Photography by David Pitz and Bekah Kinsella. Words By David Pitz
Pitchfork has a funny effect on career paths: they can make them that much brighter, or impossibly narrow for any young artist seeking to project their own. Theirs' is an influence that sometimes feels like that of the head of Rome deciding the fate of gladiators. An overblown metaphor to be sure...but you get the point.
Yet for all their influence with younger, up and coming bands, it's been the festival's ability to attract a growing list of bigger acts on a more consistent level over the years that is most impressive. Yesterday we took a stroll through some of the mightier musicians to grace the stages at Union Park this past weekend
. But it's this last batch of marquee level acts that really set this year's edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival ahead of other years. These are the bands that hark back to the glory days...a vintage batch that, in the most obvious case, some wondered if they'd ever have the chance to see them perform again. So for our culminating slice of coverage from the Pitchfork Music Festival, we play you off with a few words about the nostalgic vets who took the stages in Chicago this past weekend.
It had been some 12 years since last I lay eyes on Modest Mouse. They were a pesky but mostly unknown three piece back then, playing a decent but unremarkable club in my home town (a highlight of their career I'm sure). Since that time, the band and their profile have grown of course, enjoying slices of commercial success with their '04 breakthrough, Good News For People Who Like Bad News
, placing a spacey acoustic number in a very big car commercial ("Gravity Rides Everything" for VW), and of course teaming up and then parting ways with legendary British sideman, Johnny Marr.
One thing that hasn't changed since that time is Isaac Brock's perceived personality. Never a charmer, his performances always seem to come marked by snarling, disjointed, and sometimes downright cold statements from the stage. They would be on display early when the band took to the stage to finish up day one of the proceedings in Union Park. When prompted to play The Lonesome Crowded West
, he replied "all of it?!", packaged with an obvious edge of bewildering snark. Later he would lecture the gathering on the collective waste practices of the festival ("I'm sure the earth can take another hit just for you"). He would warm up as the night went along though, even sounding down right pleased with their performance, the enthusiastic audience, and the festival organizers by set's end.
Speaking of said performance. It was one that touched on what Modest Mouse followers might call the peppier era of their career. Opening with The Moon and Antarctica
's "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes", the band would pack their 70 minute set with plenty of banjo knockin', pop concoctions, including songs like "Satin in a Coffin" and "Dashboard". Kudos for dusting off A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About's
"Dramamine". The evening would end with a pleasant rendition of "Gravity Rides Everything".
One half of stylish, Hip Hop outfit Outkast, Big Boi handled duties late Sunday evening with a set in support of his new album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
. Backed by a band with a top notch brass section, Big Boi obviously used the opportunity to showcase what is essentially his first solo album. However, it was Big Boi's friendly reminder of his roots that was most refreshing, tearing through spirited renditions of OutKast favs, "B.O.B.", "I Like The Way You Move", and "Rosa Parks".
They're the weird band all my weird friends were listening to in high school...the band it took me several months to appreciate, but once I did...
At this time last year, it seemed unfathomable that such a day was coming. Pavement had been broken up for years, with Stephen Malkmus enjoying the kind of successful second life that rendered any return to the former one completely unnecessary. Of course reunions are profitable things, so no matter how many times Malkmus contended that it would never happen...did you really believe him?
Anticipation for the culminating moment of the festival was fierce, with fans flocking to the stage hours before the band's 8:30 set time. It was a long wait in the sun indeed, and when the band finally walked out on stage, I personally breathed a sigh of relief. "I was here, this was really happening, I'm watching Pavement".
What followed was an hour and a half jaunt through Pavement's thick catalogue. "Range Life", "Gold Soundz", "Embassy Row", "Frontwards": all sounded as familiar as ever. The only indication that this was sort of a new thing for them was a botched launch in to "Spit On a Stranger" that they never really recovered from over the course of the song. Regardless, it was Pavement...and a little check was marked off in my life's to do lists.
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The Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 1 In Pictures
The Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 2 In Pictures
The Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 3 In Pictures