is just one of the many success stories in Champaign County – and we look forward to creating more.

We ask that Governor Rauner join us in our success and support the continued
economic growth of Champaign County.

Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen, City of Champaign
Mayor Diane Wolfe Marlin, City of Urbana
Mayor Joan Dykstra, Village of Savoy
Sean M. Widener, Village President – Village of Mahomet
Village of Rantoul
Champaign County Economic Development Corporation
Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District
Champaign County Chamber of Commerce
Visit Champaign County
Champaign County Regional Planning Commission

As a result, Rauner, when meeting with several members of the Champaign County First group currently in D.C., "apologized." According to a statement from his campaign, Rauner “clarified his firm belief that Champaign-Urbana is doing an outstanding job in economic development.” Which is basically the exact opposite of what he said originally, so sure. It's like when the kids are fighting and you force them to apologize and each say something nice about the other one. 

Photo is a screen shot from this Rauner ad.


Josh Hartke resigning from Champaign County Board

Josh Hartke has announced his resignation from Champaign County Board effective April 30th. HIs term wasn't supposed to end until November of 2020. Hartke served District 6 residents.

Read his resignation letter below:

April 20, 2018

Chair Weibel, 

It is with bittersweet regret that I announce my resignation from the Champaign County Board, effective at noon on April 30, 2018. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Champaign County and the residents of District 6. 

I am proud of the work done, despite huge obstacles in our way and the constant, unwavering opposition of Republicans on the board. Maintaining the nursing home as a public resource is a victory. Not spending millions of dollars on a new jail is a victory as well. We created the Racial Justice Task force, and are moving forward with implementing their directives. With hard work from a group of committed local activists, I am leaving the county board Democratic caucus stronger, more diverse, more progressive, and more united than it has ever been.

As I leave, I encourage my fellow Democrats, from governor to county board member, to always remember the importance of sticking to our values, the ones that motivate our base to support us. Remember that the services provided by the nursing home are just as important as those provided by the Recorder or the Sheriff, that justice comes in enabling and supporting those who need it most, not just in punishing those who make mistakes, and that budgets are statements of priorities. Remember that racial justice and economic equality are constant battle to be fought. 

And remember that our progressive coalition must stick together, or we will surely lose all that we have fought for to those who would gain power only to enrich themselves.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.


Josh Hartke

Champaign County Board District 6