Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 3/Wrap-Up

The final day started with Deerhunter and I was interested to see what they would do on what was probably one of the biggest crowds they’ve played to. They brought their A game and Bradford Cox shined on stage. They even got some of Grizzly Bear to jam with them at the end. There’s something special about seeing two of the best young bands today teaming up like this and gives me even more optimism about the state of music today. We watched The Ponys from far away and they sounded good with the exception of the entire PA system going down for half of it. Seriously, Pitchfork Fest’s sound system seemed to get even worse as the days went on and I’ve never seen anything like that at a music festival. Next up we watched Menomena put on a really good show. They seemed especially loose and maybe over excited or something but that seemed to work favourably for their sound. This is another band that if you haven’t got into yet, i strongly urge you to check them out. The next band I went to see was The Sea And Cake. It was hard for me to believe how bad it was considering how much I like this band. In their defense, the sound system did seem to be especially terrible for their set, but I do not like the direction this band has gone in. The show and the new album both seem like their missing the magic this band used to conjure up. I caught a little bit of Stephen Malkmus playing a solo set. It was good but it’s just not exactly my thing. The best show of the day for me was Of Montreal. This band combines art with fun like no other. They did a few new songs, Kevin Barnes wore a few outfits, they even played a little football on stage. I waited a really long time to see Klaxons next. They were good but the weak sound system on the third stage made it seem more underwhelming than it should have. We ended the night watching De La Soul do a solid performance.

Overall, the fest was fairly interesting and a good experience. They must do something about the sound system because it was way too amateur for a festival of this size. I know the ticket prices were low, but if I have to pay another ten or twenty bucks to get to listen to more than the band’s monitors for half the shows, it might be a good idea. The actual line-up mostly delivered on the hype, but I think Pitchfork could do a little better job scheduling. The venue was nice but if they want this event to get any bigger they’re going to need to relocate. I will say that the security was extremely light and well behaved, and I am always a big fan of that. Overall, Pitchfork Fest gets a thumbs up from me but need to improve some things for next year.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 2

We arrived just in time for Califone, who was running a little late. They played 4 or 5 songs and they were pretty good. They had a horn section with them which was cool, but it seemed a little underwhelming. We went in close for Grizzly Bear and listened to Voxtrot from afar. I have to say that I don’t really like Voxtrot that much, I think they are over-hyped by the internets. Grizzly Bear, on the other hand, lives up to all the hype. Despite Chris Taylor having some issues with his ridiculously complex equipment setup, they put on the day’s best show. If you have not listened to Yellow House yet, do it now fool! I tried to catch the end of Beach House but only caught the last 30 seconds of “Master Of None”. By far this was the worst schedule conflict of the fest, especially for the bands themselves as Grizzly Bear and Beach House are both fans of each other. Next up we went to see Battles. They were very impressive. The former Helmet drummer John Stanier was rock solid and had a cymbal up really high so he had to reach up to hit it. It was gimmicky but really cool. The rest of the band used lots of looping computer programs to put together their songs piece by piece.

We skipped Iron And Wine to check out the festival grounds, which were expanded from Friday’s setup. They had a huge poster shopping area with almost 50 tents each selling handbills. After that we checked out Atlanta’s Mastodon. Their typical badass performance had a mixed reception from the pitchfork kids. Most of the people farther away were complaining and those that stayed up close were rocking out. There was even a mosh pit. Because it was so crazy up front for Mastodon, I was able to get front row and center for Cat Power afterwards on the stage as most of the other Chan Marshall fans weren’t so much into the Mastodon scene. It pays to like all kinds of music. I listened to Clipse from the front of the other stage and they were what I expected, decent for a live hip-hop show but nothing to get excited about. Cat Power came on with the Dirty Delta Blues Band. In this performance, Cat Power would not touch a guitar or piano. Instead, she would be leaning over the crowd singing songs from The Greatest, covers, and songs I didn’t recognize. I am not a big fan of the nu-Cat Power that is sober, doesn’t freakout, and does country/blues music and this was farther in that direction than the three times I saw her last year. It was still great to see her, especially as close as we were, but i don’t think I’m going to see her again live until she either starts playing old stuff again or does some new stuff that is not so conservative and, well, ordinary. We wanted to check out Girl Talk but the tiny staging area was packed out beyond belief and the sound system over there was not powerful enough to hear farther back. If I had one complaint about Pitchfork Fest so far it was the sound system problems, of which there were many, and the sound checks drowning out quiet parts of bands performing on the adjacent stages. We skipped Yoko Ono and went into the city to drink into oblivion. Here’s some pics from the day:

Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 1

We got to the park about a half an hour before the gates opened and found a pretty long line. The gates didn’t end up opening until about 5:30pm, but as soon as they did, you could see kids going through the gate and then running as fast as they could to go get a close spot. The security checkpoint at the entrance was very slack and the entire line probably got through the gate in 1o minutes. We decided to setup close at the stage for GZA and Sonic Youth, and got a really good spot. I did a little exploring and was very impressed with the music shop area and the $1 beverages. We listened to Slint do Spiderland from far away and it was hard to hear most of it, but what I could hear sounded good (We also listened to them sound check a lot of it while waiting outside in line). Shortly afterwards, The GZA and his entourage took the stage we were at and did what i believe was most of Liquid Swords. Unfortunately, none of the real Wu-Tang members showed up as The Genius explained he was skipping a Wu-Tang Clan show in Amsterdam to be here, but Cappadonna and the other guys with him i didn’t recognize did a good job backing him up.

After that it was time for Sonic Youth to do Daydream Nation. As soon as the show began, the crowd went nuts, and not necessarily in a good way. There were so many people pushing and trying to get up front and it was so tightly packed that the entire show would be a battle of endurance and will to survive. I don’t know if it had to do with the amount of young kids, or the low priced tickets allowed too many scrubs in, or maybe just the ultra-hipster pitchfork crowd, but it was pretty annoying to me (I’ve decided to coin a new term for these douche bags with no concert etiquette; Hipsters going through puberty I will now refer to as “Pubesters”). On the flip side though, that was the best Sonic Youth show I have ever seen. They did Daydream Nation so well, and added to and improved almost every song, all I could keep thinking was, there is no other band in the world that could play an album they wrote almost 20 years before and make it so amazing to listen to and seem so relevant. They jammed out parts of each song and every single one blew my mind. After doing the album, they came out with Mark Ibold of Pavement and played three songs from Rather Ripped as the encore. Listening to “Incinerate”, “Reena”, and “Jams Run Free” in the context of just listening to Daydream Nation pretty much solidified in my mind that Sonic Youth is probably the greatest band to exist in the history of electric guitar music on every level with the exception of maybe The Beatles. I know that may seem a little too much to say, but there is no band ever that has been able to exist 25 years without breaking up, and been able to write some of the best albums and put on some of the best shows of the time that far into their career. These guys are just pure musicians that have never let anything keep them from making the best music of several generations and Pitchfork and most of the acts there would probably never even exist without them. We finished the night off drinking pitchers of Ohmpark’s favourite beer, Fat Tire, and it would be a perfect end to an amazing day in the Windy City.