In the vibrant music scene of Champaign-Urbana, bands come and go, leaving their unique imprints on the hearts and ears of the local community. Silverweed, a band that blended Americana, folk, and a dash of rock n’ roll, recently bid adieu to their fans in a memorable final show at Rose Bowl Tavern. Their journey, peppered with anecdotes, camaraderie, and soulful music, culminated in a night that echoed with the spirit of their musical legacy.
Silverweed’s formation was a confluence of seasoned musicians finding a shared musical vision. The band’s inception can be traced back to the individual journeys of its members, each bringing a wealth of experience from their previous projects. Jay Rosenstein, known for his time with Otis and the Elevators, was a pivotal figure in bringing the group together. His distinct songwriting and vocal style formed the core of Silverweed’s sound.
Sean Kutzko’s entry into Silverweed was marked by his rich musical background and his deep involvement in the local jazz community. As a multi-instrumentalist, particularly skilled in percussion and congas, Kutzko brought a unique element to the band’s sound. His ability to blend jazz influences into the group’s predominantly Americana and country music style added a new dimension to their performances. Kutzko’s passion for music and his desire to explore diverse genres made him an ideal fit for Silverweed, complementing the existing members’ talents and helping to shape the band’s distinctive musical identity.
Original bass player, Jim Rowland, was eventually replaced by John Tubbs. Tubbs, already known for his work in the local music scene, joined Silverweed, bringing his unique style and musical expertise. His reputation as a talented musician preceded him, as Rosenstein had long admired Tubbs’ work and aspired to play alongside him. Tubbs’ entry into the band further enriched their sound, adding depth and versatility. His collaboration with the existing members of Silverweed created a dynamic synergy, contributing significantly to the band’s evolving musical journey and its impact on the local music scene.
My conversation with Silverweed prior to their final show offered a candid and insightful glimpse into the dynamics and experiences of the band members. Rosenstein, the frontman, reflected on the challenges of performing in recent years, highlighting the physical demands of live shows. His words, “I literally have to train to get ready for a gig,” underline the dedication and effort required to deliver their beloved performances, especially in the challenging outdoor summer gigs.
Tubbs, revealing his plans to move to the east coast, shared a poignant aspect of the band’s transition. His statement, “I’m kind of the spoiler here,” was delivered with a mix of regret and anticipation for new opportunities. This move effectively marked a significant turning point for Silverweed, symbolizing both an end and a new beginning.
Kutzko discussed his decision to scale back his musical commitments to focus on his full-time job at Krannert. He expressed a heartfelt connection to the band, saying, “It’s been a real treat being able to play with Jay and John.” His words encapsulated the sentiment of camaraderie and mutual respect among the band members, which has been a cornerstone of Silverweed’s identity.
Their final show at Rose Bowl Tavern was a fitting testament to the band’s journey. Packed with an audience of loyal fans, the evening was a celebration of music, memories, and the unbreakable bond between the band and their followers and friends. The show kicked off with an acoustic set by Silverweed’s alter-ego, the Woke Mountain Boys, featuring Rosenstein’s originals and some well-chosen covers. This set underscored the band’s roots in storytelling and their ability to create an intimate connection with the audience.
One of the highlights of the night was the rendition of Rosenstein’s “I’m Afraid of Leaving Home,” featuring a haunting pedal steel solo by Dyke Corson that resonated deeply with the audience. An acoustic cover of Dire Straits’ “Six Blade Knife,” sung by Kutzko, added another layer of depth to the set, showcasing the band’s versatility and respect for musical greats.
As the evening shifted gears, the band electrified the atmosphere with hits from Rosenstein’s “Otis and the Elevators” days, like “Dominate,” and a mix of classics like The Grateful Dead’s “Brown Eyed Women,” Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” and Hank Williams’ “You Win Again.” The solos by Corson and Jesse Brown added to the poignancy of the songs.
The night’s final set saw the addition of Kyle Hunt on trombone, adding a unique twist to the band’s sound. Their reggae interpretation of “Johnny B Goode,” Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come,” and a jam-packed rendition of the Dead’s “Fire On The Mountain” showcased the band’s ability to transcend genres and create something uniquely theirs. Nancy Livingston’s backing vocals added another dimension to these performances, highlighting the collaborative spirit of the music community here in C-U.
The encores, Marshall Tucker’s “Desert Skies” and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” were emotionally charged performances that captured the essence of the evening. The three-part harmony in “I Shall Be Released” was a poignant moment, symbolizing the band’s collective voice and shared journey. Rosenstein’s final words, “Thank you. Goodnight. Goodbye,” were a simple yet powerful conclusion to an evening filled with music, nostalgia, and the heartfelt connection between a band and its audience.
The final show was more than just a musical event; it was a celebration of a journey that spanned years and touched countless lives. The packed house at Rose Bowl Tavern was a testament to the impact Silverweed had on the local music scene. Their music was not just about the notes and the rhythms; it was about the stories, the laughter, the challenges, the friendships, and the camaraderie that defined their time together.
In the end, Silverweed’s farewell was a bittersweet symphony of emotions, a fitting end to a chapter in the Champaign-Urbana music story. Their legacy will live on in the memories of those who were there to witness it and in the ripples they created in the local music scene. As the notes of their final song faded into the night, it marked the end of an era but also a reminder of the power of music to bring people together, create lasting memories, and touch the soul.