Smile Politely

The Overture:  Nov. 16 — 22

With school, work, family and all that time you wasted drooling over the excitement of Sarah Palin’s Oprah debut this week, who has the time to find out about the best shows happening in Champaign-Urbana?  No need to fear, because the editors at Smile Politely have taken care of it.

charlieshafterWhatCharlie Shafter and the Gnomes, Mayhew the Traitor

When:  Monday Nov. 16, 8:00 p.m.

Where:  Memphis on Main, FREE

Duluth, Minn’s Charlie Shafter and the Gnomes have one of those purposefully strange bios that posits the members of the band as musically gifted via some sort of higher unknown prophecy (in this case, it involves Aztec vacations, ant farming and an emphasis on proper pronunciation).  History aside, their homegrown brand of roots rock with an 80s twang has universal appeal and has allowed them to tour the U.S. from the Midwest to the deep south.  The fact that they’re still touring in support of 2007’s 17th and Chicago is proof enough that they’ve got what a lot of people need right now.  And just maybe strange pseudo sci-fi back stories are what the roots and Americana genres need, too.


acadWhatThe Academy Is…

When:  Wednesday Nov. 18, 7:00 p.m.

Where:  Foellinger Auditorium, $20 students / $22 public

Back in 2002 when the Academy Is… formed, the emo-pop-punk genre was far more novel than it is seven years later.  With emo now often relegated to negative term (as in, “eww, look at those emo kids”), many emo bands have managed to stave off that negative attention and battle to emerge successfully on the other side, often transforming their own sound.  So when the Academy Is… dropped their latest EP in September, Lost in Pacific Time, many critics were surprised that the boys continued their trend of fun and bountiful poppiness in spite of trends toward more mannered indie pop.  For fans of All American Rejects, Fallout Boy or any of the Academy Is…’s Decaydence or Fueled By Ramen pop punk label mates, don’t miss this show.  It will be nothing short of a good time.  

kelloggWhatStephen Kellogg and the Sixers, Curtis Peoples

When:  Wednesday Nov. 18, 7:00 p.m.

Where:  The Highdive, $15 in advance

You can’t really go wrong with a band who unabashedly admits that their heroes are the Band.  Credited as being one of the best live acts around today, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers (ahem, SK6ERS), shake and roll with a high impact live show involving numerous instrument switches and a fresh alt-country feel.  Their newest record, The Bear, plays with themes of duality, which are mirrored appropriately by the fact that the record was recorded partly in a studio apartment in New York City and partly in an old house in Maine.  Moreover, they drop the occasional semi Lebowski reference (“Sometimes you get the bear / sometimes the bear gets you / Sometimes you’re gonna win / sometimes you’re gonna lose”), which joys us to no end.  They’ve been compared to anything from Wilco to Tom Petty, so they should have a pretty wide appeal.  Even if you take a listen and don’t think they’re your cup of tea, don’t miss this show.  They’re likely to be one of the best live acts you’ll catch all year.  

ccrWhatCross Canadian Ragweed, Seth James

When:  Thursday Nov. 19, 9:00 p.m.

Where:  Canopy Club, $15

Alt-country week continues with Oklahoma’s Cross Canadian Ragweed.  More properly, they fit better under the “red dirt” category along with Willie and Waylon, but nonetheless, they carry a that distinct semi-southern rock, semi-alternative country flavor (perhaps it is no coincidence that their name is easily abbreviated to C.C.R.?).  Any way you slice ’em, they’re a rock and roll band and have the blue jean swagger that goes along with it.  Their latest, Happiness and All the Other Things, contains the hesitance of any true rock and roll band to give into feelings and happiness.  Accordingly, the aptly-titled first single from Happiness, “Kick in the Head,” debuted at #15 on the Texas Music Chart.  

