The thriving local music scene in Champaign, Illinois, has been blessed with a fresh wave of nostalgia. Lorenzo Goetz, a prominent band of the early 2000s, is making their long-awaited return for a reunion show on July 22nd at Rose Bowl Tavern. The reunion serves a dual purpose: it celebrates their past while raising funds to re-record their album “Jesus Elephant” for its 20th anniversary next year.
Smile Politely spoke to Larry Gates, the guitarist and lead singer of the band, about their journey, their breakup, and their impending reunion. Gates, who moved to Champaign in 2000 with the aim of starting a band, successfully did so with Lorenzo Goetz. Active from 2001 to 2006, the band was particularly popular between 2003 and 2006. Their range extended beyond Champaign, with performances from Minneapolis to New Orleans, Colorado to New York.
The band’s momentum was undeniable. They were on an indie label, hired a college radio promoter, a publicist, and had opened for notable local acts. However, their rise was cut short due to the all-too-familiar infighting and a realization that the band had perhaps become too big for their britches. They performed two final shows on New Year’s Eve 2006 at the Cowboy Monkey, bringing their first chapter to a close.
Gates’ journey back to music started during the pandemic, as he streamed live performances from his studio, playing songs and keeping the morale up among his friends and fans. The streams were well-received, and Gates kept up these impromptu shows for nearly a year. “I was learning nine to 12 songs every week just to play for my friends on the internet,” Gates recalled.
It was during these live streams that the old drummer of Lorenzo Goetz, residing in Colorado, found his incentive to get back to his drums. He proposed the idea of a reunion show to Gates, who immediately agreed. “I’d love it whenever it makes sense, you know because the world was so messed up,” said Gates. “Whenever we get vaccinated and it’s okay, let’s do it.”
To elevate the cause, the band also decided to re-record their full-length album, Jesus Elephant, which was originally recorded with minimal budget and resources. The new recording aims to present the album as it should have always sounded, showing the band’s growth and evolution over the years. The process has been challenging but rewarding, with members traveling to different states to record parts and working hard to resurrect the sounds that once defined them.
The album, created in a spare bedroom with a budget mic because they were, as Gates puts it, “broke stoners”, will now get the facelift it deserves. Gates believes he’s grown as an engineer and producer and is eager to give the album the quality it should have always had.
However, the reunion hit a snag when their guitarist, a key player who used various unique effects to create their distinct sound, backed out less than a month before the show. In a classic case of the show must go on though, Mike Ingram, a friend of Gates’s and a fan of the band, stepped up to fill in.
The reunion show promises to be a super celebration, featuring Temple of Low Men, a former local supergroup, and Ryan Groff from the band Elsinore. In addition to the nostalgia trip, the event aims to raise money to cover the costs of mixing and mastering the rerecorded “Jesus Elephant”. They will encourage donations, sell band merch, and have a sign with the band’s Venmo and Paypal information for easy contributions.
A testament to their lasting impact on the Champaign music scene, the Lorenzo Goetz reunion show is not just a musical event but a nostalgic journey that reflects the enduring legacy of a band that, despite their past differences, still has a shared passion for their craft. With the Rose Bowl Tavern as the backbone of the current Champaign music scene, there’s no better place for the band to both return to their roots and forge ahead with their new recording plans.
As Lorenzo Goetz prepares to reunite on stage, their spirit and determination haven’t waned. They aim to recreate not just their music but the vibrant scene that once was. This reunion is not just a nostalgic trip down memory lane but a testament to their enduring love for music. For fans of Lorenzo Goetz, the reunion is a chance to relive the magic and celebrate the enduring spirit of a band that refused to be forgotten.