Most of the time, the witnessing a live performance is all about individual experience. After participating and living through a year of live music here in Champaign-Urbana, there are just too many great shows to keep track of. Certainly, we can't be at every single show, hence, why we ask for reader input on these sorts of polls. We do our very best to recount the year every December, and just looking back at 2013, it was a dandy.
Instead of ranking like SP has done in year's past for these live shows, I've put them in chronological order for the enjoyment or dismay of readers. Take a look, and let us know what your thoughts are. You might be thinking: Where are shows at Cowboy Monkey that happened? Error Records? The Clark Bar? State Farm Center? The Virginia Theater? That happens. That's how votes come in, too. Tell us your favorites. We're always up for hearing more.
We'll have our list of songs and albums later in the week, so stay tuned.
PHOX, GRANDKIDS, MINOR CHARACTERS, COLD FRONTS @ MIKE 'N MOLLY'S FOR MXMW — MARCH 7
An outstanding local outfit in Grandkids was on the brink of being released locally (actually, it's digital release was this night), and they were joined by a pretty impressive crew this night in March. PHOX is an obvious headliner, but Grandkids and their tour kickoff and Timeshare unveiling was the story this night.
There were a handful of votes for this show, and it makes a lot of sense why this stuck out to people back in the early portion of 2013. Mid By Midwest is what they called it, as these bands were venturing down to South By Southwest in Austin for a grueling month of March in the indie rock music world.
Hopefully, this can be an annual event, as there have been attempts in the past that haven't lived on.
SKELETAL LIGHTNING FEST @ CHANNING MURRAY / RED HERRING — APRIL 5-6
A midwest DIY extravaganza took place right here in the heart of Central Illinois, and part of it was literally underground (thank you, Red Herring). Dozens of bands from across the midwest came in and conquered, in one hell of a curation of a music festival. It's impossible to pick out one show, as they were all happening all day and into the night on both April 5th and 6th. We're gearing up for round 2 next April, which will expand to three days and more venues. For a single music festival, let alone one in the very first year of existence, holy shit.
HANK., PISCES AT THE ANIMAL FAIR, THUNDERTRUCK @ MIKE 'N MOLLY'S — JULY 27
An album release show to not fuck with was this show, as Brendan summed up the night as perfectly as he could have. A mid-Summer in C-U in the best beergarden in town, performing one of the best local rock albums that's come out in quite some time, this was Hank.'s way of turning it up this summer.
KOWABUNGA! KID, LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS, GNARGOYLE, WOLF LUV @ PARKING GARAGE — AUGUST 4
We had a handful of votes come through for this show, and even though we didn't attend, it looks like it was worthwhile. Taking place in a parking garage in Urbana, this is about as off the beaten path as you can get here in C-U as far as live shows go. It's worth the mention on our list, and for the bunch that voted for it, they can comment and attest to that fact.
BARONESS, ROYAL THUNDER @ THE HIGHDIVE — AUGUST 17
Crowd surfers at the Highdive: It was something I hadn't seen in a long, long time, or had even expected to see the night sludge metal/melodic rockers Baroness came through C-U. They were met with a packed Friday night house, and as their photo on their Facebook page agreed: "Champaign jam" is right. They joined the likes of some of the great rock bands to perform on that very stage that night, no doubt. Their set came exactly a year after the horrific bus accident they were a part of in Europe, and they've clearly recovered as best as they could, surging through their set that night.
