The night of Tuesday, March 28th, 2023, was the grand opening of the newest music venue in Champaign, The Space. This venue has a unique and stylish interior, featuring painted murals on many walls, floor-to-ceiling windows on the right side, and a long bar on the left, separated by kitchen equipment.
The stage is situated at the far end of the venue with around 15 feet of open space in front of it for people to stand. On this opening night, the show started slightly late due to some technical difficulties (not bad for opening night). Finally, at 8:30 p.m., the band Power of Dusk took the stage.
One of the co-owners of The Space, Doug Hodge, expressed his delight in having his favorite band, The Raging Nathans, play on their opening night. Even though they were not serving liquor yet, Hodge let me know that they would have their liquor license soon. He expects to be fully open in the first weeks of April. It will be announced on their Facebook page.
Power of Dusk was the first band to play The Space and put on a memorable set that was more of a performance art piece than a punk rock show. Lead singer Vincent Aguilar made sure his microphone cord was long enough to reach the edge of the bar from the stage. To start the show, Aguilar simply said, “We’re going to play some songs for you,” and the hard grinding music began. Aquilar’s performance was filled with angst and energy, with him flailing around the floor, running up to the edge of the audience but turning back, falling to the floor, tumbling, and even punching himself in the face a few times. At one point, he even hid behind a curtain and wrapped the microphone cord around his neck, as he ran around the area in front of the stage.
When the bass guitarist broke a string, the lead singer asked for requests to kill time, offering to sing any of their songs a cappella. Someone requested a song of theirs, “Rondo of Blood,” but he did the punk thing and refused to play it because he didn’t like the song anymore.
Unfortunately, the bass player broke another string, and the lead singer had to fill more time by talking about his childhood and his struggles with gender and sexuality. He made a statement about the six states that banned gender-affirming healthcare, saying, “Stay away from the kids, you fucking creeps,” a sentiment aimed at conservative lawmakers in those states.
Throughout the set, the lead singer was essentially a one-man mosh pit, creating a dynamic and rowdy atmosphere.
Mid Nite Leg, was the second band to play, and their attitude was rowdy, energetic, and in line with the theme of the night. Lead singer, Austin Parker, had a spiky, blonde mod haircut and wore a black Cheap Trick shirt. His style and voice were reminiscent of Iggy Pop. While the first song had a Clash-like quality, Parker belted his lyrics with the perfect punk snarl, sometimes even sounding like Johnny Ramone. C. Francis Wossom on guitar and bass player Nico Haulde sang harmonies over Parker’s punk vocals, which almost made the harmonies sound almost like the melody.
Wossum wore a Canadian tuxedo (denim jacket and jeans) and played a sharp brown Gibson SG. Parker congratulated The Space for opening the venue, and the band pleaded with the audience to support Champaign’s latest music venue, stating that it had been a while since there was a venue like this to play live music in Downtown Champaign. Drummer Tyler Addkisson was dressed in a white Beatles shirt and was noticeably younger than the rest of the band members, but beat the skins with reckless abandon during the high-energy set.
The Raging Nathans headlined the concert; they hail from Dayton, Ohio. They had a hard-driving sound, with dual guitars that created excellent harmonies and melodies that were quite impressive for a punk band. Despite their screaming style, they still sounded quite harmonious.
Lead singer Josh Goldman took the stage in a camo shirt, with chinos and a studded guitar strapped to a beautiful white Les Paul guitar. Lead guitarist Luke Blanto wore all black, with a concert t-shirt. At times they sounded like Green Day on speed, however, their sound was fuller due to the second guitar, which added a distinctive punch to their sound.
Their song, “Parole Violation,” was about someone they knew who stabbed another person 113 times. It was an angry screamer, and it was followed by “On the Outside,” a song about the same man being released from jail. The latter featured a dual guitar solo, which further enhanced the complexity of the sound.
After ending a song with what I thought was impressive guitar work, Goldman asked the audience how much a guy can shred in Drop D, and answered his own question by yelling “Zero!”, in his attempt to be humble. Goldman then shared they were going to slow it down a bit, but despite the slowdown in the next song, the tempo and dual guitars reminded me of Iron Maiden.
During “Teenage Amnesia,” the Nathans showed that they could still pull off the teen angst of a punk song despite having been around for a while. I heard faint echoes of “Baba O’Reilly” from The Who in that one as well.
This christening show at The Space was the first night of The Raging Nathan’s tour, as they are going to be opening for The Queers for the next three weeks.
I’m very excited about the future of The Space as a music fan and someone who enjoys eating. As a music venue, it fills a void in the Champaign-Urbana music scene, and I can’t wait to taste the food The Weird Meat Boys are going to cook up. Buckle in for a fun summer, because they are booking shows left and right.