Third Annual Prairie Crossroads Blues Fest

The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society announces their third annual Blues Fest will take place Saturday, August 14 from 1:30 to 10:00 p.m. at the Champaign County Fairgrounds, Urbana, IL. Gates open at 1:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance through August 12 at or $20 at the gate.

Kilborn Alley Blues Band, a homegrown legend of the Champaign, IL area, will headline the show. Other bands include Johnny Rawls, Ivy Ford, Smiley Tillmon featuring Kate Moss and William Marsala. Gerry Hundt’s Legendary One Man Band and Jesse Cotton Stone will dominate the solo/duo stage. Music will alternate between two stages for nearly continuous blues music.

Lots more details on the Blues Fest web page!

Folk & Roots Fridays Return

We’re thrilled to announce that we are again joining forces with the Urbana Park District to present this series of free noontime concerts at the Lake House in Crystal Lake Park, 206 W. Park St. in Urbana.

Here’s the lineup:

Aug 6 ~ Hot Club of Urbana Duo (with Rob Sweedler and Louis Pappas)
Aug 20 ~ Emily McKown
Sep 3 ~ Billy Galt
Sep 17 ~ Robin Kearton & Tom Faux

Thanks for Coming out for Dolly and CUFRF!

What a night…even though we had to move inside at the last minute due to weather, the crowd was enthusiastic and the performers absolutely hit their marks. We raised some funds to support this fall’s C-U Folk and Roots Festival, and as a bonus christened the new stage at the Rose Bowl Tavern.

If you missed it, you can find it on our Facebook feed: It was filmed live, so the event starts about 14 minutes in.

If you feel moved to support the festival, you can donate right here!

Thanks for your support. There is no doubt, live music is back in downtown Urbana.

News about Paul Wirth at the Iron Post

We are sad to report that Paul Wirth, owner of The Iron Post in Urbana, has passed. Paul ran the Iron Post for about twenty years, and he ran the Embassy Tavern for many years before that.

Paul did as much (or more) as anyone in the C-U area to keep our local music scene active through thick and thin. At the Post, he booked shows just about every night of the week, many times with two shows on Friday and Saturday. He gave new bands and up-and-coming performers a place to play. All genres were welcomed. The Post hosted many fundraising events for community organizations, and Paul was always accommodating.

From the first year of the C-U Folk & Roots Festival, Paul was very supportive and loved the idea of having the festival in downtown Urbana. Over the years, the Iron Post hosted many festival performances, often to a packed room, as well as jams, workshops, and the end-of-festival (into the wee hours) closing jam. The Iron Post also hosted several “Winter Weekend” performances.

Last year, through the pandemic, Paul kept the patio open and featured many evening performances there. Deep down, Paul was a music fan, and he really appreciated a good performance.

Paul was a good friend of the festival and through his efforts, the Iron Post was a key venue for C-U Folk & Roots Festival performances and activities. RIP Paul. We will miss you.

Dolly Parton Tribute Show

You are cordially invited to our spring tribute/fundraiser! Come on out to the Rosebowl Tavern on Saturday, June 12th at 7pm and hear a variety of artists pay tribute to one of the most iconic women in country music.

Iron Post Update

We’ve just learned of Paul Wirth’s passing. You can see his obituary at the News-Gazette.

Services for Paul will be private. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Paul Wirth, owner of the the Iron Post, has been a friend to the festival from its earliest days. The Post has been a gem of downtown Urbana–a hub of musical culture for the region, and a much-loved festival venue. But recent events have endangered the survival of this treasured institution, and our hearts are heavy.

Paul, we are holding you and your family in our hearts and praying that you recover your health. You will always have our appreciation and admiration for the work you have done to keep the live music scene thriving in C-U. If you have to pass the torch, many hands will work to keep that scene burning bright.

The message below, from Paul’s family, lays out the situation.

Firstly,  we would like to thank everyone for their donations so far. These  donations were a major factor in allowing The Post to survive through  the winter with any hope of re-opening this spring, as they have helped  pay rent, insurance, and other operating expenses that did not go away  even while the doors have been closed.

Paul,  The Post’s sole owner and operator, had every intention of re-opening  this spring. However, in early March he experienced a serious medical  event which has made it impossible for him to continue to own and manage  The Post going forward, and will in fact require long-term intensive  health care and therapy. It is necessary to sell The Post, in one form  or another, in order to cover medical expenses and comply with federal  medical assistance rules. Paul’s family has been communicating with many  members of the community to try to identify possible solutions that  would allow for The Post to re-open in some form that would keep its  spirit alive. Sadly, we keep discovering new issues that are out of our  hands that complicate any efforts to take over The Post (both the name  and the location) and it is seeming increasingly unlikely that The Post  will be able to re-open at all, even under new management.

