Fri 13 Jul – Pitchfork Music Festival
My most recent adventure included a healthy seven and one-half hour drive to Dekalb, Illinois to visit a friend and ultimately frequent Chicago for a weekend music festival they were throwing. By my calculations, the tolls alone ran me $17.70 one-way. So where was this money spent? Well, I felt comfortable accelerating at a breakneck speed of 80mph most of the way (apart from work zones and heavy traffic). One last note before I begin the musical assessments: Chicago is the antithesis of ultra-clean Denver, Colorado. I guess I'd live there if I had to since it is a booming center of the States, but I prefer Colorado. Why You Should or Should Have Went to Pitchfork Music Festival:
1) Cheap water and Fuze (one dollar each). Average priced food vendors. Good beer and several shows would hand out water bottles before an act went on.
2) Friendly fellows everywhere you go. I even engaged in what turned out to be one of the nerdiest conversations prior to Junior Boys
hitting the stage. Oh, we touched on all the topics: Harry Potter (one girl was reading it), Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Of course, there are always ignorant blokes at shows. Sure, we're all tiresome of the "I'm a small girl and should be escorted straight to the front of the stage" bit, but one guy was actually shoving and yelling at anyone who stormed the Girl Talk
stage. Give it a break. It's just a guy and a laptop. Oh, and a dance party extravaganza.
3) Small park. Distance-wise, the stages aren't far from each other. So, if you've decided to sacrifice one show to catch the next on the opposing stage, you can still enjoy the other act from afar. So, the two main stages are expertly positioned.
4) The Twilight Sad
was a great Saturday opening band. Sure, I missed the great Sonic Youth goodness that was to be seen the previous night. But you can't complain with the caliber of Saturday/Sunday acts. And the Twilight Sad was a great opener.
5) Grizzly Bear
have a knack for re-envisioning and reconstructing their songs while still retaining the harmonies we've all come to love. Sure, they aren't Mastodon, who managed to dominate the entire festival with their aggressive attack on our ears, but Grizzly Bear did masterfully branch out of the small, yet spacious, Yellow House recording to launch a massive outdoor attack. I would've liked to see Beach House
, who were on the side stage, and it's quite odd that they'd schedule two bands similar in aesthetic within the same time slot. But, I had to hear my second favorite LP of last year in a live setting. I've heard many live or acoustic sets of Grizzly Bear's and they still managed to put a fun spin on some of their new songs as well as revitalize their older catalogue. "Little Brother" faired the best in its new shape and form. Also, even though it was expected, I did enjoy the "Deep Blue Sea" cover.
6) I saw Battles
from afar, but they were quite the act too. I'd definitely try to see them again. This bunch of sharp dressers is more than capable of replicating the complicated math rock stylings of their recordings.
7) Iron & Wine
reminded me of how much I enjoy their upcoming album, which finds some slight experimentation into electro-folk/folktronica at times. And, I must give it them the award for delivering the most surprising and the best cover of the weekend: "No Surprises" by the greatest band alive. I'm also happy to have heard one of my favorite songs by Iron & Wine, "Woman King".
was my first hip-hop show, and I'm happy to report that. They greatly impressed me and seemed quite into being lumped in the Pitchfork lineup. I may have just joked around recently that nearly every hip-hop/rap act claims to be the best ever. You can't be a rapper without an ego. But when Clipse boisted that Hell Hath No Fury was the greatest album of 2006 despite what Pitchfork or anybody says, I had to smile at the obvious self-touting irony. I almost wanted to believe them for a moment.
