ME AND PITCHFORK DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD
So I recently got back from a trip from Chicago where, when I wasn't busy over-heating and checking out a cubs game, I attended the first annual Pitchfork Music Festival. Overall, the festival was awesome. Many people have been critical of the lineup saying there were too many bands that they would be able to see regularly. Well, I'm from Winnipeg, and I doubt many (if any) of these bands will ever make it up here soon, so I was pumped about the lineup and couldn't wait for it to begin. So here's my wrap up.
Let's start on a downpoint and go from there.
Biggest Dissapointment: Tyondai Braxton playing at the same time as Mountain Goats and Destroyer. WHY PITCHFORK WHY?
And now the groups ... (I'm only commenting on the groups I tried to go see, if you want some more check out the Chicagoist, as it has stuff of some of the bands I didn't see.)
Man Man: Really, I couldn't have asked for more from these Philadelpians. They played an awesome circus-frenzied set that included short-shorts, feathers and face paint. Too bad it was sooooooo frickin' hot I couldn't convince myself to get any closer to get a better look
Band of Horses: BoH struggled through some sound problems and the fact that they were on zero hours of sleep didn't help their cause either. But still an enjoyable set from the poster-children of Pitchfork related success.
Art Brut: Again I wish I could have been closer for this one. But the heat was just too much to handle.
Matmos: I missed the first half of this show as I was getting supper, but what I did hear was very inspired. I was dissapointed though that they didn't pull out the cow uterus and start playing it.
Danielson: This was a show I didn't know what to expect coming into it. Was Daniel Smith going to appear in his fruits of the Spirit tree or was something else crazy going to happen? Well there was no tree, but the matching police uniforms, and the witty banter from Smith made up for the lack in treeness.
The National: This was a show I was worried about coming in to it. I really enjoyed last year's Alligator but was afraid that I was going to be turned off of the band when I saw them live. Fortunately I had nothing to worry about in the end as the show was (to quote Ferris Buhler) 'so choice.' I mean how can I complain about a band who is willing to include a violinist in the band who you were sure you saw last night in some dive-bar talking about the time he opened up for Jimi Hendrix?
Devendra Banhart: Probably the biggest dissapointment of the festival (set wise). I've always been a bit skeptical about Devendra Banhart's neo-hippy aesthetic, and this show just reinforced my skepticism. Maybe it was because he followed what was easily the loudest and most energetic set of the weekend (Mission of Burma's), or maybe he just wasn't used to the heat, but Banhart just plain sucked this weekend.
Spoon: I can't say too much about Spoon as I left to go check out Diplo a few songs in, but what I did see was basically Spoon playing their albums note for note. While the music was good and entertaining, it seemed (to me at least) to be lacking in any creative element.
The Mountain Goats: This was easily one of the most anticipated shows of the weekend for myself. I've always enjoyed the bootleg concerts I've heard of John Darnielle but have never had the chance to see him in action. The set consisted of a good selection of some of his earlier stuff as well as his more recent 4AD stuff, which seemed to please the large crowd he was playing to. The highlight of the set had to be when he had the entire crowd chanting along with him in the chorus of 'No Children' screaming "I hope we die. I hope we all die." Definately the first solid set of the weekend.
Destroyer: 'This song's about ... arrrrg!" And with that Dan Bejar set up one of the best shows of the weekend. Destroyer was his usual subversive self throughout the show. He opened with "Crystal City" from This Night, in such a way as to force people to question Pitchfork's reasoning for giving it such a poor review. He closed with 'Looters Follies' from his latest, which I was pretty pumped about. The song, like 'What Road' and 'The Sublimation Hour' before it, is such a wonderful display of the subversive and destructive influence lyric's are able to have. What's more disruptive than coming to a festival that is attempting to set up the triumph of indie rock and ending your set with lyrics like "Why can't you see that a life in art and life of mimicry -- It's the same thing!?!" It was almost as if Bejar had been walking around the festival, seeing all these typical indie-kids (myself included of course) walking around in their 70s gym shorts, and plastic neon sunglasses and decided that what these people really need is a good talking to. I'm sorry, but this culture of yours is purely an act. But that's okay, just remember that.
Silver Jews: Easily the show I was most looking forward to. In fact, it's probably the reason why I came to the festival in the first place. I've been a huge Silver Jews fan for a long time, and have been frustrated by their lak of any significant touring. So I jumped at the first chance I had to see them. The results were very satisfying. Not amazing, but still what I had hoped for. It was brutally apparent that the band was over tired, and not fully up to playing the show. However, that didn't stop the crowd of 36 000 strong from getting into it (and in some ways helping Silver Jews as well). They played a good mix of old 'classics' and new stuff, opening with 'Punks in the Beerlight' and following soon after with 'Smith and Jones Forever.' The highlight of the show had to be 'Random Rules.' That is one of the most perfect, one the most fragile songs I've ever heard. And to hear it in a live setting only reinforced that.
Jeff Parker/Nels Cline Quartet: Probably my favorite set on the Biz 3 stage (although, I may be a minority on that one, I actually didn't catch terribly much on the Biz 3 stage). Jeff Parker is just as excellent playing jazz guitar as he is when he's playing with Tortoise (well, those two may not be mutually exclusive), and it was inspiring to see him in a live setting. The set was basically the Quartet's tribute to Sun Ra's Turning Point and consisted of some fabulous interplay between the guitars of Parker and Cline as well as with the bass and drums. Truly a nice break from the overtly 'indie-rockness' of the rest of the weekend.
Jens Lekman: I really enjoy Lekman's recordings and find his songwriting to be something else. However, I wasn't sure how this would translate into a live setting. How was Lekman going to play all those tape samples live? Oh of course, by having six Sweedish babes backing him up. Also, I don't think anyone else looked more happy to be at the festival than Lekman. His perma smile made it that much more easy to sit back and enjoy his tongue and cheek lyricism.
Mission of Burma: By far the best suprise of the weekend. Never have I been in a crowd so enthused to be seeing a band than when I was watching Mission of Burma. It seemed as though everyone around me came to this show in hopes of proving to the band that they know their lyrics better than the band itself. The highlight had to be 'Flight Academy Songs.' This was when the crowd was at its most, screaming "I'm not judging you, I'm judging Me!" The band could only respond by saying 'Finally, after 26 years!.' Why these guys weren't headling is beyond me.
Yo La Tengo: Another more subversive set of the weekend. The show consisted solely of material from their upcoming album "I'm Not Afraid of You and I will Beat Your Ass." While some have considered this to be a bit of an asshole move on Yo La Tengo's part, I really enjoyed it. The set was extremely schizophrenic going back and forth between sonic attacks and quiet poppy numbers. Again, you could tell the band was really enjoying themselves. Why should the band have to cater to the crowd by playing all their hits? After all they aren't afraid of us and if we have a problem with that they will infact beat our ass.
So that's it. My festival wrap up. If anyone has anything they feel they should add, please comment.