Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival - July 16-18, 2010 (Redux)

Welcome to my review of the 2010 Pitchfork Festival. I posted this yesterday, but there were many technical difficulties, so I decided to redo it with pictures of every band reviewed.
To be fair, reviews 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 Chicagoans or Pitchfork you will know that not everyone agrees with what I have to say.

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

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 in 2004, which interestingly enough, is the only previous concert I have attempted to bootleg--and I have about thirty 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 used to be, but I have pretty much the same problem as before. 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 or newest songs to play in forty-five minutes. 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."

Broken Social Scene was the next band I saw, after getting a couple beers and glancing briefly at the Comedy Stage, where someone was doing a bit about Medieval Times, as if no one had heard of it before. I read in the Tribune's review of the fest that Michael Showalter apparently abandoned his set early? I am sure it wasn't as dramatic as they made that seem---but I kind of get it. The denizens of the Pitchfork fest are notoriously snobby and sarcastic and unable to be impressed. I mean, indie rock fans in general are just moody and quiet, not given to loud, boisterous, stupid laughter. So I can understand why some comedians might have felt they were not "killing it" or getting huge audience reactions. I did hear some laughs, and it actually did look like a nice place to spend the evening, with everyone sitting down, looking relaxed. Two beers, ten bucks, a cigarette, a seat for a few minutes, a couple pages of my new book about the life of Ernest Hemingway, and then BSS.
They opened with "World Sick" and didn't play the last three minutes of that song, which was a good move. Their second song was "Stars and Sons," which had a few variations and reminded me of seeing BSS play Pitchfork in 2005, where they put in one of the best sets of the then 2-day Intonation Festival (only Les Savy Fav remains fonder in my memory). They played "Superconnected" and "Shoreline" and "Forced to Love" and "Ungrateful Little Father" and "Cause = Time" and "All to All" --but no "Chase Scene." That would have ruled. They did close with "Meet Me in the Basement" which Kevin Drew introduced by saying it was their "killer anthem." I thought they were going to play "It's All Gonna Break," but they proved my point about "Basement" being the best song on Forgiveness Rock Record--if only it had words. This definitely wasn't one of the greatest highlights of the weekend, but BSS continue to grow in popularity and people seemed very happy here.

For Modest Mouse, I went to the bathroom and then got a couple more beers. I could not get a good spot. They opened up with "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" while I was in line for beer and I was all upset that I was missing it. They played a few new songs, which sounded okay, but I do miss Johnny Marr being in the band. They played what you would expect them to play--thankfully avoiding "Float On." A solid set, but I did not have the best spot. Much more engaging than Built to Spill, who played at the same position last year. "Dashboard" was a particular highlight, and everyone around me was dancing and getting crazy and having fun even though we weren't very close to the stage and that made it a bit more fun for me.

The next day I came around 1:3o in the afternoon and saw Free Energy from a distance and didn't really think it was worth it to try to get closer. Their set was almost over, and I decided to give Real Estate a try. Now, I love Sunny Day Real Estate, but I have never heard Real Estate before, and they are perfectly fine. They are no SDRE, that is for sure, but they don't aspire towards that. They're pretty mellow, but sometimes they get a little loud and fast. They're from New Jersey, unpretentious, and winsome. If there were any new album I would get from a band I saw, it would be theirs. Or the new Titus Andronicus.

I have never seen Titus before, but people were way into them. Like, they seemed to have more fans than a band of their years should rightfully have. It seems like they have a bright future. I have The Airing of Grievances on my iPod, and I like it fine. I've never heard The Monitor, but judging from the sound of the set, I would guess most of those songs sound similar to their previous album, whether concept or not. The set was fun for everyone. Patrick Stickles came on saying "Let's have the best afternoon of our lives!" And they tore through everything. There weren't any laid back songs. I put this in the second category of sets from this weekend. It wasn't an absolute can't miss highlight, but it was a damn good show, and I'd see them again on the basis of it.

