Smile Politely

Five things in music: January 2024

Don Flemons

January in Champaign-Urbana presents a celebration of music’s power to transport us to diverse realms and unite us through the universal language of rhythm and melody. The offerings this month, from the heartfelt storytelling of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin to the intricate jazz weavings of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, and the vibrant beats and rhymes of Cypher Saturday, showcase the rich, varied tapestry of our local music scene. These performances are more than just events; they are profound experiences that mirror our community’s cultural diversity and artistic vitality. I challenge you not to just go out and enjoy these musical offerings, but to be open to new musical experiences in 2024. Catch a night of local jazz at Rose Bowl. Have a great dinner and see a punk show at The Space. Take the family to see a concert in the park this summer sponsored by one of the local park districts. Our scene has a lot more to offer than you think. Make new music a priority for this year. I promise you won’t regret it.

As the frost of winter settles over C-U, the music scene, ever defiant against the cold, heats up with several performances featuring world-class musicians, as well as the best our local scene has to offer. January’s lineup is a testament to the area’s rich musical tapestry, offering a blend of genres that caters to a wide spectrum of audiences. Let’s unwrap these musical gifts set to adorn the start of 2024.

Two individuals are on a stage set against a backdrop of a red curtain. The individual on the left is attired in a yellow hoodie featuring a white alien head design, complemented by a black baseball cap emblazoned with a white “LA”. The individual on the right is dressed in a blue hoodie and also sports a black baseball cap with a white “LA”. The stage is bathed in a mix of pink and purple lights, adding to the ambiance. A laptop adorned with stickers, is visible in the background.
Christian Jones

Cypher Saturdays at The Canopy Club – January 13th

Adding to the vibrant tapestry of January’s music scene in Champaign-Urbana, Cypher Saturdays at The Canopy Club on January 13th, stands as a beacon of the burgeoning underground hip-hop culture in the area. This event is not just a concert; it’s a pulsating heart of creativity and raw talent, featuring artists like Billi Foxx, BL Kilo, and ZENTheRapper, among others. The last Cypher Saturday left an indelible mark with an unforgettable rap battle between Vorborg and Half House Studio artists, showcasing the sheer talent and passion that thrives within this community. The hip-hop scene here, while mainly underground, is vibrant and bursting with potential. As someone deeply invested in the local music landscape, I eagerly anticipate the growth and flourishing of this scene in 2024. The level of talent on display at events like Cypher Saturday is a clear indicator that Champaign-Urbana’s hip-hop artists have much to offer, and their rise to prominence is not just hoped for, but expected.

Cypher Saturdays
The Canopy Club
Sa Jan 13th, 10 p.m.
$10 to $15

The setting is indoors with wooden walls adorned with string lights that cast a warm glow. A person is playing the piano; their attire consists of a patterned sweater and a beanie. The piano is black, and sheet music rests upon it. There are red roses intertwined with green leaves decorating the area around the piano. A microphone on a stand is positioned near the player. The overall ambiance is cozy and inviting, with a sense of warmth emanating from the scene. The person’s posture suggests they are deeply engaged in playing the piano. The patterned sweater and beanie give a casual and comfortable appearance. The roses add a touch of elegance and color to the scene. The microphone suggests a performance or recording might be taking place. The string lights and wooden walls contribute to a rustic and homely atmosphere. The image captures a moment of music and creativity in a charming and intimate setting.
Alex Bragg

Big Daddy Pride and the East Side Five at Rose Bowl Tavern – January 19th

Adding to the January musical extravaganza in Champaign-Urbana, Big Daddy Pride and the East Side Five, along with Jenni Stark and Keith Hall and the Creepin’ Grass, promise to bring a unique flavor to the Rose Bowl Tavern on Friday, January 19th at 8:30 p.m. Led by Dave Pride, a mainstay in the local music scene since his early days drumming in other local bands, this ensemble represents a journey of musical evolution and self-discovery. Pride relishes his new role as lead vocalist and pianist, showcasing his versatility and passion for music. Pride’s music encapsulates a sonic journey through diverse genres, blending the soulful rhythms of New Orleans with the eclectic influences of ’60s rock and ’90s alternative country. This show promises not just a performance, but an immersive experience into the heart of Champaign-Urbana’s music scene, echoing the innovative spirit that characterizes this band and its journey.

