Smile Politely

Pygmalion 2012: Saturday in review

Midstress — Exile on Main Street, 12:15–12:45 p.m.

This was my first Midstress show. Unfortunately, they were plagued by broken guitar strings, feedback, and plugs that didn’t work.

But they weren’t really taking their set all that seriously anyway, and they were suffering from some pretty harsh hangovers.

The longer they played the better they got and I ended up enjoying the last couple of their songs. In my opinion, the most talented member of Midstress is their drummer. — Tracy Nectoux

The Dirty Feathers — Exile on Main Street, 1:15–1:45 p.m.

I’d heard of The Dirty Feathers forever, but I’d never seen them until Pride Festival this past August, and I was blown away. I couldn’t buy their album fast enough. And I couldn’t wait to hear them on Saturday at Exile, because I felt that the horrible acoustics in Canopy Club destroyed their sound (almost everybody’s sound, actually) on Friday. I’d brought my spouse along on Friday, singing The Dirty Feathers’ praises, and Oh, how I cursed Canopy throughout their entire set.

So I had high hopes on Saturday and I wasn’t disappointed. They were fantastic. As good as they were at Pride. As good as they sound on their album. And I took another video and … the sound quality is bad. — Tracy Nectoux

“Blue Flame”

Evil Tents — Highdive Outdoor Stage 2, 2:30–3:00 p.m.

Evil Tents kicked off the outdoor extravaganza Saturday afternoon, which turned out to be literally the perfect day for this type of thing. Not a cloud in the sky as long as I was paying attention. The sound over on this tent was surprisingly good to Evil Tent’s mellow sound, and the band was on-target their entire set. I never really thought anyone could rage to these songs, then I saw bassist Isaac Arms bouncing up and down during one of the final tracks, and it wasn’t even close to being a gesture out of place. Good work from this crew, who is quickly becoming one of the more solid acts in C-U. — Patrick Singer

What a fantastic band. Evil Tents’ music is simply gorgeous. Lush, elegant, and gorgeous. — Tracy Nectoux

“Je ne sais quoi, elle a”

Jet W. Lee — Mike ‘N Molly’s, 3:00–3:30 p.m.

I made sure to check out this show based strictly on Annie’s review of their album, Western Nightmare. Everything she said was true. Good, solid rock. And Johnson and Mangan’s harmonies are stunning.

This show was poorly attended, but those of us who got to see it were damn lucky. The crowd may have been small, but we were enthusiastic, and so was the band. Jesse W. Johnson seemed genuinely happy to be at Pygmalion, and the entire band performed as if we were ten times our size. — Tracy Nectoux

“Anticipation High”

Grandkids — Highdive Outdoor Stage 1, 3:053:35 p.m.

The sun was at a seriously daunting angle for this set, and these tunes were just as hot as the temperature felt at this point in the day. Grandkids were the first acts to play on the main stage on Saturday, and they started out things in pretty solid fashion. Vivian McConnell’s vocals were as strong as ever (and her face was a bit red to reflect that), and the rest of the crew was on point. Phil Sudderberg’s drumming played a dramatically larger part in their live show since the last time that I saw them perform. That’s not saying they were lacking before; it just seemed to me that they were much more fluid and noticable than previous Grandkids shows that I have been in attendence for. Hopefully that is something that shows up on their upcoming full-length. New songs all around for these guys/gal, including the track they used for our video last week, plus the always great staple “Ethylene.” Great stuff all around. — Patrick Singer

New Ruins — Highdive Outdoor Stage 2, 3:40-4:10 p.m.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t as attentive as I probably should have for this set, but I do have a few observations about it anyways. The sound for these stages was pretty spot on all day, and it was the best I’d heard New Ruins sound in a while. Sound wise, we’re all good, but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t hear many songs from This Life Is Not Ours To Keep, and I know I’m not the only one who probably feels this way. No worries though, pretty straightforward stuff from these guys, although nothing extremely memorable. — Patrick Singer

Common Loon — Highdive Outdoor Stage 1, 4:154:45 p.m

Alright, whenever I see this band (and I have many, many times), there’s always an incredible sense that they will be outstanding. Literally every time that has been the case, and especially Saturday afternoon. Common Loon has that sort of attitude that isn’t looking to impress the audience too much, but they always find a way to knock it out of the park. Their set Saturday afternoon really, really amped up my anticipation for their next record and follow-up to The Long Dream of Birds, which is still as great as it was when it came out. Those tracks still stand out in their live set — “Mexico” and “A Moment in Energy Transfers” made an appearance and are still as vibrant as they always have been. The new tracks are simply amazing, and that’s no overexaggeration. “Radar Gun” is possibly the best Common Loon track to date, and I’d argue that with anyone. That riff is just incredible. — Patrick Singer

This was easily the most engaging Common Loon set I have seen yet. They always play wonderfully and their music speaks for itself through wave after wave of ominously crafted guitar tracks and vocals. But, shit, turns out equipment matters. The sound on the main stage was huge. I’m not joking when I say they were the loudest band on that stage other than Dinosaur Jr. That extra sound brought out some low tones I didn’t even know were part of their production. Great set. I can’t wait to hear the new album they’ve been working on. — Cody Caudill

Purling Hiss — Highdive Outdoor Stage 2, 4:505:20 p.m.

