Smile Politely

The Overture: August 17 – 23

With school, work, family, and watching baseball players get beaned, who has the time to find out about the best shows happening in Champaign-Urbana? No need to fear, because the editors at Smile Politely have taken care of it.

What: Aushua, Middle Distance Runner

When: Thursday, August 20 @ 9 p.m.

Where: Canopy Club; $7

It’s a night for big, expansive pop music as Santa Ana, Calif.’s Aushua (right) roll into the Canopy. They unashamedly wear their early-U2 influences on their sleeves, and from the looks of the number of plays on their Myspace, people are taking notice.

Opening are their spiritual brothers from the opposite coast, Washington, D.C.’s Middle Distance Runner, whose new album is called The Wrong Hole. Maybe it’s not a double-entendre, but I doubt it. I listened to a couple of songs and got a bit of a Maroon 5 vibe. Maybe this is the date event of the week?

What: Heyokas, Take Care, Withershins

When: Friday, August 21 @ 10 p.m.

Where: Mike ‘n Molly’s; $4

This one’s a CD release show for Withershins, as their new album, Aeriel, drops. They’re heading out on a big tour next month, so come out and wish ’em well before they hit the road.

Up first is Heyokas, a new band made up of former members of Ambitious Pie Party, Beauty Shop, and Lorenzo Goetz. This is their first show together

Take Care is made up of some former Fireflies, and they’re relatively new on the scene as well.

Stay tuned to Smile Politely later in the week for more coverage of this show.

What: Lonely Trailer, Curb Service, Mordechai in the Mirror, Heyokas, Elsinore, Common Loon, Hot Cops, New Ruins

When: Saturday, August 22 @ 5 p.m.

Where: Cowboy Monkey parking lot; Free

It goes without saying that we are at a lull in terms of local bands hitting the road, getting signed, making waves nationally — even regionally. Most honest observers and participants in what some call our local music scene would have a hard time arguing that this is a “peak” time for it. But the lineup that Ward Gollings put together for the cleverly titled “Block Party” should speak volumes about just how strong the scene is if this is considered a “lull.”

Starting the night is arguably one of the best bands the “scene” has ever called its own: Lonely Trailer. Reunited earlier this year, the band has decided to forge ahead, performing first at the block party, and then later in the month at Pygmalion for the second of two nights at Parasol’s showcases. Up next is Curb Service, followed by Mordechai in the Mirror, both who have taken to earning both indie rock and hip hop credits with their mixing of the two genres in seamless transitions within songs. Heyokas follows — a super group of sorts that features John Hoeffleur of The Beauty Shop re-emerging on to the stage. Elsinore is definitely starting to do it: they’ve recently been taken on by the Transpanther Group out of Indiana, a small agency/even/promotion company that has them touring and touring some more. They have plans to hit CMJ Music Marathon in October, and will release their (freakishly) long awaited sophomore LP sometime in the next decade. Common Loon is an inch away from a record deal themselves, and have devoted the next year to touring. They, too, are in the process of hitting the road, with three long weekends of shows planned for November in the Midwest. Hot Cops is the wildcard here. Are they part of the local scene? Or merely visitors that feel familiar enough to be one of our own? We can’t tell. To round it off — New Ruins — Smile Politely music section’s pick for best band currently writing and recording albums in Champaign-Urbana. Will they hit the road in 2010? We can only hope.

So, where does this leave us?

In our view, it’s simple. For being in a downturn for the music scene, we’ve still got plenty of artists out there to cling to. And there are plenty more than were listed here: World’s First Flying Machine, Santa, Zach May and The Maps, Take Care, You and Yourn, Morgan Orion and The Constellations, The Curses (formerly Number One Sons), My Dear Alan Andrews, Tyson and The Friction… the list goes on and on.

What’s the solution?

Touring. Bands need to tour. Bands need to be bands, and just bands. But this is for another editorial. For the moment, enjoy this fabulous block party. We’ll be there, and will likely be up front. As you should be, too.

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