October 1, 2012
This year marked the 8th year that Pygmalion Music Festival has taken over Champaign / Urbana, IL, turning it into the epicenter for top-notch indie music for one weekend of the year. It’s also the 8th year that I’ve attended, so suffice it to say, I’m a big fan of the festival which continues to get bigger and better every year. The opening day of the festival hit a speed bump when headliners Sleigh Bells cancelled due to an injury, but luckily the band was able to get local space-rock legends HUM to replace them, it turned out to be a great opening day all the same.
I started the night at the Krannert Art Museum seeing perhaps the best artist to come out of my hometown (Peoria IL) in the last few years, Jared Bartman, and he brought along an impressive eight-piece band (including his wife and baby) to perform his captivating folk tunes. I find Jared’s music increasingly hard to classify, some of his newer tracks like “In Belize” have a Afro-Caribbean folk feel, others borrow from the striking guy/girl harmonies of Dirty Projectors, and there’s also a definite blues influence on tracks like “Love’s Secret” and his cover of “Grinning In Your Face” (notable for being Jack White’s favorite song).
His Pygmalion Festival set gave us a taste of all his different sides, but mostly showcased his vibrant songwriting and the lovely harmonies and strings arrangements that flesh out his music. Jared just released an excellent Daytrotter session this year and will be releasing his second full-length album in 2013.
Jared Bartman – In Belize (Daytrotter Session)
After catching a bit of Nashville-based experimental folk band Night Beds at Krannert I headed over to Psychic Twin, a band which formed from the ashes of local Champaign/Urbana favorite, Headlights. The electro-pop duo are a recent signee with Lefse Records and has been picking up some blog buzz lately with their infectious melodies, minimalist beats and dreamy vocals. The band recently added a third member on percussion who added some great energy to the set, and the band had the crowd dancing in the dark to enchanting tunes like “I Want To Forget” and new single “Gonna Get Her”.
As I mentioned before, HUM were a last-minute replacement for scheduled headliners, Sleigh Bells, but considering I had just seen the noise-pop duo at Pitchfork Festival, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Prior to the announcement, I wasn’t too familiar with HUM but after listening and relistening to their albums You’d Prefer An Astronaut (which spawned hit single “Stars”) and Downward is Heavenward, I found myself anticipating their set more and more.
As if there was any doubt, the band still’s got it, tearing through a set with bombastically loud, spaced-out guitar and heavy drums that wonderfully contrast Talbott’s nonchalant vocal style. The highlights for me were the tracks from Downward is Heavenward (especially “Green To Me”) which I find to be the perfect mix of melancholic, cerebral indie rock with the blaring, head-banging riffs of 90’s alt-rock. If you’re like me, and never experienced HUM I definitely recommend you take a listen, you may just stumble upon a new old favorite.
Follow the jump for more Pygmalion Festival Day One photos. Click here to see the full set.