Pygmalion festival celebrates musical creativity


After all the hot summer days at the beach, vacations in exotic places and even relaxing at home, the summer fever is hard to cure. However, music might just be the best medicine, and Champaign-Urbana will soon be offering just that.

Seth Fein is the founder of the Pygmalion Music Festival, and come late September, Champaign-Urbana will be hosting what he calls a “multi-day indie rock festival with a little bit of DJ and electronic acts thrown in there.”

Fein collaborated with over 70 bands, booking them to play in the festival, he said. The festival combines artists with completely different experiences, ranging from long time professionals like Janelle Monae, to newer groups like Butterfly Bones.

While some of these artists have toured everywhere from Europe to all over the United States, others have more local roots.

Ryan Jerving, otherwise known as “The Viper” in his group, The Viper and His Famous Orchestra, now tours all over the United States, but his group originated in Champaign-Urbana. Having played gigs at the Blind Pig and the beers gardens at Mike ‘N Molly’s, Jerving said that the Pygmalion Festival brings him home.

“We love playing in Champaign. Even though very few of us still have a real connection there, it still feels like home,” Jerving said.

According to Jerving, his music doesn’t quite align with the indie rock genre that the festival is known for.

“We’re sort of early street jazz, sort of old time string band, sometimes calypso or Hawaiian and sometimes straight pop,” Jerving said.

However, Jerving said this just makes the festival even more interesting and adds to the different dimensions of rock music. “It basically comes down to a situational analysis of context; we’re playing non-rock or pre-rock music for a rock audience.”

The Viper and His Famous Orchestra are not the only band that strays from the indie rock genre. Reese Donohue, singer and guitarist of the band Butterfly Bones, described their music as “electro-pop.”

Their band uses guitars, drums and special electronic equipment like synthesizers, which add to the character of their sound. Donohue said that his experience with electronic music is very different than writing and producing a standard song.

“It’s a funny thing because I didn’t really know about this until I got into electronic music … the way you interact by using electronics is by using a piano. It’s like playing a lot of different pianos, you know, synthesizers, at once … but when you hear the sounds, it’s really alien to the ear,” Donohue said.

Other bands playing in the festival include Built to Spill, Of Montreal, Surfer Blood, Those Darlins and more.

Fein said that despite the variety of music booked for the festival, his goal was not to draw in a typical mass audience.

“I don’t have a whole lot of interest in appealing to everyone,” Fein said. “I only really want to appeal to people who really have a respect for people who can really create their own music and create their own songs”

More importantly, Fein said that he wants the audience to feel like their experience was worth it.

“I just want [the audience] to feel like this was a comfortable, affordable, well-booked, well-maintained and well-produced festival,” Fein said. “I hope people recognize it’s a pretty special event for a community our size and that they walk away either proud to live here or are impressed by what Champaign-Urbana can accomplish.”

The Pygmalion Music Festival takes place September 22-25 in multiple indoor venues throughout Champaign-Urbana.