Smile Politely

The Overture:  Nov. 2 — 8

With school, work, family and nursing your Halloween hangover, 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.

dbWhat: David Barnes, Good Luck Jane

When:  Wednesday Nov. 4, 7:00 p.m.

Where:  Canopy Club, $12

South Carolina born, but Mississippi raised, singer/songwriter David Barnes (now living in Nashville) has made some friends in high places.  His contagious blend of southern rock, folk and soul has landed him favorable attention from country superstars Amy Grant and Vince Gill as well as John Mayer (the former two appeared on his record, Chasing Mississippi).  Barnes has been likened to everything from Steely Dan to Stevie Wonder with a little Toto and early Genesis in between.  Needless to say, the guy has a sense of humor (former teenage dream-pop stars Hanson are one of his top MySpace friends).  He also has a budding career as a stand-up comic and sold out a 350-seat Nashville theater without ever touching his guitar.   His latest musical release, Me and You and the World, dropped last year and he is still able to tour in support of it if that gives you any idea of this man’s dedication. 


matisWhat:  Matisyahu

When:  Wednesday Nov. 4, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Foellinger Auditorium, $22 students/$24 public

Maybe the world’s best know Hasidic Jew/reggae master, Matisyahu has often been written off as a novelty act perhaps because his first major introductions to the world came via the jam band scene and with stints on festivals like Bonnaroo and the Vans Warped Tour.  But since those earlier days, Mayisyahu’s crowds and fans have grown immensely, leading right up to the feverish release of his latest record, Light.  More than two years in the making, Light has suffered several release date push-backs until it was released in August 2009.  Reviews have varied across the board, but the constant for Light is that Matisyahu continues his personal search for the truth.  This time, he throws in some more pop-heavy flavor tinged with some hippie vibes. 

mathWhat: Mathien, Little Boy Jr., the 312’s

When:  Thursday Nov. 5, 8:00 p.m.

Where:  Canopy Club, $7

Genre-bending week continues Thursday night with Chicago’s Mathien at Canopy Club.  No stranger to odd comparisons, frontman Chris Mathien has been said to fall somewhere between Dave Matthews and Prince.  Much of his sound looks back toward the 70s funk and soul of bands like Funkadelic but remains rooted in the present via Mathien’s ability to command the grace of his acoustic guitar while holding down hip hop vibes.  The band’s latest release, Hello Again, dropped in June 2009 and is a testament to Mathien’s songwriting ability.  Chicago’s Little Boy Jr and locals the 312’s open. 

Generationals, Spinto Band, Pepi Ginsberg

When:  Thursday Nov. 5

Where:  Courtyard Café

One of the most geographically diverse bills this week puts together Brooklyn’s Pepi Ginsberg with Delaware’s Spinto Band and New Orleans’ Generationals.  The unifying factor?  They’re all kind of on tour together with an act or two occasionally splitting for a few days for shows elsewhere.  Generationals don’t quite sound like your typical New Orleans band, but maybe their sugary brand of 60s dream pop is exactly what NOLA still needs years after Katrina.  Their latest, When They Fight, They Fight, is sure to give you a few symptoms of diabetes if you didn’t get your sugar fix on Halloween. 

ncWhat:  Neko Case, Sarah Harmer

When:  Friday Nov. 6, 10:30 p.m.

Where:  Canopy Club, $22 in advance

October’s onslaught of dreary weather should seem pretty dull when the Neko Case tornado blows through town Friday night.  Her latest record, Middle Cyclone, is chock full of meteorological allusions that rise and fall by the power of her voice (not to mention the record probably has some of the best cover art of 2009).  For all her self-evident oddness, Case knows how to put together a solid album.  Much of Middle Cyclone was recorded in a barn on her property in Vermont (thus the 30+ minute closing track, “Marais la Nuit,” featuring indigenous wildlife noises), but never does that take away from her unmistakable ability to re-invent hooks and charm you over with her atypical song structure.  Expect some onstage camaraderie between Sarah Harmer and Neko Case as the former was a guest vocalist (among many others) on the latter’s new record.  Champaign-Urbana, ready thyself.

  Alaya Conscious, Take Care, Hot Cops

When:  Friday Nov. 6, 10:00 p.m.

