The best weekend of the year in Champaign-Urbana wrapped up Saturday night, and left bands like Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors marveling at the line-up founder Seth Fein was able to produce. We were there for it all, traveling between Krannert Art Museum, Canopy Club, downtown Urbana outside of Black Dog, and downtown Champaign behind the High Dive. So without further ado, here’s the first part of the four part ACITM Pygmalion Roundup (the Pyggy crown will be the finale coming this Wednesday), highlighting Thursday’s shows at Krannert and Canopy.
Playing one of their first shows together and borrowing Santah drummer Steve Plock, frontman Winston Yellen started Pygmalion off with a bang. Although the music was soft and quiet to the point you could hear his stomps over the drumming, the skeletal acoustic guitar meshed with Yellen’s vocals to send tingles down the spine of those in attendance. His love torn ballads use every bit of the pureness of his voice to toss back and forth between crashing screams and soothing melodies. He joked that the crowd was “the quietest we’ve ever played for,” which should have been expected as the audience was wowed at the reverberation throughout the Krannert Link Gallery. Letting the crowd marvel at your music is a decent upgrade from being used to old ladies throwing their gin at you though, as Yellen said he was happy wasn’t happening Thursday night.
Santah was a must see on my list after discovering the band at Pygmalion 2011. Seeing guitarist/vocalist Vivian McConnell performing at Potbellies some time after only made the urge greater. After Thursday night, I can assure you, this band has really got it. Vivian’s and lead vocalist (and brother) Stan McConnell’s duets are infectious. You can’t help but smile when they come in on a chorus/bridge together, the melodies feeding off the 70’s California psych-pop movement. Going beyond the “psych pop” tag though, Stan has a very versatile voice. He slips in and out of different modes, even reaching a soulful and gritty Motown stretch. I keep coming back to the duets between the vocalists though. In my notes I wrote down “like they were born to sing together, it’s a perfect match.” I’m going to stick to this. While the album White Noise Bed features more of Stan venturing through different levels of octaves, the live show featured ravishing vocal blends over the fuzzy patches of jamming. If Reptar and the Arctic Monkeys had a baby, Santah would beat that baby up. “Chips of Paint” blew me away, “Sunkeeper” was great, and overall they just really were amazing Thursday night. Expect to see these guys in contention for the Pyggy crown.
“This guys my professor and he’s fucking awesome!” screamed a girl next to me as HUM came onto the stage. Stepping in for an injured Sleigh Bells (this sounds like a sports recap), the local legends suited up for a reunion closing out the first day of Pygmalion at Canopy Club. Bringing the same rapid riffs, shuddering bass, and knock-you-out drums that achieved the band notoriety in the 90’s, HUM moved through old favorites such as “The Pod,” “Stars,” and “Scraper.” Paging “Mission Control” to turn up his microphone throughout the night because his vocals sounded “fucking fantastic,” Matt Talbott showed signs of his teenage angst from 20 years prior, his metallic murmors providing material for the head bangers in the front row to rage to. The grunge era turned HUM into mini-stars on the scene, allowed them to travel the country, appear on television shows, and sell over 250,000 copies of their record You’d Prefer an Astronaut. When it was over they didn’t try to stick around and switch it up, content with their success. They came back Thursday night and had fun, the crowd full of students who wished they’d been around during the era, middle aged individuals who missed it, and the curious others wanting to see what all this HUM was about (buh-dum-dum-chhhh). Sludgy, hard nosed grunge music filled the Canopy Club, with the group of four happy to have a beer on stage together again.
Check out the rest of the photos from Thursday’s Pygmalion Roundup and stay tuned for the rest of our reviews!