Photography by David Pitz and Bekah Kinsella. Words By David Pitz
Yesterday we flipped through some of the smaller bands we managed to catch at this year's edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival
. A necessary component to the weekend, bands like Best Coast, Local Natives, Surfer Blood, and Washed Out provided an exciting element of discovery for many in attendance...for better or worse.
Today we turn our attention to the stalwarts of the scene that graced the stages at Union Park. These are the artists we knew we could trust (or, in one glaring example, thought
we could trust), though bits of mystery still surrounded several of the sets. Swedish pop musician Robyn, for example, is a definite rare sighting on our American shores. And familiar bands like Wolf Parade and LCD Soundsystem brought material from new albums to town for the first time. These are the acts that provided some of the most hyped up performances of the festival, drawing a bulk of the crowd before them when they took to the stage.
A lot of folks suspect Robyn should
be a massive international success...and for good reason. When the stylish Swedish star unleashed her snazzy batch of addictive electro pop early Friday evening, an adoring response soon followed. Body Talk Pt. 1
favorites like "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do" and "Dancing On My Own" earned the most stylish of commercial points, waking those before her from the collective sun daze with the first enthusiastic performance of the entire festival.
All of which begs the question: what if Robyn was an international icon? Would we have had the opportunity to catch her here? Probably not. Instead, she'd come striding through Chicago a few weeks later, occupying the less intimate setting of Grant Park, and the Lollapalooza festival. She'd be Q101's pop star, not ours. To this I say, careful what you wish for.
Broken Social Scene
Descending from their nook in Toronto, the band that's become most synonymous with the indie way of life in Canada took a crack at a 60 minute set shortly after Robyn thrilled the first night attendees. As always, theirs' was a rapturous set...though some slight technical problems probably kept the band from ever really performing at ease. From the perspective in front however, familiar tunes like "Fire Eye'd Boy" and "7/4 (Shorelines)" meshed well with the newer cuts of Forgiveness Rock Record
There was a certain playfulness to the choppy rock and roll tunes fellow Canadians Wolf Parade chose to dish out in Chicago. Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner obviously love pop music. But they seem to love distorting it even more, splitting vocal duties, and leading hard pounding keyboards and disjointed rhythms along the way. The result was a band that assumed several identities over the course of their performance of songs that pulled from all three of their albums. Here, the Boeckner lead numbers sounded crooked and cool, offering something a bit nastier to sink one's teeth into. For his part, Krug provided more melodies, though even those came soaring in some sort of eerie quality. Pit against each other in one hour long performance, Wolf Parade was quite a thing to watch...not to mention one of the highlights of the weekend.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum was the performance turned in by Noah Lennox - aka, Animal Collective's Panda Bear. Here, his spacey, rambling set provided what was the absolute low point of the entire weekend, and prompted ex-Chicago Sun-Times
critic Jim DeRogatis to remark, "If this sort of thing had been delivered by a third-tier Grateful Dead offshoot band on one of the smaller stages at Bonnaroo, the Pitchfork crowd would have scoffed in derision. But since it was Pitchfork-endorsed, most stood politely and soaked it in, though there was a steady stream of refugees fleeing for the other stages, the food lines, or the Porta-Potties." Count me in that camp.
That Pitchfork would even give Lennox such an ace spot on the bill seems a bit baffling in retrospect. He's been doing this solo thing for several years, after all. Surely someone had witnessed him Panda bore an audience before? Yikes...
Capping off Saturday evening with a celebratory sort of set, James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem provided the highlight of the entire festival, getting the entire park moving in a way no act (Pavement included) managed to achieve all weekend. Showcasing a band that's obviously been built for such momentous occasions, Murphy was in a hell of a mood - appreciative, funny, hell...even a bit giddy at. The set list too did not disappoint (save a glaring admission of "North American Scum"), sporting new songs from This Is Happening
that translated well in the open field. Of note were the sprawling renditions of "Pow Pow" and the guitar slithering "All I Want".
Of course it was the more familiar, back catalogue favorites that really turned the place into a tizzy. With the band's disco ball a'spinning, classics like "Daft Punk is Playing at My House", "All My Friends", and "Us v Them" whipped around the festival grounds, all while flurry of glow sticks flew through the coolish, Chicago nighttime. Ending the night with "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down", the band mashed moments of a cover of "Empire State of Mind" into their finale...a bit strange with the Sears (er, Willis) Tower hovering in the background, but a striking tone to send the crowd home on nonetheless.
Annie Clark also managed to squeeze in a set of her cinematic, orchestral pop for those brave enough to bake before her in the high heat of Sunday afternoon...of which there were plenty. And while the vibes she offered were pleasant enough, that thing that I know she does so well in the live environment seemed a bit lost floating across the muggy grounds of the festival.
Pavement proved to be the ultimate reward for the weekend that was...especially considering most folks had to sit through a "performance" from the Major Lazer crew to get there. A god awful set of gyrating booty dancers, suffering Chinese dragons, and ballerinas that sold out any class to be a part of this disaster, Diplo and Switch provided a wonderful example of the lowest common denominator for having a good time. Cheap tricks, blatant sexual references (he flew off a latter at one point and humped the hell out of his backup dancer), and artless call and response chanting created the most obnoxious set of the weekend.
Check out the site tomorrow as we bring you our culminating report on the nostalgic legends and veterans that made their mark on Pitchfork (Big Boi, Modest Mouse, Pavement).
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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