onagainWhatOn Again Off Again, Breaking Laces, Curb Service

When:  Thursday Nov. 19

Where:  Mike N Molly’s

Chicago’s On Again Off Again have been playing the Champaign-Urbana area on and off for a while now including a number of dates at Canopy Club and Mike N Molly’s, where you can find them Thursday night.  Like most of the shows this week, they also have a sound with a wide appeal, albeit with less of a country influence than any of the aforementioned.  On Again Off Again pieces together the poppy tempos of bands like Death Cab for Cutie or Weezer with the emotionality of Elliott Smith.  They released the Cycles EP more than a year ago as a nicely priced download available on their MySpace page and are gearing up to release (Re)Cycles this year.  The former was worth every penny of its whopping $3.40, so expect the latter to be no different.  

prussiaWhatPrussia, The Palace Flophouse, Ohtis

When:  Friday Nov. 20

Where:  Mike N Molly’s,

We’re having a hard time trying to correlate the inspiration for naming Prussia the band after Prussia the now defunct European nation state, so we’re not even going to try.  The one thing that is certain, however, is that Detroit’s Prussia (the band) plays with an intensity and unpredictability perhaps wiser than their young years.  Their first full length, Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly, was met with favorable reviews that compared their in-studio performance and production value to the likes of Phil Spector and Lee “Scratch” Perry.  Not bad for a band just out of the starting gates, eh?  Their follow up, Blessed Be, Yours Truly in Spirit and Soul, was released in January, but you can still get it for free.  Check it out via Common Cloud Records.  

ddWhat: Dirt Daubers, Dottie and the Rail, Curses

When:  Sunday Nov. 22, 9:30 p.m.

Where:  Cowboy Monkey, $5

After a brief foray into indie pop, return to your country and bluegrass roots before starting the work week courtesy of Paducah, Kentucky’s Dirt Daubers.  Even if you never heard a song from them, their name and the name of the band members alone will give you a feel for what to expect.  Colonel JD Wilkes and his wife Jessica (also known as Ma and Pa Wilkes) are joined by “Slow” Layne Hendrickson to complete an authentic hillbilly sound that borrows from mixes of Appalachian, ragtime, jazz standards and originals.  And to top it off, Col. Wilkes is also a fine practitioner of side show banners.  Expect a hootenanny, some tomfoolery and heavy whiskey drinkin’.  Anyone know where to find some moonshine in this town?

Know about something we don’t? Want to promote your own gig? Peep the comment section below.

Looking ahead…

Memphis on Main – Charlie Shafter and the Gnomes, Mayhew the Traitor

Foellinger Auditorium – The Academy Is…
The Highdive – Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers

Canopy Club – Cross Canadian Ragweed, Seth James
Cowboy Monkey – Of a Native Vibe
Mike N Molly’s – On Again Off Again, Breaking Laces, Curb Service

Mike N Molly’s – Prussia, TBA

Cowboy Monkey – Dubstep Massacre
Po’ Boys – Thrash Zombie, TBA
Shady Nook Pub – Hot Club of Cowtown, Saybrook

Independent Media Center – Ferrocene3, Tree Thump

Canopy Club – Laughing Prairie Dog Festival with The Hood Internet, Santah and more

Canopy Club – EOTO (featuring Michael Travis and Jason Hann of String Cheese Incident)
Mike N Molly’s – Laarks, My Dear Alan Andrews, and Zach May and the Maps

Foellinger Auditorium – Andrew Bird

Mike N Molly’s – White Elephant song exchange

Mike N Molly’s – Neoga Blacksmith

Assembly Hall – The Oak Ridge Boys

Mike N Molly’s – New Years Eve with New Ruins

Krannert Center – Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
Krannert Center – Kronos Quartet, Wu Man

Canopy Club – The Prairie Ensemble: The Soldier’s Tale

Krannert Center – The Band of the Irish Guards

Krannert Center – Frederica Von Stade

Krannert Center – Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra

Krannert Center – Abraham Inc.

Assembly Hall – Martina McBride, Trace Adkins

Krannert Center – Danu

Krannert Center – San Francisco Symphony

Krannert Center – What it Is! Featuring Mavis Staples, Booker T. JJ Grey

Krannert Center – Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra

Krannert Center – Joshua Bell

Krannert Center – James Farm

Krannert Center – Ozomatli

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