The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Ax and the Hatchetmen perform lively set at Pygmalion night 1

Daniel Zhou
Ax and the Hatchetman lead singer Axel Ellis sings to the crowd while strumming his guitar during the band’s Pygmalion debut on Thursday.

Ax and the Hatchetmen took to the Canopy Club’s Red Room for a performance on the opening night of the 2023 Pygmalion festival.

The Chicago-based rock band brought a fresh sound to Champaign-Urbana with their mix of guitarists and horn players lighting up the small Canopy Club stage.

The show began slightly before its start time of 10:45 p.m., kicking off about 10 minutes early and ending after 45 minutes of music. The floor in front of the stage was packed with a small crowd that filled the club with energy.

This was the band’s first time coming to Champaign-Urbana, they said during the performance and in their interview with the DI, before launching into “Sleeping In My Jeans.”

The group consists of four guitarists: Axel Ellis and Kenny Olzewski, who also serve as vocalists for the group, and Sal Defilippis and Hunter Olshefke on bass. Drummer Nick Deputy rounds out the band along with Phil Pistone on trumpet and Quinn Dolan playing the saxophone.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

The band’s unique instrumentation brought an alternative-indie vibe to the stage, which seemed to be greatly enjoyed by the crowd, with its constant shouts and cheers.

Ax and the Hatchetmen fed off the energy of the room as they kept up a constant stream of music, mostly including originals blended with a couple covers.

“This song’s about parking your car, and not knowing where,” Ellis said comedically as he introduced the band’s latest single “Where TF Did I Park My Car.”

The Hatchetmen played two songs named after western states “Colorado” and “Utah.” The high energy of the night was brought down significantly for “Utah,” a slower and more intimate track, which Ellis and Olshefke said, during their interview with the DI, was one of their favorites to perform.

The complete change in energy level brought a cozier vibe to the performance, with the emotional melody reaching the crowd especially through a powerful trumpet solo by Pistone over the bridge.

The band showed their evident passion for performing through their constant lively energy and movement to the music. They jammed out to original songs “Silhouette” and “Peach Trees,” which is currently their most popular hit at over 12 million streams on Spotify.

“You guys are better than playing to an empty room, that’s for sure,” Ellis said between songs to whoops and cheers from the crowd.

Both songs come from the group’s 2020 EP “Bear on the Roof.” Since then, Ax and the Hatchetmen have released multiple singles, as well as a live album from their recording session with Audiotree Live.

The band closed out the night with an encore consisting of The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.” The crowd literally twisted and shouted along as the band jammed out one last time before exiting the stage.

Ax and the Hatchetmen’s performance closed out the first night of shows at this year’s Pygmalion festival. A complete schedule of Pygmalion events can be found here.


[email protected]

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Maaike Niekerk, buzz Editor
My name is Maaike Niekerk, and I am a sophomore majoring in English with minors in music and journalism. I began working with The Daily Illini during the fall semester of my freshman year as a buzz staff writer, and joined the editorial team last summer. I love bringing live event coverage to you from Champaign-Urbana’s vibrant music scene and sharing stories of local artists and musicians. Outside of The Daily Illini, you’ll find me performing at every football game with the Marching Illini or cycling with the 2024 Illini 4000 bike America team.
ILLordle: Play now