Monday, July 19, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 - July 16-18, 2010

Welcome to what will surely be one of the longest posts ever on Flying Houses--and certainly the most technological: my review of the Pitchfork festival. To be fair, reviews themselves can never be authoritative. There were 54,000 other people there that all had different experiences than me. Due to my own idiosyncrasies, my experience may appear inaccurate, or incorrect, but I will attempt to maintain a subjective stance so when I diss Pitchfork or Chicagoans you will know that not everyone agrees with everything I have to say.

Let us begin on Friday, with the Liars, the first set I saw.

(clip review: I had a clip of "Scissor" that was longer, but I felt this was one of the most crisp video images I was able to capture, short and sweet as it is)

Liars played a satisfactory set, focusing heavily on material from Sisterworld. I have only seen Liars once before, during the They Were Wrong, So We Drowned tour at a free NYU show, which, interestingly enough, is the only previous concert that I have attempted to bootleg--and I have about 30 minutes on my camcorder from that which is so much better than the quality I was able to get out of my digital camera this weekend--but I digress. Now, Liars are not as much of a "bait and switch" act as they were in 2004, but I have pretty much the same problem with them. They played material from every album except their debut--and the only songs I really wanted to hear were off their debut. This is basically the problem with every set at Pitchfork. These aren't headlining sets. They're supposed to pick their best songs to play in 45 minutes, or newest songs, whatever. Liars were satisfactory. I have no major complaints beyond not getting to hear "Grown Men Don't Fall in the River Just Like That" or "We Live NE of Compton."

They opened with "World Sick," didn't play the last three minutes of that song, and then went into "Stars and Sons." Now, when they played this, it reminded me of seeing Broken Social Scene at the Pitchfork fest in 2005. I had a serious deja vu moment, and realized Broken Social Scene were way better back then. No offense--if you read my review of Forgiveness Rock Record, you'll know I still thought they'd be a good live band, and for the most part, they were. They played a bunch of their hits ("Cause = Time," "Superconnected," "Shoreline") which made me think they consider S/T their best work. Then they ended with "Meet Me in the Basement" which re-affirmed my belief that it would be the best song on the new album if it had words. In general, a weaker performance than I've seen in the past from them, but I'm sure no one else was disappointed.

I seem to be having a difficult time adding pictures to this post. So I will stop with them. Only videos from here on in. Here are the two last pictures that were such a pain in the ass to move.
One is of Real Estate and the other is of Titus Andronicus. Both are from New Jersey

I would add a video of Titus Andronicus, but the Broken Social Scene one is taking forever. I guess I am learning lessons about utilizing technology, massive file sizes for upload. Real Estate was the first band I saw on Saturday. I did not know any of their songs. And I still do not know any of their songs, but they won me over. They were unpretentious, vaguely interesting, and skilled. Titus Andronicus, however, definitely won me over. I have not heard The Monitor (only The Airing of Grievances) but from the sound of their set, most of their songs sound the same. They always get bombastic, and Patrick Stickles always loses it. I was surprised by how dedicated their fan base is. They are a relatively new band, and for so many people to be so into them, well I think they have a bright future.

Then I had my horrible idea about camping out for a good spot for Wolf Parade. The camp out in this moment was not that bad, when I was sitting down indian-style during the Raekwon set, dozing. It was brutal when Raekwon ended, and it was time to get up, and it was time to stake out a position close to the stage for Wolf Parade, and it was time to wait the entire 50 minutes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion set, which sounded awesome and which I regret missing in retrospect. Then, Wolf Parade started.

I had a cool video of "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain" which was their opening song, but this video upload is not cool. Of all the sets I saw all weekend, I have to say Wolf Parade was my single favorite. It was probably because the spot in the crowd was pretty good, and because they just brought it. I only saw Wolf Parade once before, but this was a much better show. Their setlist was impeccable. The only thing that hampered my enjoyment was the crowd-surfing, which made "Cave-O-Sapien" more nerve-wracking than blissful.

Then we get to the reason why Saturday was so bad for me, which was LCD Soundsystem. Now, I love LCD Soundsystem. But so do a whole lot of other people. I planned to stand in place to wait for them, while Panda Bear played at the other stage. I heard some kid say, "Don't go see Panda Bear. I saw Animal Collective last year and it was the worst experience of my life." Well kid, what happened to me at LCD Soundsystem was probably not the worst experience of my life, but one of them.

It was the crowd dispersal after Wolf Parade, which did not happen. Everybody who was close for Wolf Parade had the same idea as me. Wait for LCD, and have a good spot. What a mistake! I should have known when Panda Bear started, and everyone around me sat down, except for the people that didn't have room to sit down, one of which was me. I stood on my tiptoes to try to see some of Panda Bear, and I felt wobbly and felt like I might fall on someone. It was terrible. There were six square inches within which I could stand, and I could not change my position, and I panicked and eventually, someone behind me stood up, which allowed me to sit down briefly. Panda Bear's set did not sound that exciting, but I still expect Tomboy to be really awesome.

