Local bands dominate Pygmalion Festival lineup

With Chicago being known as the breeding ground for Midwest music, smaller towns, such as Champaign-Urbana, can be excluded from the Chicago spotlight. 

Having received more notoriety in the late ‘80s and ‘90s due to internationally known acts such as REO Speedwagon, Poster Children, National Skyline and HUM, which all claim Champaign-Urbana as their home base, it has been difficult for the community to land a spot back on the musical map. 

However, the Pygmalion Festival, now in its 10th year, has helped put the national spotlight back on the twin cities that have become a powerhouse for generating local bands. With more than 20 local acts performing music and comedy at the festival, it will be hard to miss any local performances. 

The 92s 

A commonly heard name around town is the band The 92s. Consisting of Dan Durley (vocals and guitar), Rob Marshall (guitar), Dylan Epling (bass) and Matt Mullen (drums), the band will be performing Pygmalion on Thursday at the Krannert Art Museum at 7:00 p.m., located at 500 E Peabody, Champaign. 

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Durley, a 2014 Business alumnus, had originally formed The 92s as a solo project back in 2011.  

“I had written and recorded some songs I had made solely as a solo project,” he said. “Around May of 2012, I formed the full-band project around the record I had previously made.” 

No longer a one-man show, Durley describes The 92s as a band with an intense and loud sound while still including accessible pop melodies at the core.

“It’s still very melodic but noisy and gritty-esque,” he said. 

The 92s have been writing and recording new music and will be touring around the Midwest in the near future, Durley said. 

The band, which will be performing their second consecutive year at Pygmalion Festival, said it is very excited to be included in this year’s lineup once again. 

“It’s a huge cornerstone of our town. It’s an amazing thing to happen to Champaign-Urbana and it’s awesome to see our name amongst amazing acts such as American Football and Real Estate,” Durley said. “Champaign-Urbana has an incredible music scene with so much history to it. I always like to say that per capita, Champaign-Urbana has the best music scene in the country.”


Holding the record number of Pygmalion performances, one of the most prominent active bands in Champaign-Urbana, Elsinore, will be playing its 10th show of the Pygmalion festival. The band will perform Thursday at 10 p.m. at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

“The festival continues to put an ever-increasing spotlight on our cities and you have to have a flourishing music scene for that to happen,” said Ryan Groff, lead singer and guitarist for Elsinore. “There is no denying that Pygmalion is a driving force, along with bands and stable venues who care about the scene we have here; the formula is intact and a lot of people are keeping tabs to make sure it holds.” 

With the release of “PUSH/PULL” in October, the band began touring all over the Midwest and East Coast. 

“The response from our fans and people at the shows we’ve played for this past year has been amazing,” Groff said. 

In regards to new music in the future, the band has carefully crafted the release of what it has to offer to the world. 

“When we decided to play ‘The Great Cover Up’ here in town, learning all of those Nirvana songs was a palette cleanser that catapulted us into writing new material,” Groff said. “We have about fifteen songs that feel like they could easily work well together on a record. If we get a few big tracks out between now and the spring, it could potentially create some serious momentum for the album.”

Single Player

Performing Pygmalion for the first time, Sean Neumann, also known as Single Player, will play his last two releases, “Could Care Less” and “Are You There?” on Friday at midnight at the Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant located at 1209 W Oregon St., Urbana. Neumann is a Daily Illini sports reporter and junior in Media.

“I’m honored and incredibly lucky to have so many talented friends that play music and help me out with live shows to make the recorded music translate into a live setting,” Neumann said of his band that accompanies him in live performances.

Originally writing music that gravitated towards a soft, acoustic sound, Neumann said he developed Single Player into pop-punk when he moved to Champaign.

“The transition has really turned out to be a good thing,” he said. 

In regards to new music, Single Player is trying to find time to make things happen.

“We’re all pretty busy, or like to tell ourselves that we are, so it’s difficult to divide my time up with real-world things. We’re hoping to go on tour in early January and we’re working on an (album), ‘7” split,’ with a band called Nectar, which is the project of Kamila Glowacki who plays guitar and sings in Single Player too.” 

The Dirty Feathers

The Dirty Feathers, a Neil Young-inspired, psychedelic, garage-rock band, is no stranger to the Pygmalion Festival. 

Performing for its fourth consecutive year, the band will go on at Memphis On Main, located at 55 E Main St. in Champaign, and its new music on Saturday night at 1:00 a.m. The extremely energetic five piece band, consists of Andrew Kling (guitar, lead vocals), Harman Jordan (guitar, vocals), Vladimir Brilliant (bass), Ted Faust (keyboard) and James Treichler (drums), and are the perfect example of the type of talent and success that can come out of Champaign-Urbana. 

With the 2011 release of their album, “Midnight Snakes,” they were named one of NPR’s 2011 best Bandcamp bands. 

“That was really nice”, Kling said. “It was a great experience when people started to respond to that album. It made me really proud of what we did because we recorded that whole album ourselves.”

A band that remains true to itself and models its album after its live sets, Kling said The Dirty Feathers are extremely committed to their local fans and the local music scene in general. 

“I think the music scene has always been good, but it definitely comes in waves”, he said. “Right now, I think its great and there are a lot of local bands who are working hard. I personally go to a show at least once a week, which I think says a lot. As far as Pygmalion goes, it’s been fantastic for Champaign-Urbana and the local bands. Each year it builds on itself and gets more and more exposure that can bring big acts to the area.”

American Football

One of the most highly anticipated performances of Pygmalion will be the homecoming of one of the biggest bands to come out of the area. 

The late ‘90s emo band trio, Mike Kinsella (vocals, guitar, bass), Steve Lamos (drums, trumpet) and Steve Holmes (guitar), reissued its self-titled album via Polyvinyl on May 20, and is making its Pygmalion performance its first in 15 years. 

Its 9:00 p.m. Sunday performance at Highdive Outdoor Stage 1, located at 51 E Main St., in Champaign, will be its first stop on tour, and not only a homecoming for the band, but also for the community as a whole. 

Bone Jugs N Harmony

The serious, yet silly four-piece, Bone Jugs N Harmony, will be performing its second consecutive year at the festival at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday at Cowboy Monkey, which is located at 6 E Taylor St., in downtown Champaign.

The band that has played over 120 shows since its official formation in August 2013, and its four members — Tim Berg, JP Goguen, Charlie Harris and Cody Jensen — are no stranger to the stage. 

During its upcoming Pygmalion performance, the group will be debuting its upcoming full-length album, “Party’s In The Kitchen,” which is set for a record release show on October 17 at The Iron Post in Urbana.

Frances can be reached at [email protected].