The War on Drugs won a Grammy for Best Rock Album on Sunday. I might be a day or two late on posting about this, but I turned on A Deeper Understanding today and felt compelled to talk about it. It doesn't have a whole lot to do with our community, but I think it is worth pointing out when performers celebrated at a high level play a show nearby. Here is the full list of all the winners and nominees — and now I'm realizing that there are so, so many of them that have performed here.
SZA was all over the Grammys this year for her amazing album Ctrl — she performed in Champaign at the Highdive in 2014. Were you there?
We could go up and down about the relevance of the Grammys, and all that shit — but they still mean something, whether you like it or not. The War on Drugs beat out Metallica, Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age, and Nothing More in this category. That sounds like an underdog victory to me.
When I started putting this piece together, it began much differently than where it is now — I couldn't help but think about all of the connections artists that were involved in some way or the other with the Grammys, and how they were connected to Central Illinois.
Plenty of others nominated for this year's awards have performed in Champaign-Urbana (and nearby Bloomington) over the years (in addition to the afforementioned SZA and War on Drugs) — so here they are, in no particular order. Just listed:
- The National have performed a few times, notably ELLNORA 2009.
- Queens of the Stone Age performed at the Highdive in 2000, coming off of the release of Rated R.
- Tom Petty performed at State Farm Center last year, there was a tribute to him at this year's awards.
- Janelle Monae gave a powerful speech, she performed at PYGMALION 2010.
- Jay Z performed at what was then called the Assembly Hall in 2009.
- Sylvan Esso performed at PYGMALION 2015, and Nick Nick Sanborn is one portion of that band — he's the former bassist of Headlights, based here and signed to Polyvinyl and represented by Nicodemus Agency.
- Soundgarden performed way back in the day at Mabel's.
- Alison Krauss — well, there's such a laundry list of connections, but she was born in Decatur, and is incredibly decorated as far as the Grammys go.
- Arcade Fire performed at the Highdive in 2004, the venue was changed because this was such a high-demand show following the release of Funeral. They were scheduled to perform at Caffe Paradiso.
- Father John Misty sold out Foellinger Auditorium a few years back following his massively successful I Love You, Honeybear
- Mastodon performed at Canopy Club in 2010.
- ODESZA performed at Canopy Club in 2015, absolutely sold out.
- Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has performed here before, he had some things to say about this year's awards.
- Portugal. The Man have performed here a few times, once at the Canopy Club and recently at Castle Theatre in Bloomington. They won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance this year.
- Foo Fighters just played State Farm Center last year.
- As much as I hate to say this, The Chainsmokers performed at Canopy Club in 2015 — two sold out shows.
- Big Sean performed at ILLRock Block Party by Canopy Club in 2015.
- Alabama Shakes performed at the Virginia in 2015.
- Iron & Wine headlined PYGMALION 2009, performing at Krannert.
Certainly there are more ties but this is just one article. This place just has such a rich history of live music, it is bonkers. What am I missing? I am surely missing something or someone. Point being is that there are dozens of shows each week here in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding communities, and most certainly, some artists propel into another realm of popularity. Some end up holding Grammys.
I couldn't help but think back about December. The War on Drugs performed in our neighboring city to Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington, at the Castle Theatre. I wrote a piece about it beforehand. The band hasn't just played that one time in Bloomington, but they played Mike N Molly's in 2011, and once before that at the Illini Union in 2009.
I know the bookends to this article have been the War on Drugs, so we'll round it out. Don't sleep on Lo Moon either, they are incredible.
An Ocean in Between the Waves
Accidentally Like a Martyr (Warren Zevon cover)
Nothing to Find
Thinking of a Place
Under the Pressure
Both photos are mine.