Smile Politely

Pygmalion 2013: Friday in review


My Dad take a novel approach to post-hardcore, employing as many as three percussionists (two at this particular show) to build their start/stop riffs on. While midwestern drummer extraordinaire and sometimes member Nnamdi Ogbonnaya was not present to add to the proceedings, I have no complaints—while not quite as epic as Lord Snow, this was a terrific set in its own right.

The two drummer setup did not bog down the tempo (a common issue with this configuration), and kept things light, bouncy, and surprisingly fun for a punk show—which was much needed after Smoke Coke’s painfully loud opening set. They quoted the Simpsons theme at one point, and even threw in a Bear vs Shark cover for good measure, before closing with “Tom Waits for No One” from their most recent release. My only complaint here—considering that U of I Dad’s Weekend was going in—was the lack of puns. (BV)


In contrast to their set at Skeletal Lightning Fest back in April, Lord Snow were able to stretch out to a full 20 minutes, delivering a stunning set of twisted, chaotic screamo. Touring behind the just-released Solitude LP, they hit a near-full back room at Error Records like a fully loaded semi.

Illuminated by a lone red light that gave the show a dark and ominous atmosphere, Lord Snow’s rushing cascades of drums and contortionist guitar lines lashed the audience, while bassist Steph Maldonato’s piercing screams filled out the sound. The band’s chemistry as a live unit is undeniable, despite the fact that their music gets so far out that the members sometimes appear to be soloing independently of one another.

Solitude is one of the best punk records I’ve heard in a long time, and this set reflected a band at their peak—while definitely not as friendly on the ears as My Dad, the juxtaposition between Lord Snow’s convoluted writing and brutal tempos was far more personally satisfying. (BV)


When I wrote the artist announcement that included Jonathan Rice, it was really hard to find information on his solo career. Basically, what information that was out there was that he was one-half of Jenny & Jonny, a.k.a. Jenny Lewis’ boyfriend. With that in mind, I couldn’t help but think of him as a guy trying to get out of the shadow of his significant other. After his set at Pygmalion, I think he’s made a legitimate case for being recognized on his own.

Rice and his band served up sunny slices of California pop that were very enjoyable. I must admit I only recognized one song, “Scissor Runner” from the Jenny & Jonny album, but I found myself very entertained by the rest of the set. Rice just put out a new album, Good Graces, and off the strength of his performance, I think I need to pick it up. (CD)


I laid out my love for Dawes in no uncertain terms in the preview I wrote, so I will spare you any further gushing for their artistry and songcraft. What I did not mention in the preview, and what really struck me about their Pygmalion performance, was Taylor Goldsmith’s guitar chops.

On a night headlined by modern “guitar god” Kurt Vile, I came away more impressed by the way Goldsmith was picking out solos. I’ve seen Dawes play a few times before, but I don’t think the guitar playing has ever been quite that good before. Maybe Goldsmith was strutting his stuff for Vile and Vile’s fans, or maybe he’s just continually gotten better as Dawes plays more shows (they play something like 150 shows a year, so that’s a serious possibility). 

Whatever it was, Goldsmith was doing some serious shredding on Friday. The guitar through the verses of his songs was clean and spot-on, hitting all the notes in songs that are not too simple, especially when singing. When he hit solos, though, is where he really shone. And as the band played an extended jam of “From the Right Angle” for the last song, I never wanted it to end. Goldsmith was wailing like an old bluesman and the rest of the band was propping him up with aplomb. I couldn’t have asked for a better set, especially since it went beyond the too-short 45 minutes Dawes was allotted. (CD)

I’ll admit without shame that Dawes was the most anticipated act for me this year at Pygmalion. I’ve been a fan since the first record came out in 2009 and have seen them several times since then—both proud and a little reluctant to see their growing main-stream success. That first record, North Hills will always be a special one for me. Maybe it’s because Dawes reflect a sentiment that I share: they’re from the West Coast (like me), but in this period of their lives, they’re on the road (also, metaphorically, like me). Add that to great, emotive songs that you can sing along to, and I’m going to see them every chance I get. And I have.

As an old fan, the hour-long set last night in on the outdoor stage in Urbana was too short and only featured one song off of that first record (“When My Time Comes”), but I still sang along to every tune. (JS)


Dawes impressed with their guitar playing, but Vile is known for his guitar playing — and rightfully so. Right from the start, the Philly songsmith started picking out intricate little guitar lines that seemed like there was no way they were coming from the acoustic guitar or the guy singing on stage. My friend, who was at the show with me, had to inspect the other guitarists on stage to make sure it was really Vile who was soloing.

It was, and both of us (like everyone else, I assume) could not help but be impressed by the musicianship on display from Vile. That musicianship, however, was one of the few things that I really enjoyed about Vile’s set.

My biggest complaint about Vile’s recorded material is that it all kind of sounds the same. I had hopes heading in to the concert that his live performance, which I had heard many good things about, would vary things a bit more. While I did find the performance more entertaining than listening to his album, I did not really think his set was that interesting.

