Pygmalion: Alvvays, Frightened Rabbit Steal the Show on Thursday

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Check back with Ghost Track throughout the weekend for updates on The Pygmalion Festival happening in Champaign-Urbana this weekend. You can check out our report from Thursday here:

The second (and primary) Pygmalion weekend started off slow, but by the end of Thursday night things started to liven up. But hindered by a large venue space and a crowd slow to show up, Lucy Dacus and Car Seat Headrest’s sets were uncomfortable at best. The seats at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts were about 50 percent filled during Dacus’ set, if that. Plus, everyone sat because of that tension until about midway through Frightened Rabbit’s set a few hours later.

“I feel like we’re playing a talent show or something,” Dacus said, trying to make light of the awkward energy in the room. It might have been a little ambitious to put the earlier sets inside Krannert, but later on in the night when Frightened Rabbit took stage, the matchup was perfect. They knew how to work a large crowd and play off the situation, plus there was a little bit of a larger crowd there, which made the room become more alert than it was during the first two sets. Finally, about half way through Frightened Rabbits’ set, the crowd stood and moved up to the stage. Just like that, things were normal – almost like beforehand, everyone in the room was sitting there with no awareness that anyone else was there too.

It wasn’t that way during Car Seat Headrest, though. There was a lot of hype around the band heading into the festival, but the set just didn’t deliver as much as it could have if the crowd was packed in tighter and the energy was forced to peak. Instead, the entire show came off like you were watching a late-night TV show performance, which was fine, but their high-energy sound lost some luster in the environment. But later on things got much better – especially with Alvvays closing out the night on the stage in Krannert’s lobby. That was a perfect setting for that size of band – it allowed for those who loved them to get up close and engaged, while those more timid or unfamiliar were able to stand back and enjoy the sound, without much focus on the music. Car Seat Headrest probably would have put on one of the best shows of the weekend had it been in a more intimate setting like Alvvays was.

Thursday Takeaways:
– Bands would do a lot better at shows earlier in the night if the venue was smaller, especially when half the crowd hasn’t shown up yet and the other half is still asleep.
– Frightened Rabbit was the only band on Thursday that could manage the big stage inside Krannert’s Tryon Festival Theatre.
– Is Will Toledo trying to be this generation’s Roy Orbison?
– Car Seat Headrest’s back-to-back songs about drunk driving awareness and stopping people from smoking really made the band seem like they just crawled out of some Truman Show-era utopia.
– Alvvays’ new tunes sounded on par with the ones from their self-titled 2014 record. The new album, which they recorded a few weeks ago, should be a great one.

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