Photography by David Pitz and Bekah Kinsella. Words By David Pitz
A few years back the purveyors of Indie du jour at Pitchfork started doing something that makes a whole lot of sense, curating an annual summer festival held in what is inevitably a blazing, sweaty mess of a park just to the west of downtown Chicago. Derived from the ashes of the Intonation Festival, the evolution of the Pitchfork Music Festival
has progressed in step with the website that gave it its name, expanding year after year to meet increasing demand. More stages, bigger bands, and various offerings of diverse lifestyle vendors drive thousands to Union Park year after year, to which of course the 2010 edition was no exception.
But like the random splotches of sun burnt skin I've returned from my weekend in Chicago with, the 2010 edition was as uneven and inconsistent as my ability to apply suntan lotion...which, by the way, is absolutely fine. The Pitchfork Music Festival, by its' very nature, is designed to celebrate a music scene that assaults and overwhelms the senses, bringing with it a fever pitched range of critical hype and hallucination along the way.
All of which makes the annual gathering in Chicago one of the better opportunities to take the temperature of the scene we know and love so much. Up and comers, a host of current stalwarts, nostalgic legends and veterans: For better or worse, the 2010 edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival offered a welcome snap shot of the modern, independent leaning music scene. So, for the next few days we'll be recapping and examining the weekend that was, beginning with a number of bands on the bill that are only just beginning to stoke the fires that fuel the scene. These are the up and comers...
Patrick Stickles and company have been churning out a rebel rousing slice of Jersey slop rock for a number of years now...to which, admittedly, I had not previously been a fan. The bands sophomore album The Monitor
though is too good to ignore, and their live rendition of those songs has thankfully followed suit. With Stickles "sweating like a pregnant nun talking to the pope", the band turned in an inspired effort, leading a fist pumping, sing along set of songs in the high heat of Saturday afternoon. It was the first great set of the festival.
Sadly, the same could not be said for the slackadaisical ways of Best Coast. Lead by Bethany Cosentino, the Southern California reefer rock outfit seemed content sleep walking through their opportunity to play the green shaded grove of the Balance stage on Sunday afternoon. Yes, the simple summer tunes the three-piece churned out were pleasant enough (just enough...). But there songs came marked by a lazy and apathetic essence. And though Consentino is certainly enjoying what will certainly be a summer fling with the buzz, I can't help wondering what could become of Best Coast if they spend a little less time with what is obviously their favorite muse ("This song is about weeeeeeeeeed!"), and more energy on their craft.
Another suggestion to BC? Take a gander at neighboring Local Natives, a band from their own, Los Angeles neighborhood. Taking the Balance stage a bit later in the day, Local Natives delivered the goods with the kind of performance that warrants the major league accolades currently coming their way. Tunes like "Sun Hands" had the half naked crowd reaching for the heavens, as if they were trying to yank the offending ball of gas right out of the sky. Put simply, the Natives' performance was everything Best Coast's was not. Dramatic, endearing, energetic, and impressive, the band are a cohesive, caring tribe of friends who flush their songs full of vocal harmonies, rise and fall dynamics, plain clothed poetry, and a rhythm section worth reveling in the sun for.
Baby faced Floridians Surfer Blood also hit high marks on Sunday, bringing their scoop of chimey, surf rock to an adoring crowd. They also did a little fawning of their own, stirring the pot for Pavement (we'll get to them on Thursday). I'm guessing the band was a wee bit thrilled to be sharing the bill (sort of, as festivals go) with a band that obviously helped nurture the disjointed, oft-kilter riff rock the band do so well on jams like "Take It Easy" and "Swim (To Reach The End)".
On the chiller side of things, Washed Out - the electronic vessel for Georgian musician Ernest Greene - did what Panda Bear could not (more on that tomorrow), approaching his ambient, solo alignment in a way that was both compelling and worth sticking around for. Still, there was little need to watch Greene. He was just sort of bopping about on a lap top, playing some keys, and occasionally taking an ethereal turn at the microphone. But from the perspective of the grass, slightly cool to the touch, and trees whipping about in the breeze overhead, Washed Out provided one of the most tranquilizing (in a good way) sets of the festival. Sure, the hypnotic drones he was dishing would wander a bit. But inevitably, an ocean deep beat would drop in, igniting the happy, relaxed gathering to react in oh so positive ways (btw...Chicagoans love to clap! They really do!).
Check out the site tomorrow as we bring you reports on those indie stalwarts that made their mark on Pitchfork (Major Lazer, St. Vincent, Wolf Parade, Panda Bear, etc).
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 1 In Pictures
The Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 2 In Pictures
The Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 3 In Pictures