Friend. Daughter. Teacher. Activist. Leader. Hero - just a few of the many words that have been used to describe Angie Heaton, who tragically passed away in late 2020 due to cancer.

Heaton played in many bands throughout Champaign-Urbana, including Dottie and the 'Rail, Liquorette, and Corndolly, but she is well known for her solo work with Angie Heaton and the Gentle Tamers. Heaton seamlessly blended rock, folk, country, punk, and more into her original songs, which often showcased her sense of humor and personality.

On Sunday, June 5th, Urbana’s Rose Bowl Tavern will host a tribute show for Heaton, with performances from a large lineup of Heaton’s friends and family members performing her songs. The show is organized by Aimee Rickman, who worked with Heaton through GirlZone, an organization that offered female-led workshops to local girls and young women - Heaton was the core drum instructor there. Rickman was also a bandmate of Heaton’s in Dottie and the ‘Rail.

Image from Rose Bowl Tavern's Facebook page. 

“Angie was a pillar of the Champaign-Urbana music community,” says Rickman. “Angie was also a humble yet seismically impactful leader for so many others, providing a strong role model for girls and women to put their thoughts to music, to find their way to the spotlight, and to see someone like them as comfortably taking center stage in their own town.”

With everyone I have talked to about Angie Heaton, all have incredibly positive things to say about her. It’s incredibly clear that she made quite the impact in her time here.

“Angie was a great friend and human,” says Nicholas Stine, one of Heaton’s close friends and member of her later backing band The Fights. “When I first moved to town in maybe '09 she worked at Parasol Records. My friends and I found a couple 7-inches of her old band Corndolly from the 90s and were really into it. A few years later, I'd seen Angie play with a couple iterations of her group The Gentle Tamers and was a huge fan. The shows were one of a kind. She brought together townie & student crowds, punks & rural folks, straight & queer people, and all of them laughing together as Angie would engage in some (mildly crass) banter.”

Image from Hootenangie's Youtube channel.

Heaton was an open and proud member of the LGBTQ community. “She was one of the first openly lesbian musicians in C-U, and she stood strong in leading with love and in claiming who she was despite normalized heteroprejudice, homophobia, and hate,” mentions Rickman. “She made Urbana a better place through her music, her spirit, her wit, her welcome, and her magical presence.”

The show on Sunday will feature many artists who knew Heaton closely. One of those performers is Kurt Bielema, who played in her band The Gentle Tamers.

“I met Angie when I was 16, and we were roommates during my 20s — which is also the time I played in her band, The Gentle Tamers,” says Bielema. “The thing about Angie is she was many things to many people. To me, she was music and personal growth. Today, it’s so normal to talk about mental health, but back in the 90s there was still a lot of stigma around self help. Angie was the first friend I had that talked openly about therapy, what she learned to help herself, and what she knew to help other people. I’m a better musician because of Angie Heaton, and also a better person.”

Bielema gathered some friends together to play with him on Sunday. “I pulled a band together just for the event (Rebecca Rury on drums, Tom Duggan on bass), and it’s going to be awesome to rock her songs at the end of the night.”

“She will be sorely missed and remembered fondly as a trailblazer in the community,” continues Stine. “Especially for making space for women and LGBTQ folks to feel more welcome in the music scene.”

I didn’t personally know Angie Heaton, but through the shared love and community I have seen around her, I feel as though she’s touched me as well. When talking with those that knew her, it’s so apparent how much of a loving and kind soul she was. Heaton is a reminder that each and every one of us has the power to brighten the lives of those around us just by being our true and authentic selves.

Performers on Sunday include The Gentle Tamers, Matt Talbott, Motes, Sweetmelk, Paul Kotheimer, and many more. Heaton's father will also perform a song as well. 

The tribute show is on Sunday, June 5th at Rose Bowl Tavern. There is no cover charge, but donations are encouraged to help cover the cost of sound equipment. Additonally, leftover donations will go to Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and The UP Center in Angie Heaton's name. Rickman also has a petition to name a street in Urbana after Heaton, which you can find more information about here. Check out the poster for the event below.

Poster by Anni Poppen.
Top image from Hootenangie's Youtube channel.