Local talent compliments ELLNORA through pre-festival events

The Champaign-Urbana community hosts a thriving music scene, and this week its musicians will be celebrated in pre-ELLNORA festival events.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts will host Local Heroes Night, a free pre-festival concert showcasing local musicians of varying genres and talent, in Krannert’s lobby.

“It’s a great opportunity to get a quick overview of the C-U music scene,” said Tim Donaldson, curator of the Local Heroes Night lineup. “It’s a way to see a little bit of everything the C-U has to offer and an example of different genres and diversity within the music scene here.”

Donaldson and his blues-rock band, Timmy D and Blind Justice, are veterans in the local music community, having performed at the ELLNORA festival two years ago.

“Tim has been part of the Krannert Center family for a long time and is a wonderful supporter and enthusiast of ELLNORA and a talented collaborator,” said Bridget Lee-Calfas, advertising and publicity director of Krannert. “He was an obvious choice this year to curate the lineup and headline the performance.”

Lee-Calfas said the C-U community is so fortunate to have a long-standing and vibrant local music scene. The Local Heroes Night is about celebrating that element of the community and sharing it with the national platform they receive because of the festival.

“Local musicians have always been an essential part of ELLNORA, so we’re glad to continue that tradition,” she said.

Donaldson said he thinks that instead of ELLNORA having an impact on the music scene in Champaign-Urbana, it has just enhanced it.

“The music scene in C-U is extremely vibrant,“ Donaldson said. “There are tons of venues, tons of bands and there’s live music every night somewhere. The live music scene is a huge deal and ELLNORA compliments that nicely.”

Michael Carpenter, guitartist and vocalist in Decadents, is one of the local musicians Donaldson recruited to perform at the pre-festival events.

“I have not been to ELLNORA before, so opening for them is quite an introduction to it,” Carpenter said. “It’s not like I opened for Buddy Guy, but years down the road I’ll be able to tell my grandkids that I played in the same festival as him, and that is so cool.”

Carpenter said it is an honor to open for ELLNORA and to be in the same lineup as so many local artists who have been around the community for so long.

“For someone like me, it’s especially cool because I’m still an apprentice,” Carpenter said. “With local musicians, there are people going to be on that stage who have been around this area forever that are incredibly talented. So to be asked to do a couple of our own songs at this thing is validation of some sorts and it shows that this music scene is cross-generational.“

Carpenter mentioned that the drummer in his band is Ben Donaldson, the son of Tim Donaldson and the drummer of Timmy D and Blind Justice. He added that no rivalry exists between the groups, but rather they are a testament to the cross-generational and open music scene that can be found in the Champaign-Urbana community.

“Festivals like ELLNORA and gigs like Local Heroes Night fosters the abundance of musicians we have in the area because it is such a receptive community for musicians and live music,” Donaldson said. “I think the music scene itself helps foster new and younger musicians.”

Donaldson said Local Heroes Night is a great community event that will bring all the artists together to perform for the community and work together as a fellowship.

Following Local Heroes Night, the Art Theater Co-Op in downtown Champaign will screen a documentary called “Out of Nowhere: The Champaign Music Scene” on Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Both the concert and the movie screening are complements to ELLNORA and will set the tone for the rest of the festival.

Spanning from the 1960s to the present, the film chronicles the C-U music community, includes rare performance footage and features exclusive, on-camera interviews with local musicians. The documentary was directed by Bob Zimmerman.

“It was a great match for the festival and we’re glad to partner with Bob and The Art Theater to present the film the night before the festival formally begins,” Lee-Calfas said.

Saher can be reached at [email protected]