Smile Politely

The Pygmalion Festival MUSIC 2016: Saturday in Review

This was the final day of the Pygmalion Festival 2016, and we wanted to cover all of it. Sure, a couple things slipped through the cracks, and that is unavoidable, but we brought as much as we possibly could here to document this great last day of music for C-U’s own festival. We hope you enjoy.


Alas, I did not arrive at the festival in time for Tara Terra, but I know that Emily Blue and company took their breezy indie-pop and opened up the last day of Pygmalion with grace and strength. Tara Terra is one of the most promising young acts in the area and we should all make sure to catch them before they’re too big to play our venues as often.

Tara Terra by Veronica Mullen.

I know little about Prince Rama, but I know this synthy pop band had a hypnotic and strange set that reminded me much of Tune-Yards. I only caught the end of it, which was regrettable, but the costumes were excellent.

Prince Rama by Veronica Mullen.

For me, Aloha served as a prelude for what was to come with Future Islands. The synthy band performed right before the headliner, and seemed a little uneasy for the majority of their set, but did settle in towards the end. A few sound issues may have added to their hesitation. The people that were present outdoor at The Accord were largely camping for Future Islands, so the crowd for Aloha was a bit thin. They didn’t jive with this, so they nixed the last song to end early. It was a shame; I thought they were doing well.

Aloha by Veronica Mullen.

The crowd for Future Islands was a lot younger than I thought it would be, with teenagers in the midst. It’s great to see people of all ages enjoying music, and it made for a high energy level that was present for much of the evening for Pygmalion. Future Islands are an unusual grab bag of genres: They’re certainly electronic, with a synth keyboard at the front of their music. They possess elements of indie, in that their lyrics are carefully constructed and thoughtful, and even sometimes poetic. But somehow, Future Islands are also sort of a metal band to me. Sam Herring has more than a strong stage presence – he’s just one holy hell of a frontman. Pounding his chest and high-kicking his way through the set, Herring had sweat literally pouring off of him the whole time, and a cheeky grin in spite of it. He peppered expletives between each song, tossing them at the crowd throughout the set, not maliciously; more as an addition to the sensationalist performance. Herring has a loud “metal scream” that he spouted off a couple times in between his singing. It left him a bit hoarse by the end of the set, but ‘tis the sacrifice. The group played favorites from Singles, like “Spirit” and “A Song for Our Grandfathers,” and of course “Seasons (Waiting on You).” When they wrapped up their set at 9:12 and realized they had three minutes left, they squeezed in another song, of course. The back and forth between band and audience amped the momentum for the night and kept spirits high. – Julia McAnly

Both photos of Future Islands by Veronica Mullen.

There was something explicitly wonderful about Saba’s performance. Was it his stage presence? The genuine smile he kept on his face? Was it the way he engaged the audience? Was it the soulfully laid back grooves? The Chicago rapper brought the city with him, musically and spiritually. Saba’s magnetic personality shone through from the moment he took the mic – his flow is clean and excitable. Saba fed off of the energy of the crowd and by asking us to put our hands up and occasionally help out with a chorus, he welcomed the crowd to be a part of the performance. The show was full of surprises as a couple of dancers from his crew came up on stage to dance with him for a song and for a moment they so closely resembled a boy band and he tried out a new song for the first time. Midway through the set, Saba performed “Angels” a piece from Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book on which Saba is featured in the chorus and of course this was an uplifting and prideful moment for those familiar with Chicago’s rap scene. If you missed Saba last night, don’t worry because you can find all of the music he performed online through his bandcamp.

Both photos of Saba by Veronica Mullen.

Louis the Child may be considered as just another couple of laptop performers, but last night they went so far beyond that. Instead of taking up traditional instruments, the electronic duo Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennett used the gigantic speakers overhead the Accord’s outdoor stage as their instruments. For an impressive hour and 15 minutes, Louis the Child consistently kept the most excited crowd I had seen all weekend. 45 minutes into their set, when you could expect things to settle down and begin to come to a close, they announce that this is usually where things get a little crazy – and they followed through. I would only complain that they were almost too hyped for too long. They are a wild duo and they couldn’t contain their own excitement. I watched them throw t-shirts at flailing hands and then climb on top of the table and jump ten feet into the air during those heart-pounding, bone-rattling bass drops which, by the way, I swear happened no less than every 3 minutes. During the set they played a new single for us which is supposed to come out this Friday and they closed with their hit “Strange” – the offputtingly catchy track featuring the soothing and sympathetic voice of rapper K.Flay.

Both photos of Louis the Child by Veronica Mullen.

Mild High Club has me scrounging through streaming sites just trying to get more of their soft psychedelic tunes. I regrettably missed the the first couple of songs they played while I was deafened and staggering away from Louis the Child’s wall of noise, but the wealth of Mild High Club’s last few songs was satisfying enough. From the guy standing behind me, they caused a screaming plead and then a unanimous begging for an encore – and delivered. Maybe it was the fact that I had just come from the loudest show I’d ever heard, but Mild High Club seemed to play quietly and not in a bad way. The quietness was due to a careful precision and a well-practiced balance among the five-piece band. Their music played out gently inside of Memphis on Main street’s crowded air, usually with a soothing synth over which the guitars soloed. The scratchy textures striking through smooth soundscapes were only describable in a cliché way: face-melting.

Both photos of Mild High Club by Veronica Mullen.

When they began their performance, no one was prepared for Psychic Ills. And when they carefully put down their instruments and left the stage resonating through pedal loops of vast distortion, no one could quite understand what just hit them. The long-haired, grungy psychedelic rock band was immediately discernable. They took on a versatile instrumentation with guitar, bass, and drums, mixed with a wonky, wavering synth and the feel-good slides of a pedal steel guitar. With close observation, I noticed how extensively and intricately the pedal boards were set up below the lead vocalist and guitarist, which took up a lot of the stage’s space but were surely all without pretense. I also noticed the soothing smell of a stick of incense attached to the edge of the synth and burning so slowly; a subtle reminder that it’s the little things in life that bring the most joy. The whole set was beyond fluid and I wasn’t too sure of how many songs they performed, while they used the reverberating climactic end of one song to fade into or sharply introduce the beginning of the next. There were moments within Psychic Ills’ performance which felt less like music and more like a drawn out meditation on the synthetic sine waves and overabundant frequencies coming through the miles of circuitry. I would see the lead singer crouch down and focus on his pedal board while sustaining a single chord and then the keyboardist fiddle with the pedal attached to his synth and, with a keen ear, the drummer picked out a wavering pulse from the dense texture of sounds and highlighted it with a simple groove that dug deep. The drummer expanded on this groove over the next five minutes, all while the rest of the band held this pulsating drone. Although my ears were begging for quiet relief, I was blissfully contended by the length of these enlightening moments. – Westley Banks

My tank was near empty when I squeezed into Exile on Main St. for the Tigerbeat set, but it was great music for that. John Isberg and company took it down a notch, with contemplative psych numbers that reach up into space and then pull back down with grounded, guitar-driven, classic-rock choruses. Playing with closed eyes, they relished the rise and fall.

Both photos of Tigerbeat by Veronica Mullen.

The very LAST set of Pygmalion Music 2016 went to Take Care, the instrumental rock band that gave my annihilated ears one last punch. Their carefully constructed wall of sound reverberated all around the tiny venue and was too large for Exile, but the set still managed to feel intimate. After the long journey that the festival had been, these guys did not miss a step, and took us all the way into the wee hours of Sunday. They left me satisfied and willing to put this Pygmalion to bed, so that I could rest myself, and begin anticipating the next one. – Julia McAnly


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