Matt Harsh had always wanted to do a reggae night. And then one night last year, he was at Black Rock where DJ Delayney was playing one of his last gigs there. Delayney played a couple dancehall tunes — tracks he used to play back when Delayney and Harsh first did shows together at the Canopy Club for hip hop Wednesdays.
I love these tracks. So I went up to him and said we should really do a reggae night. Right away I thought about Tuesday nights at Mike ‘N Molly’s because they were slower nights in downtown Champaign. No dj nights, no big specials anywhere. It was just an off night in town. It seemed like a perfect gap to fill. Plus reggae wasn’t going on anywhere in town and Mike N’ Molly’s is perfect for reggae. Chef Ra used to always hang out there. And I’m really glad it ended up living there.
Reggae Tuesday Night at Mike ‘N Molly’s began early May last year and ran through the drought-ridden summer that may have been bad for lawns and gardens and trees, but was absolutely amazing for outdoor gigs. The beer garden at Mike ‘N Molly’s is an ideal for reggae night and Harsh set-up in the beer garden several times. As the temperatures grew cold and the night moved indoors until the weather breaks again, Mike ‘N Molly’s is still a great, intimate venue for reggae. A couple groups of friends popping in on reggae night can make it very cozy on the cold Tuesday nights still left this winter.
Last year, reggae night was an open rotation for DJs. DJ Belly, DJ Delayney, Ricky Wells, Carlos Wes Jiles, and DJ Kow all had nights. But later in the fall, people that showed a real passion for it become more regular for the night. And then, most recently, Autochamp became the resident DJ.
It’s making official what naturally happened last year. Autochamp will play every Tuesday, and other folks will join him and split the night with him. He was playing all the time — he is my go-to guy. That dude played like two hours of Christmas reggae. Just Christmas reggae. He played on the election night so we did a sElection Tuesday night, and he played an hour of president-, Obama-, and America-themed reggae tracks. That dude blew me away with the amount of themed reggae music he has collected.
Autochamp will host Bob Marley’s Birthday Bash February 5, and many of the previous reggae night DJs will be playing with him. Carlos Wes Jiles, Ricky Wells, and Wonderbread are rumored to be making appearances. And since many of the DJs have previously shied away from playing a lot of Bob Marley (probably because that is what everyone knows about reggae), this will definitely be the only night of all Bob Marley (and Bob Marley inspired) tracks you will likely hear at Tuesday Night Reggae despite the popularity of his work.
Reggae is this universal music. If I was doing a hip hop night, I would have to pull out the people who like hip hop. And for people who might casually come to the bar, they might be like … oh, it’s hip hop night — something I don’t really like. But reggae is like the in-between. Overall, most people have a soft spot for reggae. I watched a documentary on Bob Marley’s album Legend and it’s the number one selling reggae record ever because they purposefully marketed it to a wider audience. And that helped get people into music they never even knew about. We do a range at reggae night: some play dancehall, deeb dub, and Autochamp plays a lot of old 60s roots reggae. Sometimes even some old ska. If you think about reggae, the pop dancy stuff has its times and I think that’s how it gets represented at the night. When there’s a crowd dancing, there’s poppy dancier dancehall to keep people dancing. But when the crowd is just chilling, he can play awesome vibbed-out basslines.