Pygmalion came to a close on Saturday night with blow-out sets by Cap’n Jazz and Caribou in starkly contrasting venues. Cap’n Jazz ripped apart the normally sedate Krannert Lobby, while Caribou provided an epic performance that reverberated wonderfully in the cavernous main room at the Canopy Club. To us, the fact that those two shows can go down equally well in such different venues is a wonderful example of the diverse festival that Pygmalion has grown into. Keep reading for reviews, photos and more. And if you’ve got your own thoughts, pictures or videos, share away!
The Palace Flophouse (Krannert Art Museum, 6:00 p.m.)
Bradley Bergstrand and company put on a typically terrific set to a small but welcoming crowd. Performing in the acoustical nightmare that is the Art Museum’s window-filled Link Gallery, the group sounded just as vital and sincere as on their excellent debut, Try Not to Get Worried. Although they were limited to a short 30 minutes, they ran through several of my favorite tracks, including “Lafayette”, “Until My Lungs Hurt” and 90 second gem “Missouri”.
Pomegranates (Canopy Club, 7:10 p.m.)
Wow — sleeper set of the weekend for sure. I’d caught Pomegranates when they came through town last year on tour with Headlights and not feeling the set at all, but they came into the Void Room Thursday night and killed. Their shoegazey wash was vast and enveloping (and loud, as all good shoegaze must be) on the Void’s recently upgraded speaker system. Definitely a band to look out for.
Gold Motel (Canopy Club, 7:55 p.m.)
I really wanted to like this set. I told myself going in that I wasn’t going to let the fact that Gold Motel is a [Panic! at the Disco tour opener] Hush Sound side project predjudice me. In fact, Gold Motel’s music is far closer Headlights than Panic! at the Disco, but I still wound up disliking the show. Something about a waify female singer with an all-male backup band in matching clothes…let’s just say it was weird when it was called Jens Lekman (Robert Palmer too), and it’s weird flipped around as well.
Colour Revolt (Canopy Club, 8:30 p.m.)
If nothing else, give Colour Revolt credit for playing loud. Short of last year’s Autolux performance, this was easily the highest volume show I’ve ever seen played at Canopy. It could have turned out to be a hollow one-note, but the group brought energy to match their volume. Their grungy guitar work almost veered into metal several times during the performance, but lead singer Jesse Coppenbarger’s impassioned yowl grounded the group’s sound firmly in southern rock.
Holy Fuck (Canopy Club, 9:30 p.m.)
Opening up a night of DJs and dance music at the Canopy Club was the experimental electronica group Holy Fuck. Anyone who was lucky enough to see the performance would probably agree that these guys warrant their name. It’s hard to go into the details of the set, as the show seemed a blur. This effect may have been caused by all the beer sloshing around my belly, or the fact that the band rarely stopped playing the entirety of the performance. There were some highlights, however, that are difficult to forget. The band opened with an improvised sound collage that slowly grew in volume and intensity, hypnotizing the crowd, and finally exploding into the song “Super Inuit.” This high-energy tune broke the crowd of their insecurities fast, and in a matter of minutes, I could see feverish dancing and head banging throughout the Canopy. Later in the set, Graham Walsh abandoned his soundboard and pulled out an electric guitar. The band played the sad, triumphant song “Stay Lit” off of their new album, Latin. This change of pace brought a new dimension to the Holy Fuck performance, one of which I did not witness when seeing them at Lollapalooza in 2008. And finally, no Holy Fuck set would be complete without the crowd favorite, “Lovely Allen.” Beyond the fact that the band packed this tune full of passion and noise, I really felt the crowd came together, giving the Canopy a joyous, celebratory atmosphere.
On the whole, Holy Fuck was a great way to start the evening. [Brian] Borcherdt and Walsh were clearly knowledgeable of their obscure instruments, and the band as a unit seemed to be having a blast right along with the crowd. While the set could have lasted a little longer, I felt the music later in the evening successfully maintained the mood and energy Holy Fuck established.
~ Daniel Wolff
Unfortunately for word play, “holy fuck” is a little grandiose of a term to use to describe this performance. I mean, it was pretty cool, definitely fun, but nothing special. I only recognized a few of the songs, which may have been a factor, but none of the things that I didn’t recognize particularly caught my attention. The most impressive part of the show was that the entire band bobbed their knees in unison, which is pretty impressive.
~ Brett Tucker
Stream “Lovely Allen” from Holy Fuck’s performance below:
Owen (Krannert Art Museum, 9:45 p.m.)
