The Sounds of C-U
The saying “the music never stopped” reigns true when it comes to the sounds of the greater Champaign County area. The number of influencers that have hailed from our community spans all years and genres, ranging from Alison Krauss to REO Speedwagon to HUM. On any given day you can catch a show, with venues ranging from world-renowned performance centers to intimate dive bars. Just consider this our entertainment bucket list, compiled with the music lover in mind.
Music Festivals & Events
Pygmalion | September 26–28, 2019
Reaching 15 years of entertainment in Champaign-Urbana, Pygmalion, a premier indie-rock event held every September, is one of the best music events in the region. The festival features a mixture of curated components: music, literature, comedy, tech, and makers. The festival continues to change over the course of time, incorporating more cultural aspects of the Champaign-Urbana community and alongside some of the best and brightest performers and artists from around the world.
For year 15, the organizers have curated top-notch talent to perform on the University of Illinois campus. Japanese Breakfast, performing on opening night, is the indie rock project by Michelle Zauner, who just so happens to be hard at work on her upcoming memoir Crying in H Mart. Catch Zauner read from her memoir for free at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. While the final day of the event, The New Pornographers, the legendary indie rock troupe, is touring in support of their new record In The Morse Code of Brake Lights. They’ll be touring with the famed Neko Case, who has had a breakout solo career of her own.
But that’s not all, this year’s headlining comedians are must-see acts and only in Champaign-Urbana will you be able to catch them in an intimate setting. Eric Andre’s massive world tour — Legalize Everything— is his largest solo tour to date. Andre came into focus when his Adult Swim show The Eric Andre Show catapulted his wild approach to humor and comedy into popularity, hosting everyone from Chris Rock to Seth Rogan to Lauren Conrad and more. Other must-see guests: Antoni Porowski of Queer Eye will perform a cooking demo and discuss his new book, Antoni in the Kitchen, with audience members; and comedienne Michelle Wolf, will bring the house down as see tackles race and gender issues in her unique, comedic voice.
Don’t wait to get your tickets for these performers and so many more now. Book online now.
Folk & Roots | October 24–26, 2019
Party with the locals in downtown Urbana during the annual Folk & Roots Festival. Celebrating its 11th year, this grassroots festival brings together national, regional and local artists for over 80 performances throughout the community, with headliners Dom Flemons, Veretski Pass and Lilli Lewis. Highlighting the vibrant music scene in Urbana, this festival showcases a variety of venues and intimate settings, from hotspots Rose Bowl Tavern, Blackbird and the Sipyard, to the Urbana Free Library and the Community Center for the Arts.
You’ll hear everything from Jug Bands to Gospel to Singer-Songwriters and have the chance to take part in workshops, dancing and storytelling for a weekend filled with meeting new friends and creating musical memories.
What are you waiting for? Get your festival passes today!
Live Music Hot Spots
Rose Bowl Tavern—It’s the vibe of the Rose Bowl Tavern that keeps people coming back. As the Home of Country Music for decades in Urbana, new owners—musicians Charlie, Marten and Sam—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?"
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.
Pour Brothers —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.
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. Plan a night out to enjoy their southern, soul food while listening to blues, jazz, and much more.
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.
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.
Ready to plan your music-filled weekend in C-U? Check out our Experience Guide full of ideas for your entire stay.