Smash Mouth brings nostalgia to Sweet Corn Festival


Brian Bauer

Smashmouth brings up festrivalgoers while performing at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival in downtown Urbana on Saturday, Aug. 27

By Jess Peterson, Contributing Writer

When lead singer Steve Harwell collapsed on stage during Smash Mouth on Saturday, it was like a meteor rather than a shooting star.

Smash Mouth headlined the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival on Saturday night.

The Urbana Sweet Corn Festival has been held in a parking lot on the corner of Main and Race Streets for the past 41 years. The Urbana Business Association has taken charge of organizing the event, and according to the festival’s website, around 30,000 ears of corn are consumed each year while attendees can experience live music, a car show and street vendors over the span of two days.

Diamond Rio, a country group based in Nashville headlined the festival on Friday night. Their claim to fame is the song “Meet in the Middle.” With the track’s release in 1991, the band became the first country group to have a debut single reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Tracks and Singles.

Accolades and awards aside, the two groups vary not just in genre but also nostalgia. Jasmine Kirby, a Masters student in library science, said she was unaware Smash Mouth was still touring.

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Kirby continued to joke about her excitement for their cover of The Monkees’ song, “I’m a Believer.”

“I didn’t think they were still alive. But now, I’m a believer,” Kirby said.

Smash Mouth’s appearance in the soundtrack of “Shrek” in 2001 gave millennials a theme song for DreamWork’s belligerent green ogre.

The audience varied from families to college students alike, making for a wide age range and diverse group. Harwell’s behavior, such as inviting young women to come on stage and asking who in the audience enjoyed marijuana, led to the confusion over whether his abrupt exit was linked to substance abuse or a medical emergency.

Festival attendee Natalie Masis described the group as a “flash from the past” and said she intended to take in the positive energy and good vibes that the group brought to the fest.

Many of the college-age students dressed as Shrek or wore Hawaiian shirts to mimic the band’s laid-back style. However, the ties to a childhood movie meant that even some of Smash Mouth’s more popular songs, like “Walking on the Sun” didn’t get the same enthusiastic reaction.

Smash Mouth merges traditional rock and roll with specialized synth solos and shouted verses, creating an environment suited for dancing. Couples and friends appreciated the energy brought from California to Urbana.

To reminisce one’s childhood in a concert environment may seem like a satisfying gig, but to Smash Mouth, the creators of “Shrek” have blessed them with a recurring identity crisis.

The band was formed in San Jose, California and emerged in 1994, seven years prior to the release of Eddie Murphy and Mike Myer’s animated friendship. Spotify describes the group as a “novelty rock band,” a respectable word choice when touching on the subject of why they are remembered.

Only two songs by Smash Mouth are featured on the “Shrek” Soundtrack, and by default tied to an unreality where donkeys can talk and lords rule from step stools. Marcus Westbrook, a senior in the college of music, stopped his dancing to share his feelings towards the synthesized surf jams.

To paraphrase The Monkees from ’67 and then Smash Mouth from ’01, Westbrook sang, “I’m a believer, cause I’m in love.”

The band’s set was scheduled to end at 11 p.m., but the crowd started to dissipate shortly before. The one-and-a-half hour set was alsoshortened due to Harwell’s undisclosed medical incident.

“I’m a Believer” was about to transition to the final song, “All Star,” when Harwell sat onstage to rest. The rest of the band closed out the final song as roadies helped Harwell off stage.

Many members of the audience didn’t realize something was wrong until an ambulance left the scene and a Sweet Corn Festival volunteer announced that Smash Mouth wouldn’t have an encore.

Last summer at the Taste of Fort Collins in Colorado, Harwell was exited off stage, but not due to health reasons. Audience members threw slices of bread as the band stepped on stage, which prompted Harwell to cuss out his perpetrators who potentially turned a soundtrack into a swan song. Harwell, front man of a band who covered “Why Can’t We be Friends,” attempted to fight someone, insulted by the slices of bread.

The audience at the Sweet Corn Festival was more respectful, but the confusion in the final songs and Harwell’s situation left the crowd on a sour note.

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