Pygmalion Festival – Day Three (Grizzly Bear / Dinosaur Jr. / Cloud Nothings / UMO / Frankie Rose / Lower Dens)
October 15, 2012
Whereas most days at Pygmalion Music Festival you’ll find yourself bouncing around from place to place to catch all the good bands, for the grand finale everyone was centralized in one place, downtown Champaign at the Highdive Outdoor stage. It was an amazing set-up and led to perhaps my favorite day of live music in Pygmalion’s 8-year history.
After a number of local Champaign/Urbana acts warmed up the stages (my personal favorite being folk/pop quartet Grandkids), current Grizzly Bear-tourmates Lower Dens kicked things off with their atmospheric, guitar-driven Krautrock, playing a number of tracks from their acclaimed 2012 album, Nootropics. The band’s expertise is creating hazy, trance-like soundscapes so while much of their music is probably better suited to headphones listening, dreamy singles like “Brains” and “Propagation” were mesmerizing.
Former Vivian Girls drummer Frankie Rose took the stage with her band for a early evening set of reverb-heavy indie-pop from her acclaimed sophomore album Interstellar. The band’s lush, super-melodic tunes like “Know Me” and “Night Swim” sounded great on stage and considering the smallish crowd at the outdoor side-stage, Rose put on an engaging and enjoyable set.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra were one of my most anticipated acts of the night and they didn’t disappoint. The Portland psych trio injected a healthy dose of druggy guitar jams to the festival proceedings, led by perpetually laid-back singer-guitarist Ruban Nielson. What the band lacks in an energy though they more than make up for with their visceral, fuzzed-out sound, made even better by the impressive rhythm section that gives tunes like “Ffunny Ffriends” and new single “Swim and Sink” their intoxicating psych-pop bounce. Grizzly Bear were obviously taken by the band as well, thanking them multiple times during their set, and it’s easy to see why.
It was a huge thrill to see Dinosaur Jr. at Pygmalion, given that they were one of the pivotal bands of the 80’s alternative rock scene, inspiring countless bands from Pavement to Nirvana. Unlike many of the bands from the pre-grunge era still kicking though, these guys are no nostalgia act. Following their reunion in 2007, they’ve released three solid albums and as they proved here, their live show destroys. On stage, the band is an ultra-tight three-piece, led by J Mascis’ incredible guitar heroics and cracked falsetto with powerful backup from Lou Barlow’s unrelenting bass and Murph’s thundering drums.
Dinosaur Jr. played just about the best (and loudest) set I could ask including all of my favorite classic tracks like “Keep Choppin'”, “Freak Scene”, “The Lung” and “Little Fury Bugs”. The highlight had to be “Feel The Pain” though, with it’s breakneck tempo changes and face-melting guitar solo. The band closed with their thundering cover of “Just Like Heaven” (complete with the abrubt ending), topping off an explosive set that proved beyond any doubt that J Mascis and co. still got it.
Cloud Nothings put on easily one of the most memorable sets at Pitchfork Festival this summer, partially due to the torrential downpour that they played through and eventually shut them down, so I was definitely looking forward to seeing them play a full set. The band absolutely delivered, playing a rager of a set and inciting one of the craziest mosh pits I’ve witnessed.
The band opened with their catchiest track, “Stay Useless”, but the bobbing heads and sing-a-long melodies quickly turned to fist-pumping and all-out thrashing as the band ferociously stormed through “Fall In”, “Cut You” and especially “Wasted Days”. Even sandwiched between veterans Dinosaur Jr. and indie royalty Grizzly Bear, the band more than held their own, playing an profoundly energetic, boisterous set.
Closing out this year of Pygmalion Festival was a performance from one of the most extraordinary bands working today (indie or otherwise), and the Grizzly Bear put one of the best shows I’ve seen at this or any festival. Opening with what happens to be my favorite song from their new album, “Speak In Rounds” the Brooklyn quartet awed the crowd with their unique brand of rock music that balances lush harmonies, dynamic instrumentation and complex yet engaging songwriting. The band just released their latest masterpiece, Shields an extremely ambitious, progressive that builds upon the band’s ten years of musical experience without attempting to replicate their previous albums, Veckatimest and Yellow House.
The new songs sounded breathtaking live, and provided a wonderful showcase for the band’s exceptional musicmanship, most notably Chris Bear’s improvisational drumming style and the band’s exuberant harmonies. “Yet Again”, “A Simple Answer” and “Sun In Your Eyes” stood out to me as highlights, joining the pantheon of great Grizzly Bear tracks like “Two Weeks”, “Knife”, “Ready, Able” and “While We Wait For The Others”, all of which were played on Saturday night to perfection. The band closed with an energetic performance of “On A Neck, On A Spit” before expressing their gratitude at being asked to play Pygmalion Festival. After witnessing their awe-inspiring performance, the pleasure was all ours.
Follow the jump for lots more Pygmalion Festival Day Three photos. Click here to see the full set.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra