Pygmalion music festival to kick off Thursday

The Head & The Heart. Major Lazer. Kurt Vile and the Violators. Dawes. The Breeders. Warpaint.

If these bands aren’t familiar to you by now, they will be soon.

In less than one week, the sounds of indie rock music — with a dash of Electronic Dance Music — will be wafting through Champaign-Urbana, as the 9th annual Pygmalion Music Festival kicks off Thursday, Sept. 26 and ends Saturday, Sept. 28. The bands will perform at a variety of locations in the community and around campus, including Canopy Club, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Krannert Art Museum. There will also be two outdoor shows, a Friday night show in downtown Urbana and the traditional all-day Saturday event in downtown Champaign.

The festival, which features both national and local indie rock bands, will host more than 60 artists. Although primarily indie rock, the festival will incorporate some EDM in an effort to attract a wider audience.

“I think artists like Major Lazer appeal to the campus, and artists like The Breeders appeal to the community, and so, I think it will be a good mix of people,” said Seth Fein, Pygmalion’s founder.

Despite the incorporation of EDM, Fein is “adamant … to maintain that rock music is pretty front and center.“

Stephen Johnson, a local recording artist who has worked with the quartet An Evening With Your Mother, Mille Nomi and The Fights, said he will be attending Pygmalion and is most excited to see The Breeders.

“I think that was a phenomenal addition to the lineup,” Johnson said. “I love to see these well-seasoned bands that have put in the mileage and have been around for quite some time and know how to play. … Although, for the most part, this festival has, to me, become more about seeing the local C-U bands at their peak.”

Greg Clow, University alumnus and local promoter/musician, is most looking forward to hearing Potty Mouth.

“I like Potty Mouth because of how original they are,” Clow said.“It’s a cool combination of pop punk and post-punk that can be very accessible.”

Despite of having to handle eight artist cancellations, the most recent being Foxygen who canceled last week, Fein said he has been hard at work finding replacements and making schedule adjustments.

“Being the festival promoter, I always try my best to book the best possible artists,” Fein said. “I don’t just book anyone who’s available. I try to really curate the festival to fit within the confines and the structure of what I believe is my target market and with what I think is going to be appealing to people. Ultimately, I’m not willing to just replace acts for acts as if they are interchangeable.”

Other cancellations were from Chance the Rapper, Perfume Genius, K. Flay, PHOX and Young Empires. Among the replacements are artists Dessa and Rocky Fresh.

“I was really excited to see PHOX, along with the Grandkids, back-to-back in a really intimate spot (Memphis on Main),” Johnson said. “The cool thing about Pygmalion is that the organizers always manage to make a better trade. So I am not worried. There is always a really cool replacement.”

For the first time this year, the festival will also feature a literature fest and craft fair.

Pygmalion Lit Fest, to be held on Friday and Saturday, will feature four readings with over a dozen authors that the University department of English as well as Ninth Letter, its literary magazine, are helping to bring in, Fein said. Featured authors include, Dan Choan, author of “Weird Tales,” and Amelia Gray, author of the novel, “Treats.”

“It’s a similar motif (as the Pygmalion Music Festival); it’s just authors instead of bands,” Fein said.

The craft fair, which will be called “The Made Fest,” will take place Saturday at the High Dive Outdoor Annex in Champaign, and will feature both handmade and vintage items for sale.

“Both (the lit fest and the craft fair) are 100 percent free, open to the public, for everyone to enjoy,” Fein said.

With thousands of tickets already sold, and single show tickets for The Head & The Heart sold out, Fein expects 7,500 to 10,000 festival goers over the course of three days, both locals as well as travelers from Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis. And, if the weather is good, Stein predicts the ticket sales will “double, if not triple.”

Some tickets for The Head & The Heart will also be available late release, and prices for all tickets increase as the festival dates approach.

“Seth has a beautiful thing going on with Pygmalion,” said Liz Faermark, senior in Media who has been both a festival patron as well as employee. “He wants to share it and grow it with his community. And that’s why this fest has continued to grow over the years.”

Although the festival itself will not provide food, attendees have the opportunity to try out the various local restaurants in the Champaign-Urbana area, Fein explained.

“I feel like we’ve got an amazing restaurant scene in Champaign and Urbana, and the idea is that people come into town and maybe go to Black Dog or Farren’s or Big Grove or wherever they wanted… Part of that is to inspire business for the local restaurants that exist here,” Fein said.

While the local restaurants may be taking the reigns when it comes to food, Pygmalion’s sponsors, including Goose Island, Budweiser and Jameson, have the alcohol covered.

“(We’ve gotten) a lot of artists that would never dream of routing a tour through here without something like Pygmalion, or the kind of money that I am able to offer as a result of great partnerships,” Fein said.

For more information, visit

Julia can be reached at [email protected]

A previous of this article incorrectly referred to Seth Fein as Seth Stein. The Daily Illini regrets the error.