Pygmalion returns to Urbana, features LGBTQ+ artists


The Daily Illini File Photo

Black Pumas perform a set at the Rose Bowl Tavern on Sept. 26. as a part of the Pygmalion Music Festival. This year, participants will have access to live streams on Zoom, YouTube and Facebook from Sept. 24 to 26 and all events are free or “pay what you can.”

By Julia Youman, Staff Writer

After going virtual for a year, Champaign-Urbana’s indie-music festival, Pygmalion, is back in person with multi-platinum artist Tinashe headlining and Rupaul’s Drag Race Champion Bob the Drag Queen performing a stand-up routine. 

The event runs Thursday through Friday and features a broad range of performances and in-person acts. Pygmalion Co-Director Patrick Singer said even though it’s a smaller lineup than usual, he couldn’t be happier with what Pygmalion is presenting. 

He said they’ve focused on curating quality artists from podcasters to nationally touring musicians, and with Champaign-Urbana’s Pride Festival happening the same weekend, Singer said they’ve made an effort to feature queer artists throughout the entire weekend. 

“I think that a diverse lineup and approach has always been extremely important to us because that’s what makes our community better,” Singer said. “I’m not really interested in just putting a bunch of white artists on stage.” 

Singer said over the years they’ve prioritized showcasing a range of artists that truly represent the community. 

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“It’s really important for us to be putting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals on stage because that’s what we believe in, and that’s what we feel like presents the strongest comprehensive cultural approach,” Singer said. 

In the past, they’ve brought in acts like Antoni Porowski from the Emmy-winning Netflix show “Queer Eye” to do a live cooking demonstration and book talk. Singer said that it was one of the most popular events they’ve ever had.  

This year, emerging Chicago R&B artist, Serena Isioma, who is a self-proclaimed “non-binary rockstar,” will perform outside Urbana’s Rose Bowl Tavern on Saturday night. 

Taking inspiration from artists like Tyler, the Creator, Isioma released back-to-back EPs in 2020, quickly rose to TikTok fame and is gearing up for a nationwide tour. 

Singer said that while in the past they’ve done a festival style, they’ve stuck with individual ticketing this year so that people can pick and choose which events they want to go to without spending too much money. 

He said they’ve also focused on keeping ticket prices low and offering a range of free activities.

“Access is very important to us,” Singer said. “We try to do as much free programming as we can, and some years it’s more than others, but we ultimately want to present things that are accessible for our community.”

Ticket prices this year range from $15 to $30, while events like The Made Fest are free to the public. 

While there was a lot of uncertainty in the spring about whether Pygmalion would happen in person, Singer said he’s been listening to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Champaign-Urbana Health District.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that the health and safety of the patrons of our event is a high priority,” Singer said. 

In an effort to keep everyone as safe as possible, Pygmalion is requiring proof of vaccination for entry into all ticketed shows, and in accordance with local guidelines, masks will be required for all indoor shows. 

For those who don’t feel comfortable being back with groups indoors just yet, there will also be outdoor events. The Made Fest, an open-air market featuring local and small business vendors, will take place on Friday and Saturday outside the Rose Bowl Tavern.

The festival will also feature a Literary Marathon, which will take place over Friday and Saturday. More than 20 nationally and locally recognized poets will share their recent work and passion for poetry at Analog Wine Bar. 

“We’ve come to embrace the idea that Pygmalion is much more than a music festival, and it has been for the last handful of years,” Singer said. 

In addition to headliners Tinashe and Bob the Drag Queen, the Michigan-based punk band Dogleg will perform on Thursday alongside Retirement Party outdoors at NOLA’s Rock Bar. Ken Layne, writer and creator of the hit podcast “Desert Oracle,” will film a live radio show on Friday at 25 O’Clock Brewing Company. 

Singer encourages people to come out and support local artists and restaurants and explore downtown Urbana. 

“We feel strongly that it shouldn’t just be Pygmalion that the community embraces, but all sorts of other performances and all the arts that are happening all throughout the community,” Singer said. “That’s what makes a community vibrant, and they’re part of the fabric of what makes Champaign-Urbana what it is.”

Tickets are on sale now at

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