Smile Politely

The Pygmalion Festival 2014: Sunday in review

The last day of Pygmalion kicked off for me at Exile on Main Street’s new location to see Aaron Burch and George Clarke of Deafheaven do readings for Pygmalion Lit Fest. I had not gotten to check out any of the other lit fest events this weekend, so it was cool to see one. Aaron Burch’s reading touched on the awkward private thoughts that go through young peoples’ minds. George Clarke seemed to feel awkward standing on a stage by himself reading perfectly discernable words as opposed to the theatrical band performance he usually does every night, but it was nice to hear some of his non-lyrical words.

Back at the outdoor stage, I caught a very happy Withershins, playing in front of an already set up American Football backdrop. Both they and Into It Over It remarked at how excited they were to be playing on the same stage as American Football and getting to see them later that day. IIOI was a full-band this time around, as opposed to Evan Weiss playing solo, which is the only way I’ve seen him play before. The full band is definitely how his music is meant to be heard.


In between those sets, I checked out The Marathon Guitarkestra, which was pretty much what it sounds like it was — a guitar orchestra, consisting of six guitars, two percussionists and one bassist/conductor Brandon Beachum. The buildup was slow but by the end he was conducting the Guitarkestra in such a way that it seemed like his hands were what was making the spasms of noise coming from various amplifiers set up around the stage. It was neat to see so many local musicians coming together to make something so huge.



People tend to draw comparisons between Liturgy and Deafheaven — both are American black metal bands whose “cvlt cred” has been repeatedly questioned by black metal purists. However, it was easier to contrast the two after watching their back-to-back sets last night. Liturgy is definitely the more experimental band of the two, and they play in a very unique style that tends to alienate a lot of people. Not only that, but their recordings are so precise that they are hard to replicate live. That said, I’m one of the minority that does appreciate the artiness of Liturgy, and all in all enjoyed their set. Deafheaven, on the other hand, are hugely popular to a wide audience. Anyone could tell by simply comparing the sparse crowd at Liturgy to the push-pit at Deafheaven. Also, Deafheaven’s songs are improved in their live performance, in which they convey such intensity and emotion. I’m really glad this band got so popular because now I get so see them so many times.

After Deafheaven, most of the crowd stayed camped at that stage for American Football, but I couldn’t help but gravitate toward Maserati, a band that’s been around for a while and played in C-U several times, but apparently I missed the boat on that. I’m glad I hopped on now though, because I was truly impressed by this band. Even their sound check sounded cool with the extreme delay they use. This is the geek in me coming out, but their psyched-out, post-math-rock jams with a krautrock rhythm behind them were right up my alley. OK — now you can slap me for saying that.


And then it was American Football’s turn to headline the outdoor stage. Seeing them brought comfort and closure to me personally, as their self-titled album meant a lot to me as a teenager, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I would’ve been perfectly happy if they didn’t even sound good, but they did. Transitions were obviously a little rough, as this was their first show in about 15 years, but the songs were well-rehearsed, mixed well, and sounded great. When Mike Kinsella announced, “We’re American Football from Champaign, Illinois,” the responding cheers made it clear how special this band is to people here, and the music that followed was a reminder of how important and influential they are to the entire genre of emo and beyond.

Alex G


Based on a couple friends’ recommendations, I checked out Alex G’s aftershow at Memphis On Main, which wound up being really cool. Alex G and his band make some cool pop-rock in the vein of Elliot Smith but maybe less sad and more goofy and lo-fi. He insisted on more smoke from the smoke machine until the whole half of the room was filled and nobody could see a foot in front of them by the end of the show. I popped over to the Highdive for Earth afterwards, which was very much contrasting the dance party going on there the night before. The veteran doom band’s slow and hypnotic drones were putting me to sleep after a long and exhausting festival, but nonetheless were a wonderful end to a wonderful weekend of wonderful music in wonderful Champaign-Urbana.

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Photos courtesy of Chris Davies and Maddie Rehayem.

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