Going into last weekend’s Pitchfork Festival, I had some trepidations. Having not been since 2007, I remembered hordes of hipsters and disinterested crowds that were too cool to get into the performance. Now that I’m back though, I’ve got to admit that it was a pretty great time. Maybe it was Pavement’s presence on the lineup, but the crowd seemed quite a bit older and nicer this time around, without losing the DIY feeling that makes the festival so much fun to be at (compared to Lollapalooza, at least). So, without further ado and as promised in yesterday’s review, here are my thoughts on the festival.
FIVE BEST MOMENTS:
LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”
While their set was one of the best of the festival and had plenty of outstanding moments (“Movement”, “Pow Pow”, “Yeah”, etc), “All My Friends” continues be LCD’s stone cold show-stopper. Nothing compares to the roar that goes up from the crowd when the keyboard line kicks in, or watching 18,000 people jump and scream in unison to the last verse.
Big Boi – “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” / “Skew It on the Bar-B” / “Ghetto Musick” / “Elevators” / “So Fresh, So Clean”
I’ll admit that I have a definite bias here, considering as how OutKast are one of my favorite bands ever. I managed to sneak up to the third row for Big Boi’s set, and I was feeling pretty bad about doing so when I saw the insane amount of energy that Major Lazer were bringing on the other stage. However, Big Boi came out determined to match them, and opened with a perfectly done medley of his verses from pretty much all of my favorite OutKast songs. And the new stuff didn’t go over too badly either — “Shutterbugg”, “Shine Blockas” and “Kryptonite (I’m On It)” whipped the crowd into just as much of a frenzy as any of the classics.
Broken Social Scene – “Meet Me in the Basement”
I’ve probably seen this band too many times (this was my fifth). However, they just keep being awesome. In a set packed with their most recognizable songs (“Cause = Time”, “Superconnected”, “Stars and Sons”), this song off of their new album was the peak. I’d even go so far as to say that it surpassed their now-legendary set at Lollapalooza back in 2006.
I can’t really pick a specific song here since it all kind of blurred together. To quote Steinbacher, this set was like getting hit in the head repeatedly with a shovel, but in a good way. Plus, I’ve never seen so many pissed off Pavement fans in one place. I suppose that’s what you get for camping all day to get up front, though.
Cap’n Jazz – “Little League”
While not technically part of the festival, Cap’n Jazz’s sold-out performance on Saturday night at the Bottom Lounge, their third since 1995, may well have been. It was a weird collision of hipsters and grown-up ex-scenesters, but there was no denying the energy and anticipation in the building when they took the stage. The band did not disappoint. Sure, Tim didn’t hit the high notes in “Take On Me” (he had the crowd sing it), but otherwise they sounded like they haven’t aged a day since 1995. While the crowd went berserk and screamed their lungs out to every single song, “Little League” was the peak of the set.
BEST SURPRISE: Major Lazer
The video should tell you everything you need to know. Major Lazer had the entire crowd eating out of the palms of their hands, even the people camped out for Big Boi.
Honorable Mention: Dam-Funk
As a general rule, when children are present at a show (and there were scads of them dragged along by aging hipster parents during the weekend), I judge the quality of performance by how into it the kids are. This may seem weird, but unless we’re talking about a death metal show or something, kids seem to be able to inherently detect when music is good or bad. So when I stumbled over to the Balance Stage looking for shade after Delorean’s set and saw every kid in sight dancing their collective asses off, I knew I’d come to the right place.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Modest Mouse
While their epic performance of “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” was a great start, it was also easily the high point of the set, and thus they had nowhere to go but down. Modest Mouse relied far too heavily on obscure album tracks, while still somehow managing to play nothing at all off of The Lonesome Crowded West and only one song (“Dramamine”) from This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About. Combined with overtly long breaks between songs and bizarre stage banter about glowsticks and bottled water from Isaac Brock, it all led up to a disappointingly sedate encore of “Gravity Rides Everything” and “Black Cadillacs”, which was exactly what the crowd didn’t need to kick off the festival. And I know they probably hate playing it at this point, but where the fuck was “Float On,” guys?
Honorable Mentions: Panda Bear, Smith Westerns, Girls
As far as Panda Bear, I’ll say that opening with a half hour of drone at a festival is never a good idea. I absolutely love Person Pitch and most of the Animal Collective catalogue, but it was simply too obtuse for an outdoor festival. The iTunes visualizer light show didn’t help either. Smith Westerns overdid it with “we’re so happy to be here” stage banter, and Girls just seemed way too stoned to be playing.
BEST IRONIC T-SHIRT/OUTFIT: While nothing will ever compare to the guy I saw in 2006 with a Goldfrapp album review printed out and taped to his back, this comes pretty close:
Honorable mentions: “I am Carles” (apparently HRO is now so-uncool that it’s cool again), guy in gold spandex on Sunday afternoon, clean-shaven hipster in nothing but American Apparel underwear on Saturday (complete with pack of American Spirits tucked in his asscrack)
Infinite gratitude to Pitchfork keeping the porta potties sparkling clean throughout the weekend. This was like manna from heaven to me after Bonnaroo.
Moving the Balance Stage to the southwest corner of the park was an excellent idea. The shade there was an absolute live-saver when it was pushing 100 degrees on Saturday.
There are still way too many idiots trying to push to the front five minutes before a show starts, but at least they apologize while they’re doing it now. Still totally unwilling to share their weed, though.
What’s with this Heineken shit? Bring back the 312, please.
Saturday felt like standing in a furnace. Major kudos to the festival organizers for cutting water prices in half and the liberal distribution of free bottled water to the kids crammed in up front. They might want to look into getting more than one water fountain in the park, though.
The guy who introduced Pavement perfectly skewered the mentality of a good chunk of the festival-goers with his comments that Pitchfork is a minor leagues for Lollapalooza. Extremely amusing to watch.
Photos by John Steinbacher