It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the inaugural pitchfork curated music festival. Last year the fest went by the name of Intonation, a concert which was hosted by Vice Records in the 2006 incarnation. Despite the name change the Pitchfork run festival was held at Chicago’s Union Park once again. Also like last year the heat was oppressive to the body, but not the spirit of the two day event.
The main event of course was the bands on two main stages and the smaller Biz3 stage, but there were also other attractions. DepartMENT once again sponsored a record and craft fair. Nothing was that different from last year. There did seem to be a larger selection of used records than last year. I was a little disappointed in the area of the label booths; there seemed to be fewer than the previous fair. The signage of the booths seemed less visible than last year as well.
A new addition this year was Flatstock; a collection of artists displaying their concert poster art. This area of the fest was outstanding. Many of the posters I had previously seen online and at venues. I was overwhelmed to be in the presence of such brilliant and well respected artists. I bought a silk screen of a mother tapir with her baby and a couple of magnets done by Leia Bell. I had to restrain myself from buying more.
I was more impressed with the food this year as well. On Saturday I got veggie tamales from the Goose Island tent: four dollars for two very filling and spicy delights. On Sunday I got a veggie wrap. I am not sure who was selling them, but the wrap was also delicious. The five dollar price tag was a bit steep, but not overly ridiculous (not while in the gauged festival mindset). Water was also fairly priced at one dollar with free water available to fill up any containers.
But now the main event . . . the music! The lineup was amazing. I’ll list the acts I saw order of their appearance:
Hot Machines: Not a large crowd yet and the only thing hotter was the weather.
Chin Up Chin Up: These Chicago natives must have been thrilled to play to a hometown crowd at such a celebrated event. I enjoyed the set but was not overly impressed by their stage presence. The weather and lack of experience in front of such a large audience may have been factors.
Man Man: Holy Shit. I had never heard of this band before. A friend said that they sort of sounded like Captain Beefheart. I did not think it was possible for a band to sound like the Captain on crack, but Man Man succeeded. I was not close to the stage for their set, but it involved tandem percussionist and keyboard player leaps, confetti and spoon throwing. They were loud, raucous and raw. I regretted not checking out their set up close and personal. If you live on the edge musically then you should definitely check out Man Man.
Band Of Horses: I enjoy this group greatly recorded. Live I was not overly impressed. Nothing too special here besides their enjoyable songwriting and straightforward delivery.
Mountain Goats: One of the highlights of both days. John was so genuinely happy to be playing his songs. His passion was felt by everyone in the crowd. He even honored a request for early classic “Cubs in Four” and played another classic “No Children”. Most of the set was John on guitar with accompaniment from a bass player. The last few song were played with a keyboard/keyboard player. Overall the set was emotional charged and electrified the mountain goat faithful and passerbys alike.
Destroyer: I love the most recent album from Destroyer, but I was left totally unimpressed with their live act. I drifted off for some food during their set.
Art Brut: This act is not my cup of tea, but the crowd loved them. These snotty UK rockers were high charged and full of strut.
Ted Leo & the Rx: I saw the first two songs of these set before I bolted over to the other stage to see the Walkmen. Nothing personal to Mr. leo, but the Walkmen are too amazing to miss live. From the other stage Ted did a great job, but nothing outstanding. I am ok with just sticking with his recorded work. I feel that perhaps the outdoor venue is not the best setting to take your prescription of Rx rock.
The Walkmen: My third time seeing the group. Matt Barrick, the drummer, was not present because, as the crowd was informed that he was expecting a child any day. COME ON MATT! Rock first, baby later. Despite the lack of one of the most animated and awesome drummers of today the replacement did a great job and the Walkmen sounded better than ever. Hamilton’s howl and guitar playing had both improved greatly from the last time I had seen them.
The Futureheads: I am pretty sure they played all of Decent Days and Night and hardly any of News and Tributes. I was happy about that since, honestly, the newer album is boarder line crap. I was impressed that the trademark vocal harmonies held up live.
Silver Jews: Embarrassingly I did not stick around for these indie rock giants. By this time of the night I was just getting a bad vibe. From all accounts I hear the set was amazing though.
Tapes ‘n Tapes: There was a large group already at the gates to see Tapes ‘n tapes play at 1 PM. I think Pitchfork under estimated the crowd that would show up early to see the band. They really put on a great high energy set. I was a bit nervous since word on the street is that the Tapes ‘n Tapes don’t bring the funk for their live set. I say NAY to the haters, the Tapes rocked my body right.
Danielson: I love Ships but it was a little strange to see the band live. Listening to their music it is hard to imagine the noises they produce coming out of a real person. I enjoyed the set mostly, but felt like some of the mystique of Danielson had been lost.
Jens Lekman: This Swede owned with his all girl band, especially the drummer who stood the whole set.
The National: Their Alligator heavy set was one of the highest points of the whole weekend. One of the most intense performances I have seen ever.
Liars: I thought I liked this band, but their set really turned me off. They were pretentious and boring; relying on one drum set and a guy playing drum sticks. Once and awhile a guitar was manically strummed. Seemed like the hardcore Liars faithful enjoyed the set though
Aesop Rock / Mr. Lif: I had never seen a hip hop act live before. I did not know any Mr. Lif material before this day. I wasn’t expecting much from Aesop Rock, who I love. I was blown away. The crowd really got into the set too. Even their DJ spinning got me excited. Amazing set
Mission of Burma – missed this set
Devendra Banhart – The first half of the set was slower psychedelic inspired songs. Then Devendra brought up a kid from the crowd to play an original song. This kid is in a band called Molotov Pipedream. According to their myspace they are from Atlanta. He wasn’t bad, but he milked it a bit too much. The second part of the set Devendra and company played some more blues style songs and really got the crowd going.
Yo La Tengo – I made the decision to push closer for Spoon after Devendra and barely could hear of see one of my favorite bands.
Spoon – worth missing Yo La Tengo. The band was sharp and energetic. One of the best of the weekend
Os Mutantes – yes, I skipped out on this legendary group. I suppose I did this mostly to say that I did leave early.
BIZ 3 STAGE
I did not see any acts here, but everyone who saw CSS said the set was the most insane thing they have ever seen. I sincerely am upset that I missed this apparent spectacle.
Overall the Pitchfork Music Festival was much better than last year. There really is something special going on with this festival and I believe that it will continue to play an important role in the national summer music event scene. If you missed this year be sure to go out of your way to check the fest out next summer. Pitchfork may be pretentious but they know how to host a good party.
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