For some reason, from the very beginning, Purling Hiss has been an under-the-radar act in terms of what’s been most talked about on the Pygmalion bill. There might be a reason why: so no one sees them coming, and they kick all of our asses. You know why? Because that’s exactly what happened during their set. They ripped and roared through their half hour long set, shredding every note they could throughout. Talk about an underrated performance of the weekend, this one might be it for me. Even towards the end of the set, when I realized they had a few minutes left, I just knew that would turn into a nasty extended jam, and that’s exactly what happened. — Patrick Singer 

DeathTram — Mike ‘N Molly’s, 5:00–5:30 p.m.

DeathTram play wandering and raw psych rock. They don’t really have a front man and that may be my only complaint. But let me couch that complaint by saying they are clearly all involved in the making of their sound and that community comes out in the lazy but forceful intent of their sets. Wish I could see more though. The dude in the front blocks half of the band. — Cody Caudill

DeathTram played Mike ‘N Molly’s again this year, and they kicked butt all over the place. What else can I say about this band that I’ve not already said? I’m a fan. Have always been a fan. Will always be a fan. The end. — Tracy Nectoux

Frankie Rose — Highdive Outdoor Stage 2, 6:056:45 p.m.

Just as the sun was going down and I realized sunglasses were no longer necessary, Frankie Rose & co. took the stage to a surprisingly weak crowd from my vantage point. Pushing through mostly Interstellar tracks, they were quietly excellent and fairly reserved. These tracks are bit more sparkly than other Rose projects, which was great with the darkness coming over the area. Highlights included the surprisingly subtle and intimate “Pair of Wings” and obvious standout “Night Swim.” Was it a wild set? Not particularly. But that’s probably the most fitting thing that she and the band could have provided. — Patrick Singer

Anna Karina/Anna Karenina — Mike ‘N Molly’s, 7:007:30

I decided to bypass seeing Unknown Mortal Orchestra again after seeing them (and being satisfied) at Pitchfork Festival. Nothing against them, but this set felt a lot more relieving than that one could have been. Sitting in the beer garden after being on my feet all day never felt so great, plus with AK/AK’s rugged way of soothing the audience, it was well worth the trip over there for this one. These guys have a good formula they are working with and it’s in action. — Patrick Singer

Willis Earl Beal — Highdive Outdoor Stage 2, 7:30-8:10 p.m.

This set was highly entertaining for several reasons. First, before I even saw Beal get on stage, he was walking around with these white gloves on and this interesting get up; then, when the show was starting, I realized there was no one else on stage with him. Just these two mannequins, dressed up and wearing strange sunglasses. Those two ladies accommpanied him on stage throughout his Tom Waits-esque set, howling and just putting on a show solo. It was pretty remarkable, and hilarious at the same time. Plus, this dude’s hair is awesome, perfectly shaped and ready to go for his show. This dude has some serious soul, and can pull it off. I mean, look at this guy? He’s awesome. — Patrick Singer

Dinosaur Jr. — Highdive Outdoor Stage 1, 8:309:30 p.m.

Well, that was loud. Dinosaur Jr. put on the set I think everyone expected. It was loud, J Mascis unleashed the shred without so much as speaking or moving his face, Murph played his drums like they were responsible for the housing bubble collapse, and Lou was the charming and driving sort-of-lead of a bassist we remember him as. I have never seen Dinosaur Jr. play without Lou, but I can’t imagine it being nearly as awesome as it was with him. J is clearly an important and talented guitar player, one that we rarely ever get to take in live, but Lou is the compass. I can see why this band’s sound wandered straight ahead through the 90s without him. Did I mention this show was loud? Those six Marshalls that Mascis plugged into penetrated parts of my ear I didn’t even know I had. — Cody Caudill

I’ve always loved listening to a song or two by Dinosaur Jr., but would not count myself among their most ardent fans. Bascially, if you have heard about three Mascis solos, you are pretty much set. But seeing them live brought a new appreciation to what a wonderful anti-hero Mascis can be. Watching him bob around the festival all day, never showing much emotion under his mass of white hair, one would have expected his who cares attitude to derail the live show. But watching him perform was amazing. While his demeanor said “I’d rather be watching Wheel of Fortune,” his fingers told a much different story. And the best part was when he hit some button on his amp halfway through a song and took things to an amazing new level of awesome. I’m fairly certain the button just said “ROCK”, and I’m pretty sure Mascis is the only one who is allowed to handle that type of power.— John Steinbacher

Cloud Nothings — Highdive Outdoor Stage 2, 9:4510:20 p.m.

