Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bad Idea Show Review: Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park

I attended my third Pitchfork Music Festival last week, and it seems to be following the trajectory of the greatest trilogy in cinematic history – Back to the Future.

  • Pitchfork 2008 was my introduction into a new world of music festivals (or time travel)
  • Pitchfork 2009 took it to an even higher level with multiple epic bands (or hover boards)

Let me first point out that the crew I rolled with was stellar. They are exempt from my less than glowing review.

  • Tom (host and brother)
  • Paul (newbie and loudmouth)
  • Crystal (girl and vodka-smuggler)
  • Pat (future Mr. St. Vincent and industry insider)
  • Joey (Venom enthusiast and a 3.7 rating)
So let’s with the fashion! The only thing Pitchfork-goers like more than music is making fun of hipsters (while casting a blind eye on their own hipster tendencies). When trying to figure out what hipster wardrobe was the hippest in 2010, I sadly noticed that it looked identical to 2009: Ray-Bans and 90’s basketball jerseys. This guy know what I’m talking about. And so early on, I gave up on tallying up the fashion trends. Like when George gives up on trying to ask Lorraine to the dance when he sees that she always swoons over Calvin, I mean Marty.

Now, onto the music:


Comedy stage: We never ventured to the comedy stage on Friday, and my most accounts, that was a good thing. Michael Showalter, who I love, apparently bombed. And the rest had to talk over rock bands. Who do you think won that battle? My guess is that the comedians got pretty frustrated with this, and snapped at the band stages just like Huey Lewis snapped at Marty McFly’s band during their talent show audition.

Robyn: The pop star was doing her set while we were waiting in the ID bracelet line…and the beer ticket line…and the beer line (there’s gotta be a better way!!!). By the time we had a beverage, her set was pretty much done. But she’s not really in my wheelhouse (I didn’t know she was in Pitchfork’s wheelhouse, either), so I didn’t mind listening from a distance. I saw her on Letterman this week, and think that during her Pitchfork set, I probably would have just stared at her chipped tooth anyway. She must be one tough cookie.  Is she the female goon in Griff’s posse?            

Modest Mouse: When Pitchfork was announced, this was the band I was most excited to see. If I had done the scheduling, I would have had them end Sunday night, switching places with Pavement. But I’m a young buck of 29. What do you I know? I do know that I thought Modest Mouse killed it. The first time I saw them live, I was surprised at how rabid Isaac Brock performs. I used to make fun of my friend Brennan, who broke his ankle moshing at a Modest Mouse show, but then I saw this, and I started to realize that despite the banjos and horns, Modest Mouse doesn’t resign itself to folkiness. They don’t mess around. Isaac Brock = Biff Tannen!

Free Energy: I really didn’t want this band playing at 1:00 pm on Saturday. Before the festival, I listened to most of the bands, and couldn’t get enough of these guys. Simple, loud pop rock. They energized the crowd that was there as the gates opened for the day, and I imagine if they’d played later in the day, they may have been thought of as one of the best rock bands on the weekend (Pitchfork seemed heavy on both ambience and dance music, but light on rock). While I wish they would have ended with their self-titled song last instead of their other single “Bang Pop,” it was well worth getting to the park early.

DeLorean: Well, I love their name, for reasons made obvious by my clearly unhealthy obsession with BTTF. I would have been happy if the car just rolled out on stage and opened its doors to the sky. But their music forgave their lack of a stainless steel time machine. The festival was a little dance/electonic heavy for my taste, and I was expecting to leave this set fairly early, trying to save myself for LCD Soundsystem, but I loved this band. As with most electronic music, I can’t really pinpoint why. It’s attraction and power is as mysterious as the flux capacitor.

Titus Andronicus: They played the first Saturday slot in last year’s festival, and this year upgraded they the fifth. I guess that’s progress? While Paul will forever be disappointed that no bagpipes were played, they still held their own with the more traditional rock and/or roll instruments. While they’re a bit too historical for a guy like me, who prefers not to listen to lyrics, I enjoyed slow tapping (then stomping) my feet to their music. They definitely aren’t a band that will be playing the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance anytime soon. And as evidenced by the stars and stripes adorning their stage, they sure do love 'Murica.

Wolf Parade: Paul insisted that I give this band much attention before the festival, and I’m glad I did. Their performance was one of the most energized of the weekend, but one that I think, if unfamiliar with the music, I wouldn’t have gotten. Still, their music did inspire an assembly line of morons trying to crowd surf from the middle of the crowd by using a recycling trash bin as their launching point. It did not go well.