LCD came on, after much anticipation from everyone around me, since we were all so miserably packed together. Something else happened that annoyed me: during Wolf Parade, someone had moved the garbage can close to the stage, and people were jumping off it to crowd-surf, which made me have to keep glancing back to make sure I wasn't about to be kicked in the head. Someone sat on the garbage can to wait for LCD, and it seemed like a very nice spot to have. Later, people would get up on it and dance during the set, also causing nervousness from me. At one point my calves were brushing up against the plastic bag attached to the front of it, and there was no way to get away from it, and I thought, wow, this is really a terrible spot to have. Later there was a bit of pushing and I did get away. I did not have fun at LCD. I wanted to have fun, but I did not. "US v Them," "Drunk Girls," "Pow Pow," "All My Friends..." --the performance was fantastic. I have no complaints about the performance. Only my experience. "All My Friends" was particularly ironic, as everyone seemed to think this was the apex of the weekend, and it was the point at which I broke and decided I couldn't stay. "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" caused crowd-surfing again, and the only time I got kicked in the head, it was incredibly gentle. But I was sweating horribly. I had to leave.

And leaving, was one of the worst experiences of my life. Because everyone was there. And packed deep. Once I thought I was out of the woods, there were more people to get around. And it would absolutely amaze me how stupid people were, they they wouldn't move aside to let me leave--and that even some of them would look at me like I was getting in their way and make a face at me like I was so disgusting for sweating that much. They played "Someone Great" and I was like, "Wow, I'm glad that I left!" and then they played "Losing My Edge" later, which I could hear from the El platform, and I was very upset because it's one of my favorite songs ever.

The next day I resolved to not be so crazy about getting the best possible spot. I saw Girls first, and they were excellent. I had a cool video that showed the noise jam as a segue between "Hellhole Ratrace" and "Morning Light," but now I think I'm even going to cancel the BSS video because it's still uploading! Girls were excellent and I should have bought their t-shirt, but I only saw the last twenty or thirty minutes of their set.

I was very excited for Surfer Blood. I had to wait through some of Local Natives, which marked my first stop at the Connector Stage, which was probably the place to be all weekend. I had a good time Sunday hanging out there most of the day. Surfer Blood played an excellent set, including a new song called "I'm Not Ready," which was similar to stuff off Astro Coast. I did feel vaguely disappointed, as if it could have been louder, or angrier, or something. Basically, let me say this: I still love Surfer Blood, but on record, their execution is so flawless that in person, they inevitably could not live up to themselves. They did change the line "You and me/could it be meant to be?" to "You and me/it's fucking anarchy," but I still felt they were too nice and seemed a bit more like Vampire Weekend Jr. than the Dinosaur one.

Neon Indian is probably the opposite of Surfer Blood. Psychic Chasms may be a very good album, but I prefer Astro Coast for air-guitar purposes. But, while Surfer Blood could not quite match the sound of their album (it is perhaps worth noting that Liars could not do that with Sisterworld either), Neon Indian exceeded all expectations. Their live show is better than their album. They have so many gadgets. And Alan Palomo is a magnetic performer. They had a great spot on the schedule, warming up the crowd for the big finale, and they did an almost perfect job.

Sleigh Bells came after, and they were okay. I like them. But I only stayed for two songs and then went to Pavement.

Pavement was everything I hoped it would be, but no more. If you look at the tracklist of Quarantine the Past you can pretty much guess their setlist. There were maybe three surprises ("Debris Slide" and "Kennel District" and "The Hexx"). "Stereo" and "Stop Breathing" featured some variations that made it more interesting. I had a spot very far back, and I wished I could have been at the front for "Conduit for Sale!" (definitely the best moment of the set), and I feel I belonged at the front where everyone knows every lyric and sings every lyric and you don't feel like a loser if you're singing along, but I learned this weekend that sometimes the dedication required to have that sort of concert experience isn't always worth it. Pavement was good, but I would have liked to hear "Carrot Rope" or "Speak, See, Remember" or "AT&T" or "Flux = Rad" or "Fight this Generation." But we can't have sets tailored to our specifications.

I did want to say this, before the final rankings: I saw Superchunk on June 20, 2010 at the Taste of Randolph. I had ten times more fun during Superchunk than I did during any single set at Pitchfork, with Wolf Parade the only one even coming close. Pitchfork is too crowded now. It's been happening slowly, but they finally reach their critical mass this year. They did do a good job with the water. They handed it out for free, thinking of the people that camped, and they cut the price drastically as the weekend went on. They need to work on crowd control though. If everyone at LCD had taken two or three steps back, I probably could have stayed. But James Murphy is not Ian Mackaye. The people there were still cool in general, but it just seemed more unbearable for me this time.

How about we end the story with the way it ended, when I left Pavement, after waiting for an encore that looked like it would happen and then didn't (no "Summer Babe?"), and when I tried to get home. The El had a line down the stairs, out the exit, and the platforms were jam-packed. I was not going to wait 15 minutes to move inside the staircase. I kept walking north, at 300 N needing to get to 1600 N, with a huge group of concert-goers. The bus came, but I could not get on it because it did not stop because it was too full. I finally got a cab coming off one of the sidestreets, and I felt like he took an indirect route. When it was over, I was glad. However, I was looking forward to my totally awesome blog post with all those videos in it, and now it won't happen.

I still recommend anyone go to Pitchfork over Lollapalooza. But I don't recommend camping out for a good spot, and I don't recommend going alone.

Liars: 7/10
Broken Social Scene: 7/10
Modest Mouse: 7/10 (not written, but not worth describing said experience)
Real Estate: 7/10
Titus Andronicus: 8/10
Wolf Parade: 9/10
LCD Soundsystem: (Performance: 9/10; Experience: 1/10)
Girls: 8/10
Surfer Blood: 7.5/10
Neon Indian: 9/10
Sleigh Bells: 8/10
Pavement: 8.8/10

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