A lot has been said about the past Champaign-Urbana, Illinois music scene. To a person, everyone who has witnessed or participated in it over the years agrees that it was, at one time, magical. Stories abound of music seven nights a week from a core group of clubs with bands playing three to four sets a night and then supporting each another on their off nights.
The genesis of that fabled time seems to be 1979. REO Speedwagon was already long gone from town and on the cusp of becoming superstars. The Elvis Brothers and The Vertebrats were to come. Bands like The Farmboys, Bowery Boys, Titanic Love Affair, Honcho Overload, Hum, Poster Children and Mother were a distant dream. Yet, one group rose to the top and led the charge—The Rave.
Known for their creative marketing, The Rave existed for only three years, but was recognized as a crowd favorite and a local musical force. “Our roadies were psychotic … or maybe driven is a better word,” said singer/guitarist/resident jester Herbert “Herbie” Tareyton.
“They would hit campus town at 5 a.m. and just plaster the place with our fliers … and people kept them. It got the point where the local radio station [WPGU] recognized a good thing and asked us if we would promote the station on our fliers in exchange for radio support. That was a huge win for us and really helped us increase our visibility.”
In 1979, at the height of their powers, the band decided to record a performance at their home away from home, The Red Lion.
“We somehow secured a one-inch reel-to-reel 8-track recorder,” said Herbie. “We didn’t really know what we were doing, but it seemed better than putting a couple mics on the crowd and recording to a cassette deck.” And, as they say, history was made … but not immediately.
The band never did anything with the tapes, and after they parted company in 1981, the tapes ended up in the hands of someone not even associated with the band. In 2006, a concert was organized to remember The Red Lion. The Rave reunited and performed for the first time in 25 years. Following that performance, drummer Tommy Domino opened a dialog with his compadres about doing something more … and it all revolved around the missing tapes.
It took some time, but the tapes were located, and as word spread excitement and support started to build.
“We talked to Mark Rubel [Pogo Studios] about how to play the tapes—no one had a machine,” said Herbie. “We found out that even Mark didn’t have one, and if you’ve ever been to Pogo, that’s somethin’. Mark has everything you’d ever need or want in terms of recording gear. But he assured us that knew lots of people and he located a machine … actually had it shipped in from Chicago or someplace.”
And then the magic happened. The tracks were painstakingly brought back to life after nearly 30 years of lying dormant and unheard. In actuality, the entire project was untested. The band wasn’t sure about the quality of the performance on the tapes or even whether or not anything could be salvaged after so long. What they heard was monumental, a fully preserved time capsule from 1979.
“The live stuff has the emotion and the energy and all that stuff you hear people talk about,” Herbie enthused. “It really was an event. That night was a very special night, and the fact that we taped it was just kind of serendipitous.”
Champaign label Parasol Records was soon on board, and the set is now available on CD and as a digital download: 14 power-pop tracks, mostly original, with two Talking Heads covers. It’s a gem of a package and an all-out great live album. To get a little mushy, I would say it’s a must-have for anyone who was there to witness The Rave in all their glory; anyone who has heard the stories about this fabled music scene; power pop fans in general; or even the mildly curious music aficionado. It really does have something for everyone … a top notch, energetic performance; an over-the-top audience; humorous banter and more.
And the impact of making these songs available after all this time is not lost, at least on one person. In the bigger picture, this music shines a light on that magical time and gives a peek back in time to when live music, at its core, was cherished and supported.
“Back then, if you liked live music, Champaign, Illinois was the place to be,” recalled Herbie. “I can’t imagine many towns its size having that many outlets for live music every night of the week. If you wanted to go out on a Monday night and see a band, you could. It was an amazing time, and I’m so fortunate that I was able to be around and experience it.”