Panda Bear: Tom reported that most people were tweeting “more like Panda Bore!” during whatever Panda Bear wanted to call it (A performance? No, there was nothing to watch. A set? No, there were no clear starts/finishes to songs. Concert? Hell no). But I should get too worked up. We just sat on the ground in front of LCD’s stage waiting for the real deal.

LCD Soundsystem: Wowsa. For a guy that looks like a fat Brett Favre, James Murphy knows how to get 18,000 feeling like their on top of the world. There was virtually no dead time between hits. The crowd didn’t stop dancing. The skanks shaking it on top of the trash cans previously used as crowd surfing launch pads certainly didn’t. My only wish was that the final song brought the crowd’s spirits up, rather than back down to earth, as “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” did. I mean, even Marvin Berry and the Starlighters knew not the end the dance with “Earth Angel.”


Beach House: Ug. I was bored by this. As much as I love glitter kites (and I LOVE glitter kites!), I just can’t handle the blahness. I’m going on record to declare a fully anti-blah music philosophy.

Local Natives: Another band I had listened to quite a bit before the weekend, their lead singer’s moustache only improved their stock. They remind a lot of people of Vampire Weekend, which I get. Their set actually reminded me of Vampire Weekend at 2008’s Pitchfork, only these guys seemed to be loving what they did, whereas Vampire Weekend seemed obligated. I could easily see this band blowing up in the same way. Perhaps fame is their density…I mean, their destiny.

Surfer Blood: We sat down in the shady corner while this band played. We definitely thought it was enjoyable to listen to….while sitting in a shady corner. At that point, there wasn’t much that would have gotten us to stand up and actually watch a band. But they certainly didn’t push us away. I think that’s a win.

St. Vincent: While Pat kept proposing to her from afar, I wasn’t as impressed with her set. I don’t know. I had trouble with the drastic shifts in tempo, tone, style, etc. I like to know what’s coming next. But with St. Vincent, I just felt like I had ordered a nuclear bomb, but was only given a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts. And we all know how well that goes over.

Major Lazer: Holy crap! Giant Dragon puppets, a hype man that looks like what will happen if Dave Chappelle is cast as the next Riddler, only with a sex addiction. Ballerinas. A ladder. This band caught a lot of people off-guard while they waited for Big Boi. No other act did I see cause so much of the crowd to stand up, face them, and try and figure out what the hell was going on. Did he just reverse cowgirl that dancer? Yes. Did he just scream that someone in the crowd was gonna get pregnant? Yes. Did he just take off his pants while standing atop a 10-ft. ladder? You betcha. And my personal favorite, did the dj just throw in a sample of Ace of Base? Hellz yeah!

Big Boi: I listened to his new album on the way up to Chicago. Twice. Eh. I really feel like both he and Andre 3000 together are greater than the sum of their parts. Luckily, Big Boi did not shy away from Outkast’s catalog. In fact, he went through its entirety. Granted, most songs were about half the length (because, you know, half the band wasn’t there), but I enjoyed its frenetic pace. And come on, child break dancers for “The Way You Move”?! Outstanding.

Pavement: Talk about going back to the future! While I still wish they’d have switched places with Modest Mouse, Pavement did impress me. By the time I got to college, Malkmus had already gone solo. So I knew of his solo work first, and Pavement second. And they’re one of those bands that I don’t even try to get into, for the mere fact that their cult fanbase implies an all-or-nothing mentality. Either you know every single song, or you shouldn’t even bother. What I found, though, was that even as a casual fan, I recognized most of what they played. Not specific songs, necessarily, but in contrast to St. Vincent, I knew where they were going. Knowing that old man Biff is going to create alternate 1985 doesn’t stop me from watching it happen. Of course, I wish Pavement had axed the whole comedy skit introduction so they would have had time for an encore, but it was Sunday night. I was certainly spent.

Just like Back to the Future III has the components of everything I love about the first two films (time travel, allusions to previous films, Doc freaking out) while in no way living up to them, it felt like this year’s festival had everything I love (a festival in the city, reasonable start/stop times, exposure to new music) while still leaving a bit to be desired. But let’s be honest. Even if Pitchfork pulls a BTTF III and goes western next year, I’ll be there, ready to help get that train up to 88!

Best Performance: LCD Soundsystem
Best New (to me) Band: Local Natives
Band I Regret Not Seeing: Here We Go Magic
Band That Is Most Likely To Inspire Dave Chappelle to Return to Comedy: Major Lazer

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