Smile Politely

Goodnight, sweet prince

If you’ve been involved with music or drinking in any way in Champaign in recent memory, there’s a solid chance you’ve spent a couple of nights at Mike N’ Molly’s either playing a show, seeing a show, or just drinking a beer and playing euchre with Murph. After just a couple years of constantly going to shows at Mike N’ Molly’s, I knew it was something special, and tonight, we plan to say goodbye to our beloved haunt for rock shows.

I remember, in vivid detail, the first time I saw a show at MnM’s. It was three years ago, and my friends had decided to venture from the friendly confines of Allen Hall in Urbana to see then-locals Grandkids for their release show. The laid back vibe and the friendliness of the door guy was better than the typical Red Lion bouncer that a sophomore in college stumbles upon. To 19 year-old me, this was heaven with live music.

We proceeded up the stairs and into the packed stage room, overflowing with spectators. The first of many at-capacity crowds I have witnessed at MnM’s, all jamming into a crowded and sweaty second story just to see a band on a six-inch-high stage in a bay window. It was the atmosphere that all musicians dream of. The intimate nature led to one of the coolest gatherings of humanity I have ever witnessed in Champaign-Urbana, and I was promptly hooked.

Sure, I (and many others) have seen tons of shows here – not every show at MnM’s has been that jam-packed with people; they’ve had their off-nights just like everyone does. Part of what I’ll miss so much about MnM’s, however, is that any given show didn’t have to be full for it to feel comfortable as a spectator. Whether it be upstairs or in the iconic downtown beer garden, there is legitimately not a bad seat in the house – if there were 20 people inside or 120, it always felt like home.

Doubtless, the closure of Mike N’ Molly’s will leave a crucial void in the music scene. I’m sure it will quickly be filled, and is already starting to be filled, but there really was no room in town quite like MnM’s. It was unintimidating for new bands, the perfect place for a first show, and a staple of a ton of both regional and national touring bands. I even recall seeing an Italian band in the beer garden a couple of years ago, if I remember correctly. From that first night I stepped inside those comfortable confines, the quality of entertainment has maintained, while the place has become friendlier and friendlier.

It allowed bands to grow a following, return back, and consistently build off of prior success, sometimes from nothing, and while it may not be the flashiest spot in town, it was an integral part of the “scene”.

Yes, I’m going to miss the $2 PBRs (tall boys!) and the unpretentious atmosphere – and I’m scared of what will become of our beloved dive – but I’m more worried about the effect of losing an important small room, and what that room ultimately cultivates. It’s much more than a venue with green walls, a weird bookshelf thing in the back of the room, and a small stage – MnM’s was an opportunity for hundreds of artists, big and small, and succeeded incredibly well at its niche. From the small room’s intimate atmosphere to the warm, vine-covered walls of the beer garden, it is no doubt in my mind that MnM’s contributed to the extremely bolstered local scene that we have here in Champaign, and laid the foundation for years to come.

Hopefully what happens next to the space will involve live music, but who can say? To not use that beer garden for concerts seems like a crime in itself, but I guess that’s why I don’t get to make decisions, right? We’ll just have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, though: what MnM’s had was unique, and we probably won’t see anything like it again in Champaign-Urbana. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong; that would be awesome.

So cheers to everyone who’s made it happen. Cheers to the open-minded talent buyers, cheers to the hundreds (thousands?) of artists who have performed at Mike N’ Molly’s, cheers to anyone who has ever paid cover for a show, and most importantly, cheers to Murph and the staff at Mike N’ Molly’s. It’s been a great ride, guys, and I’ll be sad to see it go. Even if my time spent there was relatively recent and brief.

Mike N’ Molly’s final show ever will be taking place tonight at 8:30 p.m. RSVP here.

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