Smile Politely

Pygmalion 2013: Saturday in review

TAKE CARE — Highdive Outdoor Annex

Take Care took on the first set of the Saturday shows outside the Highdive, performing on the big stage. They’ve always felt like a band that had the capability to take on a huge stage like that, for as booming as their sound is. They trudged through their 30-minute set as expected, with shrill guitars and an overall-insane rhythm section. These dudes have always meant business, and they didn’t lack anything in this Saturday heat. (PS)

DINO BRAVO — Exile on Main Street

I can only imagine how horrified some of the patrons at Merry Ann’s must have been by this set. Set up across the alley, Dino Bravo dropped thirty minutes of window-shaking sludge punk at absolute maximum volume. Even to my ears—damaged from going on a decade’s worth of shows—this was painfully loud, in the best possible way. They sped through most of this year’s Planet Madness before ending with a gigantic version of “Bruno Sammartino’s Title Reigns”, culminating in the destruction of bass guitar, drumkit, and possibly a mic or two. Some of the other artists mentioned that Dino declined to share a drumkit, and I now understand why. (BV)

SAN FERMIN — Highdive Outdoor Annex

I hope that it was the early set-time that kept folks from enjoying San Fermin’s show yesterday. I was one of about 30 people in the audience on Saturday afternoon. But their short 30-minute set was a highlight of the festival for me and a harbinger of great things to come for a band whose stop at Pygmalion was (I believe) one of their first ever shows together. They played a good portion of their new self-titled record highlighting the its best songs: “Renaissance!”, “Crueler Kind”, “Sonsick”, and “Daedalus (What We have)”. I speculated in my preview about what the live show would entail—how would they, for example, reproduce the orchestrations and rich vocal support? It turns out that the band is touring as an 8 piece(!), with a violinist, and both a baritone saxophonist and a trumpet player on brass. That micro-orchestra sound is fleshed out by keyboardist (and San Fermin Mastermind), Ellis Ludwig-Leone.

San Fermin is a dialogue between a male and female lead. On the record, the male lead, sung by Allen Tate, is really striking. Live, his voice lacked a bit of power for me. Perhaps Tate just needs a few hundred shows under his belt before he comes into the potential of that baritone croon. I’ll be patient there. The surprise for me was the female lead, Rae Cassidy. She is a bit of a late addition to the band as Jesse Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius sang the female lead parts on the record. She was wonderful. In fact, she blew me away. There I was at 3:45 on a hot September afternoon in a parking lot in Champaign wiping a tear out of my eye because Rae Cassidy is singing her heart out. Beautiful. (JS)

LITTLE GREEN CARS — Highdive Outdoor Annex

When you go to a show knowing you’ll be reviewing it, it forces you to disengage yourself from the performance to an extent. In addition to enjoying the music, you wind up spending the whole time pre-planning; “their guitar tone reminds me of so and so”, “their stage presence could use some work”, “I’d better write down this quote”, etcetera. With that in mind, I was not leaning towards giving Little Green Cars a positive writeup during the first half of their performance. Frankly, there are a lot of bands that play 4/4 indie pop with male-female vocal duos, and a good amount of them do it better than Little Green Cars were. But as fate would have it, the speakers died completely at almost exactly the halfway mark (judging from the plume of smoke emanating from behind the stage, I’m putting my money on a bad generator). Some bands might wait around for things to get fixed, and this may have indeed been the plan when the group gathered at the stage lip for an impromptu acoustic set to the delight of the crowd. But once it became obvious that the sound was not coming back, they hopped down and made their way to the middle of the crowd. As a circle formed around the band, I was reminded that there’s something magical about the unamplified human voice, especially when heard in five-part harmony—I now understand why Phish regularly performed unplugged / acapella encores before their days of headlining arena shows. Little Green Cars emerged triumphant from the cusp of catastrophe, and ended up being the most memorable set of a very packed day of music for me. (BV)

