Don’t miss out on the best part of UI: The music scene

Peter Hoffman

By Brian McGovern

As a new student on campus there are a few things you’ll learn pretty quickly. There’s a lot to do on campus, but many students remain ignorant to the best part of the Univesity experience. No silly rabbit, not Unofficial, the local music scene of course!

C-U has bred some influential and important bands in both the Independent music world and that of mainstream rock. R.E.O. Speedwagon? Former students, heck yeah! The indie label Polyvinyl Records, home of bands like Of Montreal, Rainer Maria and Mates of State, is based right here in Champaign as well.

The local scene really has something for everyone. If you’re a jazz fan, you can check out Zorba’s on Green Street every Thursday night at 9:30. Places like the Iron Post and Cowboy Monkey also often act as hosts to great Jazz acts like Los Desfinados, Leah Meador Jazz Combo and the Boneyard Jazz Quintet.

Headlights became the poster child of C-U’s local scene last year. Signed to Polyvinyl, the group skyrocketed in success and was featured in Grey’s Anatomy and National Public Radio.

Due to their wild popularity the power pop band probably won’t be around as much this year but there are oodles of great acts still here, and plenty with the potential to be the next break out group.

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The Beauty Shop has had success in the UK and stands as my favorite area band. An angrier Wilco, a belligerent Beck, the alt-country trio is always a great act to see. Just as gritty and forceful as The Beauty Shop, The Living Blue pick up were The Kinks and The Animals left off and hold the title for Best Rock Act at last year’s Local Music Awards.

If you’re way too indie to stomach British-Invasion revival bands and neo-country acts, there’s always The Chemicals, a brilliant four piece and kindred spirit to Stephen Malkmus. If you’re way way too indie, your place is the Red Herring, just east of the quad or the Independent Media Center in Urbana. Blanketarms, the ukulele/ glockenspiel duo, plays some of the best pop songs you’ll ever hear in the Herring’s basement.

With free shows weekly at Joe’s Brewery and White Horse Inn and real cheap shows at the Illini Union and The Canopy Club, there’s constantly great music under your nose. Lorenzo Goetz, the premiere local act (think Lucky Boys but with artistic integrity) even played a set of shows on one of the campus buses.

The best thing to do though is to check out and for info on the area bands and the venues. Educate yourself with research and experimentation. The results will be delicious … musically delicious.