PYGMALION is back and ready to fascinate and entertain you come this September 21-23. The 19th PYGMALION will be another assault on the senses as artists of all mediums converge on Urbana for three days to excite, amaze, and move you. From RuPaul’s Drag Race-winning Alaska 5000 and Monét X Change to Lauren Mayberry, lead singer of Chvrches, along with visual artists and writers from all walks of life, its a celebration of creativity, diversity, and expression. Below are just some highlights of this year’s event.
Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches)
Lauren Mayberry, the lead vocalist of the Scottish pop band Chvrches, is performing a solo show. The singer/activist is known for her captivating voice and dynamic stage presence, Mayberry is sure to deliver an unforgettable performance. (DP)
Alaska 5000 and Monét X Change
Is there anything more entertaining than a drag show? Really. I want you to seriously consider that question. They are pure joy, humor, and creativity. I can’t wait to see Alaska 5000 and Monét X Change, both superstars from RuPaul’s Drag Race, light up Foellinger Great Hall at Krannert Center. (JM)
Susto, recognized for their distinctive blend of indie rock, Americana, and alt-country, have captivated audiences with their unique sound, showcased at notable festivals like High Water Festival and South by Southwest. The band’s extensive touring history signifies their impact on the music scene. Indie rock and Americana enthusiasts should explore Susto’s music and seize any opportunity to experience their live performance. (DP)
Divino Niño is a Chicago-based indie rock band renowned for its bold reinventions and diverse musical style. Originally formed as a psych-pop band, they’ve evolved through their career to incorporate elements of reggaeton, electropop, and trap music, marking a significant shift with their adventurous album, Last Spa on Earth. Written and recorded during a period of catharsis, the album showcases their skill at collaborative composition and explores themes of release and resilience, underpinned by the band’s shared journey through the pandemic and their collective Colombian heritage. (DP)
Joanne Lee Molinaro, “The Korean Vegan”
Some may recall that Joanne Lee Molinaro, also known as The Korean Vegan, was set to appear at PYGMALION last year. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to postpone, and is back on the schedule for this year, which is very exciting. Molinaro began sharing her recipes as a blogger and is now a force on TikTok, with videos that combine mesmerizing food prep as she reflects on something that’s happened in her life, offers a little commentary, or tells a quick story (sticking to the 60-second TikTok format). She published her first cookbook in 2021, filled with recipes that, as she puts it, “veganize Korean food.” Oh, and she’s a James Beard winner. I know that our readers are all about food content, so this is a show that you will definitely want to catch. (JM)
Double-platinum artist Bryce Vine, known for his chart-topping hits “Drew Barrymore” and “La La Land,” which have accumulated over 3 billion streams, is set to bring his high-octane performance to PYGMALION. Famed for his electrifying appearances on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and more, Vine promises an all-around feel-good party. Notably, he’s worked with a diverse range of artists like Loud Luxury, Two Friends, Wale, and lovely the band, showcasing his ability to transcend genre confines. (DP)
Ratboys, an indie rock sensation from Chicago, was formed in 2010 by Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan, and now includes members Marcus Nuccio and Sean Neumann. Having released three critically acclaimed albums, including Printer’s Devil, which MTV called “the best album of their career,” Ratboys have made their mark on the industry. With a history of successful tours alongside acts such as PUP and Soccer Mommy, the band is known for their introspective lyrics, dynamic sound, and steadfast influence in the Midwestern punk scene. (DP)
Claud, an emerging artist with a knack for candid songwriting, recently released their second album, Supermodels, presenting relatable themes of life and love. The album was born from a period of personal change, serving as a musical exploration of the trials of adulthood and the intricacies of relationships. Claud offers an accessible connection to listeners with their heartfelt lyrics and genre-bending style. (DP)
Man on Man
Man on Man, a musical duo comprised of Roddy Bottum and Joey Holman, was initially born as a pandemic project but quickly gained recognition for their poignant love songs and impactful music videos. Their latest album, Provincetown, offers a blend of energetic pop and reflective lyrics that grapple with contemporary queer life and love in the United States. Bottum and Holman’s dynamic partnership are witnessed in their bold performances and serious exploration of crucial topics.
The other national touring acts playing this year include: Theon Cross, Madison McFerrin, Thelma and the Sleaze, Sen Morimoto, Tim Atlas, Ax and the Hatchetmen, Friko, Arushi Jain, Vallis Alps, Free Range and Lutalo. (DP)
Comedy at PYG
I always make it a point to check out the comedians that come to PYGMALION, and this time around there are two. Ali Macofsky will be at the Rose Bowl on Friday, and Isiah Kelly will be there Saturday. Both are new names to me, so I looked them up on YouTube, and they have very different styles of comedy, a little something for everyone. Check out the clips below to get an idea. (JM)
Many local bands and musical artists will also be at PYGMALION. Below are a just a few:
They’ve all moved back to Chicago, but Champaign-Urbana will always fistfight to lay claim to the birthplace of Kangaroo Court. These guys almost melted Rose Bowl to the ground a few weeks ago at their farewell show, and I expect another high-energy, take-no-prisoners show from them. (DP)
Kenna Mae’s Sweetmelk bring an arsenal of a tight band, great songs and boundless energy back to PYGMALION this year. (DP)
Haki n’Dem is an exceptional R&B/soul group hailing from Champaign-Urbana and Chicago, led by the immensely talented young musician Haki, who not only dazzles with his incredible vocals but also showcases his mastery of multiple instruments, alongside his dynamic band featuring piano, vocals, bass, drums, trumpet, and guitar, as they deliver a funky neo-soul experience reminiscent of the legendary influences of Prince, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Sly and the Family Stone. (DP)
Champaign-Urbana’s musical collective Half House Studios perform together as Half House on this year. I saw them tear up the stage at Summer Camp, so get your tickets early for a hip-hop highlight of PYGMALION.
Other local acts include Good Night & Good Morning, Fiona Kimble, Belles Lettres, Carrie Sue and the Wood Burners, The Afro Carribean Jazz Collective, Lollygagger, Ms. Jones if You Nasty, Loose, Venus Overdrive, Snack’d Out, Chuck’s Papas, and Emily the Band. (DP)
The Made Fest
Every good festival needs shopping, at least according to me. I look forward to The Made Fest every year. You’ll find a bunch of unique items from local and regional makers, conveniently stationed in the Rose Bowl parking lot on Friday and Saturday. You can shop and still hear some great music! Stay tuned to Instagram as the weekend approaches, to get a peek of the vendors that will be there. (JM)
Full Disclosure: PYGMALION is owned and operated by the same parent company as Smile Politely.
Julie McClure and Derrick Phillips contributed to this article.