Now we get to the depressing part of the story. Here is a picture of Raekwon.
I was waiting for Wolf Parade during Raekwon's set. I sat indian-style and dozed, leaning forward, bad posture. Raekwon started late, there was all of that endless "pumping up" prevalent at hip-hop shows, which led me to a realization: I don't like bands that force you to participate. Like, Kevin Drew, at Broken Social Scene, was like, "Everybody scream so you know you are alive!" Maybe I am being a sourpuss but I'll sing along if I like your lyrics enough. I don't know any Raekwon songs, but it was a relatively painless experience, though the weekend was about to get really depressing.
But not before getting really awesome with the Wolf Parade set!

It was difficult to wait 50 minutes in between Raekwon and Wolf Parade, and to listen to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion play at the other stage. They seemed to be going totally crazy. But the wait was worth it, the spot was worth it, and the band played a fantastic set. It was my second time seeing them and this time it was much better. I just had chills running up and down my spine the whole time--the opener "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain," the crowd-pleasing "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" and "I'll Believe in Anything" and "This Heart's on Fire." A particular note about this set: my previous post about Expo '86 asserts that Spencer Krug (and to a lesser extent Dan Boeckner) have mind-reading abilities, and Spencer set up directly in front of me with his keyboard and seemed to make eye contact with me a couple times which made me swoon. My point is this: after a few songs, I started thinking that they had read my review on this blog, and tailored their setlist to make some kind of point. I know that's not what happened---but witness the first two songs they played--"Cloud Shadow.." and "Soldier's Grin"--which I mention the opening parts of in comparison to a Sunset Rubdown album opener--and witness the argument about which is the better closing track, "This Heart's on Fire" or "Cave-O-Sapien," which they played back-to-back--and witness Boeckner choosing to play "Ghost Pressure" instead of "Pobody's Nerfect" which I would have preferred reversed, but proved to me "Ghost..." is a good song too. The only thing I would have liked to hear would have been "California Dreamer" or "Grounds for Divorce" or "You are a Runner..."--but those are all Spencer songs, and he seemed to sing more as it was.

Here is Dan Boeckner, playing "Little Golden Age," I think, which was also prescient.

Spencer has long hair now and is less shy than in the past, it seems.
Now we get to the sad part.
You can see Panda Bear in the back right of that picture. He was playing his set, and we were waiting for LCD Soundsystem. It wasn't that long of a wait, really, just over an hour, but it was a very long hour. I have decided that I am going to leave my previous post up because this is taking way too long to write two reviews. You will be able to read there about the crowd-surfing annoying me, the six square inch space to stand within, the inability to move, or sit, but I did not mention the pot smoking this weekend. More than in the past, EVERYONE around me was smoking pot, smoking cigarettes, and drinking gallon water jugs. It made me jealous, and it made me realize why people have negative opinions of music festivals.
I didn't mention the girl who LOVED Panda Bear, and was standing nearby me, waiting for LCD. She screamed about how beautiful he was and how she wanted to have his babies, and she started freaking out during the second song he played. Now, I have not heard that song before, which made me think it will be something off Tomboy, and that song sounded really awesome. But that was it. If you read the other post, you will hear about the kid who said "Animal Collective was the worst experience of my life." And you will hear about how LCD was the worst experience of my life.

See! I was actually pretty close! But I was in significant trouble. Their setlist was almost perfect. "Us V Them," "Drunk Girls," "Pow Pow," "Daft Punk is Playing at My House," "All My Friends," "Trials and Tribulations," and "Movement." I lasted through all of those, and during "Yeah" I couldn't take it anymore. I left, and then heard "Someone Great" and "Losing My Edge" (which was the most crestfallen moment of the weekend for me) as I exited the grounds. They also played "New York, I Love You...." apparently, but who knows if they did the whole "Empire State of Mind" medley. James Murphy turned in an excellent performance, but he did not pay attention to the welfare of the "happy" people in front. Granted, everyone was happy, and only about three or four people in front of me left before I did. But I hated that crowd-surfing, and I hated not being able to move one way or another, and the sweat started to become too much for me tolerate. But like I said, it wasn't even the atmosphere of the set that bothered me so much, but WALKING OUT OF IT, which was like some horror-show obstacle course.
Still, by most accounts, this was highlight of the weekend.
After painful memories of Saturday, I resolved to change my approach on Sunday. I had a couple Stella Artois before leaving Old Town and hitting the El, and that may have made the earlier part of the day better.

