Live Music Hot Spots

With the University of Illinois attracting musicians to Champaign–Urbana, our local music scene is thriving, with opportunities to catch both local and touring acts in intimate settings all year long. We talked with our venues on what you can see and when.


Rose Bowl Tavern —New owners at this long-time establishment—Charlie, Marten, and Sam—are all musicians themselves and are committed to creating a space that is inviting for both the performers and for the community. Revamping the stage and sound system will allow for more acts to play, and more craft beer options—such as kegs rolled over from 25 O’Clock Brewery across the street—will offer more beverage options to patrons. But it’s the vibe of the Rose Bowl Tavern that will keep people coming back. As the Home of Country Music for decades in Urbana, the owners are committed to keeping that legacy alive. While they’ve featured everything from bluegrass, blues, funk, soul, Americana, klezmer, Cajun, rockabilly, swing, karaoke, and DJ’s to alt-country, outlaw-country, honky-tonk, western swing, classic country, and more, one patron stated, “it is The Home of Country Music, but what country?”


Stage 5 at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts —While this impressive facility hosts the likes of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and jazz legends like Wynton Marsalis, it’s the Stage 5 in the sprawling lobby that brings out intimate crowds. Catch music during their Krannert Uncorked events each Thursday, or jazz, folk, acoustic, and more on the small, but vibrant stage, giving you ample room to dance.


Pour Brothers Taproom —At this pour by the ounce brewery in downtown Champaign, the owners state, “music is our food—it’s what gets people to stay and enjoy themselves.” Showcasing the outstanding talent of Central Illinois, you can regularly catch live music inside and outside the historic building. They invite patrons to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life, join up with others in the community at their long, shared tables and connect over their passion for good beer and music. From mid-May–October, you can catch music on their patio every Saturday night, and then indoors during the colder months.


The Canopy Club —In the heart of campus, the Canopy Club has been bringing music to students and the community for over 20 years. Showcasing entertainment for all walks of life, you can often find rock, country, hip hop, electronica, jazz, funk, indie, or anything in between throughout the year. Want to try your own hand at music? Check out their Open Mic Night every Monday.


Blackbird Urbana —When you need a night out with live music, you can count on Blackbird Urbana, located in the heart of downtown. This intimate club showcases different acts Tuesday–Saturday every week. Plan your week based on their schedule: Tuesday—“The Piano Man” (Chris Tarpley Music); Wednesday—a killer house band of local musicians; Thursday— a mix of eclectic bands from funk to rock to bluegrass; Friday—Jazz Happy hour; Saturday—Showcase both local and regional bands. Daily drink specials, and food from the popular Manolo’s Pizza & Empanadas make Blackbird Urbana a regular stop for some tunes.


Neil St. Blues —This new downtown Champaign locale wanted to focus on music to add to the dining experience, bringing good food, good music, and dancing all under one roof. Several nights during the week, and a late-night DJ on the weekends, Neil St. Blues showcases local talent, but also brings in musicians from outside the area. Owner Gayle Starks says, “Everyone is family at our place and we want people to come early and stay late.  We hope that people will enjoy the food, come out and celebrate special occasions, and have fun!” Plan a night out to enjoy their southern, creole food while listening to soul, blues, jazz, and much more.

Beyond the intimate venues, touring acts make their way through the greater Champaign County area all year long. Don’t miss concert announcements at The Virginia Theatre, State Farm Center, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and The City Center. Here’s just a few you can expect in 2019–2020: Ringo Starr, Miranda Lambert, and MercyMe at the State Farm Center; Kansas, Art Garfunkel, and Straight No Chaser at The Virginia Theatre.


Must-Attend Music Festivals

ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival

When: September 5–7, 2019

What to Expect: Celebrating all things guitar, this bienniel music festival at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts brings national headliners for dozens of performances across three rocking days.



When: September 27–29, 2019

What to Expect: For its 15th year, expect them to pull out all the stops as they gather emerging names in alternative and indie rock, alongside rap, hip-hop, and electronica.


Folk & Roots

When: October 24–26, 2019

What to Expect: Spend several days among those with a passion for folk and bluegrass as you not only listen, but also get to participate in the music love affair.

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