Cj Run performing at Canopy Club

The Pygmalion Festival hosted St. Louis stand-out Smino at the Canopy Club in Urbana Last Thursday night.

A sizeable crowd gathered to first hear Illinois student and rapper CJ Run heat up the stage. Joined by a live band consisting of a saxophone, bass, drums, keys, and a backup vocalist, CJ energized the crowd with fast paced rhythms accompanied by melodies from their band. CJ had huge amounts of crowd participation from old and new fans alike throughout their half hour set. CJ’s heading in a great direction both technically and lyrically, and it’s exciting to consider the potential that they bring to the table.

 

With the crowd considerably warmed up, Smino made his Pygmalion Festival debut flowing over the title track from his most recent album, Blk Swan. He smoothly took command of the stage, and gracefully produced pure vocals, blending seamlessly with the backing instrumentals. Spreading a euphoric blanket over the Canopy Club, Smino had hundreds of backup singers as nearly all of his lyrics were assisted by the crowd. Smino performed a range of tracks, covering his newest release with hits like Anita and Blkoscers, but also paying homage to older tracks like Kolors and Blk Jupter. Midway through his set, Smino made sure to give credit to his friends as well, explaining that he was taking leave from his tour with SZA to perform for The Pygmalion Festival. He also introduced his Grammy award winning mix engineer to the crowd, Elton Chueng. Chueng was live mixing Smino’s performance, helping his vocals to fuse into the Monte Booker and Sango instrumentals. With such a wide vocal range and top notch production, Smino really made a statement that he is an artist deserving of national attention. On top of his layered, smooth tracks, he was a great performer, controlling the crowd and making sure that everyone was having a great night. There’s no telling how high Smino will fly, but I’m sure that all of the Pygmalion fans who saw him Thursday night would agree that he won’t be slowing down any time soon.

Written by Charlie Nudelman

Photography by Jennifer Clifton

    Noname’s set at Foellinger last Friday, began with DJ’ing from Urbana’s upcoming artist Faraje Aduwo, otherwise known as Jus Wav. He kept the crowd warm and enthusiastic until and long after the arrival of another local rising star, CJ Run. CJ Run has everything you look for in an opening act: energy, style, and an underrated surplus of talent. They know how to appeal to an audience, engaging the majority of the crowd in reciting lyric-based chants every other song. One song asked that we shout “Amen, amen.” While I don’t attend church regularly, if a church could make me feel as I did during that song, I’d consider going on Sundays.

  “You say got a boyfriend/ But I don’t give a damn about your boyfriend/ You say you want a best friend/ Well I’m not really tryna be your best friend/ I’m just tryna get into your bed and/ Make you feel a lot better than the next man.”

    That’s the chorus from CJ Run’s track “Spaghetti” off of their recent album ForgetMeNot. This song highlights the unapologetic, witty, and honest nature of CJ’s personality as an artist remarkably well.

CJ Run     

    It was now time for Noname to bless the stage. Noname’s band came out first and played her in with style and grace. The keyboardist’s background vocals were especially smooth and inviting, I noticed them clearly in every song. Noname came out onto the stage with a sway and a smile. She greets the crowd with the type of warmth you’d expect to hear from your childhood best friend upon reuniting. Noname’s first song “All I Need” gave the crowd a taste of what they were in store for: poignant lyrics, ecstatic flow, and a great night.

    The band’s swingin’ bass lines and perfectly timed hits of the Hi-Hat made for an amazing dynamic to be fostered between Noname and the beat. At times Noname would lay off the microphone and let solely her band take the wheel, driving minutes of a song into an explosion of emotion. Right when you think the song’s going to climax off of instrumental, Noname’s voice shines through the speakers adding a sucker punch to the musical barrage. Noname bombarded the crowd with nostalgia, performing her verses off of old hits such as “Lost” by Chance and “Comfortable” by Mick Jenkins with timeless finesse. 

Noname

“Damn, that got dark so fast that was crazy. Don’t worry we have two happy songs next, kind of.” — Noname after performing “Casket Pretty”

    The last song prior to the encore Noname performed was “Yesterday” my personal favorite. Noname extended the control she showed over her band to the crowd, conducting us to sing the song’s chorus at first loudly, then quietly, and finally what I’d like to describe as warmly.

    I hadn’t experienced a night filled with so many genuine smiles from a celebrity figure in a long time. Not many performances can parallel what Noname’s stunning concert last Friday achieved in terms of atmospheric intimacy and positivity, but if I had to pick one performance that paralleled it, it would be Chance The Rapper’s performance at Lollapalooza in 2014. This similarity shouldn’t be surprising, as the two have been counterparts of sorts working together off and on since their friendship which started during their time together in the  YOUMedia project.

    After Friday’s performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that Noname has cemented her power and style as an artist who can shine independently in the limelight. Noname took Foellinger Auditorium by storm and left a rainbow in her wake.

Noname Personal

If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I’m a sucker for acoustic tunes and introspective lyrics,” then The Shins is the band for you. I’ll be the first to say it if it makes you more comfortable to share: I’m a sucker for acoustic tunes and introspective lyrics. Not to mention James Mercer’s divine vocal chords, I could fall asleep to his voice. And I have. On multiple occasions.

This is The Shins’ first LP in five years, the last being Port of Morrow in 2012. Although this new record, Heartworms, loses some of the acoustic qualities found in the previous albums, it incorporates some new elements: a lil pop, a lil twang, a lil synth. It is definitely their most diverse album yet. Regardless of the tweaks in sound, it still gives ya that indie alternative fix. In addition to this, the album design is tremendous, real nice on the eyes. It’ll go perfectly with your room decor and partially-eaten fruit.

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Some notes on a few of my favorites on the album:

“Name for You”

  • released as a single, the first taste of the record
  • a good one for uncoordinated dancing/introspective thinking

“Mildenhall”

  • a good one for driving with the windows down and playing at an appropriate volume (because it’s punk to be considerate of the people around you)

“Heartworms”

  • title song and worthy of being so
  • a good one for swaying/laying down, lifting your gaze to the ceiling, and letting your eyes glaze over

The album contains eleven songs, clocking in around forty-two minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to avoid responsibility and instead indulge in the sweet sweet sound of The Shins.

They’ll be headlining the Sunday of Lollapalooza in Chicago this August, so if this album peaks your interest, you can see experience ~live~.

The Shins’ previous albums will always have a special place in my heart, but I can absolutely make room for Heartworms. I’d highly recommend a listen.