The Pygmalion Festival brings community together

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

Photo by Billi Jo Hart/Prospectus News American Football headlines the 10th annual Pygmalion Festival in Champaign, on Sunday, September 28.

Photo by Billi Jo Hart/Prospectus News
American Football headlines the 10th annual Pygmalion Festival in Champaign, on Sunday, September 28.

It was a beautiful Thursday night in Urbana, and instead of heading to their usual watering hole, students were trickling into the Stage 5 bar in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. One by one they filed through the doors and formed a line to pick up their tickets for what promised to be an exciting night. The Pygmalion Festival has been steadily growing for a decade now and, for most students in the area, the event is an essential part of the experience of attending college in central Illinois.

“It’s 10 years in and it’s so amazing now,” frontman of local band Elsinore, Ryan Groff said. “We just played for however many hundreds of people. In a way it was easy because the adrenaline and the energy in the room is what takes over, verses being nervous about how many people are going to show up or if we’re going to play well.”

Elsinore has had a presence in the local music scene for many years now, and has been a part of Pygmalion from the beginning. They put on a show that testified to the fact that these guys have become professionals over the years.

Night number two at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts brought the music into a more formal setting in the Tryon Festival Theater. Sun Kil Moon delivered a set as intimate as that of a house show in a setting that really showed how talented this band really is. As the crowd erupted between every song, it became apparent that The Pygmalion Festival was about people who love art having an opportunity to see it presented in a very professional way.

That theme continued as the night wore on, and Panda Bear delivered a set of music typically experienced at an outdoor festival, or in a party like atmosphere, to a theater full of seated people. The audio/ visual experience was quite effective, and the images that flashed across the big screen were impossible to ignore.

The Made Fest that took place both Saturday and Sunday displayed various pieces of handmade art as well as vintage clothing. It was located outside the gate of the main stage in downtown Champaign and was open to the general public even if they didn’t have a ticket to the festival. In addition to displaying art and clothing, Made Fest also featured one of Champaign – Urbana’s favorite treats, Pandamonium Doughnuts.

Pandamonium Doughnuts is a local start up that gained popularity through Urbana’s Market at the Square, which takes place every Saturday morning in Urbana from May 3rd through Nov. 1st. The Made Fest was a different setting for the company, and there wasn’t enough room to park the Doughnut Truck, but there was still a long line of people waiting to try one of their signature doughnuts.

“I felt honored to be considered in Seth Fein’s plans for different things this weekend,” founder of the company James Kyung said. “I think it’s really exciting. For us to be here is a little different but I think it’s great. We like collaborating with different styles of businesses.”

Another component of the festival that took place over the weekend was the Lit Fest, which featured a book fair at the Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign on Saturday. The fair showcased books from various publications, and among them was the Poetry Foundation, based in Chicago, IL.

“This is really great,” Editorial Assistant for The Poetry Magazine, Holly Amos said. “The nice thing about this is you get to meet people that are coming to the events but you also get to talk to the fellow presses, which is really great.”

The Lit Fest was a local event that brought together people from all over the country to chat about literature and sell their books, and was also a great opportunity for students to catch a live reading from one of their favorite authors. With big chain bookstores becoming a thing of the past, events such as the Lit Fest play a significant role in the survival of printed media in the Digital Age.

Saturday night was all about the big name acts and the big stages typically thought of when it comes to music festivals. The crowd cheered on as bands such as Tycho and CHVRCHES took the stage and fed on the high level of energy present. Long beer lines and port o potties that had run out of toilet paper served as proof of the high attendance numbers.

In addition to the music there was also a ceremony celebrating the life of Josh Gottheil. Mayor of Champaign, Don Gerard, was on hand and declared Sept. 27th Josh Gottheil Day.

“It’s remarkable,” Gerard stated. “This is his legacy; this and the foundation that is in his name. It’s humbling to come along and be the ‘rock and roll Mayor’ and love rock and roll and go to these things and have a good time, but then to have an event like this to really put it all in perspective and remind us that it’s a big world and everything is interconnected. So, while we’re having fun it’s also about a kid who fought for his life and lost, but set the stage for what we are doing today.”

People flooded out into the streets and into the various bars and nightclubs in downtown Champaign after the show had ended. With many after parties and late night shows the festivities extended beyond the confines of the main stage. It was evident that the Pygmalion Festival brought a lot of business to local establishments, which is very beneficial to the local economy.

The weather was perfect all weekend, and Sunday was no exception. The final day of the festival provided music from more big name acts such as Deafheaven, Maserati, and American Football. The day also featured a set from local band Withershins. The Withershins have been playing shows in the area since 2008, and were happy to be a part of Pygmalion’s 10-year anniversary.

“We’re honored,” said frontman Isaac Arms. “I think on some level bands gage, locally, how their year was, like how their season was, like did you play a good season? Did you get that Pygmalion invite? We don’t take it for granted. We were super stoked.”

Parkland’s own WPCD held a table in the outdoor annex, hosting a Picto-bomb photoshoot and freebies for the crowd. WPCD has been a annual sponsor of the festival for the past four years.

Over the four days that it took place, the Pygmalion Festival covered almost every aspect of the art community that resides in the CU area. From literature, to arts and crafts, to painting and sculpture, to musical performances; it was an event that honored the art that it showcased. Essentially, Pygmalion was a platform for artists to present their art to those that attended. This festival seemed to encompass what is so great about the culture and lifestyle that Champaign Urbana natives are familiar with. Although drinking alcohol and having a good time was part of the Pygmalion experience, this event was about more than just college kids partying. The festival represented the hard work that goes into building an art community, and it presented that community to the general public in a respectable way.


Photo by Billi Jo Hart/Prospectus News American Football headlines the 10th annual Pygmalion Festival in Champaign, on Sunday, September 28.

Photo by Billi Jo Hart/Prospectus News
American Football headlines the 10th annual Pygmalion Festival in Champaign, on Sunday, September 28.