The music scene here in C-U is ever evolving. Each year, bands form and split; house venues come and go; bookers push the boundaries and get some phenomenal bands to come through central Illinois, and those bands are often surprised with the turnout and appreciation they get here; festivals take place; spectacles occur — the only thing we can be sure of is that we won’t be disappointed — at least I never am. Looking back on the sheer amount and diversity of shows I’ve seen over the past year, it wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just a few. These, however are the shows that left the greatest impact on me (and in some cases, SP’s Managing Editor and former Music Editor, Patrick Singer, as well as some readers and writers per their submissions) in terms my impression of C-U as a uniquely musical town. — Maddie Rehayem


NOISE SHOWS 2014

It’s a privilege to have any sort of noise scene at all in your town, and C-U surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly) has a decent one. People come out and truly appreciate it, and because of the support noise has here, there have been some pretty cool noise shows this past year.

BREAKDANCING RONALD REAGAN @ THEE DEATHTOWER — JANUARY 8

The crowd was pretty thin, but the people who were there got to see a Houston noise artist who goes by Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, take power tool to a metal table, sparks flying through the room releasing toxic fumes on everyone. And Secular Edict played this show too — also a treat. (MR)


Aporia, photo by Maddie Rehayem

APORIA @ ERROR RECORDS — JANUARY 26

This was a hybrid art show and noise show. Turns out the two go really well together, but nobody’s ever doubted that. Springfield noise project Aporia brought a mic’d cinder block to the stage to smash with a hammer in the finale of their set, making it a cross between sound and performance art itself. (MR)


Mike Ingram & Abnormous, photo by Eric Frahm

MIKE INGRAM & ABNORMOUS AS JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE @ THE HIGHDIVE — JANUARY 17

OK — sure, this is a column about live concerts for bands performing original music, mostly. That’s fine with us. But The Great Cover Up is one of those annual events that gets our attention, as well as the rest of the community that gives a damn about local music and generally having a good time. Mike Ingram & abnormous performed as Justin Timberlake for this year’s Cover Up, and it was one that had people talking for quite some time after the fact. This isn't to say that this doesn’t happen from time to time, but Ingram & Co. had a set that resonated. They brought sexy back, people. (PS)


Photo by Maddie Rehayem

DINGBAT DUNGEON 2014

If I was going to give a prize to the best house venue of 2014, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it Dingbat Dungeon. The basement has been host to so many killer hardcore shows in the past year, it’s hard for me to just pick one or two. So, I’ll just recap some of my favorite sets here.

ANOMALY — FEBRUARY 28

This band’s existence was an explosive, short-lived flash in the pan, similar to what it was like to see them play in Urbana. They were a queer punk band from Chicago—something that doesn’t really exist down here, so it was really cool to see the local punks come out and slam in their support. (MR)

THE BUG — JULY 29

As a brand-spanking-new Chicago hardcore band, The Bug made it down to Urbana to play with Texas’ American Hate. Former C-U punk Greg Clow (Laughboy, many others) plays bass in this band, so I knew they’d be some kind of good. Their chaotic hardcore set was out of control and definitely the highlight of the night. (MR)

MYSTIC INANE — AUGUST 28

You don’t hear much about the punk scene in New Orleans, but if the rest of NOLA’s bands are anything like Mystic Inane, it’s probably pretty insane. I left this show with a bloody nose and subsequent hangover but I wouldn’t change a thing. (MR)

SLOTHS — SEPTEMBER 4

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Dungeon as packed as it was for Springfield’s King Worm, Slam Dinner and Portland’s Sloths and they weren’t just standing around either. Best mosh pit 2014. (MR)


Sloths, photo by Maddie Rehayem

SON LUX, LEVERAGE MODELS @ MIKE ‘N MOLLY’S — MARCH 26

Ryan Lott had a huge 2014. His project, Son Lux, was on top of its game, and he brought his Lanterns and Alternate Worlds to the cozy space in the upstairs of Mike ‘N Molly’s to showcase it all. Not to mention how great Leverage Models were. This was one of the more memorable shows to happen earlier this year at Mike ‘N Molly’s. (PS)


