Smile Politely

DIY rules the day

“We’re like ninjas; we get by on the sly and pick up wherever we can.” — Curt

Punk, maybe moreso than any other genre of music, is built on a do-it-yourself ethic. From self-recorded and -released albums to house and basement shows, the people making the music take care of most of the rest of the logistics, as well.

Four Urbana residents (pictured above, from left to right: Greg, Amanda, Andrew, and Curt — first names only, please) handle a good portion of the punk show organization in Champaign-Urbana, seeing a void and filling it.

“There’s always good indie shows in Champaign, indie rock,” Greg explained. “But no one was doing good, underground punk shows, hardcore punk, crust punk, even ska punk, anything that was really underground. There wasn’t really a place for anyone here. When we were old enough to do our own shows, all the older kids had moved away and it was either book our own shows, or there was nothing here.”

They have a Myspace page cataloging their efforts, which include at least one or two concerts a month. Since they’re working with their own scant resources, they keep things as cheap as possible. Their margins are so tight that even a venue like the Independent Media Center is a little rich for their blood. Amanda said, “You’ve got a deposit, then you’ve got a deposit for the sound, then you’ve got signed contracts, it’s just really ridiculous for a punk show that charges five dollars.” The McKinley Foundation, site of their show on April May 23, is more reasonable, charging $50 for the whole night.

And if they don’t have to rent a venue, all the better. “Bands like bars because you can drink, but you can at house shows, too,” Greg offered. “With the scene that we’re in, putting on shows with of-age people, you can have the same fun that you can at a bar, plus some. Not having someone telling you what to do, not having someone tell you to calm down.”

Greg continued, “We basically have two houses, four houses apart. One house is rehearsal space for all our bands, we keep our equipment there. More community-oriented at that house. Then we have Andrew’s house, his house he primarily does the house shows.

“Sometime we kind of gauge it by the band. We all have pretty good contacts, we’ve been in touring bands for five years now. You book bands here, they book you elsewhere. If a bigger band comes through, we’ll be able to snag McKinley or the IMC. Some bigger bands want to play house shows, and we put on damn good house shows.”

Andrew hosts many of the shows in his basement at 700 W. Illinois St. in Urbana, and he hasn’t had many headaches at all. “It’s mostly just beer cans at the end of the night, he said. “Nothing’s really destroyed. I don’t sell liquor, so if the cops come, it’s just a noise complaint.”

Cutting out profits for the organizers gives them more flexibility. “We really don’t try to make anything,” Amanda said. “When we book shows, we charge five dollars, and all the money goes to the out-of-town bands. We don’t take any money for ourselves, and we don’t pay in-town bands for just driving down the street. So it goes all to renting the venue and paying the out-of-town bands. It’s just to get the bands heard.”

The lack of monetary gain doesn’t seem to bother them. “Five years into it, I’ve never made any money, I’m happy as hell,” Greg noted. “I’m still booking shows. We’re fortunate to have people who open their homes.”

Greg, Amanda, Andrew, and Curt are hopelessly intermingled in each other’s bands, as well. Curt and Greg are in Augmentor, Amanda and Greg work in We Must Dismantle All This!, they’re all in Teenage Martians (a Misfits cover band), and Andrew’s in the Burninators.

Curt remembers his first C-U punk show as a turning point. “I saw a flier and I came out to a show,” he recalled. “[Greg] booked this show, and that shit changed my life. After I saw that, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.'”

Greg summed the group’s feelings like this: “It’s a community, and that’s what punk’s all about. Seeing it work out, it’s like poetry in motion.”

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