We  are not asking for additional donations at this time to cover medical  costs. You have all already done so much to help both Paul and The Post,  but unfortunately the numbers we are dealing with across various debts  are so large that it is nigh impossible that any additional donations  you all might provide would prevent the sale of Paul and/or The Iron  Post’s assets. Times are tough for many right now, and we would prefer  that any funds you might want to donate instead be contributed to other  efforts that enable and celebrate live music (whether it be jazz, soul,  R&B, rock, or classical) in Champaign-Urbana.

Due  to the change in circumstances, we totally understand if any of you  wish to ask for a refund of your previous donations and are working with  GoFundMe to facilitate that. As previously stated, all funds already  spent from donations were used to keep The Post alive this long, and any  as of yet unspent funds that are not refunded will be used to work  towards resolving any outstanding business debts, closing down the  business in an orderly manner, and ensuring that the more sentimental  assets of The Post are distributed to those who will appreciate them and  hopefully use them to create a successor institution some time in the  future.

Paul’s  family thank you for all of your generosity so far, and we know that  this is a blow to the C-U Music community, not just our family. We hope  you will honor Paul and The Post by doing everything you can to support  live music this spring and summer.

Meet Cody Jensen

In March, festival Co-Chair Katie Schacht had. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Cody has been a well-known fixture of the Champaign-Urbana music scene for over a decade. A founding member of Bones Jugs, Cody can also be spotted playing in any number of other local bands. During this past year, when music venues the world over had to shut their physical doors, you could still watch Cody Tuesday nights playing live via FaceBook and YouTube on Rose Bowl TV for Chicago Farmer’s Folkin’ Tuesday.

Here’s the exchange between Katie and Cody, edited for clarity and length.

Katie: How did you first get involved in the C-U Folk and Roots Festival?

Cody: Hmmmm. I think I played the festival a couple of times with a couple different bands. I think that was my first exposure. I played with Black Coffee Fridays and Bones Jugs. And then I think it was [Festival Co-Chair] Rob Krumm – I would be surprised if it was anyone else – invited me and Charlie [Harris] to come to the volunteer appreciation party, even though I don’t we think had volunteered or anything. I really think he was just tricking us so we would sign up for some sort of volunteer job or whatever. But it worked. And at the appreciation party with pizza and drinks and all that, I think I just signed up to be a Venue Coordinator for the next year.

K: And do you remember how long ago that was?

C: That was about 2015 or 2016. And I did that for about a year at the Iron Post. Then beginning the next year, I joined the Booking Committee and did that for a couple years before we started exploring this expanded role in a Director position.

K: So, like a good six plus years of participating in, volunteering for, and now really helping to run the festival? How would you describe your current role?

C: The current role is still being designed. But yeah, you know my first major role was on the Booking Committee and that started to morph into being on both Booking and Steering [Committees] which last year started morphing into a discussion about what would it be like if we had a Director. Last year was supposed to be the pilot year for that – obviously that didn’t happen. So, this year is kind of the pilot year for that, I guess. And we are still trying to figure out what it all means. [Chuckles all around.]

K: What would you say has been your favorite Folk and Roots experience/moment so far, out of all those six years of moments?

C: There are a couple that stand out. First, I think it was the second time I played for the festival with Black Coffee Fridays. We played at the Rose Bowl, right before Devil In A Woodpile on Saturday night. The performance was fun for us but then getting to kick back to watch Devil In A Woodpile – they just totally blew me away. And they inspired me in a lot of ways. Musically, but also they opted to set up on the floor and play acoustically. And that experience, watching all that unfold, also inspired me to get involved in the festival. Because, being an artist first, I understand that side of things. So I thought I could offer a lot in terms of festival and artist interrelationships.

Another moment that jumps to my mind is when Bones Jugs played with Dom Flemons at Krannert Center for the kick-off show. And that was, yeah, I mean that was just incredible! That’s definitely one of my all-time favorite Folk and Roots memories. Getting to open the show but also getting to share the stage with Dom. There is just no beating that! It was really fun.

K: You kind of already answered this but, does a favorite performance come to mind?

