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Pygmalion Day One Recap

September 17, 2009

Pygmalion Music Festival
Not a bad way to start a festival.

Wednesday night/Thursday morning at the Canopy Club in Urbana, Ill. the fifth annual Pygmalion Music Festival kicked off in grand style. The concert was the Polyvinyl Records Showcase, and the label stars were out and in rare form.

The night began with local duo Common Loon, who, interestingly enough, are not Polyvinyl recording artists. It seems like everything that goes on in Champaign, however, must include this band. Clearly, I have seen these guys before, perhaps too much. Their set was decent, but nothing special; it was a predictable performance.

The second band, Mount Saint Helen’s Vietnam Band (also not Polyvinyl artists), kicked the festival goers in to high-gear. My experience to this group prior to the festival was nonexistent, and much to my surprise they came out with guitars blaring.

The band had a quirky Man Man meets Modest Mouse sound, but with a style that was completely original and unable to be pigeonholed. Their high energy set electrified the small room of the Canopy and got heads bobbing and bodies swaying.

Owen was the next act for the night, and his set started immediately on the large stage after MSHVB wrapped up in the other room. This set up was really quite unfortunate for Mike Kinsella and his “full, quiet band.” The Owen set included a good mix of new material and classic tracks and each song was performed beautifully. It was a real pleasure to see him play backed by keys, bass, electric guitar and violin, but the venue and set order were simply not right for him.

The din of the crowd was very much audible during his set, and in between songs Kinsella made snide remarks about the noise, letting his annoyance show. I can’t say I blame him much, but after the high energy set that preceded him I can’t say that I blame the crowd either. Since Owen, is indeed a Polyvinyl artist, playing this show made sense in a logistical way as well, but as a fan I believe that his music is much better suited for closer, quieter, more intimate shows.

The dramatic shifts in style continued after Owen wrapped up when Canadian rockers Japandroids took the main stage. The band suffered from some slight sound booth difficulties at first, but soon got their full throttle rock and roll act up and going.

Once the sound was maximized for the two-piece they really became special. With distortion pushed as far as it could go, the guitar pulsed through the crowd and the drums pounded, keeping time for the headbangers. Japandroids moved and jumped all around the stage, really igniting the crowd and even inspiring a few mosh pits (though the band recommended the crowd not do so, since it tends to repel other crowd members).

The last act of the night to play were local favorites Headlights. In the many times that I have seen them play the aspect of their show that I have enjoyed most is the amount of fun that they have while playing. The smiles that spread across each of their faces is contagious, and before long the entire crowd gets that same sense of pleasure from their wonderful chamber-pop.

On the night of their record release party the band did not disappoint. They started their set by releasing balloons on to the stage and in to the crowd, much to the joy of the slightly inebriated. Their set consisted primarily of new songs, but they brought back many of their older, more upbeat songs which were certainly crowd-pleasers.

Though all of their set was enjoyable, the real fun kicked in when keyboardist/singer Erin Fein invited fans on stage to play tambourine and dance along. Almost at once half of the audience had joined the foursome on stage dancing and clapping their way through four of the bands most fun songs.

It was quite a sight to see so many fans on stage dancing jubilantly along with Champaign’s finest. It made quite a fitting end to an interesting, and very enjoyable first night of Pygmalion Music Fest.

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