I felt incredibly lucky to be one of the few people who witnessed true professionalism and artistry when the power cut out during Little Green Cars’ set, leaving the rock band from Dublin, Ireland, deprived of instruments. Without skipping a beat, however, the band set down their instruments, headed to the front of the stage (and eventually straight into the audience), and went acoustic/acapella for the remainder of the set. Even while other bands began to rudely sound check over their hushed performance from the neighboring stage (eliciting a mighty middle-finger-flash from teeny vocalist and guitar player Faye O’Rourke towards Psychic Twins’ set up), they continued to give a heartfelt and stunningly crisp performance. No other band at the fest could have pulled this off—while so many performers depend on prerecorded tracks and audio processors, Little Green Cars gave it their all with everything they had, relying on their talent and charm to carry them through the rest of the set. Without a doubt, this was the highlight of the weekend for me. (AJ)

PSYCHIC TWIN — Highdive Outdoor Annex

There was a good show in here somewhere, but it was regrettably lacerated by a hideously distorted vocal mic that rendered Erin Fein’s vocals – the centerpiece of Psychic Twin’s sound – basically unintelligible. This set was truly a shame to behold, as the addition of a percussion / MPC player has really upgraded the band’s live performance, which was lacking in the triple-keyboard configuration that played last year’s festival. If you were able to look past the technical issues (I have to point out that they appeared to be coming off the stage, as opposed to being the fault of the soundman), there was plenty to enjoy. The band pull off the entirely electronic studio material exceptionally, and Fein continues to improve as a frontwoman. I suspect, however, that not many were able to hear past the distortion. (BV)


From the portion of this set from Caveman that I caught, I was pretty disappointed I didn’t get to go to their show a few months back when they came through C-U. The Highdive, plus Common Loon as an opener? Would have been a home run. For now, I was able to catch a portion while running around seeing other shows, but their synth driven tracks were forming quite nicely as the sun was starting to fall further out of the sky during the mid-afternoon hours. “In the City” is always a highlight, no matter whether you’re hearing it on tape or in the live setting. I was off to another set, but left this one in good spirits. (PS)

This was the one act that I really was intrigued by at Pygmalion. It sounded like spaced-out Coldplay meets Tom Petty. My friend hated the lack of highs and thought it sounded smushed. I liked that sound—it felt warm and cozy like a sunny summer Sunday afternoon in a breezy kitchen. We couldn’t place our finger on it but we kept coming up with ideas like cupcakes and rainbows, folk punk, italo punk, and finally we settled on Moroder and Sons—folky, filtered percussion and strings. (SB)


The Annas have been a hidden local gem for quite a while now. Boasting members from The Fights, Midstress, and Take Care, their lo-fi brand of emo was noticeably more muscular and intense than previous times I have seen them. They built “Springleft/Rightfall” into a rollicking three minutes, and have never sounded as good harmonizing on “Hardwood / Baseboards” as they did this evening. This also doubled the release show for the Bookends EP to go along with their appearance on the terrific Crashing the Heirship compilation. Too bad it had to triple as their breakup show. (BV)

JENNY HVAL — Memphis on Main

I suspect that the thing which sold me on Jenny Hval’s performance was her geniune excitement about being at Pygmalion—according to her, the first event to extend an invitation to perform in the US. Based on her cerebral, largely acoustic recorded output (most recently, this year’s Innocence is Kinky), I was anticipating a quiet solo performance. What I got was uptempo, rocking, and surprisingly poppy power trio, anchored by Hval’s pulsating keyboard tone and soaring voice (I often see her compared to Bjork, which is not unfair). This was a very pleasant surprise, and a great counterpoint to the subsequent Nat Baldwin set. (BV)

NAT BALDWIN — Memphis on Main

I was expecting a bigger crowd for the Dirty Projectors member, but he turned in an excellent performance despite the small crowd. Despite the discongruous lighting (a fast-moving ceiling mounted LED kept threating to push the vibe into EDM territory), he captivated the audience with nothing but an upright bass and his thin, wavering voice. His finger-plucked material hewed pretty close to Dirty Projectors’ output, but things really got interesting when he broke out the bow for a tune by no-wave cellist Arthur Russell a few songs in, unleashing Steve Reich-inspired waves over the audience. (BV)

