Stomping Grounds: Champaign-Urbana, IL by Erin Fein of Headlights

Rising up from the ashes of the band Absinthe Blind came a new beginning for Erin Fein. Emerging from an Illinois farmhouse in a town dubbed “Shampoobanana” comes the band called Headlights – made up of Erin Fein, Brett Sanderson and Tristan Wraight. Since 2004 the band has come out with two EPs and one full length album, as well as an impressive split with The Most Serene Republic. Their next album is scheduled to release this spring. Touring the world over, Headlights have played with acclaimed indie acts such as Mates of State, the Appleseed Cast, Headphones, the Magnolia Electric Co., and much more. Learn more about Headlights’ hometown through the eyes of Erin Fein with this Stomping Grounds exclusive.

What’s your town’s nickname?
We live in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Both towns run into each other…so you get Chambana alot. But…if you live here long enough you also realize that people call it Shampoobanana. Yep.
What’s your nickname for your town?
Hmmmm. How about Midwestern Oasis or Cheap Livin’ or just C.U.?
Why do you live there?
I was born in Champaign. My family and band are here. We can afford to live here plus the music scene is great for a college town. I especially appreciate the people. Everybody is nice and easy going and people drive slow cause there’s really no where to rush to.
Also we have some of the best tap water in the whole U.S. of A. No kidding! Natural aquifers run underneath our town – no filters necessary.
What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?
Well… there’s no body of water here and there are no forests either. Mostly fields and fields of corn and soybeans. But… we do have this great park called Meadowbrook Park where there is a huge field of prairie grass – what illinois would look like if it weren’t all farm land today. I saw a fox last time I went on a walk there.
I also really love the Urbana library. It’s a beautiful, old building and reminds me of being a kid.
Then there’s the Curtis Apple Orchard. It’s the cutest place you’ll ever go to… and they have amazing apple doughnuts.
Oh and one more thing – Krannert Art Museum. They bring in the finest of musical and theatrical acts from all over the world. I went to see the ballet Gazelle there a few years ago and it was breathtaking.
What is your favorite local event/festival?
Pygmalion Music Festival. It’s happened for three years now and is an incredible festival for a town of our size. Showcasing great indie bands from all over.
What is the best time of year to be there?
The spring and fall for sure. We have hot and humid summers and dreary, cold winters.
Who is your favorite local celebrity/personality?
Roger Ebert went to the University of Illinois and every year he puts on a film festival called Ebertfest. Hugh Hefner went to the U of I too. Plus Ludacris is from Champaign.
Where is the best place to drink and what’s their specialty or happy hour?
My favorite local bar is the Bling Pig. Incredible woodwork and an amazing selection of beer, although I stick to whiskey and tequila.
What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite show there?
My favorite place is the Canopy Club. It used to be a xxx theatre called the Thunderbird but now they have incredible shows and a crazy rain forest mural all over the walls – which sounds kind of strange, and it is…but you’ll never see anything quite like it. One of my most memorable shows there was Sparklehorse and the Flaming Lips.
What is your favorite local band?
The Beauty Shop.
What is your favorite diner or restaurant and what is their best dish?
Thara Thai. Red Curry. Hands down.
What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?
Exile on Main Street. Awesome little shop where you can find all sorts of stuff. My latest find was a best of Emmylou Harris record.
What is your favorite local shop?
The Furniture Lounge. A unique thrift store with old furniture, phones, dishes, anything you can think of really and it’s all in great condition and reasonably priced. They also have a great vinyl selection and play good tunes while you shop. The last thing i bought there was a small blue glass whale for $6.
What is your favorite local publication (alternative weekly, zine, website or blog)?
A new blog/website called ‘smile politely’.