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Five things in music: May 2024

This is a photo of a band performing on a stage at a music festival. The stage is covered by a black tent and has a banner that reads “Rose Bowl” in red letters. The band members are playing various instruments such as guitars, a banjo, and a bass. There are red barrels and a trash can in the foreground. The background consists of a crowd of people watching the performance.
HogBowl on Facebook

As the winter chill fades and those first warm breezes start rolling in off the prairie, there’s an extra sense of excitement and renewal in the air around Champaign-Urbana. Sure, the students have largely returned to home base, and a small chunk of the music scene will be on a short hiatus, but for local music fans, this shift in seasons means a bounty of eagerly anticipated annual events and concert series will soon be in full swing once again. From long-running traditions to exciting new happenings, the coming months promise an embarrassment of riches for anyone seeking their fix of live music under the sun. Here are five highlights I’m particularly stoked about this spring and summer.

Rose Bowl Tavern Patio Shows

The Rose Bowl Tavern’s patio shows, running from May 1st to October 31st, are an integral highlight of the summer in Downtown Urbana, bringing vibrant energy and diverse musical talent to the heart of the city. These outdoor performances offer an eclectic mix of genres, from indie rock and jazz to blues and folk, creating an inclusive atmosphere that appeals to a wide array of musical tastes. Set against the charming backdrop of the historic Rose Bowl Tavern, the patio provides an intimate and relaxed environment where attendees can enjoy live music under the big tent, or the open sky. The shows not only showcase local artists but also features touring musicians, ensuring a fresh and dynamic lineup that keeps the community engaged throughout the season.

What makes the Rose Bowl Tavern’s patio shows particularly special is their contribution to the cultural tapestry of Urbana. These shows foster a strong sense of community and support for the arts. The relaxed outdoor setting allows for casual socializing, making it a perfect spot for friends and families to gather and experience the local music scene. Moreover, the Rose Bowl Tavern’s commitment to hosting these events highlights the venue’s role as a cornerstone of downtown Urbana’s cultural life. Whether you’re a music aficionado or just looking for a delightful evening out, the patio shows offer an unparalleled experience that embodies the spirit of summer in our area.

The scene captures a large gathering of people at an outdoor concert during the night. The crowd is dressed in various types of clothing, including hats and jackets, illuminated by the vibrant lights from the stage. The stage itself is covered and features bright lights in hues of blue and green, casting colorful reflections on the surrounding trees and attendees. Large screens on either side of the stage display live footage of the performance. The atmosphere is further enhanced by smoke or mist under the dark sky.
Tara Gracer

Solshine Reverie Festival

Having begun life nearly two decades ago as the much-beloved Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois, Solshine: A Music & Arts Reverie is three-day music/camping event taking place over Memorial Day weekend. While the overall experience is undergoing a revitalization, the music lineup still captures that signature confluence of genres that earned Summer Camp a very special place in the hearts of jam band lovers, EDM fans, and festival aficionados across the globe.

In addition to national touring acts spanning funk, bluegrass, electronica, hip-hop, and beyond, Solshine Reverie places an emphasis on spotlighting top-tier regional talent from across the Midwest as well. This year’s lineup features an impressive array of artists including the legendary jam bands Umphrey’s McGee and moe., electronic music pioneers deadmau5 and John Summit, and genre-blending acts like Goose and The String Cheese Incident. The close proximity to musical centers like St. Louis, Chicago, and Central Illinois itself also ensures that music fans have the opportunity to get up close with the region’s brightest up-and-comers who may still be flying under the national radar​ currently. 

Hogchute Opry

Hogchute Opry

Hogchute Opry takes place at the Kalyx Center for Sustainability in Monticello, creating a particularly idyllic, nature-immersed setting for listeners to soak in the rural roots stylings of the lineup. Few live music offerings around Champaign-Urbana spotlight the area’s stacked pool of Americana talent quite like Hogchute Opry. This bi-annual showcase organized by local musicians has blossomed into an all-day, summer-ready extravaganza of performances by folk, bluegrass, alt-country, and blues acts that call this part of Central Illinois home. This year’s lineup features local favorites like Sweetmelk, Clayton Burke Band, and Merry Travelers (Duo) amongst other performers old and new. 

The significance of the Hogchute Opry in our area extends beyond just music; it embodies a community-centric ethos that stands in stark contrast to larger, corporate-run events. The festival’s intimate atmosphere fosters a sense of camaraderie and connection among attendees, artists, and the natural surroundings. With performances held in a rustic barn and amidst the woods, Hogchute Opry offers a unique experience that highlights the rich cultural and musical heritage of central Illinois, making it an essential event for local music aficionados and a cherished tradition in the region​. And make sure you stick around for the fireworks and huge bonfire at the end of the night. 

An alley filled with people, red top tents line each side of the street
Toast to Taylor Street

Toast to Taylor Street

Since its inception, Toast to Taylor Street has rapidly grown into a beloved summertime ritual of music and merriment for Champaign residents. Organized by Kayla Brown of Fire Doll Studio and Carolyn Farren of Farren’s Pub and Eatery, the Saturday afternoon street festival is anchored by live music performances over the course of seven hours or so. While there’s plenty of additional entertainment in the form of kids activities, artisan vendors, food trucks galore, and cold beer flowing, music aficionados save the date for this downtown shindig primarily to witness a diverse cross-section of area talent.

Each Toast to Taylor Street enlists a mix of veteran acts who have honed their craft over years in the local scene, alongside fresh faces just beginning to make their mark. The event has historically featured an eclectic array of musical styles, creating a dynamic atmosphere where attendees can enjoy everything from jazz and funk to hip-hop and experimental sounds. This blend of established and emerging artists not only showcases the depth of local talent but also highlights the festival’s role in nurturing the next generation of musicians, making it a cornerstone of Champaign’s vibrant cultural landscape. This summer’s events will take place on May 18th, June 22nd, August 24th and September 14th.

A band is set up in the center of a street, looking out to a crowd of people gathered in front of them. There are brick buildings lining either side of the street.
Friday Night Live on Facebook

Friday Night Live

How do you energize Downtown Champaign and make the weekends last just a little bit longer? Simple: Launch a fresh, free live music series smack dab in the city’s center and open it up to a dizzying array of genres and performers. For 12 delightful weeks between late May and late August, 40 North, the organizers behind Friday Night Live set out to do precisely that by transforming street corners and city blocks into small-scale concerts spanning musical styles far and wide, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Friday Night Live boasts three stages situated around key downtown intersections, each featuring a different performer or group every hour throughout the duration of the event. So as the work week melts away into that easygoing weekend flow, event attendees can stumble upon everything from country crooners and brassy jazz quartets to funk punks and folk serenaders providing the perfect live soundtrack to kick those shoes off and ease into a leisurely stroll. The family-friendly, all-ages event has interactive elements like face painting and caricatures for the little ones in tow, ensuring good vibes and music-fueled joy for every generation.

With such a smorgasbord of high-caliber music events on the horizon, this promises to be a truly unforgettable summer in the life of Champaign-Urbana’s eternally vibrant music community. To borrow a line from Jerry Garcia, the next few months are shaping up to be one “endless tour of endless tours” around these parts. Let the good times roll.

Music Editor

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