Smile Politely

The Pygmalion Festival 2014 lineup additions

Most of you are well aware of the initial lineup announcement — which featured CHVRCHES, American Football, Panda Bear, Tycho, Deafheaven, Real Estate, Sun Kil Moon and many more — from back in April. The Pygmalion Festival has added a bunch of acts, which you can see below.


Erika M. Anderson — better known as EMA — will be joining the festival bill for 2014 after the release of her brand new record The Future’s Void, out earlier this year on Matador. She came onto the indie music map with her stellar debut Past Life of Martyred Saints back in 2011.


Prog-rock masterminds Maserati join this year’s lineup after an absence from the festival for about five years. Their last appearance came in 2009 — but they’ve been back to perform more recently than that in C-U. We’ve definitely missed them, though, and they’ll bring their brand of instrumental jams to the the festival.


If you were at the inaugural installment of the ILLIAC Spring Festival in Urbana back in May, you saw Evan Weiss in one capacity — as a member of They’re / Their / There (alongside American Football’s Mike Kinsella). He’ll be joining the festival’s bill as Into It. Over It. — which actually headlined the inaugural Skeletal Lightning Fest back in 2013. Weiss is opening for American Football at one of their Webster Hall shows in NYC, and he’ll be accompanying them to the Pygmalion Fest as well.


Black metal howlers Liturgy provide an absolute brutal assault of metal, and they’re joining the bill alongside the likes of black metal/shoegazers Deafheaven. Their last record Aesthethica was met with critical acclaim back in 2011 with a release on Thrill Jockey. Bring earplugs, and, well, everything else you’ve got when you hit this performance.


Skuzzed out dream-pop outfit Twin Peaks are about a year removed from the release of their most recent record, Sunken, which kind of rules, honestly. Eight tracks of some solid indie rock/pop makes that debut pretty darn solid. They’re featured at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival as well, if that means anything to you, dear reader.


This indie rock outfit is out of California, and you might remember them from their spot at Pygmalion back in 2011 as they performed alongside the Dodos at the Channing Murray. They have a brand new record out called Dunes, and it’s terrific.


You most likely know of A Great Big Pile Of Leaves, but some of you might have read about them when they were included in this Pitchfork article detailing this “emo revival” of sorts (mentioned alongside II.OI and others). They call Topshelf Records home — and share some territory with C-U’s Braid and a bunch of others.


Like there was any doubt — Mike Kinsella’s solo project is on board this year. See him at American Football as well as his performance of Owen tracks elsewhere during the festival.


No stranger to Champaign-Urbana — Grand Rapids, Michigan outfit The Soil & The Sun are now getting their show within the fold of the festival. They have performed around these parts about once a year or so for the past handful of years to the acclaim of those around town. Definitely a welcomed addition and interesting dynamic to the lineup this year.


Kingston, NY outfit have a new record coming out soon called Lights Out, and they have been busy as of late. Check out their new music video for “Start Again”, and prep yourself with their new tracks to get an idea of what kind of addition to thte festival this band is.


Another band that is heavily featured throughout the festival circuit this year — Miniature Tigers are releasing their brand new record today called Cruel Runnings, and if you pre-ordered it like the music fan that you are, they’re most likely giving you a call soon. Pretty awesome.


Lea Cho & Russ Waterhouse are the duo that is Blues Control, and hailing from Queens, New York, they have been getting down to business. Their last record Valley Tangents came out on Drag City, and they have a ton of dates lined up with Pygmalion Festival’s own Panda Bear.


A pop/rock/indie crossover of sorts, Diamond Youth are a taking some of this year to support their new mini-LP/EP Shake — which found a home on Topshelf Records back in January.


We love Polyvinyl Records, people. And we’re really glad Pillar Point is featured this year, as he just visited Champaign, and put out a record earlier this year.


This three piece has some serious compliments that have come their way, which you can check out, but check out their music before any of that.


Twinsmith recently released their first record (and a new single on Saddle Creek), and they have an interesting mesh of post-punk tones of bands like the Strokes to other more adventerous genres within the newest era of indie rock.


Although his previous band, The Ponys, haven’t put out a studio album since 2007’s bracing Turns the Lights Out dropped back in 2007, the Chicago band’s frontman, Jered Gummere, is the ringleader of this five-piece. Check out their 2013 record if you’re unfamiliar.


The duo of Lonelyhearts put out their last record last June, and they are a solid mix of acoustic folk and warm vibes.

Can’t forget about those locals — here are some more additions (alongside Common Loon and Elsinore, already announced):



Over the past several years, the McSweeney’s Voice of Witness series has endeavored to empower those who have experienced human rights injustices by having established authors help them tell their stories. The result of intensive interviews and collaboration, these books bring to light some of the most important, and indeed, some of the most suppressed narratives of our age. In THE HIGHRISE THE HIGHRISE STORIES, University of Illinois Faculty, Audrey Petty, curates stories that provide individual perspectives on Chicago’s housing projects — stories that ultimately disrupt the cliches and stereotypes that have emerged in their wake. In UNDERGROUND AMERICA, broadly acclaimed author Peter Orner (below) compiles the harrowing oral histories of those living in our country without legal documentation.

Richard Siken‘s first book, CRUSH, is one of the most studied and talked about first books of poetry to be released in the last ten years. Winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, a Lambda Literary Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, CRUSH is a breathless account of mourning, sexual obsession, and loss. In her introduction. Of Siken’s work, former Poet Laureate Louise Glück says, “Books of this kind dream big… They restore to poetry that sense of crucial moment and crucial utterance which may indeed be the great genius of the form.” Siken’s new book, WAR OF THE FOXES, will be released this year by Copper Canyon Press.

