Smile Politely

The Pygmalion Festival MUSIC 2016: Thursday in review

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is a fantastic venue, and an especially interesting one for the types of music featured for the Pygmalion Festival, as taking rock bands to college theaters can have mixed results. Here’s how we felt about last night’s shows. The artists weren’t shy about contributing their two cents as well. 

Julia Jacklin by Brittany Busboom

It’s a real shame that I didn’t get off work in time to catch Julia Jacklin, because this singer-songwriter is starting out strong. The Polyvinyl artist’s folk-indie music is warm and complex, and shows her potential for big things. Krannert’s Stage 5 hosted the gig, and the size and closeness of that stage brings a real intimacy. – Julia McAnly

Lucy Dacus by Brittany Busboom

The second the clock hit 7:16, the lights dimmed and Lucy Dacus took the stage, giving a wave to the crowd that were glued to their seats before grabbing her snow-white Gibson Les Paul and delivered an intimate opening number, layered with her soothing alto voice, before the rest of the band joined in for a jam that could have lasted hours. Lucy Dacus and her band delivered a performance that was both affectionate and profound. The crowd was feeling the energy, but expressed it from the comfort of their seats. From the start of the show, everyone provided a cozy feeling for the band, even during the moments of heavy-hitting hard rock.

Dacus joked, “It’s kind of like the high school talent show, but you know how it is,” giving the audience a good laughed while also providing a welcome wave of energy for the crowd. – Casey Skorski

Lucy Dacus by Brittany Busboom

Car Seat Headrest by Brittany Busboom

I personally feel that sometimes, performances inside quiet venues ache for energy. This applied to the Car Seat Headrest show. I wanted to be the instigator and go stand and dance, but I didn’t have the guts. Dressed head-to-toe in formal war, Toledo does take himself seriously, and that influenced the attitude. In spite of the subdued and docile crowd, Will Toledo and company were impressive. They started the show with what I think was a new song, referencing Leonard Cohen a few times (of whom Toledo is a big fan), and playing into “Cosmic Hero.” I was delighted as the song became a medley when the band then blended into the chorus of the Velvet’s “Sweet Jane” and came back around to end it.

Car Seat played some favorites from Teens of Denial and a song or two from Teens of Style, but also peppered in some older tracks, like “Sober to Death,” a somber song that Toledo may have chosen to suit the situation. Regardless of the low energy level, this band can evoke both serious contemplation and uninhibited celebration, and they came out on top with an excellent set.

(My craving for more excitement at the Car Seat Headrest show was sated by the next act. Frightened Rabbit engaged the audience fully and were able to pull people out of their seats.) – Julia McAnly

Car Seat Headrest by Brittany Busboom

Frightened Rabbit by Sam Logan

Frightened Rabbit was sympathetic with the crowd. Vocalist-guitarist Scott Hutchison quipped, “If you ever see a singer performing with his eyes closed, it’s not because he’s filled with raw emotion, it’s so that he doesn’t see the guy in the front row yawning.” The crowd roared with laughter, and before the night was over, the space between the front row and the stage that was once an invisible barrier between artist and audience, soon became a true-front row experience as people stood and approached the stage, engaging with the band. This all occurred during the middle of a song, and Hutchison didn’t notice the change until he opened his eyes at the end of a track and the lights went up. Startled and pleased, he said, “There we go! Now it’s like a rock show.” Frightened Rabbit delivered the goods, musically and visually. A passionate, consistent set backed by a striking, almost too-radiant light show gave the Thursday crowd a memorable performance that amped up the mood inside Tryon Theatre. – Casey Skorski

Frightened Rabbit by Veronica Mullen

Alvvays by Sam Logan

To me, the whole evening at Krannert seemed to carry the theme of youth with it. Taking place inside a college arts building was a change of pace for these artists. Scott Hutchison’s Frightened Rabbit engaged and spoke to the audience over the whole set, frequently mentioning the venue and an almost palpable age difference between his band of thirty-somethings and the audience. Alvvays also mused on this, but in an almost opposite way. The Canadian band are all in their mid to late twenties, but guitarist and lead singer Molly Rankin joked about it, saying, “We’re all 41. Actually, I’m 42.” (This ended up as a contrast to Hutchison’s quip about being 35, and then saying, “Wait a minute – I’m 34. I just got back a year, guys!”) Alvvays breezed through their jangly pop music, playing all the best tracks off their self-titled debut, including “Archie, Marry Me” and “Party Police.” Their set location at Stage 5 was a little off, as it’s not an elevated stage, and that made it hard to see for anyone not in the first few rows. It wasn’t a huge detriment, though, as the sound was full and the spirits were high.

Alvvays by Sam Logan

It’s so much fun to attend a multi-artist event and pull a theme out of it, since it has come together through a non-conferring collective of individuals. It fosters camaraderie and makes strangers feel like friends. This was my pleasant takeaway from Thursday’s Pygmalion fest at Krannert, and I think those around me felt the same. – Julia McAnly


Make sure to catch the next few days of music – it’s going to be huge. Check out the Pygmalion Festival website for tickets and more information.

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