C: As a performer, [Dom] was a stand-out for me. As an observer, I would have to pick Devil In A Woodpile. That one just stands out in my mind. And then in more recent years, it is interesting. Because I knew the schedule so well as someone involved in the booking, but I didn’t always even get to see the bands that I was super excited about. In 2019 one of the things that really surprised me was that I felt like I knew almost every band really, really well. There were just a couple that I didn’t know that well. Emily McKown had suggested them and I remembered we listened to them and I was like “great.” Charlie was also like “great” and we went ahead [Emily and Charlie also serve on the Booking Committee]. But I didn’t’ feel like I knew Emily’s bookings really, really well. I just kind of signed off. One of the bands that Emily booked was called Humbird and I was able to catch a little of their set on Friday night at Blackbird. It was so amazing to walk into what is a very noisy room acoustically and see everyone sitting quietly, listening to a full band that had this huge dynamic range and was fronted by a singer who just had everyone totally captivated. Seeing that in a bar like Blackbird on Friday at 5:30pm, or whatever, it was really cool.

K: As Director, what are your hopes and plans for the 2021 festival?

C: I think the big hope is just to have the festival in as normal a fashion as we can. I think that everyone could really benefit from a community event like this right now and would be pretty overjoyed to be able to gather together. In future years I might be answering with ideas that involve growth or changes of some kind, but really I just feel like [this year] we are desperately hoping for just the same old thing.

K: What are your hopes and dreams for the festival overall?

C: I think that the festival is already really great and my hopes are that we can continue doing the things we already do well and do more of them. So: find good artists to bring to town, treat them well, compensate them fairly, and make sure they have a great time while they are here. And make them want to come back. Keep the festival affordable, if not make it more affordable or offer even more free events. Make sure that our offerings are diverse and representative of varying viewpoints, varying voices.

Two more quick points. One would be trying to continue the tradition of holding the Winter Weekend. We’ve also fallen into holding a couple other events around the year, including the Winter Weekend and what was, for a couple years, the Hank Williams and Other Honkytonk Heroes Tribute Concert at the Rose Bowl. Last year it was a John Prine Tribute. This year we don’t know yet what it is going to be but we want to do something. We have developed these other events to still gather, but on a much smaller scale than the festival itself, obviously. And I want to make sure that those remain a part of our year-round offerings. I think we could even offer more things. Even if it is just sponsoring a show on a random weekend in late June, or something else. Those “pop-up” events have happened before. Typically, they happen on a whim or because an artist is passing through town and I think we can be even more intentional about them moving forward. We also have a great partnership with the Urbana Park District, co-sponsoring their summer Folk and Roots Fridays series.

K: Are there any sneak peeks for the 2021 festival?

C: We are just starting to reach out to artists. The first thing that we are hoping to do is book artists that we already had confirmed for 2020 and have them in 2021. Other than that, we’ll do what we do in most years which is to try to find some new folks that haven’t been here before, and pick out one or two acts that have been here and were a hit and we want to bring back. And, certainly, we had some wonderful first-time performers on video last year for our virtual festival that we will definitely be contacting to try to get them here in person.

K: What song are you currently playing on repeat?

C: The Cat by Jimmy Smith

K: What current activity/hobby are you doing that is bringing you joy or lifting you up?

C: I recently started watching the Marvel movies, in sequence, in the timeline order. So I have entered the MCU, as they call it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have never really watched very many movies, but this winter, and definitely this week, it has picked up a little more. It has been really fun.

K:Which one are you currently on?

C:I am on Ant Man and the Wasp.

K: What are you most looking forward to when life opens back up again?

C: There are two things I keep saying over and over when this subject comes up – and it comes up a lot – and those are: playing music with people and playing music for people.

K: Those were all the questions I had. Is there anything you would like to add?

C: If anyone has any questions about the festival or for me, or ideas about the festival, they can email me. The festival is a community event and the community can weigh in at any time.

The Upper Bout

The Upper Bout

Stop by this beautiful store to see what brick and mortar can be. The Upper Bout offers a human connection and personalized experience. They sell and work on just about anything with strings. Thanks, TUB, for your loyal support of the Festival and the musicians who participate!

Common Ground Food Co-op

Common Ground Food Co-op

Downtown Urbana’s full service, cooperatively owned grocery store. Beyond monetary donations, the co-op has sustained the festival with food and offered us performance space. Over the years it’s been a warm and welcoming hangout for festival goers, and we thank them for all their support. We thank downtown Urbana’s full service, cooperatively owned grocery store for the many types of sustenance they have provided the festival over the years.