Only a couple times did the tempo change during Vile’s set, and only a couple times did I realize the band had started to play a different song. All the musicianship in the world couldn’t change the fact that I was kind of bored by Kurt Vile and the Violaters; for that, I’m still underwhelmed by the band. (CD)

Friday’s show was interesting because the Dawes’ sentimentality and sing-along shtick (some might say) that I love to participate in is so markedly different from the vibe that Kurt Vile and the Violators bring to the stage. Vile doesn’t really have songs that you can sing along to. Expecting that from him would be missing the point, I think. But yet, at least for me, Vile failed to meet my expectations. It’s hard to put a finger on why, but I walked away feeling underwhelmed. And though Dawes didn’t play the set I would have preferred either, I was satisfied with the performance. It felt good to be with them, even for a short hour.

Vile opened his show with “Walkin on a Pretty Day” the 9 1/2 minute opening track from his newest album. It’s the one where he sings the word “Yeah” like 40 times which, on the record, I’m totally into for some reason. It’s kind of an initiation into the record’s laid-back ethos. But live, when he starts yeah-yeah-ing over and over on stage, it doesn’t take very long before I’m ready for something else. Speaking for myself (because, surely there were many there who way into it), that kind of sums up my whole experience. The first 50 minutes of the set had very little variance from that 100 bpm chilled out space-rock planet that Vile inhabits. Again—on the record, you can kind of turn off and let that vibe wash over you, but without the warm production and studio overdubs, it got a bit monotonous.

There were exceptions. “Was All Talk”, an up-tempo tune also from the new record, managed to get the crowd bouncing a little. It has a kind of leftover War On Drugs flavor that I like. Also, way into the set, the band played “Ghost Town” from Smoke Ring For My Halo and “Shame Chamber” from the new one, that both highlighted Vile’s masterful guitar talent. Things also picked up in the support section as the Violators (finally) got to show off why they weren’t just a randomly assembled bunch of dudes from Philly looking for a tour gig.

All in all, I had to wonder a little about staying power. I think that Dawes’s ability toward multi-generational appeal this early in their career is a sign of longevity. My guess is that we’ll still be thinking about them still in ten years from now. And fully realizing that I may be skewered for this, I personally can’t make the same bet for Mr. Vile. (JS)


Courtesy of my good pal Mark Wyman, as this pretty much sums up everything about the METZ show at the IMC. PUNK. (PS)


I mentioned in my preview for this show that the Breeders were the first band I ever saw live. I was 16 and it was 1994. I was at my first Lollapalooza. What I didn’t mention was that I really wasn’t there to see them. I was there to see my favorite band at the time, the Smashing Pumpkins play. Funny thing is, I remember very little about either set: Deal sisters squabbling a little, perhaps, and Billy ranting, definitely. Here’s what I do remember: tiredness and apathy from nearly all the bands on the bill, but especially the Breeders and the Pumpkins. It was late in the 40+ date tour and I’m sure they were sick and tired of their songs and their bandmates and the other bands on the bill (Billy Corgan and Kim Deal had a rather public falling out on the tour that folks still talk about).

Last night at the Canopy Club, The Breeders were the exact opposite of tired and apathetic. Despite the late set time (12:30 a.m.–the latest they said they’d ever played), they seemed energized, thrilled to be there, and glad to be together. They joked on stage, poked fun at each other a little, spoke with genuine excitement about Last Splash, and thanked us for coming to celebrate it with them. And it felt like a celebration. Joyous isn’t really a word that gets kicked around a lot at indie music festivals, but that’s what it felt like to me on Friday night (and I don’t know if “joyous” is the right word to describe the Major Lazer show). As the band punched through their set, there was certainly nostalgia for those of us who were around when the record came out in 1993, but there was something else. It just didn’t feel like a reunion show. The music on this 20-year old record that maybe was a little ahead of its time in 1993 sounded absolutely fresh and relevant in 2013. And fun! Is anybody having any fun these days in indie rock? Probably, but it’s sometimes hard to see the smiles behind the intensity with a lot of bands these days. So, yeah, I loved the whole set. “New Year”, “Cannonball”, and “Invisible Man” got things off to a great start and the instrumental jams evened things out nicely (I love how “Roi” is a kind of riffy goth jam and then “Flipside” is a 2:00 surf-rock tune).

Kim and Kelley’s voices sound like they haven’t aged a day. They are bright and in tune and sound so good together in harmony. “Divine Hammer” is one of the best examples. We also got a few non-Last Splash tunes. They actually opened with their cover of Guided By Voices’ “Shocker in Gloomtown” (which they released on their 1994 cover EP Head to Toe). After they finished the tunes from the record, they played a few tunes from their 1991 record The Pod. Great band. Great night. I hope they’re around for another 20. (JS)

I didn’t really know much about The Breeders before Pygmalion (besides “Cannonball”), but I wanted to check them out anyway to see what the buzz was all about.

Buzz is the only thing I came away with, though, because the sound at the Canopy Club was so damn awful. I don’t know who was doing sound, but I hope the decision makers at Canopy Club have a nice chat with that guy, because he blew it on Friday night/Saturday morning. I realize the Breeders are supposed to be loud, but there was a violin on stage that I never heard; there were words coming from one of the Deal’s mouth that I could not have repeated for the life of me—both during and between songs. All in all, it sounded like a trainwreck and turned me off of the Breeders and the Canopy. (CD)

[gallery pygmalion_in_photos_day_2]

all photos by Wes Pundt, Chris Davies, Cèline Broussard and Sean O’Connor

Related Articles