ELLNORA GUITAR FESTIVAL @ KRANNERT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS — SEPTEMBER 5-7
A world-class music festival happens in Champaign-Urbana's own world-class facility in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and ELLNORA 2013 was something to behold. Dozens of shows happening in a variety of different venues provided by KCPA, we have to tip our cap to those folks. Bringing J. Spaceman, Buddy Guy, Kaki King, Lucina Williams, Zappa Plays Zappa, Buke and Gase, and all the others that were on the bill—whoa. It was pretty incredible, and to pick out one individual performance is difficult, so, we won't. Buddy Guy sums it up pretty well:
Sunday night shows can have their ups and downs, but there's always a risk of the show being underattended. A Sunday night show lead this to take place in the Void Room of the Canopy Club, and the room was packed this night, as Patrick Stickles and the rest of his crew, Titus Andronicus, stormed through. The glory of Stickles wearing a Titus Andronicus shirt was enough to know this was going to be a real treat. I hear the opening licks of "Start Me Up" by the Roling Stones, I look over at my friends, and burst out into laughter at how incredible and unexpected that portion was. Churning through tracks from their masterpiece The Monitor and their most recent Local Business release, they were there to take care of business, and did just that. Many, many beers were held in the air this night.
METZ, HANK., THE STARS, THEY BECKON @ PYGMALION MUSIC FESTIVAL + URBANA-CHAMPAIGN INDEPENDENT MEDIA CENTER — SEPTEMBER 27
"METZ just won Pygmalion" was the word late Friday night of Pygmalion Music Festival 2013, as they took on the IMC in Urbana up against some heavy-hitters like Kurt Vile and Breeders that night. A perfect grouping of The Stars, They Beckon and Hank., a couple of the best punk bands in town, Canada's finest were out in Urbana that night, as METZ brough the house down. As if you need evidence:
Despite any obstacles that might appear during Pygmalion, things seem to work themselves out one way or the other. A bit of rain started to come down on Saturday night right before Major Lazer took the stage, the Pygmalion 2013 headliner, and that seemed to be the least of the issues that night that the crew and bands overcame. The generator blowing out during Little Green Cars' set lead them to an intimate acoustic set within the crowd, the shuffling of schedules between Youth Lagoon/Dessa/Kishi Bashi happened to fall into place, and it proves that even on the move, Saturday at Pygmalion continues to be one of the best days in C-U music all year. Hell, add a full-sized Major Lazer costume appearance by one of our former Music Editors Cody Caudill dancing on stage? Money.
NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, ELF POWER @ THE CANOPY CLUB — OCTOBER 15
This was one of those shows that people envision in Champaign-Urbana, but never actually imagine that can actually get booked here. When that day became a realty, as it was announced back in May, C-U's collective jaw hit the floor. The seemingly unreachable Neutral Milk Hotel came to Urbana, and performed in front of a crowd that had pictured this show in their heads for a very long time. Tickets for the show literally sold out instantly, so if you were in the building, either you're very lucky, or... yeah, you were just very lucky.
Without a doubt, the expectation was to hear In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in nearly it's entirety, but the splashes of greatness within those tracks, and those that surrounded it, were pretty surreal. The encore was simply perfect, closing with "Two Headed Boy, Part Two" and "Engine", it was a magical night, and it wasn't just in our heads. It was reality.
HUM, WITHERSHINS @ THE VELVET ELVIS — NOVEMBER 16
The secret was being spread, which in turn, makes it less of a secret after enough people know about it. The almighty HUM were going to play a show at the Velvet Elvis (RIP), and it was quite the commotion. I almost didn't get into the show at all because of capacity issues, but the Velvis was buzzing louder than any night I've ever been there. Withershins were the ideal partner for this show, as they scurried through their scuzzed set prior to HUM.
As HUM took the "stage", which was, well, the same floor everyone else was standing on. Obviously, the Velvet Elvis was pretty DIY in that sense—leveling the seperation between the audience and those performing. It was a powerful scene, standing a few feet away from those guys as they ripped through a non-"hits" filled set. No "Green to Me" or "Stars"—as it should have been. The highlight was a blistering version of "I Like Your Hair Long", which was just about as intense as it could have been, as well as "I Hate It Too", where I thought at a couple points Talbott was going to stomp his foot through the floor. These once-a-year HUM shows are always a treat and overwhelmingly embraced by the C-U music community, and this was a testament to that. The word was out that night, and it was glorious.