Big Daddy Pride and the East Side Five with Jenni Stark and Keith Hall and the Creepin’ Grass
Rose Bowl Tavern
F Jan 19th, 8:30 p.m.
$10-$15 suggested cover

Two individuals are captured in the image, both engrossed in playing their guitars. The individual on the left is attired in a black top adorned with a floral pattern and a turquoise necklace. The individual on the right is seen in a black vest with gold buttons, their arm showcasing a tattoo. The backdrop of the image is a solid purple.
Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin

Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts – January 25th

The end of January brings a duo of legendary songwriters to the prestigious Krannert Center. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin, artists who have etched their names in the annals of folk and country music, join forces in a rescheduled performance that is more than worth the wait.

Carpenter, a multiple GRAMMY Award winner, brings her arsenal of hits like “Passionate Kisses” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her.” Her journey, spanning over an impressive career with over 16 million records sold, is a story of continuous evolution. Her latest album, “The Dirt and the Stars,” is a culmination of personal introspection and artistic growth, offering a window into her soul.

Shawn Colvin, not to be overshadowed, is a force unto herself. Her debut “Steady On” grabbed the industry’s attention, and her journey since has been nothing short of spectacular. With three GRAMMY Awards and a memoir that lays bare her life’s journey, Colvin stands as a testament to the power of storytelling through music. Her rendition of “Sunny Came Home” is a poignant reminder of her prowess as a songwriter and performer.

Their combined performance promises an evening of musical narratives that intertwine the personal with the universal, a treat for those who seek stories woven into melodies.

Mary Chapin Carpenter with Shawn Colvin
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Th Jan 25th, 7:30 p.m.

In the image, a person is sitting on a wooden bench in a park, playing a banjo. They are dressed in a blue and white checkered shirt, black pants, and a brown hat. Two guitars are resting against the bench next to them. The background consists of greenery and trees.
Don Flemons from Facebook

Dom Flemons at Rose Bowl Tavern – January 27th, 4 p.m. (Matinee Show)

Concurrently, on the afternoon of January 27th, the Rose Bowl Tavern hosts a matinee show featuring the multifaceted Dom Flemons. Known as a ‘musician’s musician,’ Flemons is a GRAMMY-winning artist whose work in reviving and reinterpreting forgotten folk tunes is unparalleled.

His latest album, “Traveling Wildfire,” marks a new chapter in his journey, showcasing original material that reflects his unique perspective on traditional Country & Western music. The album, a blend of traditional elements and Flemons’ own experiences is a tapestry of stories waiting to be told.

Flemons’ performance is more than a concert; it’s a journey through the annals of folk music, guided by a man whose life’s work is to unearth and breathe new life into songs that form the backbone of American musical heritage.

Don Flemons (Matinee Show)
Rose Bowl Tavern
Sa Jan 27th, 4 p.m.

Four individuals are lined up shoulder to shoulder against an isolated background. Each person is wearing an elegant and distinct style of formal attire.

The first individual is seen in a grey checkered suit paired with a dark floral tie and a white shirt. The second individual is dressed in a solid navy blue suit, complemented by a light blue tie and a white shirt with a matching pocket square.

The third individual is wearing a navy blue windowpane check suit, accented by a yellow tie and a white shirt with a pocket square. The fourth individual is seen in a dark grey suit, paired with a white shirt and a pink pocket square.
Branford Marsalis

An Evening with Branford Marsalis at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts – January 27th

Later that same evening, the Krannert Center shifts its spotlight to the realm of jazz, welcoming the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Marsalis, a saxophonist of unparalleled skill and an NEA Jazz Master, brings his celebrated ensemble to deliver a performance that promises to be both explosive and introspective.

The Quartet, known for their dynamic range and emotional depth, will likely delve into pieces from their Grammy-nominated albums like “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul.” Their interpretation of jazz classics and original compositions is nothing short of a masterclass in musicianship.

The synergy between Marsalis and his fellow musicians creates a conversation that is as much about the notes as it is about the spaces between them. Their performance is a journey through the heart of jazz, where every chord and riff tells a story.

An Evening with Branford Marsalis
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Sa Jan 27th, 7:30 p.m.

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