Successful musicians from Urbana-Champaign
Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 12:10
The end of Pygmalion Music Festival leaves many local musicians with a revived desire do what they love. There are many musicians from the Champaign Urbana area who have made a career of their passion, and with such a thriving local scene there are many more who have the potential.
The twin cities have always had a vibrant music background, with many different genres offered. But, recently, it has acquired an atmosphere that local musician/producer Mark Rubel called a "flourishing garden of music." Rubel has taught Intro to Recording Studio and Intermediate Recording at Parkland since 1985. He has also worked with numerous musicians for many years, including Alison Krauss, Adrian Belew, Hum, Poster Children, and Menthol, all local entities who have received national recognition.
Rubel considers the current local scene to be even more diverse than it has been in the past. "It mirrors the overall music scene, which is less structured, where bands are more independent and self-sufficient because they can be," Rubel said. "Musicians are willing to take more responsibility for their creation and their careers. But, they are not making as much money as they used to." That decade was a time when the music industry was still growing and generating many well paid musicians.
According to Rubel, further changes since the 70's include the amount of local support for the bands, referring to the general loss of crowds in attendance for live shows. Rubel said, "there used to be more of a general scene, people would go to the Red Lion or Mabel's because that's where it was happening. Now there is less general public and the audience is mostly composed of other people from the music scene. The bands support each other and collaborate off- shoots. That's great for everyone, but I'd like to see more of the general population get back into it." He regretted that there isn't as much enthusiasm for music as there currently is for sports.
A few of the more popular local bands and musicians include trying to generate a renewed enthusiasm include:
Hum–Despite several lineup changes through the years, the band recorded a few albums with national record company, RCA. Their fourth album, Downward is Heavenward, was produced by the aforementioned Rubel and was recorded at his Pogo Studios in Champaign in 1998. Although it didn't sell as well as the previous album, 1995's You'd Prefer an Astronaut, it did sell 30,000 copies and was well received by critics, such as Stephen Thompson. His review in the entertainment newspaper AV Club, published March 29, 2002, read, "Downward Is Heavenwardis a monumental rock album; the album works splendidly as a whole. . ." The band's powerful, heavy guitar sound has helped it to evolve into legendary status. They are well remembered today, even though they broke up in 2000. That fan response has generated several reunion concerts over the years, the latest being held earlier this month at the AV Fest in Chicago. To listen and learn more about Hum, visit www.h-u-m.net.
Braid – Braid reunited to play at Champaign's Pygmalion Fest last weekend. Formed in 1993, the band released it most popular offering, Frame and Canvas, in 1998 on Polyvinyl. The album was impressive enough for critics to take note and their fan base to grow at an exponential rate. ". . . Braid was one of the most active and prolific bands of emo's second wave," claimed Kyle Ryan in a review January 25, 2011 published in AV Club. After touring Europe and Japan as well as the U.S., the group, broke up in 1999. However, in addition to a few reunion shows, they have recently released and EP titled Closer to Closed. To listen and learn more about Braid, visit www.polyvinylrecords.com/artists/ and click Braid.
Elsinore – This is a band that seems to be on its way to achieving national recognition. Their song "Yes, Yes, Yes," was featured on national television program So You Think You Can Dance and was picked up to be used by Kohl's in a national TV advertising campaign. "A strong sense of focus and direction is one thing Elsinore prides itself on. Not a band to sit idly by and hope for things to happen, the band puts every bit of effort into being an active participant in its own fate and level of success. Having clear goals propels the members to take the music seriously," wrote Rebecca Koons of the Daily Iowan, in an article dated April 29, 2011. Find music, photos, tour dates and more at www.elsinoremusic.net.
Alison Krauss– Alison Krauss and Union Station will be returning home on October 5 to play at the Virginia Theater, shortly after attending a Nashville Bluegrass awards show. Krauss was born in Decatur and raised in Champaign. Known now as a singer/songwriter, she began winning fiddle awards in local bluegrass competitions at the age of ten, and had her first recording contract at 16, according to CMT Biography. In 2007, she collaborated with rock legend, Robert Plant, former lead singer for Led Zeppelin, to record the album Raising Sand, for which they were awarded a total of five Grammys, boosting her personal total to 26, giving her more than any other woman in the history of the awards. Visit www.alisonkrauss.com for news, tour dates and more.