9) Girl Talk's show, along with Grizzly Bear (who made an appearance on stage for Girl Talk's remix of "Knife"), was certainly a Pitchfork highlight. Greg Gillis' exhibitionist antics were just the kick in the ass that the festival needed to end Saturday night on a good note. Unfortunately, Yoko Ono
was the closing act and I sacrificed seeing Cat Power
again (she was a highlight at Bonnaroo along with Andrew Bird
and others). The supporting musicians were great, but I couldn't endure more than a few songs. You bet I wanted to, though, because of the .0028% chance that the special guest/s would be Paul McCartney
. He'd then proceed to whip out his mandolin and proclaim, "Everybody gonna dance tonight." This, of course, didn't happen. And I didn't stay to see it not happen.
was another great opener, being that they began sometime after 1pm on Sunday afternoon. They were even humorously and intentionally announced as Deerhoof
instead. They Ponys were a fun post-grunge band that I don't care to listen to at home. Yet, they did score some cute points for the little kid with headphones, to protect his fragile ears, in the background playing the drums. I watched Menomena
wow the audience for the second time this year, but this time far away at the front line of the opposing stage as I awaited Junior Boys.
11) Junior Boys morphed slinky bedroom electro-pop into danceable, afternoon delight. Their forty-minute set floated by fast, but it was a welcome set from the band tha composed my third favorite album of 2006.
12) Jamie Lidell
was more bizarre than any of us that haven't seen his show could ever imagine. And, his music was much more adventurous than the pop incarnations on his album.
13) Stephen Malkmus
tunes. I really wish I wasn't waiting in line for the port-o-potty and then in the food line. We all have basic body needs. But his solo set seemed that it would've been much more interesting than his Bonnaroo set with the Jicks last year. Damn me.
14) of Montreal
was up to their usual shenanigans. I still despise some of the extremely young crowd that this band seems to attract. But you can't argue with a new song, a fan-fave in "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal", a woman in gold, outrageous outfits, obscurity and a Kinks
cover for an encore. I'm not much for gimmicks and the glittery glam rock, but the announcer was right about one thing: they did bring to the stage things we've never seen before at this music festival.
15) The New Pornographers
and De La Soul
provided a fine close to a weekend of great acts. I may even find myself warming up to the new material of the Pornos. And, judging by the crowd's reaction, when they segued into "We Will Rock You", they probably should have won the award for most surprising cover song. Oh, and De La Soul reminded me of how much fun they can be. I seem to have forgotten that since I've aged and no longer listen to the Men in Black soundtrack or 3 Feet High and Rising. Oh, Pitchfork, you always leave me satisfied and smiling. Or, is that what she said?
Maybe, because...What Pitchfork Needs to Improve Upon or They Will Remain Faults:
1) Synaesthesia ran rampant among announcers and fans beginning with the pamphlet cover that read: Pour on the Music / Turn up the Beer. Crowd members even seemed to engage in the simple retooling of the senses. This is a petty nitpick, but I didn't enjoy it, damnit!
2) We were in the shadow of the 1st Baptist Church, as one announcer so put it. And who wants to see that towering over them all day? By the way, the two announcers were both fantastic.
3) Too few food vendors and port-o-potties led to extensive lines. I understand that this festival isn't even one-fourth the size of Bonnaroo, but even a couple more food vendors and maybe some expertly placed port-o-potties would quicken the pace. I'm not patient and I missed some of Stephen Malkmus because of you!
4) The sound quality at some sets left some to be desired. Iron & Wine's set, for instance, was drenched in feedback while the rest of us endured it under the warm Illinois sun.
5) The Balance stage was difficult to reach, not to mention countless threats of it being shut down before Girl Talk began. Apparently, they were concerned the fence would be knocked down and helpless hipsters would collapse into the busy street.
was a disappointment, just like their first full-length. Sorry, guys. Even the announcer jokes were at their weakest when we were told to pick up after ourselves because we weren't raised by wolves. Get it? I'll be the encouraging parent that Pitchfork plays in their review of the self-titled album: better luck next time!
Overall, the music festival was as warm and cuddly as the truck filled with stuffed animals that was leaking them all over the highway on our way back from Chicago. Sure, the festival wasn't as epic as 2006's Bonnaroo, but this is an impossible task- they didn't have a two and one-half hour Radiohead set. Better luck next time, Pitchfork! You know I'll try to be there. I'm still mad at myself for missing last year.
Pitch-fork, top of the pops!