The Urbana Hootenanny provides spotlight for local musicians, gathering place for community


Jacob Slabosz

A performer sings on stage at the Rose Bowl Tavern on Monday. The bar hosts open jam sessions every Monday known as the Urbana Hootenanny.

By Maaike Niekerk, Contributing Writer

Urbana’s Rose Bowl Tavern hosts the Urbana Hootenanny every Monday evening, which is an open jam session for local musicians. The weekly event provides a unique opportunity for the community to share music, to swap stories and to create new connections.

Though the performances are primarily bluegrass and country music, the singers represent a variety of ages, musical backgrounds and levels of musical experience. The Urbana Hootenanny is fairly informal, with some musicians performing for the first time and others having already written and released their own music. 

All are welcome to attend, with no cover being charged by the Rose Bowl. 

Among the more experienced performers is Dada Veda, who has lived and performed in Urbana for the past 13 years. Veda began learning music as a college student in New York and now streams performances twice a week on Twitch while also performing live when possible.

“I’m a yoga and meditation teacher,” Veda said, adding that he teaches at the Ananda Liina Yoga-Meditation center in Urbana for free — teachings which used to inspire his musical creations and performances. 

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    Veda performed a mix of covers and original music this past Monday night, singing and playing along with his acoustic guitar. Although Veda has written and recorded a total of eight albums, music is actually something he does “on the side.”

    “My inspiration is the philosophy which I teach as a yoga teacher … the main thing I’m trying to teach is to go inside and find your spiritual wealth, and when you find that it’s more than all the wealth of the universe.” Veda said.

    Veda also commented on how a more social focus is found in much of his original music. 

    “We should build a proper society where all people can live together nicely,” Veda said.

    Such a society certainly seems to be coming to life every night at the Rose Bowl. The small but comfortable space slowly fills up throughout the four hour Hootenanny, with a large variety of community members coming to enjoy the live music.

    “There’s live music literally every night of the week,” Urbana local April Sampson said. 

    “I mean, I’ve come to a punk show here, I’ve been to a metal show here … they’ve had some touring bands too,” Sampson continued. She added that the current owners of the Rose Bowl “try to cater to everybody.” 

    After the closing of the Iron Post, a bar in Urbana known for hosting various jazz groups, the tavern has been seeing a slight surge in popularity. Recently, the bar has been hosting more jazz music in particular, from small combos to reading bands and larger performances. 

    “This has been a popular spot for a long time, but it’s definitely hit its stride lately,” Sampson said. “I mean, truth be told it’s really the only bar, slash venue in Champaign-Urbana that plays live music on the regular anymore because there’s no place else.”

    Aside from live music, the Rose Bowl hosts other activities and organizations from the area. 

    “They also do a lot of regular community events,” Urbana local Yusuf Hermes said. “It’s Urbana, everybody knows everybody,” Hermes said.

    Altogether, the tavern is not only providing a space for unique artists like Veda to share their work, but for community members to come together and enjoy some local art. 

    “When a bar is run by musicians and you can tell they love music, there’s always like a variety (of music), and so you get a good, chill vibe,” Sampson said.

    The Rose Bowl Tavern’s complete calendar of events can be found online at Daily music and a good community atmosphere are a guarantee. 

    “This is one place that you can come by yourself and you’ll strike up a conversation. You always meet somebody interesting,” Sampson said. 


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