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 second part of the four part ACITM Pygmalion Roundup (the Pyggy crown will be the finale coming this Wednesday), highlighting Friday’s shows in downtown Urbana and Canopy.
Husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley (along with drummer James Barone) brought their sunny, carefree California dream pop to Urbana Friday night. Tennis (the bands name, a running joke since Riley was ranked the number 2 tennis player at 18 in Denver) really shins during their breakdowns, the togetherness of the west coast guitar chords and bright piano refrains lining up to highlight Alaina’s powerful voice. Like a Regina Spektor mixed with Greta Salpeter, Alaina really owns her side of the stage. Whether it’s on the keys or just with a mic in her hand, her method of stretching out vowels is quite pleasant, especially with the simple guitar lines and rhythms that allow you to focus on her vocals and sway side to side to their melodies. Before playing their hit “Marathon,” Alaina smiled and told the crowd “True Confessions: I hated this song at first.” Moore’s cooing vocals were especially extraordinary on this song though, with the wind blowing on cue as she sang of shifting winds, with only the warm sand missing in the Black Dog parking lot.
“I can see a Walgreens through the trees in the distance, very abstract,” Projectors frontman Dave Longstreth said after finishing up their first song. In a set full of Longstreth making the crowd laugh with comments in between songs, the much buzzed about Dirty Projectors delivered one of the best performances of Pygmalion. The band has things down to a science: off beat hand claps between different members of the sextet on stage, switching through troubadour folk music, to funky jangly guitar tunes, to rhythmic African like breakdowns. The chaos turned into musical bliss in the ideal midwest fall weather. Even Longstreth added, “Is that a full moon? Total cacophony,” noticing the moon hovering over the Black Dog parking lot. Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle, and Olga Bell, the lady trio of the sextet, was like a all out choir. Switching through opera like shrieks and flowing melodies sang in “a simple rhythm,” the trio complements Longstreth perfectly. While Longstreth turns monotone verses into a showcase of vocal talent in the choruses and breaks, Coffman, the other guitarist in the Projectors, carries the band in a way. One, she’s REALLY good. Two, her shyness in a way, provides to the spectacle that defines the band. With all this talent on one stage – music at times messy, but great at the same time, they don’t know how big they can really take their recent successes. My guess though, you’ll see them with a night slot on some of the bigger music festivals around the country, really soon.
I came early to the Canopy Club after the Dirty Projectors wrapped up to catch Lord Huron. I had never listened to the band before, but after multiple people telling me how awesome they are live, I decided to check them out. Lord Huron is the music and visual project created by Michigan bred artist Ben Schneider. Their music Friday night was up-tempo and as lushy/atmospheric as indie pop can get. When the rest of the band members would join Schneider for chorus and bridge duets, Local Natives kept popping up into my head. Think Local Natives crossed with a more folk-y band like Edward Sharpe. On “The Stranger,” Schneider proclaims he’s not afraid to die, whistling in between verses with a carefree attitude that had the Canopy moving along to every song. They truly seemed honored to be playing Pygmalion and to be on the bill with Best Coast, and they made a fan out of me as I purchased every one of the bands CD’s after their set.
My celebrity crush Beth Cosentino closed out Friday night of Pygmalion to a buzzing Canopy Club crowd. Joined on stage by longtime Best Coast partner Bobb Bruno, the duo played a low light set, pulling songs from their first album Crazy for You and recent release The Only Place. Joking about their late set start, Cosentino said it was way past their bed time and added that all the time waiting to play probably led her to drink too much. The music didn’t show a sloppy, intoxicated musician though. Feel good tunes and fuzzy California pop rock filled the Canopy speakers as Bethany banged out chord after chord, music getting progressively more “punk” as the night went on. “We’ve got the ocean, got the waves, got the ocean, got the babes” Cosentino sang, as if she were mocking the midwest for the lack of all of that (well, maybe not the babe part). Bruno swung his guitar all around, staying on his side of the stage and playing to the members of the audience in the front row, distorted garage rock riffs and all. The only down side of the performance was the way the songs molded together in a way. The set seemed to drag on a bit as the mild-manned Cosentino doesn’t have much vocal range on Best Coast’s songs.
Check out the rest of the photos from Friday night below! Part 3 and 4 coming tomorrow!