An audio adventure: A guide to C-U music venues

By Lillian Barkley

The University’s music scene is an auditory oasis in a desert of corn. It may come as a surprise that the area brings the best bands south of Chicago, but acts of all genres and sizes play throughout the year.

There’s no harm to staying in your dorm and listening to your favorite band through headphones, but you could also explore the area and gain some new favorite artists in the process.

On Campus

The Canopy Club, 708 S. Goodwin Ave., offers a variety of acts including – but not at all limited to – EDM, folk, tribute bands and pop. It’s small enough to have a good view of the stage from anywhere in the room.

If you’re used to seeing larger acts from the back of the pit, Canopy Club’s shorter lines make it easier to be close enough to see the sweat on your favorite artist’s face.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

House shows, while not a static venue, are an amazing way to see local acts. Shows may only be advertised by word-of-mouth or on flyers, but keeping your ears and eyes open can lead to some amazing experiences.

The most talked-about show from last semester was The Orwells, who performed at a secret location. Fans had to riddle out the details, then get tickets.

For classical and world music fans, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts features numerous acts from around the world throughout the year, as well as the Ellnora Guitar Festival in September.

Krannert also has “Hot Seats” and University student pricing, making it an affordable way to hear some of your favorites.

Foellinger Auditorium is one of the largest lecture halls on campus, but it also makes a great stage for acts such as Hoodie Allen, Mac DeMarco, ILoveMckonnen, and Bo Burnham.


University students shouldn’t be afraid to wander away from Campustown to take advantage of venues in downtown Champaign. As a disclaimer, many of these venues are bars first and foremost, so concertgoers under 19 should always check the age requirement beforehand.

Cowboy Monkey is tucked away at 6 Taylor St. and has something for everyone. The stage is small with a long and narrow pit that leads to sprawling outdoor seating.

The set-up is a favorite of Champaign-Urbana sweethearts Elsinore, who broke their six-month hiatus on Cowboy Monkey’s stage on April 17.

The bar also has events every weekday, including trivia night, open mic, and tango.

Mike ‘N’ Molly’s at 105 N. Market St. markets itself as a bar more than a music venue, touting a large beer garden and a variety of themed karaoke nights. It still books enough local acts, like Tara Terra and That’s No Moon, to earn its place.

The Highdive, 51 E. Main St., is on honorary REO Speedwagon Way, a telling nod to Champaign’s musical history.

The venue primarily features indie rock and hosts high-profile acts from the Pygmalion Festival Series.


What is the Pygmalion Festival, you ask? It’s the area’s largest music festival, incorporating dozens of stages and bringing in acts like CHVRCHES, Best Coast, Major Lazer, and many more since beginning in 2005.

As with any music festival, tickets can be pricey – a basic music pass is $85 plus fees – but the lineup and atmosphere are worth the investment.

The festival also includes authors, crafters, and technology panels through the weekend of September 25.

The CU Folk and Roots Festival is younger than Pygmalion, entering its seventh year. On November 6 and 7, the festival will host music styles ranging from Americana to zydeco.

A festival wristband is $30, but bands will also host free jams and song-circles.

Lillian is a sophomore in Media.

[email protected]