Pitchfork Festival Wrap-Up

Well, I never got around to writing my Sunday preview unfortunately. After hosting a rowdy festival pre-party Friday night, I got up early to enjoy all of Saturday’s music, and when I got home I wisely chose to hit the sack rather than write about what was ahead Sunday. Anyway, both days combined into possibly the best Pitchfork Festival I’ve ever attended. Here’s a brief recap of the highlights and lowlights:

General Observations:


– The weather was basically perfect- a summery but not scalding 80 degrees with mostly sunny skies all weekend. This was much more enjoyable than the 95- plus temperatures that the past two years forced upon festival-goers. – The addition of big screen televisions in front of each stage made seeing each band’s set much less difficult. It was nice to be able to sit back away from the chaos and still be able to see and hear the show.
– Goose Island was back serving $4 draft beer, and this year they even added my summer favorite, the IPA, which was a huge highlight for me.


– The tent stage was gone and was replaced by a larger outdoor stage which was often too crowded to get a good spot to hear the bands. This was especially the case during the Dan Deacon and Girl Talk sets. I also hated the scheduling on this stage, as favorites of mine like Beach House and The Field were scheduled at the same time as can’t miss shows like Grizzly Bear and Of Montreal on the main stage. – This year was the first time in my recollection that bands didn’t start and stop according precisely to schedule, especially on the extra stage. This made it difficult to time which bands you wanted to see. Saturday started on an especially rough note since the gates didn’t even open until ten minutes before The Twilight Sad was supposed to go on, and for some reason on Sunday the smaller stage was running nearly an hour behind by late afternoon.

Saturday’s top 5 moments:

#5: Grizzly Bear’s spot-on harmony on “Knife” mid-way through their impressive set, and realizing that I hadn’t missed my favorite track of theirs, “On a Neck, on a Spit”, which they jammed to conclude the performance.

#4: Iron and Wine’s relaxing acoustic tunes, which actually forced me into a nap after I layed down in the middle of the set. Luckily, I woke up to hear an amazing cover of Radiohead’s “No Surprises”, probably one of my favorite songs of all time.

#3: The Twilight Sad’s intense set got the festival off to a great start, especially the culmination of the set with show-stopper “And She Would Darken The Memory.” This was one of those moments for me when a band says “We have one last song” and I clinch my teeth and hope that they’re going to play the song I’ve been waiting to hear. Luckily, the boys from Glasgow didn’t let me down, and the most intense moments during this performance I was concerned that the lead singer’s head might explode.

#2: Battles creating their unique sound live and playing instruments galore across the board. At one point, one of the members was actually playing a guitar and a keyboard at the same time. Especially impressive was the vocal manipulator used to create the high-pitched baby-like noises on “Atlas”. I should also mention also that these guys really rocked on “Rainbow” as well to finish up the set to the awe of all that were present.

#1: The entire Clipse set delivered razor sharp rhymes above beats that got the whole place bouncing, and the techniques used for audience involvement really created a show-like atmosphere. Besides using loud, deliberate, intelligent rhyme schemes, these two brothers from Virginia spoke to the audience between every single song and often asked for help from the audience during choruses. More than that, it was quite a moment to see a crowd of 15,000 people, almost all of them white, going completely crazy for these guys.

Biggest letdown: Cat Power, who didn’t benefit from having to follow up Clipse, but Chan Marshall didn’t play any instruments while standing on stage and whining her way through a bunch of older material that most of the audience didn’t recognize. And the blue vein in her neck every time she strained on a note was hideous.

Sunday’s top five moments:

#5: The New Pornographers, who even without dan bejar and neko case still sounded capitvating throughout their upbeat performance of power-pop music. Closer “The Bleeding Heart Show” really brought the house down, and they came out for an encore of “My Slow Descent Into Alcoholism.”

#4: Menomena started sharply early in the day with their upbeat indie rock, although shined the brightest on the slower, prettier track “Rotten Hell” before closing with the eerier “Evil Bee.” They certainly got the crowd ready to party, focusing most of their set on dancier material from their most recent album.

#3: Junior Boys sounded incredibly on point with their dark, downtempo electro-dance music and created a nice mid-afternoon vibe on songs like “Like A Child” and really rocked on “In The Morning” and closer “Under The Sun.” I was impressed by how well their seemingly computer-oriented music fared in a live atmopshere.

#2: Deerhunter began the day on a shocking, borderline terrifying note as leadman Bradford Cox appeared wearing a full dress over his recognizably lanky, somewhat gaunt frame (he suffers from a rare disease that causes limb elongation and uncontrollable emaciation) and began howling eerily into the mic behind possessive, soaring shoegazer guitars. Highlights included album title track “Cryptograms”, autobiographical jam “Wash Out” and the vocal work on crescendo-ballad hybrid “Spring Hall Convert.” These guys got extra bonus points as I was lucky enough to run into them later in the day and talk to them briefly. Cox was incredibly friendly and thanked me for coming so early to check them out, which I of course assured him was not something I was willing to miss.

#1: Of Montreal’s costume choice was strange to say the least, complete with dominatrix suits, ninjas, pink angel wings, football helmets, darth vadar, lobster claws and painted bodies, but the music absolutely rocked the late evening crowd as the festival neared its end. Centerpiece “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” was a clear highlight for me as I screamed the devastating lyrics along with the band while adding in well-timed “woo-hoo-ooo” chants for good measure. Shorter, dancier tracks like “She’s a Rejector” and “Chrissie Kiss The Corpse” were huge hits as well. These guys stole the show for me.

Biggest letdown: The small stage, which couldn’t seem to get on track at any point during the day. I hung around for about 20 minutes waiting for Brightblack Morning Light to go on but had to leave for Menomena before they ever did. Later in the day, I waited until 5:45 for to see the Cool Kids, who were supposed to go on at 5:15, before giving up and going back to the main stage to check out Steven Malkmus. I didn’t get to see Cadence Weapon either, as his scheduled 6:15 show time had to be pushed back to accomodate the delays and therefore conflicted with Of Montreal. I did get to check out some of The Field, but had to sacrifice and equal amount of The New Pornographers. Overall, it was just unorganized and frustrating throughout the day.

Nevertheless, aside from a few hiccups, the Festival was a great way to spend my weekend, and I’m happy to have been able to see so many great young bands as well as some classics. Only three weeks until Lollapalooza, which promises to be a similarly enjoyable experience with a much different feel. More on that later!

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