There are some authors who can make a story so relatable that, afterwards, its reader feels as if she has experienced the events recounted herself. Jennifer Percy proves herself to be of that kind in her nonfiction debut DEMON CAMP, which tells the story of Caleb Daniel, a veteran of the Afghanistan War who returns to the states believing that he’s been followed by a Destroyer Demon. DEMON CAMP explores the cause and effect of war-induced trauma with depth, sincerity, and intensity, alternating back and forth between Daniel’s time at war to his present situation at an exorcism camp in rural Georgia.
Detriot-based poet, Jamaal May, is widely regarded as one of poetry’s most electric new talents. Not only was his poetry collection HUM, named one of The Boston Globe‘s best poetry books of 2014, it also won a Notable Book Award from the American Library Association. To read May’s work is to understand the praise it has received from the likes of Natasha Trethaway and Tom Sleigh, who praises Hum as “the epitome of what Frost meant by ‘a fresh look and a fresh listen.” To hear May read his work is to understand why, even this early in his career, he was an NAACP Image Award Nominee.

One of poetry’s most exciting new voices, Tarfia Faizullah has recieved a great deal of well-deserved attention for her first book, SEAM, receipient of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry’s First Book Award. An intense and beautiful account of loss, violence, and triumph, SEAM has been lauded by the likes of former Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethaway, who called it “a beautiful and necessary book.” She also nabbed a Pushcart this year for her poem, “The streetlamp above me darkens.”. You will not want to miss this reading.

West Virginia-based Scott McClanahan is one of the most engaging readers you will ever see. According to The Paris Review, McClanahan is, “unaffected, and his account manages to be both comic and unpretentiously sentimental,” a dynamic that is reflected, even magnified, during his live readings. In each of his six volumes, McClanahan tells important truths about big issues like family, community, loss, and identity while remaining wildly entertaining. A must see this year.

Fouder of the award winning HOBART: another literary journal, Aaron Burch is no stranger to Champaign-Urbana. An alumni of Illinois’ MFA program and founder of the local reading series, Stories & Beer, Burch will return to Champaign in September to fresh off the release of his first full collection of stories, BACKSWING. Not confined by form or genre, Burch’s poetry is just as poignent, just as fun, just as tragic, and just as lovely has his fiction.

Alissa Nutting‘s TAMPA follows first year middle school teacher, Celeste Price, as she grooms and seduces one of her students. Nutting’s work is disturbing, not only for its subject matter, but for how it forces its reader to become complicit in her characters transgressions, and as such, elevates the conversation around her subject matter past the point of outrage into an intellectually stimulating gut shot that darkly entertains.

Although Erika Sanchez has built a reputation as an insightful young thinker with columns in Rolling Stone, Al Jazeera, Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, and many others, her poetry is equally deserving of recognition. Winner of the “Discovery/Boston Review Prize,” Sanchez writes sharp, engaging poems that leave their reader stunned, ready for more.

A University of Illinois alum, Matthew Gavin Frank is one of Pygmalion’s most prolific authors with six collections of poetry and three books of nonfiction, the most recent of which, PREPARING THE GHOST, was released this year through W.W. Norton. His most recent book of poetry, THE MORROW PLOTS, explores aspects of the local landmark in ways it’s never been written about before.

A product of both Parkland College and the University of Illinois, Ted Sanders is a local boy done good. His range as an author is impressive to say the least — Sanders can write about nearly anything. In his debut collection NO ANIMALS WE COULD NAME, which won the Graywolf Bakeless Prize, he takes on twists everyday occurrences into odd and uncanny dilemmas that force his reader to question the ordinary at every turn. Sanders applies this keen eye for the odd to his newest project, the middle-grade young adult series called THE KEEPERS, which will be published by HarperCollins Children’s in 2015.

Letitia L. Moffitt was born and raised in Hawaii. She received a doctoral degree in English/Creative Writing from Binghamton University, and she taught creative writing at Eastern Illinois University for five years. Her novel-in-stories, Sidewalk Dancing, was published by Atticus Books in November 2013. In her spare time she runs marathons and ultramarathons. Hey, why not.

Written from the perspective of Silent Sam Stamps, Tom WilliamsDONT START ME TALKIN’ tells the story bluesman Brother Ben on his last tour. Published by Chicago-based Curbside Splendor, DON’T START ME TALKIN’ is both a travel novel and an insightful lense through which to view African American identity in the context of its past, present, and future.






EIU creative writing professor, Charlotte Pence’s poetry merges the personal with the scientific by engaging with current evolutionary theory. Her first full-length poetry collection, which will be released by Black Lawrence Press in January of 2015, explores her father’s chronic homelessness while simultaneously detailing the physiological changes that enabled humans to form communities, households, and cities.

Born and raised in Southern California, Adam Prince earned his B.A. from Vassar College, his M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas, and his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. His award-winning fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, and Narrative Magazine, among others. His debut short story collection The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men was published with Black Lawrence Press in June of 2012.

Timothy Denevi is the author of Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD (Simon & Schuster, 2014). He received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa. Recently he’s been awarded fellowships by The MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He lives near Washington, DC and teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University, where he’s a visiting writer.


Rachel Cantor is the author of the novel A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World (Melville House 2014) and a forthcoming novel, tentatively titled Door Number Two (Melville House 2015).







All music writeups by Patrick Singer, and all lit fest writeups by Caleb Curtiss.

For all other information on The Pygmalion Festival, including music, lit, the Made Fest, tickets and more, check out the website.

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