While the Shadowboxer Collective may sound like a new name to the CU musical arena, the project itself is headed up by the recognizable names of Ryan Groff of Elsinore, Nic Dillon of Casados and Cole Rabenort. Not quite a musical act so much as an initiative to bring a calmer, more mellow sound to the area, buzz spoke with Groff about the Shadowboxer Collective’s goals and upcoming show.
buzz: What inspired you to start the Shadowboxer Collective?
Ryan Groff: Nic and I planned a holiday-themed show, The White Elephant Song Exchange, in early December at Mike ‘n Molly’s, and it went so well that we decided CU was lacking in shows that weren’t “rock shows.” There’s a huge demographic of people who either won’t go out to loud, full-band shows or who just prefer something a little more mellow. So it was a combination of seeing a need and feeling so satisfied after the December show that put this whole collective into action. Plus, we can bring our favorite out-of-town acts to CU, which helps them with exposure in our scene and lets us see them perform more often in our cities.
buzz: What is the ultimate goal for the Shadowboxer Collective?
Groff: Our goal is to have shows twice a month. We want to convince WPGU, WEFT and WRFU to play songs by the acts we’re bringing in the whole month prior to their show and to get features in as many weeklies around CU as we can for them. We want to brand the shows we put together as nights of quality music by people that need to be seen and heard. We’d like to become a staple of the CU music scene; the guys who put on “those shows” that everyone talks about. We want consistency, frequency and recognizability. There’s a missing piece in our little world here, and we’re trying to fill it up with something good.
buzz: What can you tell us about the upcoming show at the Cowboy Monkey?
Groff: We decided that our first show would need a little bit of everything: a local, an out-of-towner who’s been here before (Casey Reeves from Columbia, Mo.), and another who’ll be making their first appearance (Clifton Roy from Naperville, Ill.). I haven’t had too many solo shows lately, mostly Elsinore shows, so I said I’d headline to give us a shot in the arm — if I’m one of the promoters and one of the performers, the word is going to get out. And this mentality has actually sprouted a new idea for us. We want to promote these shows more than other shows in town are promoted. We want people to be excited about seeing these out-of-town acts or lesser-known locals. We want people to come because we turned them on to the music, because we put a flyer in their hand or on the board where they spend their free time and because we sent the e-mails, posted the blog and linked the MySpace and Facebook pages. Basically, we’re striving to do everything we wish people would do for us when we play in other cities … PROMOTE! We don’t need the focus on us.
buzz: What do you think it is about the Champaign-Urbana community that allows for a project like the Shadowboxer Collective to exist?
Groff: Champaign-Urbana has an electricity that I’ve only seen in cities like Portland, Brooklyn and Austin. It seems like everyone has a type of music they’re completely passionate about here. It’s not just a community of “we like anything” but instead — and this was made microscopically clear to me this week at the Great Cover-Up — a community of people who like specific kinds of music and would see any show that had that genre’s tag simply for being billed that way. We have plenty of metal shows and bro-rock shows and garage rock and indie rock and butt rock and emo and hip-hop, but anytime a solo act with an acoustic guitar or a smaller group with a stripped-down vibe wants to play in town, they’re usually tacked on to the very beginning of a rock show before the other bands have even shown up. We want to shine a light on those performers, give them their own night and let the people who’d prefer something besides a rock show sit and listen without earplugs. So we’ll be working with Ward Gollings at the Cowboy Monkey, Mike Murphy at Mike ‘n Molly’s, Seth Fein and Mike Armintrout at the Canopy Club and possibly the IMC and Red Herring to give our shows the stage and attention they deserve. These are the places we see the most potential success for our ultimate goal of something new, something solid and something that will bring more attention to our happy and progressive music scene.

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