Owen’s performance this year could be described as a complete 180 from last year’s set. Instead of playing with a full band (which is rare anyways) at the ever-so-rowdy Canopy Club, he played by himself in the almost intimidatingly formal Krannert Art Museum. Amongst all the paintings and sculptures, Mike Kinsella performed an array of nearly new, old, and yet-to-be released songs (the new ones sound so good). He sounded as good as ever, playing a lot of songs off of last year’s New Leaves, and also shared some pretty hilarious thoughts on all the DJ sets that were happening at this year’s fest. Overall, I really liked that they did the show in the art gallery, and it sounded surprisingly good in there too. The perfect chill performance before you went and womped your ass off at the next DJ set.
~ Nick Brannock
“Do you guys feel like I’m just up here playing these songs? Because I feel like there’s no real exchange going on here at all. If things don’t change and we don’t have a connection then eventually I’m going to stop playing. You all are going to go home and I’m going to leave and it will be like it never happened.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself, honestly.
~ Erik Allgood
Candy Claws (Art Theater, 10:30 p.m.)
Honestly, I’m at a loss over what I saw at the Art Theater last Friday. The synthed out, if at times soporific, melodies emanating from the front of the room created an eerie tone that was capitalized upon by the bearded cat-men who seemed to be producing it — and by cat-men, I mean men with cat masks that resembled those of the BBC’s production of Oedipus. Of course, things didn’t get really weird until the end, when the cat master produced a small kitten statue and held it up Lion King style for all the audience to see, just before playing a track with a creepy little girl voice that told us all that the cats were going away now and the show was about to be over. It was seriously like a taking acid and then visiting your crazy aunt who has stopped plucking her chin hairs and keeps accumulating felines so she has someone to watch Matlock with — by which I mean it was awesome and I never want it to happen again.
~ Caleb Curtiss
Kosmo, Positive Vibr8tions, Mertz, Delayney, Famicom, White Rabbit, Positive Vibr8tions, Space Police and CZO (Canopy Club, 10:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.)
Some curious was going on here — while the marquee DJs (mostly from the downtown scene centered around Boltini and Highdive) played to an empty main room, several lesser-known groups including Positive Vibr8tions and Milk & Cookies were blowing up the void room. While the fact that the void room is simply a far better dance venue than the large theater cannot be discounted, I’d be lying if I didn’t at least consider writing this up as a shuffling of the guard/crowning of a new scene.
~ Ben Valocchi
Cut Chemist (Canopy Club, 12:45 a.m.)
A great set, but nothing near what I was expecting. When Cut Chemist opened up with the beat from DJ Shadow’s “In/Flux” (a downtempo/instrumental hip hop classic if there ever was), I was just expecting it to be…slower. More trippy, less spastic. As it stands though, Cut Chemist took a left turn into several songs worth of funky breakbeats and hyphy. I also wanna throw out how incredibly ridiculous and awesome it was to just watch Cut Chemist work four turntables simultaneously. The man is a truly a master of his craft.
~ Ben Valocchi
Stream a sample of Cut Chemist’s performance below
Ted Leo and the Pharmicists (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 7:30 p.m.)
Very high energy, super fun show. The entire crowd rushed forward from their seats in the Krannert auditorium and stood in front. Ted Leo was by far the most attention grabbing in the band, and, to be honest, it was hard to tell why there even was a backup guitarist, except to continue to play chords while Ted Leo went into guitar riffs and solos. The bassist and the backup guitarist stayed in the power stance most of the night and did their parts, but the drummer gave an extra element to the show. And talk about a solid line up of Ted Leo songs; the show never slowed down.
~ Brett Tucker
Roky Erickson with Okkervil River (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 8:45 p.m.)
Roky, despite his age, played and sung well. He had a funny stage presence, with his silver guitar held up high on his chest and his giant beard shook as he sung. However, I thought that Okkervil River would be where the energy of the show would come from, and their hollowness on-stage helped none for the crowd’s involvement with the show, especially after the high-energy Ted Leo. An exception is held for Lauren Gurgiolo, who played a tight lead guitar, and was pretty cute in like a mysterious, brooding type-a-way, like Maggie Gyllenhaal but with a normal face, ya know?
~ Brett Tucker
Cap’n Jazz (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 10:30 p.m.)
An astoundingly good set (possibly even better than their performance at Bottom Lounge in July). While there were a few assholes in the crowd, it’s crazy, frenzied energy significantly added to the show. The area in front of the stage remained a frenzied whirl of bodies, crowdsurfers and flying objects, peaking out during a furious encore of A-Ha’s Take on Me that saw Tim Kinsella spend as much time in the crowd as on stage. And although, to paraphrase the older music editor, it was a bit weird to see a bunch of people who were in diapers during Cap’n Jazz’s original run screaming out every single lyric, I can say that speaker as a member of that age group, we’re just amazed we’re getting to see them at all.
~ Ben Valocchi
Cap’n Jazz – “Forget Who We Are”
The Dirty Feathers (Canopy Club, 11:40 p.m.)
