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Review Sun Sep 25 2011

Review: [a lot of bands] @ Pygmalion Music Festival, 9/24

The showcase event at this year's Pygmalion Music Festival was the Polyvinyl 15th Anniversary show that took place in a parking lot behind the Highdive on Saturday. Despite less than favorable weather (chilly, sporadic drizzling), a large crowd showed up to celebrate the Champaign label that's heralded numerous acts from our backyard to Sweden and Australia, from hardcore to ambient.

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Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (all photos by Rory O'Connor)

Now, I must begin by admitting that I cannot take Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin seriously because of their name. (See also: Let's Get Out of This Terrible Sandwich Shop, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, et al.) Even when they described a rather serious song about three missing girls, I couldn't get past their name. And it turns out they're really just safe indie-rock with a few punchy hooks.

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Asobi Seksu

Asobi Seksu followed with a set of their more poppy tunes. Like their counterparts in Blonde Redhead, their sound is all over. One song might be a sliver off straight electronica and on the next one they're shoegaze. (A cover of the Jesus & Mary Chain's "Never Understand" doesn't hurt proving that.) Singer Yuki Chikudate's vocals were in excellent shape and the band behind her sounded in fine form.

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A show in a parking lot might work for a lot of bands, but it appeared that Starfucker had trouble finding their groove. The Portland band's set began awfully with constant feedback and heavy distortion plaguing the first song. Once those problems were fixed, they sounded better, but only had pockets of the crowd moving to their electropop (think of a lighter Hot Chip with better harmonies). Even still, their catchy and accessible synth-oriented tunes are hard to not at least bounce around to a little bit, especially the delightful "German Love" and an homage to Super Mario 3 in "Bury Us Alive." (Starfucker plays Lincoln Hall on Tuesday.)

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Xiu Xiu



Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof turned in sets dominated by their vocalists and the erratic and sometimes aimless noise that both feature prominently. Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart has a distinct voice somewhere between Morrissey and Antony Hegarty, but his band's music is often filled with bleeps, bloops and clutter that obscure the focus. (Maybe that's the point.) The crowd that stuck around for them seemed in awe, but many wandered. (As long as you held a ticket, you could walk in and out all day long. Local businesses must've been thrilled.) And it didn't help them that the breaks between their songs were very long. Deerhoof's diminutive Satomi Matsuzaki has a powerfully high voice and the band has tremendous moments of clarity and structure, but they can veer wildly into noise for the sake of noise.

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Between Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof was Vancouver's Japandroids, who also began in a haze of technical issues. Singer/guitarist Brian King started their time by saying his voice was dying near the end of the current and he wouldn't talk much because they wanted to plow through as many songs as possible, yet he peppered self-deprecating banter through their hour. The noisy garage-rock duo front-loaded their set with songs from their forthcoming album on Polyvinyl and then played older songs on the back half (getting a huge recognition applause for "Young Hearts Spark Fire"), finishing up with a cover of Gun Club's "For the Love of Ivy."

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Wrapping up the evening was the hometown emo/post-hardcore Braid, who were introduced by Champaign's mayor. (Yes, really.) Their nearly 90-minute set stretched across their career, taking liberally from 1998's superb Frame and Canvas and even making some time for new songs from this year's Closer to Closed EP. Even after a hiatus, their melodic math-rocky tunes hadn't lost an ounce of energy.

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Bass Drum of Death

Down the block from the Highdive after the Polyvinyl show, Bass Drum of Death played in a beer garden for a few people who actually knew them and a lot who apparently didn't. (Deerhoof's Satomi Matsuzaki spent most of their set dancing below most people's sightlines.) The garage-rock duo was joined by an extra guitarist to expand on grimey hooks that make them sound like the Black Keys with a heavy dose of punk rock.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
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The Burlington
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Empty Bottle
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Kingston Mines
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Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
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Park West
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Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
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Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

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  & Shops:

Alligator Records
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Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
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Drag City
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Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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