The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Hannah Rose and the Sweet Nothings headline 16th annual C-U Folk and Roots Festival

Yichen Liu
Hannah Rose and the Sweet Nothings bring folk music to the Rose Bowl Tavern on Thursday.

Hannah Rose and the Sweet Nothings, a string band from nearby Bloomington, Illinois, provided the soundtrack to a dance-filled evening at the Rose Bowl Tavern on Thursday. The group performed covers of classic musical standards including folk, swing, jazz and more. 

The group visited as part of the 16th annual CU Folk and Roots Winter Weekend, a three-day “all-volunteer run, grassroots festival” that brings together a collection of artists and organizations for “folk performances and participatory activities throughout downtown Urbana,” according to the festival’s website.

“It’s just such a supportive environment (at the Rose Bowl Tavern),” said Hannah Rose, who plays banjolele in addition to doing lead vocals for the group. “Personally, I thought this was the best we’ve ever sounded, and there’s a really steady clientele here that’s very welcoming.”

The festival saw members of the community coming out to support the performers by assisting with the show.

“I’m a long-time fan and attendee,” said Henry Strehlow, a volunteer for the festival. “There’s a swing dance community here on campus, and they really come out.”

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Strehlow was proven right at Thursday night’s performance as a space cleared in front of the main interior stage quickly found itself filled with audience members when the Sweet Nothings began their lively renditions of songs from a bygone era.

“It’s a friendly, mixed group of people,” said Alan Kubbs, a longtime dancer and attendee of the show. “You can just go up to anybody and dance.” 

Kubbs said that he had to come back to hear the Sweet Nothings again after discovering them at a previous swing dance event, describing their music as “danceable, with a rhythm you can follow” as opposed to more modern, abstract jazz pieces.

For the entirety of the Sweet Nothings’ two-hour long set — save for a brief intermission — the floor seldom found itself even nearing empty as Kubbs and various other dancers coupled up, connecting with one another and the artists through the music.

Carrie Chandler, a musician-turned-co-director of the C-U Folk and Roots Festival, expressed admiration for Rose’s group. 

“I love (the band’s) unique sound, they bring in different elements of jazz,” Chandler said. “They bring the dance crowd and contra dancers and we love that.”

Though Rose predominantly led the band on vocals, each member of the six-piece band — featuring  Trenton Parry on guitar, Allison Thabit on trumpet, Joe Holland on bass, Eric Knutilla on percussion and Chris Wiman on xylophone and slide guitar — had chances to bask in the spotlight.

The performance ultimately showcased not just the traditional bass and guitar solos, but xylophone and trumpet solos as well as opportunities for Thabit, Perry and Knutilla to lead the group on vocals. Songs included jazz standards by Django Reinhardt and Billie Holiday, as well as “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole and even “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes.

“I’m a big Billie Holiday fan, so I personally like singing those songs,” Rose said. “I also love Brazilian music and bossa nova.”

The C-U Folk and Roots Winter Weekend continued at the Rose Bowl Tavern through Saturday night. The full artist lineup is accessible through the festival’s official website

“It’s a really diverse lineup of folk and roots music, and we really stretch the boundaries on what that means,” Chandler said. “It flows between a bunch of different venues and definitely supports downtown Urbana.”


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