Phantogram, photo by Justine Bursoni

PHANTOGRAM @ THE VIRGINA THEATRE — APRIL 9 

Hat’s off to Star Course this year, as they proved that they could pull some serious talent into C-U both Spring semester and Fall. This is totally a compliment, as a healthy Star Course booking team makes for a cool component added into the mix in our community. The first show that I was thrilled to see this year was Phantogram, let alone them bringing them to the Virginia Theatre post-renovations. Any excuse to get a cool indie rock show within those walls is worth going after. Considering my mind was blown a few years ago seeing Phantogram open for The Antlers at the Canopy Club, another show following the release of this year’s Voices was a welcomed attraction. The mix of the new tunes with the still-stellar Eyelid Movies material boded well with us. Now, can we just drink booze in the Virginia, please? Student run show, sure, there are some things to consider there with the University’s involvement, but still — we’re adults here, right? (PS)


Tenement, photo by Sean O'Connor

SKELETAL LIGHTNING FEST — APRIL 11-13

It was awesome to see C-U’s own DIY fest Skeletal Lightning come back for a second year — and was bigger and better than ever. Error Records’ former Neil Street location hosted a sold out night one featuring Weekend Nachos (never a disappointment) and a slew of other heavy bands, including Thou and one of my personal favorite sets of the weekend, Angry Gods. The next two days at the IMC were long and packed with plenty of scr(emo), although the highlight of the whole festival, for me anyway (lots of people had left by this time), was Tenement making their first ever C-U appearance to close-out the fest. From our neighboring Midwestern state of Wisconsin, I’m surprised they never played here before, but their tight-as-hell set just about made up for that. (MR)

DANNY BROWN @ THE CANOPY CLUB — APRIL 24

Since the release of his XXX mixtape in 2012, it’s only been uphill for Danny Brown. He’s big with the college kids, so a stop at Canopy Club on his tour last year must have been a no brainer. He played all the crowd-favorites, reaffirming his place as a rap weirdo turned star. (MR)


Lydia Loveless, photo by Brian Paris.

LYDIA LOVELESS @ ROSE BOWL TAVERN — APRIL 26

2014 was a pretty big year for Bloodshot Records' Lydia Loveless. An acclaimed album, a sizeable tour, and plenty of publicity propelled her into the spotlight. Fortunately for us, she's played in and enjoyed the Rose Bowl Tavern in the past and decided to make her way back to Urbana in April. If the show wasn't sold out, it was damn close. Loveless and her band rattled off alt-country tunes that pleased a crowd amped up on cold beer on a chilly spring evening. Notable highlights from the show were Loveless covering Katy Perry during the encore and the band having a gigantic cooler of beer on stage with them. This was the perfect set for a beautiful dive like the Rose Bowl. (TP)

CHAIN'S GANG @ FIGURE ONE ART GALLERY — APRIL 26

An unorthodox place for a punk show, but a punk show it was. An event simply titled "Punk Show," this was one of the final shows for local hardcore delinquents Chain’s Gang, and they embraced the opportunity to become a living part of an art exhibit by Sean Tierney and William Blake at the Figure One gallery in Downtown Champaign. There were giant barrels (yes, barrels) getting thrown around, and there was swinging from chains (yes, chains) hung from the ceiling. A weird show for punks, but everyone seemed to have fun, no matter what they were expecting. (MR)

THE ILLIAC SPRING FESTIVAL @ DOWNTOWN URBANA — MAY 10

The ILLIAC Spring Festival took a couple of risks — weather and students. When hosting any outdoor event, you run the risk of getting poured on. With a date like May 10th, the students are still around, but in finals mode. Thankfully, the weather was amazing, and students and C-U community members alike came out to enjoy what was a completely full day of live music in the middle of Downtown Urbana. Those Darlins and Their / They’re / Their were the main grabs, and were terrific on their own, but the locals mixed in were almost worth talking about more. Sun Stereo absolutely stole the show (with “show” emphasized there to the utmost amount) — flaunting their stage presence that has given them the reputation as one of, if not, the best live band in town. Bones Jugs N Harmony? Please, they were great in the hot afternoon sun. They embrace their style and make people dance, which is great. (PS)

PELICAN, NOTHING @ THE HIGHDIVE — MAY 17

In a twist of fate, the Pygmalion Festival Show Series featured a ton of great metal/hard rock shows throughout 2014. Pallbearer, The Black Dahlia Murder, Weedeater all performed in Show Series installments — not to mention Deafheaven, Earth and Liturgy at the festival in September. However, as one of the shows that stood alone, Pelican and Nothing absolutely brought the house down at the Highdive with their own blends of metal, shoegaze and post-rock. Openers Nothing poured on with tracks from Guilty of Nothing, and all was great in the world. It felt similar to the energy that took over the Highdive last year during the Baroness performance.  

