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Pygmalion Day Three Recap

September 19, 2009

Pygmalion Music FestivalFriday night at Pygmalion came in with a whimper and went out a roar.

I began the night by stopping by the Channing Murray Foundation to see a couple of good friends who happen to play in the band Good Night & Good Morning. They are an ambient band that accompany their shoegaze music with very interesting visuals, the end effect is very pleasing and calming.

Since they have moved from Champaign to Chicago they added a second guitarist and Pat Elifritz has begun using his vibraphone more creatively. What I was able to see of their set was very good, and put me in a good mood to start the evening.

I left Channing Murray a bit early to get to the Canopy Club so that I would be able to see South African rockers BLK JKS. The reviews I had seen of the bands’ new release were all very positive, and given that they had traveled quite a distance to play, I figured they would be worth seeing.

However, what I heard from the band Friday night is not quite what I expected; but then again, I’m not sure what I was expecting. Their songs featured intricate guitar parts and strong rhythms from the bass and drums, but often they seemed to not mesh well and the end result was spotty. Beyond that their songs often tended to sound closer to reggae than any other type of music, and it simply did not set well with me.

After BLK JKS wrapped up Jookabox took control of the small stage at the Canopy. Their unique sound, which incorporates funky rhythms and electronica loops, moved many of the audience to dancing, but not me. I was rather unimpressed by their music, and though some of the songs had a bit of catchiness, the overall quality was subpar.

The whimper that started the evening did not simply come from the soft-spoken sound of GN&GM, but from the underwhelming quality of two band playing what could arguably be considered the ‘main stage.’

However, as if on cue Maps & Atlases took the large stage of the Canopy and lifted the blues away from what had been a not-so-special evening.

Maps & Atlases angular math rock moved more feet than the Jookabox set and really had the crowd begging for more. The skill of the musicians in the band was evident as they played, each song featured an elaborately composed lead and rhythm and each player pulled off their part flawlessly. Their set could have easily been the best of the evening had Pomegranates not stolen their thunder.

Once again the party shifted to the small room of the Canopy where the Cincinnati four piece was preparing to play. I had seen them play once before (in killer jumpsuits, I might add) and fell in love with their eccentric sound. Hearing them a second time, with more knowledge of their music, made their set even more enjoyable.

Truthfully though, it was their presence and execution that made their performance so special. Immediately the band struck a chord with the already dance-happy crowd, and they didn’t let them down for the rest of their set. Each song gave the crowd another chance to bounce and clap along, and they responded with a great fervor for the band’s music. To watch the set was very special, and it felt good just to be watching.

The Antlers were the next band to perform on the evening. Having heard their new album Hospice several times I had the feeling that their live set would be very sleepy and forgettable. Initially it seemed like I could be right. Their first song, “Bear,” which is my favorite from Hospice, started slowly, but quickly kicked in to full gear and dispelled any misconceptions I held about what their show was going to be like.

The best part of The Antlers’ performance was that it was not was I was expecting. They brought a vigor to their material and made it come alive on stage with a distorted growl. Their charisma on stage and execution made their set one of the best surprises of this year’s festival.

I skipped the Autolux set to get some food from Crane Alley to keep my energy levels high and made it back in time to see Wavves bring their wall of noise to the main stage.

Personally, I think the whole noise-rock phase is a bit overblown, and if anything Japandroids do the same thing as Wavves but better. However, that didn’t detract from their live performance.

Though there were no bitter arguments or break-downs from the twosome tonight, but they did provide a jolt of energy to the crowd and inspired a quite enthusiastic mosh pit. It amazes me that a guitarist and drummer could fill the large stage with noise, but also with their presence, but they did just that and really rocked the Canopy to its curfew.

I headed to the after party a little before Wavves finished, having had my fill of really loud music for the festival after sitting through Japandroids and Maserati already. When I got to the house I found it completely filled with people and the band Santa (or maybe Santah, as the flyer read) getting ready to play.

Local boys Santa create a totally agreeable brand of pop-rock that is fun to listen to. It was especially fun for the 50-plus well lubricated college students in attendance. Their set had an exuberance to it that really helped bring a good evening of music to a close…whether it wanted to or not.

I left right as the hosts began asking people to leave on behalf of the local police force. For the second night in a row Urbana decided to bust up the after party, ruining everyone’s buzz. Regardless, day three went down as a roaring success, even if it did start off slowly.

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