Smile Politely

The Pygmalion Festival MUSIC 2016: Friday in Review

Here we are, the Friday of the big weekend for Pygmalion. I unfortunately missed Friday’s opening act, local rockers Elsinore, the Pygmalion staple band who I hope incorporated some themes from their hilarious new video for “Examples of Magnetism.” I was on the scene in time to see Foxing help break in the outdoor stages with their own brand of emo/post rock. Lead singer Conor Murphy never holds anything back, and his backing band keep up well. The addition of strings to Foxing makes their sound atypical of traditional emo music and interesting to see.

Foxing by Veronica Mullen.

The word “shred” is frequently used when in reference to Russian Circles because there are few verbs that better explain what they do. With that wall of guitars, each one screaming and snarling with such ferocity, this instrumental metal band demands to be heard. Russian Circles played the sun down, and were unexpectedly calm and zen-like, their eyes often closed as they made such mighty music. I was outside of The Accord for a moment during their set and a passerby with sharply piqued interest asked me what he was overhearing. When I told him about the band (and fest), he followed me back to the ticket booth, and the rest is history. I’m sure he had a phenomenal time.

Both photos of Russian Circles by Veronica Mullen.

Poster Children are a Champaign band from the 80s/90s. Save for the grunge-pop, alternative rock sound that dates them, you would never have known that they were older. Bassist Rose Marshack chanelled the Pixies’ Kim Deal as she skidded and whipped around the stage. She had to re-tie her hair back at least three times, as her husband, guitarist Rick Valentin, poked fun at her. Professors at ISU, it seems that the two brought some of their students along, who heckled them in good fun.  A good amount of diehard Gen-X’ers new every word, and there is no doubt that those students had a hell of a time. These rockers are working on a new album, and they’ll never quit. I’m excited for the next time they play their old stomping grounds.

Both photos of Poster Children by Veronica Mullen.

We flew to the opposite outdoor stage to be planted for the Wolf Parade set, which was my favorite of the evening. I ran for a drink and managed to only miss half a song, but this effort was futile, because it was one of those shows where you have to set your beer on the ground so you don’t completely douse yourself as you dance. Wolf Parade knows which album is their best (Apologies to the Queen Mary), and they played all the best tracks from it, including “Shine a Light,” “Modern World” and of course, “I’ll Believe in Anything.” To me, the set went to Dan Boeckner, who contributed more vocals than I expected, and of course was merciless with his guitar work, killing it with a solo at the end of the set. In many ways, though, Spencer Krug ekes out Boeckner as the maestro of the group, and manages to control so much, even with his head glued to the keys. I’m ecstatic that the two artists have floated back together again after years apart, and I anticipate great things to come from them in the future. – Julia McAnly

Both photos of Wolf Parade by Veronica Mullen.

“Peace, Love, Unity”: the words that Mother Nature had the audience chanting sporadically throughout the performance. Mother Nature stands as a group of socially righteous advocacy, and between songs they had humbly announced that they are currently trying to build up their non-profit which is also called Mother Nature – a “community outreach grounded in hip-hop, performance, and scholarship.” Last year at Pygmalion, the rap duo of Klevah and T.R.U.T.H. released their debut EP Mother Nature and one year later, the songs still hold up on stage. The mellow flow of “Afro” and the punchy hook of “Michael Jackson” put out heavy vibes across the audience, ensuring the simultaneous nod of heads. Mother Nature owes some credit to the band and backing vocals which were solid and deliberate in throwing down a pocketed groove. The set felt short-lived, but overflowed with love. – Westley Banks

Both photos of Mother Nature by Veronica Mullen.

I visited the inside of The Accord for Frontier Folk Nebraska, whose crowd was unfortunately thin, and would’ve been considerably larger under different circumstances. These guys make rock and alt-country music with an Uncle Tupelo feel to it. They know their instruments well, and they didn’t let the crowd size bother them too much, still executing a great set for those that did gather. – Julia McAnly

Frontier Folk Nebraska by Veronica Mullen.

A sweaty tension built up as the juvenile crowd gathered and impatiently waited in front of The Accord’s outdoor annex stage. Vince Staples took the stage with great nonchalance. He slowly footed his way across stage and gained familiarity with the space which he would inhabit for the next 45 minutes. The set opened with “Lift Me Up” and consisted of a good mixture of Vince Staples’ louder tracks with the majority transporting us back to Summertime ‘06. Standing in the midst of a crowd and then receiving an elbow (or chin) to the back of the head, I abruptly realized the energy of the performance. The bass of a few songs like Hell Can Wait’s “Blue Suede” shook the entire stage with enough force to thunderously rattle the metal rafters above. The sonically explorative entrance of each song built up more hype than the last and signaled an uproar. Although the Prima Donna EP was released less than a month ago, the audience proved to be true fans finding just as much chaotic enjoyment in “Prima Donna” as in older songs like “Lemme Know”. Staples took a moment to speak to the audience and ask if they’re having a good time and to talk about his distaste for authority. Strangely, he took up a calm focus between songs – an extreme juxtaposition to his forcefully gestured lyrics.

Both photos of Vince Staples by Veronica Mullen.

I walked into Memphis on Main Street at what seemed to be the perfect time. The music was slowly speeding up into the end of a song and bringing a rush of head banging with it. The first thing I noticed about AJJ’s folk-punk performance was just how hard these guys were hitting – The drummer pounding into the toms and the singer vigorously shaking every vocal cord. AJJ didn’t play loudly the entire time though, they created intimate moments during slower tracks like “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread” which evolved into a cathartic experience. They played some older songs and some new ones from their latest release The Bible 2. During the closer, something magical happened. Lead singer Sean Bonnette made his way off stage to the center of the crowd, giving every high five he could. He crouched down and with him, the whole crowd crouched, building a quiet anticipation as Bonnette expressed his sentiment. This turned into a climactic finale with everyone’s fists in the air, fully feeling the heaviness of the music. – Westley Banks

Both photos of AJJ by Veronica Mullen.

The last act of the evening that I was wearily able to catch was a bit of Kowabunga! Kid. Shows inside Exile on Main St. are few and far between, and it’s always fun and different to watch a set while leaning on a rack of gently used peasant tops. The emo Kids are young up-and-comers on the scene here with Wasting My Time released a few months ago, and they played some of the best songs from it. They closed out the Friday for Pygmalion with great energy and heart, especially considering that if it was past my bedtime, it was well past theirs. (But who am I kidding? Those fiesty punks would’ve outlasted me any day.) – Julia McAnly

Both photos of Kowabunga! Kid by Veronica Mullen.


There are STILL tickets left for tonight, the very last day of Pygmalion MUSIC. Check out the website to grab one while you still can.

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