Plus, something like this is pretty neat. (PS)

HANK., ANIMALS IN HUMAN ATTIRE, WOODIE @ MIKE 'N MOLLY'S — JULY 5

It really isn’t a secret that Hank. was one of our favorite local bands for quite some time, and had an especially good year in 2013. They called it quits earlier this year, as members moved on to other projects (and states, even). Some projects formed out of that fallout (Resinater, Daukis, and ZXO, in particular), but this show was one to close the books on Hank.’s presence in the C-U music scene. You know this was a good one if you had the chance to see it. (PS)

 

 


Braid, photo by Chris D. Davies

MARIPOSA FESTIVAL @ DOWNTOWN CHAMPAIGN — JULY 12

Braid was BACK in 2014, folks. The release of No Coast had just happened at the time Mariposa occured, their first proper full-length release since their legendary Frame & Canvas that resonated and influenced musicians and music consumers for years and years. In July, they were the main act for Champaign Park District’s Mariposa Festival — which took place right smack dab in the heart of Downtown Champaign. Braid was joined by PHOX, a serious C-U favorite that continues to grow their fan base in this community, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Cornmeal, as well as Common Loon and a bunch of others on the streets of Champaign for the day and into the evening. Those other performances aside — Braid was absolutely on point, infusing those No Coast tracks with their previous material, and everything felt right in the heart of Champaign for the night. Braid was home.

EDDIE MONEY @ URBANA SWEETCORN FESTIVAL — AUGUST 23 

The Urbana Sweetcorn Festival is such a terrific staple of Champaign-Urbana. It is hard to argue that other events in town have more roots in the soil than an event like this one does. It is very easy to overlook the music side of the event, considering all of the press that was brought on by, um, this. Though, after all, this is a Music article, and we will treat it as such. That said — Eddie fucking Money was in town for the night, and was all of the entertainment necessary we needed. Yes, you heard the things he said on stage, which added to the hilarity of it all, but let’s be real. It was Eddie Money on that stage — the same guy who cranked out a ton of hits that you still know and love, and you can’t help but sing in your head after reading this. The weather was great, and the bill fit perfectly for a celebration of Urbana, Illinois.


Photo by Mark Spomer

PHASES OF THE MOON FESTIVAL @ KENEKUK PARK — SEPTEMBER 11-14

A Bonnaroo-type festival in Central Illinois? Tell me more, please. As someone who has experienced Bonnaroo almost as many years as it has been in existence, this was a very interesting and cool thing to pop up around these parts. Phases of the Moon Festival brought in some seriously established talent — Widespread Panic, Leon Russell, Gov’t Mule, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and so many others. Even despite the hiccups getting into the festival, and some people running on the goddamn stage during a performance, this was a huge production with a lot of highlights.


Deafheaven, photo by Maddie Rehayem

THE PYGMALION FESTIVAL — SEPTEMBER 25-28

Where to even start with Pygmalion this year? As in past years, this year’s festival was a gorgeous display of C-U’s presence as a national or even global hub for music and culture in Illinois but also a place rich with local talent. Single Player ended up playing the second to last set on the big stage at Canopy Club due to their Red Herring show being relocated and nailed it. Acker played in the hot sun outside Exile on Main Street to a crowd of people, some of which I heard called it their favorite set of the whole fest. From Sun Kil Moon’s musically perfect but socially unsettling performance, in line with Mark Kozelek’s media presence lately, to Deafheaven (above) doing what they do best, all kinds of bands from all over the country descended on the many music venues of C-U, but the most special performance for many local attendees was the return of American Football — for their first show in 15 years — to the place where it all started for them. (MR)


CHVRCHES, photo by Chris D. Davies

Following a year where Pygmalion Festival went out and got Major Lazer to headliner the Saturday night of the festival — the crossover appeal moved a bit more towards the center with Scotland’s sweethearts CHVRCHES. Their set was filled with The Bones of What You Believe tracks that were even more vibrant filled with the lights and strobes that emphasize the synths and beats in their songs. Not only that — after their headlining performance, they headed over and did a full DJ set — complete with a video to prove how insane the room was at that point in time. People came to fucking party. Sure, Diplo brought the party to C-U, but this was something to rival that and Big Freedia in 2012. (PS) 

 

