On the Near West Side of Chicago, thousands of people poured out of the El and into Union Park for an event made for music lovers – Pitchfork Music Festival. Ryan Schreiber, founder of Pitchforkmedia.com, said he wanted the event to be “for the fans” in a press conference minutes before the start of the three-day indie extravaganza. “Some festivals,” he said, “seem to think of the fans last.” In an effort to make this festival stand out from the rest, Schreiber and event coordinators made tickets affordable ($45 for 3 days, 39 bands) and the environment friendly. Overall, it didn’t disappoint.
Yoko Ono used a video and key chain flashlights to send a Morse code-like message to the audience that she loves them, Prince Paul made a surprise appearance during De La Soul’s highly-attended and highly-awkwardly-danced-to set, and there were more moustaches than could be handled. At a festival that had a vinyl record fair, a button-making booth and a Whole Foods tent, people-watching not surprisingly yielded everything from metallic bike shorts and messenger bags full of books to awkwardly-short dresses and cutoff jean shorts at every length. Here are the concert highlights, complete with arbitrary ratings.
Fujiya and Miyagi:
When you speak loudly, people will hear you; but when you speak softly, people will listen. The England-based trio’s whispery vocals and light beats combine to form a sound that epitomizes this concept. Though they played on the Balance Stage – a street festival-like stage that was fenced in on both sides – the tightly packed crowd enjoyed the music’s simplicity, even if a truck honking its horn on the nearby street was louder than F&M’s entire set. -CW
An excellent display of musicianship, and the sleepy Brooklyn band even turned the amps up to eleven in a much more rocking than expected set. -BM
Friday night, Pitchfork in collaboration with the concert series All Tomorrow’s Parties presented three renowned artists performing their ground-breaking albums. Starting with Slint and GZA, the night culminated with Sonic Youth playing their near perfect work, Daydream Nation, in its entirety. Though released 18 years ago, the album that blurred the lines between noise and pop, jazz and punk, sounded just as fresh as ever.
Though Sonic Youth banged out wonderfully dissonant and minor chords throughout the entire set, the only sour note played came from the crowd. Angry, mob-like fans lined the front rows and took out their aggression on each other, the press and the people who were nice enough to put on the event. Mad that camera men were obscuring their view, fans chanted, cursing the ‘media.’ Ironic considering a major online publication brought their favorite band to play a great album for only $15 a ticket. There’s a war going on, you’d think Mohawk punks could find something better to be mad at than the sheepish, awkward M.C. of the evening. Throwing bottles just isn’t cool. -BM
Putting out some great recorded material, hopes were high for this Austin band. Unfortunately, the lackluster childish display of the band proved very revealing. Early EPs would indicate Voxtrot would be a sort of Belle and Sebastian but their live set put them more closely aligned with Simple Plan. -BM
A huge saxophone, a gigantic sound and three part harmonies, that’s all a band needs. These up-and-comers showed Chicago how big of a sound can come from a quirky rock trio. Though solid in nearly every way, the most memorable moments were the littlest details. A drummer singing falsetto and making popping noises adds a whole new dimension to a live show. -BM
One of the most talked about acts in the festival, Girl Talk is a laptop and Greg Gillis. Mashing up Manfred Man with Bow Wow or Elton John with Notorious B.I.G., Gillis’ DJ work is funny, brilliant and totally danceable at the same time.
Performing on the small third stage surrounded by chain-link fences, the crowd was so jammed packed the fire department threatened to shut down the show. People climbed trees and trampled each other to get a better view. Small and quiet speakers only made the masses more anxious to push up to the stage.
Though featuring new mashups (Clipse and Avril Lavigne) and Grizzly Bear coming on stage singing “The Knife” to some phat beats, the set failed to reach transcendental levels. The chaos was cut short by the festival which was right as Gillis jumped into the crowd, shirtless and shining. If it went on any longer, things could have gotten ugly – but maybe in a good way…we’ll never know. -BM
By now, we’re all aware that I’m crushing on Kevin Barnes. Unfortunately, for reasons out of his and of Montreal’s control, I wasn’t too in love with their Sunday evening performance. The tunes sounded good for the most part – including an encore cover of The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” – but the vastness of the crowd and the near-impossibility to see what the hell was going on made it harder to enjoy. For a show that is so visually heavy, even the video screen couldn’t capture the handfuls of costumed characters coming onstage (one of which, was Barnes’ wife, Nina, dressed in a gold bodysuit). The “Best Dressed” award once again went to Kevin who wore a Rocky Horror-esque black bustier, hot pants and thigh-high fishnets. Lucky Nina. -CW
Once the lead singer of the amazing ’90s band, Pavement, and now an indie rock idol, Stephen Malkmus put on the best show of the fest. Without his current band, The Jicks, Malkmus performed material just with an acoustic guitar. But the highlight of the set and the weekend came when former Pavement drummer Bob Nastonovich joined Malkmus on stage for two Pavement songs. Pray to Malkmus for a reunion. -BM
My friends didn’t like Clipse. I don’t like my friends. Though their lyricism is lost on me at times because I am so white – I had to look up ‘trill’ and ‘wamp’ on urbandictionary.com – their album Hell Hath No Fury is awesome, and hearing “Keys Open Doors” and “Mr. Me Too” was a definite festival highlight. Though it’s easier to ignore race than to discuss it, each beginning of the call-and-response segments repeatedly received a flailing response from the brow-furrowing amount of Caucasians in the audience. But, regardless, the majority of the audience enjoyed it. If you can’t even be slightly amused by a group that concludes songs with a gunshot sound effect and sings, “Pussaaayyy, blah!” on the rude-nickname-not-vagina-or-kitten song, “Pussy,” then what can you enjoy? -CW