Smile Politely

Get a musical taste of this year’s PYGMALION

PYGMALION starts this Thursday, September 23rd and runs through Saturday night. Let’s take a look at the musical artists gracing this year’s festival. 

THURSDAY, September 23rd

Let’s start at NOLA’s on Thursday with a great lineup of punk and indie rock. Champaign based DIY punk band Nectar kicks the night off. The group just released a new single titled “Routine,” and they have an album due out next year. The group’s songs are short and to the point, but pack a powerful punch. 

Photo of Retirement Party from the group’s Facebook page.

We also have Chicago-based indie rock outfit Retirement Party. The group has an upbeat bedroom pop kind of sound, but when you dive deeper into the lyrics, you see there is more than meets the eye. With lyrics like “I tried to change my mind, your grip was all but tight this time, and I know you’re in love with someone else,” from the track “My Chapstick Melted in the Dryer,” the band showcases their writing chops as well. I saw the band years ago at a house show and had a blast.

Headlining the night is Dogleg from Detroit. Their description on Bandcamp is “punch dancing out our rage,” so that should tell you what you need to know. Playing a fast blend of punk, emo, and indie, songs like “Kawasaki Backflip” perfectly showcase the band’s energy and ability, and you’ll be singing and screaming along.

Thursday also sees music at the Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana, with Hobnob String Band playing from 5-7 p.m., bringing their blend of folk, americana, bluegrass, and country. The group is no stranger to performing, as they hit the Rose Bowl every Thursday, but it’s always a good time for Hobnob String Band. 

From 8-10 p.m. at Rose Bowl is Afro D & Global Soundwaves. The Champaign based funk/jazz/hip hop group brings positive messages to their music, hoping to bring together community and inspire in the process. Take a listen to one of their live performances at Rose Bowl below. 

Come to Canopy Club on Thursday night for a lineup of R&B and hip hop. Kicking it off at 9 p.m. is WilliamGold, an Urbana based producer, DJ, songwriter, and performer. He has worked with national and international artists, and just recently co-founded The Elemntz Studio here in Urbana. Check out his track “Chicago” below. 


Headlining the evening is none other than Tinashe, a multi-platinum R&B artist who also acts, directs, mixes, engineers, you name it. She has just released her album “333” this year and will be playing songs from that, as well as some older tracks as well, no doubt. Check out my personal fave of her’s, “Bouncin,” below. This show is my recommendation for Thursday, for sure.

FRIDAY, September 24th

I mean you could just spend your whole evening at Rose Bowl on Friday, considering you’ve got music and The Made Fest happening there.

In fact all of the music Friday is happening at the Rose Bowl Tavern, starting with the Chip Stephens Organ Trio at 5 p.m. You don’t often hear about a jazz trio featuring an organ, but it works incredibly well. I have written about them before in The Overture, as they are a regular of the jazz scene around Champaign-Urbana, but they are always a joy to hear. 

Next up at 9 p.m. we have McKinley Dixon from Richmond, Virginia. His songs explore being black in America, police brutality, and self-love, amongst other themes. His 2021 album For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her is unlike anything I’ve heard before and I mean that in the best way possible, of course. Songs like “make a poet Black” showcase his unique flow and delivery style. Listen below. 

Following Dixon is NNAMDÏ from Chicago, and he is great. Performing at 10 p.m., he will bring hip-hop, experimental rock, gospel, and jazz to the Rose Bowl. His music is deep, playful, self-reflective. “If this microphone could see me then you’d find out that I mostly live in silence,” he sings on “Flowers To My Demons” from his album BRAT. Check out the song below.

Last but far from least on Friday is Tank and the Bangas at 11:15 p.m., and oh boy, folks, this is going to be a performance full of joy and dancing. Tank and the Bangas won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest back in 2017 and have been on the rise ever since. Their visuals are full of color, and their music is no different, combining funk, jazz, hip hop, soul, rock, and more. I can try my best to speak to their level of creativity and talent but it would be easier for me to show you. Watch their Tiny Desk Concert that got me — and the world — hooked on them. 

SATURDAY, September 25th

Saturday sees more great music at the Rose Bowl. Soundscapes will also be happening at Sipyard, which combines live music with visuals projected onto the walls of Sipyard. Definitely recommend grabbing a beer there and hanging out for a bit. It runs 5 hours from 7 p.m. through 12 a.m. 

We aso have a four hour set from Legtwo, which is Larry Gates of Curb Service providing his DJ skills outside of the Rose Bowl. At 9 p.m. Sparks In The Dark takes over for a half hour set, combining synths, samples, drum machines, and live instrumentation to create a unique atmospheric sound, with lush vocals. Check out “Imaginarium” below.

10 p.m. at Rose Bowl sees Champaign-based indie band Mermaid Heaven perform a half hour set. the group has just released their new single titled “ILYM,” and a music video to accompany it. Truly one of the best bands around these parts, they are a group to catch. Check out “ILYM” below. 

11 p.m. is our headliner for the night, Serena Isioma. They are a Chicago-based artist who combines elements of alternative, indie, hip-hop, and R&B into a completely new and unique sound. Their music is dripping in style and personality and there’s no doubt that they will hit the big time — or should I say “bigger time” — in no time. Check out “Voulez​-​Vous Me To​.​.​” below.

Top photo by Anna Longworth.

Music Editor

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