Highlight of our DJ set at Pygmalion ❤️��

A video posted by CHVRCHES (@chvrches) on

EARTH

The final show of Pygmalion was sludge metal band Earth at The Highdive. Sunday night (into the wee hours of Monday morning) the band played “some old shit, and some new shit” but it was all just a beautiful, continuously slow-tempo hypnotic blur — a sleepy but perfect way to end the fest. (MR)


Sharon Van Etten, photo by Patrick Singer

SHARON VAN ETTEN, TINY RUINS @ THE HIGHDIVE — OCTOBER 14

Just a mere couple of weeks after the Pygmalion Festival wrapped up, the lovely Sharon Van Etten brought her terrific Are We There release into the walls of the Highdive, performing it pretty much in its entirety to the few hundred that were there that night. It is one of those shows that you could hear a pin drop at certain points, while others would have raging guitars and keyboards to accompany her croon that could sweep you away. It was one of those shows that provided a gripping performance, while at the same time providing comic relief and stage banter from Van Etten that made everyone feel like they were on the same level for a bit. Her and her band have been experiencing arguably the most success of their careers, and she’s finishing the show by meeting every single person that wanted to say hello at the merch table afterwards. (PS)

BONES JUGS N HARMONY @ THE IRON POST — OCTOBER 17

We had several readers who submitted this as a highlight of the year, and I have no argument as to why it would not be included in a list like this one. Bones Jugs N Harmony’s Party’s in the Kitchen album release show took place at the Iron Post in Urbana, which is basically the band’s home spot, and for good reason. The band performed two sets that evening, and 2014 was a damn good year for them with the touring that they did, including highlights of ILLIAC and C-U Folk & Roots Fest appearances, as well as releasing their full-length debut. This band knows how it is done. (PS)

PALLBEARER, TOMBS, VATTNET VISKAR @ THE HIGHDIVE — OCTOBER 19

A trio of metal outfits took the stage on a Sunday night, and for a brief moment towards the middle of the show, it was uncertain whether or not Pallbearer was even going to be able to take the stage. Their van broke down, and they had to scramble to get to Champaign from their previous show. Backlining amps and drums from the previous outfits, the dudes in Pallbearer make it to the venue right before they were slotted to take the stage and didn't miss a beat. Their fantastic Foundations of Burden material sounded monsterous, as did Tombs (their most recent record is fantastic), and Vattnet Viskar, the openers. This doom metal arrived just in time this particular evening. (PS)


Mac DeMarco, photo by Kevin McMahon

MAC DEMARCO @ FOELLINGER AUDITORIUM — OCTOBER 29

Despite his growing fame, Mac DeMarco continues to do whatever he wants. In October, he wanted to play the Foellinger Auditorium stage solo for an intimate StarCourse show, then party the night away afterwards. Most of the people at the show stood at the front of the auditorium, abandoning their seats for a chance to offer Mac a beer they’d smuggled into the University of Illinois building. Fans sung along, and other fans tried to keep themselves from singing along, but in the end a good time was had by all. (MR)


Photo by Sam Logan

CU FOLK & ROOTS FESTIVAL @ KRANNERT CENTER + DOWNTOWN URBANA — NOVEMBER 6-8

The C-U Folk & Roots Festival is a prize to the community of Downtown Urbana, and C-U at large for that matter. Their style is a bit different, which makes the festival unique and worth experiencing. Sure, they wear what type of music they are booking on their sleeve, so to speak, but that is just the tip of the iceberg with the type of tunes they are bringing to the table. Dozens of performers and performances throughout the weekend, kicked off by Dom Flemons and Bones Jugs N Harmony at Krannert Center as an extension of the festival. Flemons had previously performed in Krannert Center with Carolina Chocolate Drops, and this time around, his performance was combined with a local band. Pretty crazy, and truly only something that could happen right here in C-U. The festival is organized by a few brave souls who devote a lot of time to making it happen for not much money, and a ton of volunteers. A definite highlight each year in Urbana. (PS)

50 YEAR STORM @ FIELDS FEST

I wasn’t expecting anything from Fields Fest (a showcase of Strawberry Fields (RIP) employee musicians) except for maybe some good music and good times, but this was the first time I’d ever seen the newish local band 50 Year Storm, and I frankly didn’t know what I was in for. The barely-audible vocals and the living room mosh that took out a potted aloe plant were more than OK with me. (MR)

All write ups by Maddie Rehayem, Patrick Singer, and Tom Pauly.