Where:  Mike N Molly’s, $4

Take equal parts Iron Maiden, Fugazi and Don Caballero and you’ll come somewhere close to what you can expect from Chicago’s (predominantly) instrumental Alaya Conscious.  Their self-described style of progressive metal has captivated a large fan base in Chicago, which is no easy task for an instrumental band.  Instrumentals can grow a little boring if the proper pieces aren’t there, or if there are too many pieces for that matter.  Luckily, Alaya Conscious tries to keep it simple as a trio.  But the icing on their cake appears to be their new EP, RED, which borders on concept album (i.e. very prog).  Locals Hot Cops and Take Care will ease you into the proggy instrumentalism with their brands of shoegazey power-pop.

You and Yourn CD release party w/ Caleb Engstrom

When:  Saturday Nov. 7

Where:  Indigo Art Gallery

Local acts take note:  You and Yourn like to hit the road and it actually pays off.  Fresh off their recent west coast tour, they’re enjoying a quick rest before they head off to give the east coast some love.  But I suppose they have an advantage to most other bands since Heather and Nic Dillon are married and can stand spending extended mildly stressful lengths of time together.  They’re celebrating the release of their newest self-produced record, It Would Make Things Worse, Saturday night with Iowa City’s Caleb Engstrom.  It Would Make Things Worse dropped October 27 on Champaign-Urbana’s own Parasol Records and we’re all positive it will make it on our next summation of amazing local recordings.  Drop by and pick it up (vinyl or CD) and enjoy their undeniable lyrically-driven, atmospheric chamber-folk.

Know about something we don’t?  Want to promote your own gig?  Peep the comment section below.

Looking ahead…

Canopy Club – Ace Frehley, 16 Second Stare, Verdict

Canopy Club – Ok Go, Princeton
The Highdive – Band of Heathens
Krannert Center – Tito Carrillo 

Assembly Hall – Jay Z, N.E.R.D.
Canopy Club – 1079 Jay Z Jamz Afterparty
Krannert Center – Dena Vermette 

Canopy Club – Family Groove Company, Mhondoro Rhythm Success, TBA
Courtyard Cafe – Maps & Atlases, Ruby Rodeo Love
Cowboy Monkey – Heyokas
Krannert Center – Dena Vermette
Mike N Molly’s – Aaron Williams Band, Jack Pine Savage
U-C IMC – Bossa Nuevo

Cowboy Monkey – Heavy Trash (Jon Spencer of JSBX)
Krannert Center – The Walkmen
Memphis on Main – Renegade 

Memphis on Main – Charlie Shafter and the Gnomes, Mayhew the Traitor

Foellinger Auditorium – The Academy Is…
The Highdive – Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers 

Canopy Club – Cross Canadian Ragweed, Seth James
Cowboy Monkey – Of a Native Vibe
Mike N Molly’s – On Again Off Again, Breaking Laces, Curb Service

Mike N Molly’s – Prussia, TBA 

Cowboy Monkey – Dubstep Massacre
Po’ Boys – Thrash Zombie, TBA
Shady Nook Pub – Hot Club of Cowtown, Saybrook 

Canopy Club – Laughing Prairie Dog Festival with The Hood Internet, Santah and more 

Canopy Club – EOTO (featuring Michael Travis and Jason Hann of String Cheese Incident)
Mike N Molly’s – Laarks, My Dear Alan Andrews, and Zach May and the Maps

Foellinger Auditorium – Andrew Bird

Mike N Molly’s – White Elephant song exchange

Mike N Molly’s – Neoga Blacksmith 

Assembly Hall – The Oak Ridge Boys 

Mike N Molly’s – New Years Eve with New Ruins

Krannert Center – Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
Krannert Center – Kronos Quartet, Wu Man 

Canopy Club – The Prairie Ensemble: The Soldier’s Tale 

Krannert Center – The Band of the Irish Guards 

Krannert Center – Frederica Von Stade 

Krannert Center – Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra

Krannert Center – Abraham Inc.

Assembly Hall – Martina McBride, Trace Adkins 

Krannert Center – Danu 

Krannert Center – San Francisco Symphony

Krannert Center – What it Is!  Featuring Mavis Staples, Booker T. JJ Grey 

Krannert Center – Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra

Krannert Center – Joshua Bell

Krannert Center – James Farm

Krannert Center – Ozomatli

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