Look, I do not know anything about music. And when I say music, I mean the sort of music we cover here at Smile Politely, and also the sorts of acts that come to PYGMALION year after year. I attribute some of that to my age and station in life, as a fairly stereotypical 40-something soccer mom sort of person. But also, even in my younger days, I was not in tune with up and coming, indie, or global music artists. If it wasn’t mainstream, I didn’t know it. Case in point: my current favorite artist is Brandi Carlile, and I literally didn’t discover her music until 2020, when she’s been putting out albums since 2005. 


PYGMALION began as a music festival, and that remains the core of the event, but over the last several years it’s really become more of a cultural festival, with comedians, podcasters, poetry, technology and so much more, in addition to the music. So, if you are someone like me, and you are wondering what sort of events you might enjoy September 22-24, then follow along and find out what I am looking forward to.

First, be sure to check out Debra’s preview for a great rundown of all things Arts at PYGMALION. Besides some amazing talent in the realms of film, literature, and visual art, she highlights The Made Fest, which I get excited about every year. It’s shopping, first of all, and it’s shopping for a whole bunch of unique items that I never knew I needed. And if you are into the music scene, or if you want to be and need some guidance, Sean has you covered.

Photo from shaneisacomedian.com. 

Shane Torres

In my house, we are all about stand-up comedy. My spouse and I have seen comedians of all levels of fame in venues from the Virginia Theatre to the Comedy Cellar. PYGMALION has booked some great comedic talent in recent years: Michelle Wolf, Tig Notaro, Janelle James, and last year’s Bob the Drag Queen.

Shane Torres will be on the Rose Bowl stage on September 23rd at 7:45 p.m. When he released his comedy album Established in 1981 back in 2017, he got a lot of attention for a bit from the album he performed on Conan, defending Guy Fieri. You can check it out on the PYGAMLION website. I’m a fan of this 2019 set from Colbert, where he pokes fun at babies with old man names and says he’s giving up hope for Lent. 

Paste Magazine says, “It’s tempting to stereotype based on appearance — with his greasy hair and jean jackets, he looks like the kind of comic who’d yell really loudly about Star Wars movies. Inside that metal nerd exterior is a perceptive, self-effacing skeptic who seems fundamentally polite despite his wariness.” 

Okay, I’m sold. Tickets are $20, and doors open at 6 p.m. Get there a bit early to see Champaign native Rachel Lindmann do a warm-up set. She goes on at 7:15.

Photo from Carl R. Woese Institute of Genomic Biology Facebook page.

Genome Day

The University of Illinois is home to many world-renowned interdisciplinary and innovative institutions. At PYGMALION, you can interact with folks from the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Genome Day on September 24th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Rose Bowl parking lot. The IGB areas of research include health and wellness, technology, and the environment, and they will be bringing hands-on activities related to all of those areas. This event is family-friendly and specifically geared toward K-12 students. However, as an adult person who is not in any sort of science field, I would love to learn more about things like DNA and evolution. You don’t have to have kids to get something out of this particular event.

Photo from Human Library of Champaign-Urbana Facebook page.

Human Library

The Human Library concept originated in Denmark in 2000, and is now an international organization with a “chapter” right here in Champaign-Urbana. It’s a pretty simple concept. People from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences  who have experienced marginalization in some form — volunteer as “books” to be checked out by those attending the event. Those two people will then sit down and have a one on one conversation, where the volunteer will provide insight into their individual experience. What a gift to be able to hear from someone in such a vulnerable and intimate sort of way. This is happening at the location and at the same time as Genome Day, so you can try both in one swoop.

PYGMALION truly has something for everyone, whether you head out for the music, the shopping, the artists, or maybe some science and tech. Most importantly, it’s an event that brings people with a variety of interests together for a little culture and community. Find the full schedule of events here.

Top photo from PYGMALION Facebook page.