JDH SHOW REVIEW : Pitchfork Music Festival

Show Review: Pitchfork Music Festival
July 17th and 18th
Union Park, Chicago

Last summer I went to Bonnaroo which was a traditionally weak festival for my
tastes, being known for more hippie/jam band type acts. Last year was not the case – I
saw a lot of great acts including Animal Collective, Crystal Castles, Phoenix (who were
billed very low at that point), Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Nine Inch Nails (for whom I waited
four hours to maintain a second row spot; believe it or not they are a top 5 favorite band
of all time for me). This year it seems B-roo reverted back to shit, save for Neon Indian
and the xx. When Pitchfork released the last wave of acts I knew I was going. Though I
didn’t catch everyone I wanted to see up close and personal (since there is a lot of
overlapping), I left very satisfied. It was a HOT weekend, averaging 90 degrees. The
festival organizers made a good call by dropping the price of waters to 1 dollar and often
throwing free bottles out to the crowds. The setup was two large stages both aimed at the
larger field with the bigger name acts in tandem and then a smaller stage at an opposite
field. We didn’t go Friday since nobody that I went with cares about Broken Social Scene
or Modest Mouse anymore. On Saturday we watched Delorean from afar since we saw
them the night before at the Empty Bottle. They played at one of the main stages which
surprised me; I didn’t know they had gotten that much hype. We caught Wolf Parade
from afar, and then we pushed up as much as possible for Panda Bear who I thought was
going to be hot, but he ended up turning out a very cold and introspective set. I think he
lost the crowd since that’s not what people would expect from an evening headliner. I
personally think Noah Lennox can be put in the category of “godlike musical genius” so
it’s hard for him to disappoint me. LCD Soundsystem closed Saturday night; to be honest
I was not as excited for his set because though he is very hip and good at making catchy
music I always seem to shelve his records indefinitely after a couple of listens, including
the new one. He played a good show but didn’t grab our attention.

Sunday was the day we got our money’s worth. We headed to the “b” stage for the
first time midway through Best Coast’s set. I am a huge fan of her new record, Crazy for
You, and enjoyed her tunes and banter. The main reason we were there however was to
push up for Ernest’s set (Washed Out). I was ecstatic to find myself in the 6th row after
making my way up between sets. After pulling my friends up with me Ernest began.

Last time that we saw Washed Out, he was still figuring out everything that goes
into a live show. I had asked Ryan from Small Black a week earlier how he had been
doing since they were touring together (and Small Black was providing training wheels
for Ernest, usually coming out halfway through his sets to perform his songs with him).
Ryan had simply told me he stepped it up; he was certainly correct. Ernest had a shiny
new Macbook with him, likely running Ableton Live to sequence his tracks (last time he
was running only a sampler and at times fumbled to locate his songs). After what was
admittedly a filler introduction and an ambient exploration, he really heated things up- a
new song faster than what you’d find on his recordings got the crowd dancing. My friend
Carlette immediately recognized a pitched up sample of Come Undone by Duran Duran
(which I’d never heard, but can definitely confirm after listening to that track later at
home). Here is a great video of that bit –

He followed this with a few tracks from Life of Leisure, at one time letting his
inner Southerner out by shouting “C’mon y’all!!” It was my favorite set of the festival,
2:30 in the 90 degree sunny weather. While other acts had been commenting/complaining
about the heat, Ernest made it clear he was perfectly comfortable (the weather in Perry,
Georgia has been flirting with 100 degrees lately). While this set went on both Carlette
and I realized that it is finally time for 90’s nostalgia to really kick in – a lot of dance
music we have been hearing and listening to is very 90’s influenced, especially
Pictureplane. Those who are in their mid-20’s and making music grew up in this period so
it’s not surprising.

Beach House began on one of the main stages so we caught them from afar. We’d
seen them twice before so we were content. After Beach House, Lightning Bolt terrorized
the other main stage. Lightning Bolt is a two man band (bass guitar and drummer/vocalist)
that became known for playing suddenly in the middle of the audience immediately after
an opening band finished on stage. As a festival headliner they were incredible – both
member displayed incredible skill and precision; the noise was somehow just as
organized as it was chaotic. After a while I realized the drummer was going insane on his
kit while wearing a mask with a microphone taped inside under a 90 degree sunlight. It
wasn’t until the penultimate song that he removed his mask, crushed a bottle of water and
finished the set. Amazing.

We weren’t familiar with the bands who played before our next high priority,
Neon Indian at 6:45, so we recollected ourselves with food and water before returning to

the Heineken tents. We did our best to position ourselves and managed to get about 15 rows back. Neon Indian absolutely killed it – there is no question that Alan and his band are skilled musicians and experienced stage performers. Here is a good clip –

He incorporated an instrument that I amfamiliar with but had never seen before in live performance, the theremin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theremin). They are one of those bands that can successfully reproduce extremely complicated recordings in a live setting without any pre-recorded tracks. They played just about every proper song from Psychic Chasms and a song that I didn’t recognize (it might have been a VEGA song, which is Alan’s other band).

After that we caught Big Boi from afar and then Pavement as the festival closer.
Slanted & Enchanted is one of my favorite records but we are by no means Malkmus
worshippers so we stayed for a few songs and just like that, Pitchfork was over. I
wouldn’t be surprised if they move it to a bigger location; 54,000 people at Union Park
got pretty cramped at times.

-JDH

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