How to get involved in Champaign’s music scene
May 25, 2016
Champaign-Urbana has long been known for its vibrant music scene. Since REO Speedwagon’s formation here in 1967 (fun fact: there’s a street called REO Speedwagon Way in downtown Champaign), the town has churned out other nationally known acts like Hum, American Football, Braid and Poster Children. Beyond the big names to come out of the town lies an active, diverse and ever-evolving local music community.
Getting involved in an established music scene can be daunting. Even if you’re not interested in starting a band and playing shows yourself, just attending a concert at an unknown venue might be a little nerve-wracking. If you’re interested in local music but aren’t sure how to get involved, here are three tips for getting started.
Join the “Champaign Area Shows” Facebook group.
This is your gateway into the local music scene. If you’re new and don’t have any friends in town involved with the scene, this group will help keep you updated on every show that’s happening in C-U, from big hip-hop and EDM shows at larger bars and clubs to small punk shows in someone’s basement. Plus, at over four thousand members, it’s the perfect place to network with local musicians if you’re looking to start a band.
For the uninitiated, Bandcamp is a website musicians use to stream and sell their releases. It’s by far the easiest way to access and purchase local music short of going into one of the three record stores in town. Simply search “Champaign” into the search bar, and you’ll have thousands of local releases at your fingertips.
Know your local venues.
Just as the sound of the local scene is always changing, venues are constantly changing, too. Just within the past year, See You CD & Vinyl stopped putting on shows, DIY basement venue the Dingbat Dungeon held its last show and beloved bar Mike N Molly’s closed its doors. As of right now, though, here are some of the places where you can regularly catch shows
- The Accord – 51 E Main St. in downtown Champaign. Formerly known as the Highdive, the Accord has recently hosted big-name acts like Thurston Moore, Titus Andronicus, La Sera, Guided by Voices, Kurt Vile and more – all since January. Ages 19+.
- Cowboy Monkey – 6 Taylor St. in downtown Champaign. This bar hosts a wide variety of local acoustic, hip-hop and rock acts as well as occasional open mics and comedy showcases. Ages 19+.
- The Canopy Club – 708 S Goodwin Ave. in Urbana. Located right in the heart of campus, the Canopy Club is the place to be for all things hip-hop, EDM and jam bands. Ages 18+.
- The City Center – 505 S Chestnut St. in Champaign. Fat City Bar and Grill’s music venue, the City Center, is relatively new but it’s already established itself as the leading venue for country and folk acts. Age restriction for shows varies.
- Institute 4 Creativity – 111 S. Walnut St. in downtown Champaign. This art space books local shows of all kinds – drone, hardcore, punk, sludge, metal, folk, rap and more. Most shows are all-ages, but some occasionally have age restrictions.
- Independent Media Center – 202 S. Broadway Ave. in downtown Urbana. This venue is one to watch for the upcoming year. Having been largely inactive over the past few years, the IMC was once a major player in the local music scene. Now, the local community is looking to revive it with regular all-ages shows. Should things go as planned for the venue, the IMC could very well become a hub for local music once more. Shows are for all-ages.
Once you’ve connected with the community online, listened to local bands and know where the venues are – you’re all set to get involved in local music. If you can’t find any shows that interest you, try checking out this year’s Pygmalion Festival, which is a great way to see some local acts while still catching big-name bands.
Christine is a Junior in LAS