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An Interview with Seth Fein

September 9, 2009

Pygmalion Music FestivalSkinny Ankle’s Chris Davies was given the opportunity to talk for a few good minutes with Pygmalion Music Festival organizer Seth Fein.

Now in it’s fifth year, Fein has turned Pygmalion in to a major player in the music festival world, but his festivals status does not seem to have gone to his head.

He discussed his original ambition for the festival, what may be in store and his affinity for the Champaign-Urbana community as a whole.

Though he could not be completely certain of what is ahead, it seems certain that Pygmalion will be a player for years to come.

CD: What made you start doing Pygmalion Music Festival?

SF: Champaign-Urbana is easily one of the best college market music scenes in the country. It just felt like it needed it, like it could work in this market, and it has.

CD: Are there any difficulties in putting a major music festival like this on away from a major market like Chicago?

SF: Less than you’d probably imagine. Champaign-Urbana is extremely supportive of the arts, especially in terms of music. We’ve got a world-class facility in Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; really highly reputable venues in the Canopy Club and the Highdive; and a history of producing bands that are known worldwide. In terms of bringing in all of the world-class artists that I’m bringing in, it’s not all that uncommon because we bring in these artists anyway. It’s just kind of critical mass on this particular weekend.

CD: You have a unique set-up, where most festivals take place outdoors with many stages you’ve spread it across many venues in Champaign. Is there a particular reason your festival takes place in that way or was that just what was available?

SF: No, I hate outdoor music festivals. They’re terrible. They provide poor sightlines, bad sound, and a loss of intimacy. The intention of Pygmalion has always been to provide the community of Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding areas a really intimate and personal festival. I don’t have any interest in doing outdoor stages: they don’t provide what I consider to be a quality live music experience.

CD: This years’ line-up is very special, what are you looking forward to most?

SF: I think I’m always looking forward to watching the community turn into a “Pygmalion community” for a little while. With festival passes sold out this year and single shows selling out very fast as well, there is going to be a little community of festival goers. That’s exciting for me to see the faces that start on Wednesday and continue through Saturday. Plus, I always in some way enjoy providing the local economy some kind of boon on a non-football weekend. There’s some personal satisfaction there that comes from being a part of helping the economy in this community trudge forward.

CD: Do you plan on doing this beyond this year and into the future?

SF: This is the fifth year in a row that I’ve done it, so I don’t see any reason why I would not continue to do it. This is nothing new.

CD: Is there still potential for growth?

SF: I think that there is maybe some potential for growth in terms of the popularity of the bands I’m able to bring in. But I always want to keep tickets really reasonable and I don’t want to grow to the place where anyone feels like they’re kind of getting a raw deal. I don’t see me ever having an outdoor show so I don’t see it being much bigger than it already is. I don’t want it to be bigger than it already is, I like the intimacy that Pygmalion provides. Outdoor music festivals are a great way a lot people to see a couple of bands, and it’s a great get-rich-quick scheme, but it’s not the kind of thing I’m interested in.

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