Once upon a time not so long ago, Champaign-Urbana was a Midwest music mecca, with big acts playing small venues left and right.
In fact, it’s one of the things that convinced future Carle emergency medicine physician Jim Enderle to settle down here after earning his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 2003, then his MD five years later.
“Arriving freshman year in 1999, I missed out on attending any shows at the legendary Mabel’s, as it was unfortunately on its way out and closed in 2000. That doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of other venues to see music in an intimate environment,” he says.
“I was a frequent patron of The Canopy Club, seeing acts as varied as G. Love & Special Sauce, Jack Johnson, Mason Jennings, Galactic, Mike Doughty, MC Chris, Neil Innes ... the list goes on and on. All types of music.
“Most of these artists would even stick around after to sign CDs and take photos. I missed the notorious surprise Smashing Pumpkins show there in 2000, unfortunately, which was a huge deal on campus at the time.
“The High Dive managed to get some amazing acts, and you never knew what you might end up seeing at Mike N’ Molly’s. As a financially strapped student, though, going to downtown Champaign was more the exception than the rule.
“Of course, the University put on plenty of shows as well. I remember seeing Violent Femmes at Foellinger Auditorium, a tiny show or two at the Illini Union, some of the finer arts at Krannert Center, and of course the big shows at Assembly Hall when I could swing it.
“Sadly, many of those small independent venues are gone now. The Canopy Club remains open, and the University obviously isn’t going anywhere, but there just doesn’t seem to be as many big names coming through the small venues as frequently as they used to. Or maybe I’m just getting old and out of touch.
“Regardless, I’ll always remember those nights as a young student experiencing live music 10 feet away from some of my favorite artists, surrounded by like-minded individuals.”