Smile Politely

The Overture: October 13 – 19, 2008

With work, family and encore presentations of Planet Earth, who has the time to find out about the best shows happening in Champaign-Urbana? No need to fear, because the editors here at Smile Politely have taken care of it. Here are the must-see shows of the week:

Wednesday October 15: Mason Jennings – Canopy Club, 9 p.m., $15

Singer/Songwriter Mason Jennings doesn’t even need to try. He can strum two chords while talking about his day and it would be a compelling song. With a distinctive and captivating voice, he needs little else to accompany him. It does help that he happens to write simple but great songs. Regardless of your musical leanings, Jennings is instantly accessible and enjoyable. He’s Jack Johnson if Johnson was thought-provoking, interested in pushing boundaries and not boring.

Thursday October 16: Man Man – Canopy Club, 9 p.m., $12 in advance

Man Man is a performance-based band. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard a song; Man Man demands to be seen. Rotating instruments and rarely pausing between songs, the Philadelphia-based group goes all out on stage performing their strange, high energy and often cartoon-like music. Honus Honus, Sergei Sogay, Pow Pow, Critter Crat and Chang Wang will put on a show at Canopy surely to be the yang to Mason Jenning’s ying.

Saturday October 18: Light Pollution – Courtyard Café, 8 p.m., $3 student/ $5

Having five or more members that play everything from trumpet and mandolin to melodica and glockenspiel doesn’t make a group the most original band ever, but it does enables it to create dynamic songs that a typical rock quartet might not be able to handle. Light Pollution plays songs that swell, swirl and rarely seem to stagnate. Alliteration besides, driving percussion and instrumentation that keeps you guessing make the Dekalb-based band more than worth checking out. Ryan Groff is also performing.

Sunday October 19: The New Year, Ugly Suit – Highdive, 8 p.m., $12

The New Year has been around the block. Formed from the ashes of popular nineties rock band, Bedhead, The New Year started playing together in 1999. With a classic guitar-oriented indie rock song, The New Year’s new self-titled album has seen plenty of critical acclaim. Also playing is Oklahoma’s The Ugly Suit. Also on Touch and Go, The Ugly Suit is comprised of a handful of young cats that write theatrical and border-line psychedelic tunes.

Sunday October 19: Broken Social Scene – Foellinger Auditorium, 7:30 p.m., $25 student/ $28

Broken Social Scene will be playing the first Starcourse -sponsored show of the semester at Foellinger Auditorium. The Canadian collective passed through Champaign-Urbana not too long ago, but this time around the band will be bigger, the sound will be fuller and solo projects will be regarded as secondary. With climactic horn arrangements and an army of rhythm guitarists, Broken Social Scene’s concerts play out as a joyous celebration of music and life. This is the must-see show of the week.

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