Smile Politely

Five things in the music scene: September 2023

A white mail with brown hair and a trimmed beard stands amidst a bunch of small trees that have read leaves.
Paul King

As Smile Politely’s music editor, this is my first “Five Things” in the scene, article, and honestly, it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. My aim has always been to spotlight what’s happening in our local music scene as best I can and let you decide its importance.

I’m still learning about the C-U music scene as well, and I still have much to learn. I’ve met a lot of amazing people so far, and while I’ve been covering the names that come up the most, I’ve been trying to get better at highlighting some of the under-the-radar artists as well. You can help us immensely by letting us know about new music or events worth covering. We can’t cover what we don’t know about, so thank you in advance for turning us on to what’s happening.

My personal musical tastes can be, admittedly, a bit specific, but I greatly appreciate all music as an art form. I truly believe that art isn’t good or bad — it either moves you or it doesn’t. I respect all artists, whether or not their work resonates with me, and I’m not here to dictate your experience with shapeless art. My goal is to present as wide of a range of it as I can, and right now we’re building a diverse team of writers to offer a broader perspective on the music scene. Because of this, I’m very excited about the future of our section. If you’d like to be a part of it, please let us know.

With that said, here are my Five Things in the Music Scene for the month of September:

Emmylou Harris

The Most Significant Number for September: 24

That’s the number of Grammys won by artists performing at ELLNORA| The Guitar Festival this year. While Emmylou Harris has the lion’s share of 13, this is still a big deal for our cities, Champaign-Urbana, and specifically for the music program at the University of Illinois, which has gained much respect in the music world. It shows we are a worthy stage to showcase world-class talent. My hats off to the bookers of ELLNORA, because Grammys or not, some of the most well-respected singer-songwriters and guitarists are gracing the stage at KCPA this year, and I hope the community takes advantage of the opportunity to see these rare talents that are going to be in town September 8th and 9th.

ELLNORA| The Guitar Festival
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Th + F September 8-9
$10 – $80

5 members of the band Susto dressed in various dark jackets, walking down a hill towards the camera. The male in the middle is wearing a camo cowboy hat and wearing sunglasses
Susto on Facebook

The band I’m most excited about hearing

SUSTO will be headlining at Rose Bowl Tavern on September 22nd as part of PYGMALION. I got to speak with Justin Osbourne, lead singer of SUSTO a couple of weeks ago and I’ll be publishing that interview shortly, however, I have been a fan of their music for a while. Osbourne spent some time in Cuba in his early 20s, learning about “trova” music. Trova music is big in eastern Cuba and features poetic lyrics that focus on love, politics, and social issues performed by “trovadours” (or “troubadours”), which are singer-songwriters who play guitar. This was a significant influence on Justin and his band’s music, and the result is a plethora of ear-worm melodies filled with lyrics that are relatable, humorous, and even heartbreaking. You share in the songwriter’s emotional state via the lyrics, but the music keeps your feet tapping and your voice humming. SUSTO’S music has been my go-to for the last several months for just about any mood.

Rosebowl Tavern (as part of PYGMALION)
F September 22, 8:30 p.m.
$10 – $130

This is a photo-realistic image of a person standing in front of a green leafy background. The person is wearing a gray jacket over a white shirt. The background consists of large green leaves.
Andy Frasco on Facebook

The band I’m most excited about seeing

I’m a live music addict. There is no other way to state it, so it’s very easy to get me out to see bands perform that I may not even stream very often at home. In the case of Andy Frasco and the U.N., I very much enjoy streaming his upbeat, positive brand of rock music at home, but I have not seen him perform yet. I’ve heard stories about his live performances, and I’m hoping that September 8th at The Canopy Club he’ll create another one of those magical moments I hear about. I attended the last Summer Camp back in May, and I had to cover another band when Frasco and his band were playing at the same time. Many folks I talked to who witnessed him perform thought that his set was their favorite of Summer Camp, and that’s saying something seeing as bands like moe., Umphrey’s McGee, and Willie Nelson were also playing, not to mention several big names in the EDM world. It’s a safe bet Andy is going to tear up The Canopy Club.

Andy Frasco and the U.N.
The Canopy Club
F September 8, 9 p.m.

Poster of an event called the Great Cover Up 31
The Great Cover-Up 31

My favorite C-U music tradition

Several years ago, I attended my first The Great Cover-Up and I couldn’t believe how much fun it was. If you’re not aware, the Great Cover-Up is more than just cover bands. Way more. Firstly, the event is put on to raise money for Girls Rock CU!, and many bands and people donate time and effort to make this one of the most fun events of the year. The concept is that local bands pick a well-known band to imitate for one night. So you could see a band like Terminus Victor decide to do a set as Devo, complete with flower pot hats. I even saw a band a few years ago who did all Muppets songs. The best part about it is that you do not know which band they’ll be covering until they hit the stage and start playing. It’s always great to see the bands enjoying the show as much as the audience, and that’s what The Great Cover-Up is like.

The Great Cover-Up 31
Rose Bowl Tavern
F, Sa September 15-16, 8 p.m.

A white girl with shoulder length light brown hair holds a microphone and a mic cord onstage while looking up into the crowd. There is a large neon advertising sign on the stage behind her.
Lauren Mayberry on Facebook

The coolest happening in town this month

Firstly, I have to state that the same folks who put on PYGMALION, are my bosses here at Smile Politely. I’m very thankful and grateful that they let me write about what I want to without ever dictating that I cover the stuff they’re doing outside of Smile Politely. That said, I am so excited to experience my first PYGMALION. The line-up of musicians is diverse, eclectic, and exciting. From the aforementioned SUSTO to Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches, Claud, to the ultra-fabulous Alaska 5000 and Monet X Change, PYGMALION is going to be a celebration of art in all its beautiful forms. There will be so much to do, see, experience, and learn about that my only regret is that I can only be in one place at a time. My goal is to enjoy a little bit of something familiar and to challenge myself to experience things outside of my normal realm. I tend to be the type of person who orders the same entree every time I go to a familiar restaurant, but for September 21 through 23 I’m willing to order some of the specials and I’m looking forward to it. 

All around town
Th, F, S September 21-23
$10 – $130

Music Editor

More Articles