Smile Politely

2011 Pygmalion initial lineup revealed

Here’s the first set of bands announced to play the Pygmalion Music Festival this year. The fest takes place Sept. 21–24. Keep in mind that this is just the initial list and there will be many more announcements to come, including some more headliners.


Explosions in the Sky ― Hailing from Austin, Texas, the post rock quartet has experienced a huge wave of popularity in recent years, thanks in no small part to soundtrack work for Friday Night Lights. Their legendary intense live shows and widespread touring built them a national fanbase long before their music wound up on national TV. Anyone who can get the youth of America listening to eight minute songs with no vocals has succeeded admirably in our book. They’ve slowed their touring down quite a bit recently, so there’s no telling if, or how long, it will be until they come back. Do yourself a favor by taking any and all steps necessary to get to this.


Braid ― When Braid announced that they were recording a new 12″ earlier this year, the immediate response from their rabid fanbase was when and where will they be performing live? Well, it turns out you won’t have too many choices. We are told they will only be playing two shows: one in Chicago and one at Pygmalion. In downtown Champaign. Outside (a first for the festival). Lots more details to come in the next week or so on this, but here’s hoping an outdoor show becomes an annual tradition.

Braid is the quintessential Champaign-Urbana band, growing from practicing in a dorm storage room to playing basements at DIY house shows (though we just called them parties back then) to bigger local venues to national tours to emo/post-hardcore infamy. It’s fantastic that they have chosen to play in their true hometown one more time. Expect to be sharing the audience with fans from far and wide for this one.


Toro Y Moi ― The South Carolina electronic artist has emerged from the initial chillwave craze with a fantastic second album, Underneath the Pine, which shows off beatmaking skills that are more DJ Shadow than Neon Indian. We’re looking forward to some serious electronic dickery at this one.


Deerhoof ― For over a decade, Deerhoof has been creating crazy music for the masses that descends into mayhem, then bounces upward to moments of amazing beauty. At this point it makes more sense to list the enormous number of bands that they have influenced, rather than which ones they sound like ― but live, there’s only one Deerhoof.


Japandroids ― Japandroids landed a knockout punch with their sweaty, adrenaline-fueled set at Pygmalion ’09. That show came on the heels of the massive success of Post Nothing, while this set comes as they work on a follow-up. They may have even more to prove this time.


Xiu Xiu ― Xiu Xiu has spent most of its (Jamie Stewart’s) career just outside the big time, mostly because of the band’s refusal to ease into expected norms. They’re definitely a “love them or hate them” type of band, and their fans tend to love them A LOT. Though describing the band’s “sound” would be pointless, it’s clear their influences run the gamut, including everything from the Smiths to Tom Waits.


Starfucker ― Most people’s main exposure to this band is probably that time they tried to change their name to the almost-funnier Pyramidd. However, those who saw them last time they came through town know that they’re far more serious (and fun!) than their name implies.


The Hood Internet ― Though the excitement surrounding recorded mashups has kind of run its course, mashups in the live setting remain a big draw because bands like The Hood Internet keep you guessing ― and keep you moving.


Viva Voce ― This husband/wife duo was tipped to be the next big thing a few years back ― recall that they headlined a show in 2006 over Headlights and a pre-“Lazy Eye” Silversun Pickups ― but never really seemed to break through. That doesn’t mean they haven’t stopped making music, and their distinctly northwestern take on blues-rock leads the band to some interesting spaces. Plus, the woman in this band plays a fucking double neck.


Owen ― Again. And always.


Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin ― They come through town really often, but that’s only because they have a huge local fanbase, and are rock-solid live. Sing along, kids.


Asobi Seksu ― This band does not put on any pretense. On the front page of their website they spell it out for you: dream pop. And it is good.


Jessica Lea Mayfield ― The Ohio singer/songwriter is a recent NPR favorite, and plays a downtempo style that calls to mind a country leaning Sharon Van Etten. She’s toured with Jay Farrar and Band of Horses, and just released her second full-length this February, entitled Tell Me.


Unknown Mortal Orchestra ― The appearance of this band was more or less tipped off by the Pygmalion Facebook page a couple of weeks ago where they were called “dope.” Fat Possum is releasing their debut album in June and the song on the website sounds pretty good ― kind of like a mix between Midnite Vultures Beck and those Sesame Street disco counting segments of the early eighties. That should translate well to the live setting.


Brass Bed ― The Louisiana five-piece play the exuberant indie pop that’s been all over the blogosphere as of late. They do it well, too.


Ivan and Alyosha ― This Seattle band seems to owe a debt to the same late-sixties lush folk pop that the Fleet Foxes adhere to. That’s a pretty good formula.


Ava Luna ― There’s no getting around that this New York group sounds a lot like the Dirty Projectors ― that’s a good thing in our book. Their electronic/soul flourishes add an interesting dimension that push them past imitation into flattery.


Adam Arcuragi ― Arcuragi is a singer/songwriter who has been making the rounds for a couple of years. Nothing earth-shattering, but he seems to do that heady lyrics and soulful singing thing very well.


Grave Babies ― You can’t not love a band whose most popular song is called “Eating Babies.” Oh, and they’re a lo-fi/goth band from Seattle.


The Parson Red Head ― Another band that is a throwback to an earlier era, the Parsons part of their name is probably not an accident. This is the kind of feel-good Americana that goes down very nice.

(Alphabetical order for the locals)

An Evening With Your Mother ― A band that may or may not contain high school students. They play folk music and are earnest.


Common Loon ― While they haven’t been playing out too often recently, aside from that ultra left-field opening slot for Girl Talk, these guys are most certainly still kicking. They’re one of the most reliably great live bands in town, and something tells me they aren’t looking to lose that reputation anytime soon.


The Dirty Feathers ― Now that they’ve released the Pistol Hills single you can’t call them one of the great unrecorded bands in town. They’re no less awesome, though.


Elsinore ― Back with a vengeance after a forced injury hiatus, Elsinore are looking to get back on top of our corner of the world. If the new material they played at Record Store Day is any indication, they’ve dialed up the experimentalism and power.


The Fresh Kills ― Look for them to be playing songs from their as of yet untitled second album, including the excellent “I’m From the Midwest, I’m Softspoken.” 


Grandkids ― Still playing behind the excellent Sister Walls EP, the Urbana four-piece have gone from awkward Freshmen to a confident, cohesive unit, and their live performances reflect that. Plus, they might do that awesome Joanna Newsom cover.


Iron Tigers ― Charleston, Illinois folk/country representing.


The Leadership ― Even if you’ve heard Frontiers, you’re missing out if you don’t see them live, where things are apt to turn into a rock and roll raveup.


Roberta Sparrow ― These guys have been around as long as anybody in town, and their live shows are an exercise in practice. Even on the most off of days, they never fail to get a pit going.


Take Care ― They’re local stalwarts at this point, and for good reason ― mainly their ferocious live shows. Plus, that long-rumored second EP might actually show up by the time September rolls around.


That’s No Moon ― Former JigGsaw members, well worth a listen if you liked that band’s dancier material.


Withershins ― These guys have some seriously great new material, and have morphed into an extremely tight live unit in the last few months. Recommended.

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