Last Saturday night, a final summer storm thundered and shook its way through the Champaign-Urbana community, passing through the residential and downtown areas, and the university campus. But for clubgoers at Blackbird Urbana, the flashing lightning barely registered; indie bands Bleached and Retirement Party stole the show from Mother Nature.
Both musical groups delivered strong live performances for this year’s Pygmalion Festival to the pleasure of their respective fans, many of whom crowded elbow-to-elbow to watch the acts. Chicago band Retirement Party captivated the crowd in the early evening for their first appearance in the Pygmalion Festival line-up. The set featured fan favorites, such as “Passion Fruit Tea” and “That’s How People Die,” as well as an exclusive preview of the yet-to-be-released (but promising!) “Compensation.” Personable and punky, the group’s live performance bared remarkable similarity to their recorded songs available on Spotify–a testimony to the young band’s discipline. The members each carried one another with an enthusiasm that spilled into an already-charged crowd. This reporter was particularly impressed that bassist Eddy Rodriguez managed to headbang throughout the entire show. And his fellow band members–lead singer Avery Springer and drummer James Ringness–were no less spectacular. Springer’s unique vocals held up to fan expectations: her spoken-word delivery of the opening lines to “That’s How People Die” was as personable as on the band’s debut album Somewhat Literate.
Bleached, the night’s headlining band likewise delivered a stellar performance. Playing longtime hits such as “Wednesday Night Melody” and “Hard to Kill,” the band built on the crowd-energy produced by Retirement Party. Most memorably, lead singer Jennifer Clavin switched from heels to flats to dance alongside the late-night audience. Guitarist Jessica Clavin matched her sister’s rocker spirit. In a sound reminiscent of the 1990s riot grrrl punk movement, the LA-based band carried the crowd from Saturday into Sunday’s early hours with the fluidity of born performers. Honestly, Bleached is a band best heard live. The polished technique present in the band’s Spotify recordings is no match for the vivacity of their 2019 Pygmalion performance. Swinging instruments and screaming lyrics, Bleached invoked a far livelier audience than the night’s earlier performances. Their passion was exhilarating and wonderfully contagious.
The night finished on a reluctant note, with a majority of the music crowd lingering at Blackbird for the next hour, ears still ringing from punky guitar riffs. Both Bleached and Retirement Party were excellent live, and this writer would like to urge readers to seek out future performances. For those unable to seek one (or two, three, four…) out, the bands’ most recent releases–Bleached’s album Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough? and Retirement Party’s single “Free Will”–are available on most streaming platforms.