Few would deny that Champaign-Urbana is home to an actual “music scene.” That we can even pose this question is proof enough. And let’s not forget that our little community has spawned a band that sold the most albums in the United States in 1980. That’s nine million or so, to be clear. The 44th most of all time. We even have a street named for them.
So yes, we have a music scene. That is true. And a lot of people care about it, relatively speaking.
Last week, we saw controversy manifest itself in the form of two shows next door to one another. One was the Local Music Awards, hosted by WPGU and buzz magazine at The Highdive. The other, a charity show that came to be known as the Anti-LMAs, was held right next door at Memphis on Main. Both shows were well attended, and both showcased a wide range of local bands. Within minutes of the Local Music Awards letting out, Memphis on Main went from being packed to beyond capacity. Just as fast, the crowd had to rush to the exit, coughing and tearing up in the eyes: Someone had pepper sprayed the crowd, and the sidewalk along REO Speedwagon Way looked like an impromptu party for respiratory-challenged hipsters. At the very least, this was an active evening for the C-U music scene.
And then we have the record labels (that’s plural, mind you), festivals, touring bands, publicity companies, promoters, online and walk-up record stores, radio stations, magazines, blogs (all plural, still) and everything else you could imagine that makes this place a known quantity in the Midwest music scene.
But still, there is something missing. In the mid-1990s, people were heralding C-U as the next Seattle: a fertile breeding ground for the alternative music movement and a mainstay for the ears and eyes of major label record executives. As many as five bands walked into fairly lucrative recording contracts and many went on to tour in arenas and theatres regularly.
And with that, we leave it you, the community, to chime in and let us know: What can be done to improve upon what we already have?