Smile Politely

Moose-a-Palooza brings C-U’s music scene together to help one of their own

A poster for Moose-a-Palooza
Moose a Palooza on Facebook

Lend me your eyes and mind and let me take you on a journey back to the late ’90s, to a time where music, laughter, and camaraderie united the service workers in our community. This isn’t just a story of rock and roll; it’s a tale of friendships, traditions, and a unique fraternity that became a legend in our town. It’s about Pi Omega Omega, the drinking fraternity, originated by service industry workers in Champaign, and the memorable musicians that congregated at Mike and Molly’s in downtown Champaign. Rosemary Ferrara, inducted in 2001, paints a vivid picture of the past and shares the spirit of the upcoming benefit show she’s organizing with Ward Gollings for the heart and soul of Pi Omega Omega, Barney Joyce, who everyone knows as Moose.

One of the great stories Ferrara shared about Moose and the Pi Omega Omega fraternity captures the essence of their quirky and tight-knit community. In this drinking fraternity, known to many as a “townie thing,” tradition and camaraderie were key. For example, every member had the chance to get an actual frat name, given by Moose, when inducted. The privilege extended even to the celebration of random holidays like St. Bob’s Day, and St. Jack’s Day (patron saints of gamblers and alcoholics). Ferrara’s memories of the formals, mustache contests, and the creation of new “holidays” are vivid and humorous. The tales epitomize a time in the late ’90s early ’00s when everyone knew each other in the downtown Champaign bars and restaurants, adding to the sense of nostalgia that fills the air as the community gathers to support one of their own.

“The scope and longevity of this goofy frat thing is insane. I don’t think there is any way Moose (or anyone for that matter) could have envisioned that it would still be going so strong 30+ years later. There are new members being named every week still!” enthused Gollings.

“I was inducted in 2001,” Ferrara recalls, her eyes twinkling with nostalgia. Mike and Molly’s wasn’t surrounded by bars and restaurants as we know it today. It was the heartbeat of a tight-knit social group filled with musicians, and random inside jokes that turned into elaborate traditions. Formals, mustache contests, St. Jack’s Day, and St. Bob’s Day – a toast to the patron saints of gamblers and alcoholics, all formed the fabric of a culture soaked in “low-key hedonism,” Ferrara describes.

For Ward Gollings, using his connections and skills to help organize this event was personal. “Barney [Moose] is a beautiful soul who is incredibly consistent, always happy, always smiling, always friendly, always genuine. always humble, always loveable, always ready to tell a joke, always ready to laugh with you, always ready to raise a glass with you and make a toast to… LIFE!”

Moose, the man who crafted many of the traditions and was the glue that held that group of friends together, is now struggling with his health. A benefit show, featuring bands with members from The Blackouts, Living Blue, Tractor Kings, and more, will be held in his honor. Ferrara shares, “All the musicians were connected to Moose in some way.”

Gollings made a spur-of-the-moment request to reunite a legendary local act, Menthol, for Moose-a-Palooza.

“It was just a whim really, a stab in the dark, a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time,” recalled Gollings. “I know that the Menthol guys have known Moose for even longer than I have, it might stretch back to grade school. I simply made a pitch to them, a drunken spiel. Like just about everyone else, they responded very positively and quite quickly.” Gollings recalls.

The benefit show, promising an incredible lineup of bands, is not merely a musical event; it’s a perfect reflection of what Moose embodied. Ferrara’s voice fills with gratitude as she talks about the outpouring of help from Carrie Chandler, Charlie Harris, Marten Stromberg, Jeff Vicek, Ward Gollings, and Kim Gollings, along with many, many others including the musicians.

“With a suggested cover of $27 [27 being a “miracle” number to the fraternity], there will be merch, a raffle, and even an electronic way to donate. All the proceeds will go to Moose and Nicole,” Ferrara emphasizes. There was even a donation to cut down the overhead of producing the merch, meaning all proceeds from merch sales will go directly to Moose’s care.

The lineup for Sunday’s benefit is as legendary as Pi Omega Omega itself and is a testament to the tight-knit community of Champaign-Urbana and the lasting impact Moose has had on the local scene. Bands and musicians from various eras are reuniting to support a dear friend, showcasing the rich tapestry of local music. 90’s legends Menthol are reuniting for their first gig together since 2008, to help out their friend Moose. The Blackouts and Living Blue, who will be represented by Joe Prokop and Mark Schroder  playing as Burnt Trees, will be sharing new material written just for this occasion. Midnite Leg (who just released their first LP), Tractor Kings, and Red Leg, each with their own connections to Moose, are contributing their talents. Bands like Take Care, Bristle, and The Auctions, as well as Dirty Feathers, led by Andrew Kling, are all set to perform. Adding to the ambiance will be DJ PBR (Ward Gollings), making the night a perfect blend of old and new, all in honor of Moose.

For those attending the benefit show, the excitement isn’t confined to the music alone. The 50-50 raffle is poised to offer a delightful second prize: a specially curated gift basket filled with memorabilia and local treasures. Though the exact contents remain a surprise, whispers of a unique piece of art that has captured the attention of everyone who’s seen it. It’s a basket that symbolizes the community’s creativity, history, and affection, promising to be as soul-stirring as the melodies that will echo through the night. Whether you’re a longtime resident or a curious newcomer, the allure of this gift basket epitomizes the charm of Champaign-Urbana’s musical culture.

This event isn’t just a trip down memory lane; it’s a legendary rock show and a testament to the community’s unwavering support for its own. Ferrara aptly summarizes, “It’s a perfect example of what Moose built. This will be a legendary rock show.”

And as for Moose, our beloved Urbana-born icon? He will hopefully be there, even if just for a little while, surrounded by the music and people who shaped a significant chapter in Champaign-Urbana’s history.

Join in celebrating not just the music but the spirit of unity of our music scene in town. Ward and Rosemary hope everyone will come together and make this benefit show resonate as a loud and melodic thank you to Moose. Here is the lineup for Sunday:

2-3 p.m. DJ PBR
3-3:30 p.m. The Auctions
4-4:30 p.m. Bristle
5-5:30 p.m. Mid Nite Leg
6-6:30 p.m. Redleg
6:30-7:30 p.m. DJ PBR
7:30-8 p.m. Take Care (inside stage)
8-8:30 p.m. Burnt Trees
8:30-9 p.m. Menthol (inside stage)
9-9:30 p.m. Tractor Kings
9:30-10 p.m. The Dirty Feathers (inside stage)

Rose Bowl Tavern
106 N. Race St.
Su August 27th, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
$27 Suggested Donation

Music Editor

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