Smile Politely

Five things in music: June 2024

A concert stage with musicians on it and a large crowd in front. On the stage are at least four band members, each playing their own instruments. The lighting is very colorful, with purples and reds on the sides of the stage and green, blue, and yellow coming from the middle in a starburst pattern.
Canopy Club on Facebook

One of the best things about our music scene in Champaign-Urbana is the support and commitment by many venues and bookers to foster the development of our local music scene. This month, I wanted to highlight some of these venues and acknowledge what they do for our local artists. This is by no means a complete list. There are several other regular events and establishments that also do much to support our local scene (Loose Cobra, Alto Vineyards, Friday Night Live, Toast to Taylor Street, the campus house party scene, to name only a few), but I chose five venues to highlight this month that support local talent and give artists somewhere to cut their teeth. 

The evolution of the Canopy Club

The Canopy Club, located in Urbana, has been a pivotal venue in the Champaign-Urbana music scene for years. Initially established as a student-oriented spot, it has grown to accommodate a diverse array of musical acts, ranging from hip-hop and indie rock to electronic music. The club’s versatile space allows for both intimate performances and larger, more energetic shows, making it a favorite among both local and touring artists. Its adaptive layout and excellent acoustics provide an ideal setting for all types of music, fostering a vibrant and engaging concert experience.

In recent years, the Canopy Club has become a hub for emerging talent, offering a stage for up-and-coming bands to gain exposure. One of its standout initiatives is “Cypher Saturdays,” a regular event dedicated to the local hip-hop scene, where MCs and DJs come together to showcase their skills and collaborate in a supportive environment. This event highlights the club’s commitment to nurturing local talent and providing a platform for diverse musical expressions.

Moreover, the Canopy Club’s eclectic booking strategy ensures that there’s always something new and exciting happening, reflecting the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the local music scene. By supporting and helping to develop local bands, as well as bringing in national touring acts, the club creates a balanced mix that attracts a wide audience. This blend of local and national talent not only elevates the profiles of emerging artists but also enriches the cultural fabric of Champaign-Urbana. The club’s ability to adapt and cater to a wide range of musical tastes has cemented its reputation as a key player in the area’s cultural landscape, making it an essential venue for music lovers.

The image features a group of individuals standing behind large, 3D letters that spell out “ELLNORA”. The letters are gray and appear to be made of a sturdy material. The individuals are dressed in blue shirts and are arranged in a line behind the letters. The setting is a spacious room with a wooden floor and a ceiling adorned with hanging lights. The photo seems to be taken from a low angle, looking up at the individuals and the letters.
Justine Bursoni

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts role in cultivating musical excellence

The KCPA in Urbana is a premier venue that plays a crucial role in the cultural fabric of Champaign-Urbana. Known for its world-class facilities and diverse programming, KCPA hosts everything from classical concerts and opera to contemporary dance and jazz performances. Its commitment to artistic excellence attracts top-tier talent from around the world while also nurturing local artists. One of its standout series, Krannert Uncorked, often features local acts, providing a casual, intimate setting where the community can enjoy live music while sipping on fine wines.

The center’s educational initiatives, including workshops and masterclasses, provide invaluable opportunities for local musicians to learn and grow. By offering a space where high-caliber performances and educational activities intersect, KCPA fosters a thriving arts community that enriches the cultural life of the region. Its impact on the local music scene is profound, providing both inspiration and support to artists and audiences alike. These initiatives help cultivate the next generation of talent, ensuring that the arts continue to flourish in Champaign-Urbana.

A photo capturing a live music crowd mid-dance. The energy is palpable as individuals are seen with smiling faces, their movements suggesting a lively rhythm. Everyone is casually dressed, and the mood is joyous and carefree. A large mural of a cartoonish character on the wall adds a whimsical element to the setting.
Ty Noel

Emerging artists at The Space

The Space in Champaign is a relatively new addition to the local music scene, but it has quickly become a hotspot for emerging artists. Known for its modern, minimalist design, The Space creates an inviting atmosphere perfect for intimate performances and creative showcases. The venue has become particularly renowned as a home for the burgeoning punk and hardcore scene, offering a platform for these energetic and passionate genres.

The Space’s emphasis on supporting emerging talent is evident in its diverse programming, which often features up-and-coming musicians from the local area and beyond. By providing a platform for new voices, The Space helps to ensure that the Champaign-Urbana music scene remains vibrant and innovative. Its role as a nurturing ground for creativity makes it an exciting venue for both artists and audiences looking to discover music they may not otherwise have exposure to.

Derrick Philips

Gallery Art Bar in Urbana is a new and vibrant venue that plays a significant role in supporting local talent and enriching the Champaign-Urbana music scene. Known for its eclectic atmosphere, Gallery Art Bar books music from a wide variety of genres, ensuring a diverse and dynamic lineup that caters to all musical tastes. From jazz and blues to indie rock and electronic music, the venue provides a platform for local artists to showcase their creativity and connect with the community.

In addition to its regular live performances, Gallery Art Bar hosts special events and themed nights that highlight the unique talents of local musicians and artists. This commitment to diversity not only supports emerging artists but also offers audiences an ever-changing musical experience. The venue’s intimate setting allows for close interaction between performers and audiences, fostering a sense of community and mutual appreciation. Gallery Art Bar’s dedication to promoting local talent and genre variety makes it a cornerstone of the Urbana cultural landscape.

Three members of Carrie Sue and the Woodburners onstage performing. Upright bass player is on the left, singer/guitarist is in the middle and on the right and in the background is mandolin player.
Derrick Philips

Local artists blossom at Rose Bowl Tavern

Rose Bowl Tavern continues to be a cornerstone of Champaign-Urbana’s music scene, offering a platform for local talent to shine. This historic venue, located in downtown Urbana, boasts an intimate setting that fosters a supportive and inclusive community for both artists and audiences. The ambiance of Rose Bowl is reminiscent of a bygone era, with its cozy, rustic interior and welcoming atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for experiencing live music. And don’t forget the ambiance of “the patio” in the summer. Over the years, it has become a beloved institution where local bands and solo artists can showcase their talents and connect with fans on a personal level.

The monthly “Writers in the Round” sessions are particularly noteworthy, highlighting the storytelling prowess of local songwriters and creating a space where music and narrative intertwine seamlessly. These sessions provide an opportunity for musicians to share their personal stories and inspirations behind their songs, offering a deeper connection between the artists and the audience. In addition to these events, Rose Bowl Tavern is also home to much of the local jazz scene, with regular performances by talented artists such as Chip McNeill, Reginald Lewis, and Jeff Hegelsen to only name a few. These jazz nights bring smooth, sophisticated sounds to the stage, adding another layer of diversity to the venue’s musical offerings. Experimental music also has a home here during Jason Finkleman’s Improviser Exchange and musical acts such as James Mauck’s Forebeat.

Rose Bowl events not only foster a sense of community among local musicians but also provide audiences with a unique experience, showcasing the raw and authentic sounds that define the Champaign-Urbana music scene. Rose Bowl’s commitment to supporting local talent ensures that the area’s rich musical heritage continues to thrive, making it a must-visit spot for music lovers looking to experience the heart and soul of the local music community.

Music Editor

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