These kids screached and stormed their way through their set, and somehow at some point I ended up in the pit. I felt originally that I was safe, but then for some reason, it was alright that I was bouncing around with other people. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done something like that, and at no point was I ever disoriented or not paying attention to what Cloud Nothings were doing. “Wasted Days” might be one of the best tracks to come out this year, and that lyric “I thought I would be more than this” repeated over and over, as loud as he could possibly scream it, was truly awesome. I was engulfed by the rambunctious twenty-somethings, but that’s what I am, so it makes sense that it ended up that way. — Patrick Singer

Grizzly Bear — Highdive Outdoor Stage 1, 10:3012:00 p.m.

Easily my favorite set of Pygmalion. I just don’t understand how folks can take in the complex pop tunes that Grizzly Bear lays out and not walk away at least entertained. Their music is lush and engaging, poppy yet quiet in its emotions, and executed with precision and care. This was not a sloppy rock show that dripped with sweat. I get why that is awesome. I love that, too. But I was very much compelled by their clear respect for their own music and the opportunity to play it live. They played the new hits “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again” early and they set a tone for the ways the band would tinker with dynamics and composition all night. Their slightly updated version of “Knife” was another stand out. These guys were so impressive. I see stadiums in their future. We should be thankful we got a chance to see them before they hit that next level. — Cody Caudill

Grizzly Bear was beautiful. What else is there to say that Cody hasn’t said? Except, hell yeah I’m thankful. — Tracy Nectoux

I would add that Grizzly Bear’s set was also my favorite of the weekend. A lot people complained that they were boring and pretentious. I never saw those people leave the VIP section. Those kind of people piss me off. — John Steinbacher

“Speak in Rounds”

DJ Belly — Highdive (indoors), 12:00–12:45 a.m.

This was another first for me. So this is dubstep. I loved his set. I remember at one point telling my friend that it was becomming impossible not to dance. So yes, I chair-danced to DJ Belly. — Tracy Nectoux

Big Freedia and the Divas — Highdive (indoors), 1:00–2:00 a.m.

Well. Goddamn. I don’t think I’ve had that much fun at a show ever. It’s difficult to put into words what a Big Freedia show will do to a person. I guess I can only go back to what I said last week: hot, sweaty, raunchy, sexy. I didn’t mind making a spectacle of myself because everybody was making a spectacle of themselves. Indeed, the best part of the night was watching the audience members try so hard to bounce. A few of them were pretty darn good at it. Freedia closed the show saying that she would “definitely be back.” Hell yes.

I love that Seth got this show here. And I love that a show like this was so enthusiastically welcomed here.— Tracy Nectoux

This has to be one of the most exciting and one of the best, if not the best, shows of the entire festival. Seriously people, there are very few words I have to describe what Big Freedia did to the Highdive on Saturday night. I’ve never been in that venue with that many other enthusiastically exhausted people in my entire life. It’s amazing the reception that Big Freedia got from the crowd, and it was remarkable what kind of show this actually is. I mean, I’ve seen tons of videos and talked with several people who have seen her in concert, but there is nothing like experiencing it first hand to really understand what it was about. It didn’t matter who you were, everyone was included in that set. People on stage, shaking their asses the best they could with the Divas, bouncing everywhere around the booty platform. Not only was it amazing, but seeing the look on J Mascis’s face was absolutely priceless as he was standing sidestage. This one was not just one for the Pygmalion books, but for THE books. No joke. Talk about going out with a bang, this was it. — Patrick Singer

This show was a non-negotiable contract. Shake your booty or leave. I did and it was amazing. The others have said it already, this was uplifting and a sight to behold. ASS WAS EVERYWHERE! — Cody Caudill

I will echo what everyone said and say what an amazing end to a fantastic festival. If Big Freedia taught me anything, other than the afore mentioned AZZ everywhere, it’s that every night should have some fun music as a capper. Having watched a lot of great rock bands all day, this was the perfect antidote. I acknowledge that scheduling a festival like this is a fool’s errand, you will aways get complaints no matter what you do. But Friday night probably could have used a little more fun at the back end. I think even Julia Holter would agree with me on that.— John Steinbacher

Photos by Sean O’Connor, Chris Davies, and Tracy Nectoux
Videos by Laren Pike and Tracy Nectoux

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