Smile Politely

A folk pop antidote to the drunken plague

I’ve been told that this Friday, I should stay off the streets. I’ve been cautioned against wearing green, lest anyone assume I’m wasted while I do my lab work. I’ve been warned to skip any classes shared with undergrads. And I’ve been told that under no circumstances, regardless of temptation or curiosity, should I venture anywhere close to Campustown.

Which is why I’m particularly thrilled that I’ve got such a compelling reason to stay away from Green Street on Friday night. Four lovely folk-pop bands (two local, two regional) will be headed over to Mike n’ Molly’s at 10 p.m. to entertain those of us who aren’t in on the pseudo-holiday festivities, and maybe a couple of you who are. With Friday’s show, the Shadowboxer Collective continues its mission of mixing together local and out-of-town acts to bring a greater diversity of music to Champaign-Urbana. The Collective’s five members are likely as familiar names to you as they are to me—Elsinore’s Ryan Groff and Cole Rabenort, You and Yourn’s Nic Dillon, our very own Gillian Gabriel, and the yet mysterious to me Adam Klavohn.

With Friday’s show, the Shadowboxers are sticking to the mellow, low-fi sounds they originally set out to spotlight. The show starts off with locals You and Yourn, made up of husband-and-wife duo Nic and Heather Dillon. I caught the couple this winter opening for Andrew Bird, and was smitten by their earnest, simple harmonies. You and Yourn play delicate, soul-searching songs that offer a bright light in the midst of melting winter. Easily the most toned-down of the acts on Friday, You and Yourn will set the mood with their warm, pure melodies, perfect for relaxing with a drink and some good company at the beginning of your evening.

Up next is Netherfriends, the project of Chicagoan Shawn Rosenblatt, supported by a slew of friends and musicians who may or may not be along for the ride this Friday. Netherfriends is part whimsy, part nostalgia, and a whole lot of celebration. Netherfriends’ songs remind me at times of Animal Collective, with their exuberance and coordinated disorder, and at others of The Books, with their sophisticated layering of found sounds into an entirely new aural landscape. Netherfriends will bring a less polished, more adventurous counterpart to You and Yourn’s smooth beginnings.

The Daredevil Cristopher Wright will be playing third, a trio out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin who promises to continue the exuberance. The Daredevil Cristopher Wright is Jon Sunde, Jason Sunde and Jesse Edgington, and together the boys embrace weighty themes freely and honestly. Their songs are warm and inviting, filled with character and spirit. The trio builds upon simple guitar notes with layers of bells, gentle percussion, and other interesting musical elements (Is that a melodica I hear in “The East Coast”?), taking them from playful carousel rhythms to a reflective spirituality reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens.

Closing out the night will be The Palace Flophouse, another local group with more stripped-down, playful tunes. The Palace Flophouse is the solo project of Bradley Bergstrand, brought to maturity with the additions of Christopher Edison, Nate Fry, Gretchen Shaw, and Asa Dawson. Together, the band transforms simple folk songs into rich, vibrant portraits of life and its complexities, focused around a spirited acoustic guitar and layered with horns, bells, energetic percussion and interweaving vocals. The Palace Flophouse tackle both optimism and desolation with sincerity, making my heart swell with affection and making me laugh out loud with the first line of “Chubby Kid”: “In 1993 I was a chubby kid, and all my friends were thin.” It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. Last year’s full-length, Try Not to Get Worried is available for free download on the band’s myspace, which gives you a good chance to get acquainted before Friday’s show. And don’t hesitate to get acquainted—The Palace Flophouse is the kind of band you should be proud to have in your hometown.

With four diverse, interesting musical styles to check out, I’m thrilled to spend my Friday night away from the chaos and wrapped up in the comfort of an intimate bar, a friendly crowd, strangers who want to make friends and friends who are as excited about the music as they are about the beer. So if you’re not celebrating this Friday, or if you’re looking to celebrate in a less insane environment, sneak away from the crowd and join me at Mike n’ Molly’s to appreciate the local talent as well as the out-of-town bands who are bringing new sounds to C-U.


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