The Dirty Feathers first show last May drew a lot of buzz because of the band’s heritage — two former members of Shipwreck. By now none of that matters, and they have managed to build some local buzz on their own merits. It’s easy to see why — the band’s music and its attitude lend itself to a fun live vibe, and they certainly have a lot of talented members.
However, I came away from that first show thinking that they sounded very much like several different bands working together. This is the problem when a new band has more than one songwriter (the DF have a least three). And, for better or worse,guitarist Andrew Kling’s tone and playing style drew obvious comparisons to the White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. But it’s not fair to judge any band by their first show anyway, so I came into this one with a clean slate. And I came away impressed.
The Canopy’s Void Room was bumping and the band wasted no time, opening with several songs to get the crowd moving. The tight quarters and short set lent the band an urgency that made it feel like they were trying to earn every moment. Most exciting to me, they played “Pistol Hills” and some new songs that work to the band’s emerging strength: splitting the difference between the members’ talents. There’s no point in completely muting someone who can wail as fantastically as Kling can, but the rest of the band — including Harman Jordan whose own guitar heroics at the Shipwreck reunion shocked me — needs some space to bring something to the table as well. It all ended in a blast of rock ‘n roll and a hail of plastic sharks — good stuff indeed.
With this show, the Dirty Feathers have moved from being a band with an interesting past to a band with a very exciting future.
(Disclaimer: I almost spent several years in a Texas border prison with one of the members of the Dirty Feathers.)
~ John Steinbacher
Caribou (Canopy Club, 12:30 a.m.)
OH MY GOD I WAS LIKE RIGHT THERE AND THEY WERE PLAYING AND IT WAS SOOOO GOOD LIKE SO GOOD, CAN’T BREATHE, CAN’T BREATHE. Like really, this show was off all sorts of hooks. They somehow managed to mix together all of the different sounds that come with their different albums into a solidified sound for the show (around half of the set was off their new disc, Swim). And with all four members of the band being so versatile in style and instrumentation, the show had a perfect flow that kept things captivating. The encore of “Sun” was the best performance I saw at Pygmalion; Daniel Snaith (Caribou himself) knocked his shoeless feet against the stage to the beat and crooned “Sun, sun, sun” repeatedly while the crowd grooved to the driving drum beats and ambient pulses on electric keyboard for the nearly 10 minutes. It was the perfect way to end the festival.
~ Brett Tucker
Due to some unanticipated issues, I was out of town for most of Pygmalion, returning just
in time to catch the last night of acts, so I wanted all the big acts to blow me away. Only
Caribuou really did. Ted Leo was great as usual, but the Krannert Theater did not work
for his performance style. Knowing Roky’s story made his show interesting and, at times,
completely uplifting. But as far as the music, it was mostly good, but not mind-blowing.
And I admit to losing interest quite a bit.
Caribou has a very subdued look in person — the entire band huddles together in the middle of the stage. They all dress in white or very muted yellow. I’m not sure how many of the touring band members share main-man Daniel Snaith’s country of origin, but having lived there for several years, I can say without a doubt that I could picture them all waiting in line at Tim Horton’s talking about the new Governor-General. That is to say they looked so very, very Canadian.
I was interested to see how the crowd would react to Caribou. The music verges on dance, but the song structures fade and drift in a way that is not conducive to 75 minutes of straight dance party. I started out the show in the balcony, but this is definitely not a band to see from afar, especially in the Canopy’s balcony — a place that would turn the Beach Boys into sludge. So I moved up for a closer look and good thing I did because the curmudgeonly Smile Politely writers up in the balcony were totally bringing me down. Up front, the crowd kept getting more and more into it as the set kept building. Standing close, it was very easy (and pleasing) to get swept away in the drumming and upper reaches as the band drifted between songs. (To quote my slightly inebriated companion: “I can feel the acid dislodging from my spine.”)
The show ended with the amazing one, two punch of “Odessa” and “Sun”. “Odessa” is one of the better songs of the year, and not much had to be done to the studio version to make it hit live. But “Sun” is a song that I never really got into until I saw the live version. In person, the song pulses, sonically bulging outward until Dan Snaith dials it back some only to build it out a little further the next time around. The foursome huddled in the middle of the stage had turned into an oscillating Canuck wrecking crew that seemed intent on tearing down the Canopy Club with their ever-swelling beats. Unfortunately, they ended the song (and Pygmalion) before that became a real possibility.
~ John Steinbacher
Photos by Cody Bralts (Gold Motel, Colour Revolt, Holy Fuck, Cut Chemist, Cap’n Jazz and Caribou) and Annie Weisner (Ted Leo, Roky Erickson and Okkervil River)