Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pitchfork '08 - In Review

Pitchfork Music Festival
2 days, 2 posts:


Pitchfork Day two (Day one for me) was a pretty big disappointment. I suppose it started with the weather, which is out of anyone's control. The day did clear up later in the afternoon, but it started off rainy wet and muggy, which led to a lot of mud – and mud people (but you had to want to be covered in mud, because while there was a lot of mud, it wasn't that muddy – this isn't Woodstock, people). (And props to festival leader Mike Reed who I saw hauling plywood out to the softball fields where the bathrooms were so festival-goers didn't have to stand in the mud.) Anyway, lets get to the music. There weren't a lot of bands that I was that excited to see on Saturday anyway, but the ones I did want to see didn't turn me on.

With Fuck Buttons I expected a dance party, but all I got was a big drone that kept feeling like it would go somewhere - its going to break down any second - but it never did. I'm sure it got better at the end of the set, but I wasn't sticking around to find out. Now, I actually really like drones that build anticipation, but in a festival setting with other bands competing for attention, we want to move.

!!! were just yuk yuk yuk. I wanted a dance party, but not just from one guy gyrating his hips into the audiences faces.

The only band that lived up to expectations was Fleet Foxes. Their sweet sound filled the air with delight and I swear it actually brought out the sunshine. While they do sound like a cross between My Morning Jacket and Sub Pop label mates Band of Horses, that's not a bad mix to have. Band leader Robin Pecknold did a solo song half way through their set that was downright beautiful.

And to my disappointment, Vampire Weekend actually sounded pretty good. The first time I heard them in the dead of Chicago winter, I knew I would like them better as an upbeat summer band, and I did. (But I still don't think they live up to all the hype that deserved a Spin cover story, or a spot on SNL.)

And The Hold Steady. I really don't have anything to say about this band. I still think they suck. I don't understand how so many people think they put on such a great live show. Are we hearing the same thing? If I wanted a beer drinking band to sound like they were playing at a bbq in my backyard, I would hire my own drunk friends to do it.

I almost feel like a traitor writing this review about Pitchfork because I look forward to this weekend all year. Hopefully Sunday will be better, and I'm pretty confident that it will. The weather is already looking better and we've got some guaranteed dance bands set to hit the stage. And of course, Brit Daniel and Spoon closing out the weekend. I'm stoked.


I spent Saturday waiting to be blown away, and Sunday did it. Three words: Les Savy Fav. I had heard about Tim Harrington's stage antics, but had no idea what I was in for. He came out on stage wearing only a tie-dye t-shirt and shiny red underpants, he stumbled around yelling random things and then burped into the microphone. I figured he had to be wasted – maybe he was, maybe he wasn't, maybe he's just crazy, but I had to get closer for this show. I ended up over on the left side of the stage, only a mud pit separating me from the front corner. Within five minutes of standing there, Tim descended into the audience right in front of me, blue tarp in tow. He had a crazy look in his eye, looking around for someone to grab. He found two guys, screamed lyrics in their faces, and then waded through the mud back toward the stage, but not before dropping down on his hands and knees and covering himself in mud. There was one "costume" change (if you want to call it that), he came out wearing a white bodysuit with organs crudely drawn on for the song lyrics "this is my body, and this is how it works." It wasn't long before all the mud on his front side soaked through and there, uh, wasn't much left to the imagination… Who rocks the party? Les Savy Fav sure does.

And you wanted a dance party? You got three of them: The Apples in Stereo, Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, and Cut Copy all delivered the remedy to Saturday's let downs.

The Apples pumped out their bouncy pop tunes, but it was still a little early, the crowd was still rolling in. Too early to be drunk yet, and probably still nursing day-two's hangover - and it was HOT - the audience didn't seem much like it wanted to move under those conditions.

The Occidental Brothers are a special treat to Chicago. They provide just the right mix of rock, African influence, jazz and, of course, dance. Good luck trying to stand still at one of their shows.

I thought I had arrived just in time to see a Cut Copy encore, but apparently they went on late because of a flight delay. For only being able to play for 20 minutes, they jam packed as much energy and fist-pumping as you would expect to experience in a full length show. Lights and music were certainly on my mind after this set.

Back on the main stage, Spiritualized was as amazing as their name would suggest. It's not often that I can use the word awesome and really mean that it inspired awe.Somehow Jason Pierce (or J. Spaceman as he likes to be called) has found the perfect balance between their famous spacey-sound and rocking out.

Two groups I didn't see much of, but still impressed – Dinosaur Jr. and M. Ward. For being a relative newcomer to the sounds of influential Dinosaur Jr., I was excited to have the opportunity to see them live after their reunion. M. Ward is an artist I've always wanted to experience live. His simple set up and beautiful guitar solos charmed as much as the first time I heard Chinese Translation.

Spoon returned to Pitchfork after playing the fest in 2006, this time to headline, and they were a welcome repeat. This year they played mostly songs from last years GaGaGaGaGa, and mixed in favorites from their expansive back catalog. I unfortunately didn't get to actually see any of their set, but I was close by enjoying every note. They sounded great, and I can only assume from experience that Britt Daniel led a stage show brilliant enough to match.

So, to sum up the weekend? Remarkable. I discovered a couple bands I didn't know much or anything about, I was disappointed by a few that I expected to be great and I found a couple new favorites - par for the course at music festivals I've learned, always a pleasant surprise.

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