Q: Who are some of the local bands I shouldn’t miss?

Don’t let yourself be fooled into believing that there isn’t a niche for every musical taste in Champaign-Urbana.

From radio-friendly pop and buzz-worthy rock to powerful MCs and talented multi-instrumentalists, C-U is lucky to host an expansive, ever increasing musical family.

The following list represents only a small portion of what is to be found from local musical acts of multiple genres.


Prominent veterans of the C-U music arena, Elsinore have the experience of multiple out-of-state tours and a heavy in-town track record to support their positive indie-rock vibes.

After several years on the more acoustic side of rock, the band has worked on appealing to a heavier, hook-hungry crowd, turning up the amplifiers with tracks like “The General” and “Chemicals.” Check out the five-piece at just about any venue in Champaign-Urbana—and don’t miss lead singer/guitarist Ryan Groff’s solo work in the same vein.

Curb Service/DJ LEGTWO

Pulling in-town double-duty, Larry Gates is the mastermind behind both quick-witted, sharp-tongued pop act Curb Service and resident turntable mastery as DJ LEGTWO. Between the two, it’s nearly impossible to miss Gates as he often takes the stage multiple nights a week as either act.

With weekly alternative magazine the buzz citing Curb Service’s Fly Casual as the number one local release of 2008, it’s hard to deny the sheer amount of love C-U has for Mr. Gates.

Boneyard Jazz Quintet

Just as, if not more, active than the rock scene in C-U is the nuturing jazz arena. With venues like the Iron Post and Zorbas hosting weekly events for the likes of everyone from Chip McNeill and Woody Woodward, to Jim Pugh and Glenn Wilson, the Boneyard Jazz Quintet is just one of the standout groups providing more than a hint of brass.

Named after a local creek, the men of Boneyard are a contributing factor to a continued praise of artistic legends Duke Ellington and Miles Davis.

The Impalas

Between the powerful vocals of Dawna Nelson and driving guitar of Bruce “Bruiser” Rummenie, the Impalas are in need of little introduction to those already in C-U.

Proponents of towing the line between traditional rock and Southern-tinged blues, the Impalas can often be found entertaining crowds and providing a sassy soundtrack for downtown venues like Bentley’s Pub.


With such a unique hip-hop scene in town, it’s hard to cite just one act to serve as a starting point for the incoming population.

Focused upon the electronic music/DJ culture of C-U, 217Mafia hosts multiple monthly events from the Dubstep Massacres at the Cowboy Monkey, to residencies at local venues and bars, be prepared for late night mixes and a solid crew of DJs to familiarize yourself with.

Currently, Wednesday nights find everything from indie rock dance parties at the Canopy Club to Top 40 jams at Chester Street and ’90s at Soma.

Mhondoro Rhythm Success

Meaning “spirit of a lion” in Shona, Mhondoro Rhythm Success is one of the most recognizable local acts focused upon the art of world music.

The six-piece group fuses traditional Zimbabwean rhythms with current themes and utilizing African instruments like the djembe.

Mhondoro’s sound can best be likened to the popular Thomas Mapfumo or the Bhunu Boys, delivering a highly entertaining, worldly experience. Their energy (and not to mention excellent dancing) is contagious and a must-see among the rich culture of C-U.

From Elsinore to Mhondoro Rhythm Success and everything in between, Champaign-Urbana is a bustling ground of eclectic musical backgrounds.