Pygmalion Festival – Day Two (Dirty Projectors / Best Coast / Lord Huron / Tennis / Hospitality / Hundred Waters)
October 5, 2012
One of the great things about this year of Pygmalion Music Festival is that since it was condensed to three days instead of the normal four days (or five, the case of ’10), the festival organizers were able to fit a ton more of amazing bands into one night, all killer no filler if you will. Friday night was the best example, starting with great sets by Tennis and Dirty Projectors at the outdoor stage in downtown Urbana.
All due respect to Best Coast, but as far as band’s that play retro, sunny pop music, Tennis were clearly the winners on Friday night. The band played a fantastic set, drawing from the band’s debut Cape Dory and their latest album Young and Old, that was carried by Alaina Moore’s mesmerizing vocals and charismatic stage presence. Highlights included some old favorites like “Marathon” (the first Tennis song I heard, and still my favorite) and “South Carolina” and some dreamy tunes from their new album including “Origins” and set closer “High Road”. On a chilly night in late September, Tennis made the whole crowd feel warm and fuzzy.
After just seeing Dirty Projectors at Pitchfork this summer, I knew what to expect (lots of angular guitar, odd time signatures and vivid, alluring harmonies), but that didn’t make the experience any less engrossing. Dave Longstreth has lept up to become one of my favorite indie rock frontman, when he wasn’t pulling off the band’s super-intricate art-rock jams, he was cracking jokes about being able to see the Walgreens sign poking through the trees from the stage and discussing with the crowd whether the moon was waxing or waning. Again, the tracks from Swing Lo Magellan like “Gun Has No Trigger” and “About To Die” were the highlights for me although the extended noisy jam on “Useless Chamber” was up there as well.
I headed out during the last couple Dirty Projectors songs, just in time to catch the beginning of Hospitality‘s set. The Brooklyn band put out one of the best debuts (and best indie-pop records in general) of 2012 with their self-titled album earlier this year, and even though they were relegated to the small stage, they completely rocked it. The band worked through some of the ultra-catchy, jangly pop on the record like “Eight Avenue”, “Friends of Friends” and “All Day Today”, while emphasizing their impressive guitar-work to make up for the lack of horn section from the album. They even played a couple new songs, that showed just why they’re one of the most promising new bands working today.
If you had asked me what my most anticipated act for Friday night at Pygmalion Festival was, my answer would have been Lord Huron, hands-down. The band has been on my radar for over a year and a half when they released two amazing EPs, Into The Sun and Mighty. It’s been a long wait, but they are finally releasing their debut album, Lonesome Dreams next week and I was thrilled to be able to hear them perform a bunch of new songs and a couple old at the Canopy Club.
Singer / songwriter Ben Schneider and his fellow troubadours played an enthusiastic set of their unique, tropical-inflected rhythms and upbeat afro-pop percussion, immersing the crowd in their lush, breezy sound. The band has a knack for writing melodies that stick with you and that was certainly on display throughout their set, especially on their 1-2 punch to close of set of “Time To Run” and classic “The Stranger”. I only wish they had some more time, because I could have easily watched Lord Huron play all night.
To borrow from one of Best Coast‘s most overused lyrics, the band seemed a bit “lazy” on stage at their headlining Canopy Club set. Bethany Cosentino didn’t waste any time mentioning her displeasure with their late time slot, complaining that it was way past all their bed times, and the band generally gave off the vibe that she didn’t want to be there (in heavy contrast to the rest of the headliners, who seemed absolutely elated to be playing). Yeah, it was still decently fun singing a long to tunes like “The Only Place” and “When I’m With You”, but overall the band was flat and non-engaging. The very young crowd didn’t seem to mind too much, but I, for one, gave up after a few songs to check out Hundred Waters next door.
It turns out the decision to give up on Best Coast early and catch Hundred Waters, was the best one I made all night. Even though the band were moved last-minute from the larger Channing-Murray venue to the Red Herring cafe (essentially a basement), they still managed to put on a captivating set and sounded incredible. The band’s experimental folk/pop was the perfect late-night chill/dance music with their rippling synths, syncopated electronica and inventive harmonies create their full, complex songs. Just watching the percussionist produce the lush soundscapes by twisting knobs and clicking colorful buttons was one of the most rewarding experiences of the festival for me.
Follow the jump for lots more Pygmalion Festival Day Two photos. Click here to see the full set.