Smile Politely

Brian Krumm returning to his C-U “neighborhood”

5 band members performing onstage including a male bass player, male drummer, female singer, male with a guitar that's singing and a male in the back playing keyboards.
Brian Krumm

Back in my old neighborhood/Where I thought I could change the world/Nothing ever seemed to get me down.

– Lyrics from the song “Back in My Old Neighborhood” by Brian Krumm

If any musician deserves a warm welcome back to Champaign-Urbana, it’s 53-year-old Brian Krumm, who graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1993 and remained in town through the late 1990s.

During his time in C-U, Krumm played guitar for the arty, experimental band The Suede Chain. He also toured in 1996 and 1998 with the ethereal Lanterna, at one point meeting Peter Buck of REM while on the road.

When he returns to town to play songs from his soulful, sentimental album Just Fade Away on May 3rd at Gallery Art Bar, some of Krumm’s compositions will be ones he wrote while in C-U or ones that were written with C-U in mind.

“I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Champaign-Urbana,” said Krumm, a writer with books on Amazon as well as an editor and project manager. “So much great music has come out of C-U, and so many great people. The area inspired me. I still have memories of living there that pop up in my songwriting today.”

Folks who go to the May 3rd show will see Krumm play with Brian Leach, one of his bandmates who contributes keyboard and guitar work in the band Brian Krumm and His Barfly Friends. Leach was also a member of the Last Gentlemen and plays in The Great Crusades, a Chicago rock band in which Krumm sings and plays guitar.

The inception of the songs on Krumm’s first solo effort, Just Fade Away, took place during the pandemic when, at 5 p.m. every day, he knocked back a shot of whisky and cranked out 25 tunes in 25 days. Krumm’s one-song-a-day routine during a cooped-up period comes off now as sounding both ambitious and a bit of a shot in the dark (pardon the pun), but it worked. Eventually, he shared the raw song files with his bandmate from The Last Crusades, drummer Christian Moder, who produced the album. Just Fade Away was released in early June 2023.

Many of the acoustically based tunes on Just Fade Away have a laid-back, comfortable feel – easy like Sunday morning. With his timeworn voice, Krumm has a sincere way of looking back at the past with fond, sometimes alcohol-soaked memories of friends and fun times. Just Fade Away features a slew of varied instruments and contains memorable keyboard work, well-placed slide guitar, satisfyingly booming percussion in spots, and female backing vocals that at times provide a graceful boost.

Rock ‘n’ roll crusaders

Krumm, who can also play the alto saxophone, started the hardscrabble band The Great Crusades in Champaign with bassist Brian Hunt. The group, which has an element of hard-partying danger to it, signed with Mud Records and released the ferocious First Spilled Drink of the Evening toward the end of 1997. The debut Crusades album was made in C-U with Adam Schmitt as the producer.

Chicago has been the home of The Great Crusades band members since 1998. Krumm lives in Irving Park, fittingly just down the street from a loft the band Wilco uses.

Hunt has known Krumm since kindergarten. Sometimes when he hangs out with Krumm and others in their longtime circle, Hunt gets the same vibes he experienced three decades ago.

“In many ways, we’re all still the same elementary school kids,” said Hunt.

Hunt said Krumm has evolved from a great guitar player to an incredible songwriter, singer, and even mentor who keeps his age-old musical friends in his realm. He is thankful for the opportunities The Great Crusades have had, which include extensive touring opportunities in Europe and performing on Rockpalast, a German music television show that has featured bands such as INXS, U2, The Smiths, and The Police.

A man is on a stage with red currtains in the background playing guitar and performing for the audience.
Brian Krumm on Facebook

Krumm and Hunt were also members of The Suede Chain, which released the adventurous CDs Ripplemark and Piloted by Ghosts in the mid-1990s. Local music fans during that period may remember the band’s Smashing Pumpkins-like song “Daisy Dawn,” which received extensive airplay in the area.

Mary Weingartner’s violin and cello in The Suede Chain were undeniable factors in the band’s distinctive style, a sound Krumm described as “a bit of an identity crisis.” The latter songs on Piloted by Ghosts, in fact, hint toward an Americana direction. Krumm said he wishes The Suede Chain would have released at least one more album and hopes people will stream the band’s music to hear the diverse musical styles each band member brought forth.

Like Krumm, Hunt has nothing but respect for the Champaign-Urbana music scene and for the influential musicians who have come and gone within it.

“We were all sad to learn of Mark Rubel’s passing recently. We’ve lost far too many great people who made the C-U music scene one of a kind,” Hunt said.

Brian Krumm promises all who attend his May 3rd show at the Gallery Art Bar in Urbana “a good time and goods songs.” He’ll start at 8 p.m. and will be joined by Scott & Odie and Big Daddy Pride and the East Side Five.

Brian Krumm and his Barfly Friends with Big Daddy Pride and Scott & Odie
Gallery Art Bar
119 W Main St
F May 3rd, 8 p.m.

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