MOTES — Mike ‘N Molly’s

Local three piece Motes put together a pretty solid set, outside of some things that were out of their control. They had some technical difficulties with the equipment about midway through their set, but it didn’t stop them from throwing down some pretty great material throughout. Dispite the brief hiccup, Motes perservered and managed to fill their set with a bunch of material, some old, from their Feel The Summer’s Heat EP from last year, as well as some new tracks that were unheard by the rest of the world. The male-female dynamic has always reminded me of Yo La Tengo for some reason, and it is definitely a positive part of what they’re bringing to the table, especially in the live show where instruments are interchangable from tiem to time. (PS)

SHADOWS ON A RIVER — Mike ‘N Molly’s

This was an experience that I hadn’t ever had before: Seeing Shadows on a River in the live setting. I was familiar with a bunch of their material from the recordings, but having never seen them in a live setting was  regret of mine once this set was completed. Definitely one of the highlights of the Mike ‘N Molly’s shows that night, as the local bands finished and the touring bands began. Shadows were most definitely a worthwhile set if you caught it. (PS)

POTTY MOUTH — Mike ‘N Molly’s 

There was some confusion as to whether Potty Mouth were actually going to perform—they missed load-in and frontwoman Abby Weems was sick with a stomach bug—but thank goodness they did. In what has to be a first for punk rock, they surprised us by going on a full fifteen minutes early, and delivered a melodic, toe-tapping twenty minute set that contained some terrific guitar leads by Phoebe Harris. While Weems started off stock-still and looking every bit the part of a sick person, but was visibly in to it by the third song. While I question the riot grrrl tag that is often applied to them (aside from the band members’ gender, I see minimal resemblance between their music and that of say, Bikini Kill), they’re certainly worth your time regardless. I was at points reminded of Vivian Girls, the Ramones, and C-U’s own Kowabunga! Kid. While they cut their set short due to an impending sixteen hour drive to Massachusets, I can’t complain about what we did get. (BV)


I knew the show would be packed when I saw all the people sitting down in the back waiting for the Major Lazer to go on and I wasn’t wrong. It was the most crowded show I saw at Pygmalion and it is no doubt because they are a huge name right now in popular electronic music. I stayed mostly to the back near the High Dive because I had already worked out that day and I knew it would get crazy inside the crowd. It is just as I expected—every style of dance music combined into one show with tons of audience interaction and almost every track was a Major Lazer edit with Major Lazer tags over the top just in case you forgot you just paid to see Major Lazer. I love Diplo’s style, but I probably wouldn’t have paid to see Major Lazer alone—it was the fact that I could watch bands all day that brought me to Pygmalion, but I fear that many will be dismayed that so many people showed up and paid for Major Lazer alone. Whether you like electronic music or not—and, trust me, there are tons of people who like electronic music who do not like Major Lazer—the final act was a party to celebrate the end of the festival and at that level, Major Lazer delivered. (SB)


The crunchy garage rock outfit DTCV had a bit of time between the end of the Potty Mouth set and the beginning of theirs. As Ben mentioned during the Potty Mouth set, the band cut off their set time, despite starting early, so James Greer & co. had a ton of time to set up and get things going for their 11 p.m. set that night. Perhaps being smack-dab in the middle of the Major Lazer set hurt the turnout for this one, but I think there were a solid amount of people who came out that didn’t really care for what Major Lazer was delivering just up the block. All good all around—DTCV delivered with a crunchy-rock filled set that blended well between who preceeded them and who was about to follow. (PS)


As the rain started to come down a bit during Stagnant Pools, it held off just enough for them to squeeze in a half hour of quality droned-out rock for those who weren’t completely wiped out from the entire day of music. Whether you were at the outdoor stage at the Highdive all day, or hopping back and forth between MNM’s and there, your feet were probably shot at this point in the weekend. Regardless, Stagnant Pools threw down a pretty awesome set, but it might have gotten missed at this point in the night (it’s midnight at this point in time). Perhaps if they came back in another form, either at an indoor venue, or with a shorter bill, or something, might be the best combination for these guys. Temporary Room sounded great in this particular setting, but the attention might not have been entirely there from an audience standpoint. (PS)

[gallery pygmalion_in_photos_day_3]

All photos by Sean O’Connor, Wes Pundt and Caleb Curtiss.

More Articles