The 29th Annual Great Cover Up has undeniable roots in Champaign’s livelihood. Founded in 1991, The Great Cover Up showcases an amalgamation of unique artists who hail from the Champaign-Urbana area.
From performers such as the Boneyard Brass Band to Truth aka Trouble, the collection of artists portrayed in GCUP’s repertoire portrays Champaign’s diverse music scene.
Organized by Mike Ingram and Ward Gollings, this year’s event is scheduled at the Champaign City Center on Feb. 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15. GCUP will include performances from over 20 artists whose lives center around Champaign-Urbana.
“Every year there’s usually three local charities or nonprofits that we pick to put the proceeds towards,” Ingram said.
This year’s proceeds will be donated to Girls Rock!, a day camp that focuses on the development of girl musicians, CU 1-to-1, Champaign-Urbana’s school-based mentoring program, and the local Habitat for Humanity community garden.
“Over the years, this is a love letter to Champaign-Urbana,” Ingram said.
From 90’s hip-hop to Bruce Springsteen, GCUP features a diverse array of genres. According to Ingram, bands are encouraged to leave their comfort zone and play music the audience would not anticipate.
“A lot of times it’s fun because the bands are taking on something that maybe you didn’t expect,” Ingram said. “We try to give people a reason to come out since it’s a charity event.”
“It’s nice to have something that has such a long legacy because then obviously a lot of people, especially musicians, are aware of (GCUP’s local roots),” Ingram said regarding the 29th annual event.
As a first-time Great Cover Up performer, Karena Tse, junior in LAS, said the event is a “hallmark of music in Champaign” and is eager to see what other artists bring to the table.
“This is definitely the first time I’ve been able to pursue music to this capacity, and I think it has a lot to do with how generous and active the music scene is here,” Tse said. “When it comes down to it, music is one of the only ways I know how to express myself.”
Tse credits her local music involvement to The Canopy Club, which she described as her “entry point for the music scene” in Champaign-Urbana. Tse considers music as an opportunity to open herself to others and to have others open themselves to her.
“I keep doing (music), because it’s how I know who I am and how I’m able to communicate to other people who I am,” Tse said. “I’m really honored to be a part of the project this year, because I see that it’s really special to a lot of people in town here, and I feel really lucky to have been welcomed into the scene this way.”
Ryan Groff, guitarist and singer from the pop-rock band Elsinore, is an experienced GCUP performer. Elsinore, founded in 2004, combines elements of David Bowie, The Police and Radiohead, according to Groff, and has performed at GCUP 6 or 7 times.
“We have so many people all coming together and putting all this time and effort into doing this, and then all the proceeds go to a few different local charities every year,” Groff said. “I just really love that our music scene always kind of proves itself from year to year with the Great Cover Up.”
Groff’s most memorable performance at GCUP was in 2006 when Elsinore played the music of Queen.
“When we played Bohemian Rhapsody for the final song of our set, (with) a completely sold-out venue of people freaking out as if Queen was actually playing the son. That’s probably my most fond memory,” he said.
Groff described his sentimentality behind GCUP and is excited to hear other bands perform at the event.
“Every year I am introduced to at least one new band who I end up being so happy that they are part of this music scene,” Groff said. “You totally really never know, first of all, who has been asked to perform until you see the official lineup being announced. It’s great that our music scene has so many bands that are into this.”
Ingram believes the local bands of GCUP have created a monumental impact upon Champaign-Urbana’s music scene. With charity proceeds being at the forefront of the performers’ minds, the 29th annual Great Cover Up will be an event to remember.
“The hope is that we, while raising money, are also raising some awareness of what bands we have around here and what great things are happening in this scene around us,” Ingram said. “If we can continue to make it a thing that people want to attend and take part in and we keep generating money for local organizations, that seems pretty big to me.”