Girls were the first band I saw Sunday, overall it was a very good time. I wasn't very close to the stage, but the sound was decent, and I got to see the cool noise jam between "Hellhole Ratrace" and "Morning Light," which was definitely an homage to MBV's "You Made Me Realise." They ended their set with "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker" which sounded good too, though I had already left for the beer line.
Note that I only spent $40 on beer this weekend. 20 tickets, twice. 8 beers. Heinekens mainly.
I also got to hear "Lust for Life," so even though I missed almost half of their set, I saw everything I wanted.

Here is a slightly-zoomed in photo of Girls.

I waited until 4:45 to see Surfer Blood. I don't think there was any other band that I was looking forward to seeing as much as them. Just because I got more into their album than any other new album this year.
They opened up with "Fast Jabroni," which ruled, but no one crowd-surfed or went crazy or anything. My thoughts of their entire set may be read in the previous post, but let me just add that they seemed, restrained in some way. Still, a great setlist, with "Floating Vibes," "Take it Easy," "Swim," "Anchorage," "Twin Peak," "Harmonix," their new song "I'm not Ready," and the one thing I forgot to mention: "Catholic Pagans." Now, this is a good song. But on the album I don't go too crazy for it. This was the only song that sounded way better live than on the album. They made it heavier and it was cooler.

Neon Indian followed Here We Go Magic, who followed Surfer Blood. I sat and dozed during Here We Go Magic. They sounded okay. But I have a negative opionion of a girl I used to know who was into Here We Go Magic like back in February, so I don't need to see them. They did sound okay, to be fair. But I was tired. Neon Indian changed that.

They played almost everything off Psychic Chasms and "Sleep Paralysis," which was my first time hearing it, but I knew what it was ("No sleep! No sleep!") and it made me dance. Overall, I have to say "Terminally Chill" and "Ephemeral Artery," the two songs they played on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon months ago, the first time I became aware of their live presence, were the highlights. But they opened up with "Local Joke" and that was cool. They suggested some audience participation for "Deadbeat Summer" and it was the only time I didn't find that sort of thing corny. This was definitely one of the can't miss highlights of the weekend, one of the best atmospheres.

Before Pavement there was Sleigh Bells.
There was this Asian kid standing with his girlfriend next to me and he just kind of annoyed me with all of his talk about how hot the singer in Sleigh Bells is and how she is a school teacher and how he wondered if maybe she was the sort of teacher to hit on her boy students--now granted, there is a lot of random eavesdropping at music festivals, but this kid, and some other kids around me, actually, were just talking about how Sleigh Bells were going to be the best set of the day, and how no one even came close, and how they had no qualms about missing a good spot for Pavement, and it just annoyed me. I like Sleigh Bells, don't get me wrong! But there's more than a little hype to them. At first I couldn't figure out who to compare them to. Then I realized they sound like a rockier version of Crystal Castles. Their singer is pretty cute, and she does have a certain presence onstage, but without all of the vocal modulation on the album, she sounds a bit pedestrian. But she does know how to stir up the crowd.

I left after two songs. Because Pavement rules.

Malkmus said something about how he lost his voice for a moment, but overall, their execution was good. There was a radio shock-jock DJ who is also on the Slow Century DVD introducing the band. It was funny to see him in person. He talked for like 15 minutes about Q101 and the "original alternative nation" and trying to "break" Pavement and all this weird crap, like you couldn't tell if he was being really sarcastic or not, but obviously he is way into the band. They opened with "Cut Your Hair" and then played, oh what can I remember, "Kennel District" second? "Silence Kit," which was nice. "Stop Breathing" and "Stereo," which were a bit altered. "Shady Lane," obviously. "Range Life" and "Unfair." I guess that's a lot of stuff off Crooked Rain. "Range Life" was a great moment, when Malkmus said, "Out on tour with Chicago's Pumpkins" and the crowd screamed. Playing "The Hexx" as the last song of the festival was also a pretty badass thing to do. But as previously mentioned, I thought an encore was coming, and it was not.

If you have never been the Pitchfork festival, I'm sorry, but now too many people go and it's kind of a claustrophobic experience. That said I still recommend it over Lollapalooza any year.

1 comment:

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I've never been, looks interesting tho..