Last week, RFC's own writing/rapping phenom Emanuel Vinson braved the heat and the hipsters of Union Park for the Pitchfork Music Festival for not one, not two, but all three days. See what he had to say about the fest with photography by Josh Darr!
El-P's set started off very shakily- El's backing music, with all its bombast and layers initially just sounded like a seizuring subwoofer and his mic continuously messed up throughout. But at a certain point in the set (maybe around the solo on the giant keytar or the A Tribe Called Quest call-and-response) every thing started to click in. It's not just that he makes impossibly epic industrial rap, it's that he hooks you into its emotional core. Enough so that (especially given the rough beginning) the closing one-two punch of "How to Serve Man" and "The Overly Dramatic Truth," definitely felt more than a little cathartic.
I consider myself a fairly big Liars fan. Even so, there are definitely parts of their albums that I enjoy more than others. Aside from recent single "Scissor," the more visceral side of Liars doesn't often intermingle with their more ethereal, creeping side. What is thrilling on record (like "Plaster Casts of Everything") was incredible live on Friday. However, the more tedious aspects of their discography were also present in full and often derailed the tension and momentum of the set. Still, lead singer Angus Andrew was magnetic and charismatic, and the Bauhaus cover was a beast.
I took the chance after Liars to go get some food and wander around, but coming back I caught the tail end of Robyn's set. And during that last half, it was a hell of a show. She sounded great, her band sounded great, and she looked great throwing herself into every inch of her songs. I definitely regret not being up front and center for the spectacle. My favorite moment was during "None of Dem," when she punctuated the line "None of these boys can dance..." with a quick "it's true!," in reference to her decidedly nonrhythmic Pitchforkfest audience.
So Broken Social Scene are all-growed up. Granted, I should have seen it coming, what with all the fedoras. Still, what once felt on record like a chaotic group of brilliant girls & boys singing their hearts out has pretty much transitioned into a few cool dads and their friends playing around onstage. Which is a realization that tainted my perception of the set somewhat (Someone referred to them as a "nostalgia act!" Already?!) but it was still a very good show. Not a lot there that wasn't there when I saw them a year ago, but if BSS are done breaking new ground, they're still dependable as ever. Best quote of the fest comes from Kevin Drew's closing statement: "Hope isn't a word- it's a fucking responsibility!"
Modest Mouse were also very good, if not entirely spectacular. I think there was a little bit too much emphasis on the blandest of their new material ("Education" and "Autumn Beds" bore me so much I can't stand it), though opening with The Moon & Antarctica deep cut "Tiny Cities of Ashes" was way inspired.They jammed a lot throughout the set, but it always felt tasteful and dynamic. Isaac was amicable and funny, talking to the crowd a surprising amount about important things like being too drunk and eating glow sticks. The band did a good job of reminding just how underrated Good News is, but I really think if they had played even one Lonesome Crowded West track it would have elevated the set significantly.
The two obvious (and oft-mentioned) touchstones for New Jersey's Titus Andronicus are Bright Eyes and Bruce Springsteen. The first time I saw the band, they were opening up for Los Campesinos! and quite possibly outshined said headliners. They were perfect then, and they were perfect on Saturday. Opening with "A More Perfect Union," the lead single from this year's excellent The Monitor, Titus roared through a set that was stacked with one joyously desperate singalong after another.
The Smith Westerns let their hometown advantage bleed into their onstage swagger, with lead singer Cullen Omori slyly mugging it up in-between songs. The songs themselves are good enough; besides "Be My Girl" I'm not that familiar with their album, and wasn't necessarily compelled by their Saturday set to become familiar. I hear a lot about the craziness of old Smith Westerns shows in much tinier venues, so it sounds like a festival setting- while certainly a good look- wasn't necessarily conducive to their vibe.
Wolf Parade gave an interview a few months ago saying that they felt like new album Expo 86 was the sonic equivalent of the gigantic music notes in Archie comics that floated from the speakers during a party. Besides being my favorite metaphor ever, it definitely felt like a true one during their set. Their setup was on point, and every song sounded great. The energy of the crowd during favorites like "I'll Believe in Anything" and new (excellent) single "Ghost Pressure" was uncontainable. They finished up with an extended "Kissing the Beehive," during which their usual weirdo indie rock sound eventually transformed into straight up prog metal during a time-signature slashing breakdown that I never wanted to end (and for a while seemed like it wouldn't).
If you're an avid listener to LCD Soundsystem's disco/post-punk hybrid, then you are probably regretting not seeing them at Pitchfork. And unless you're one of the p4k attendees who didn't get the memo about "North American Scum" I'd take a guess that you feel like I did- they delivered on every level. The setlist was a perfect blend from all three of their albums and James Murphy and band were killing it the entire night. The thrill of being in the full presence of a song like "All My Friends" live is a pure rush of ecstatic emotion. All I can say is get tickets to see them the next chance you can.
My Sunday started with wandering around dizzily looking for somewhere to get out of the oppressive heat. When I finally settled, it was for Washed Out's set. There's a reason dudes like Washed Out and Neon Indian rose above their chillwave siblings. I'm sure that initially the interest was in the strength of the music, which is definitely excellent on all counts. But beyond being a good musician, Ernest Greene is something of a star. He's disarmingly handsome, easygoing yet precise, and knows how to connect to a crowd just right with his lax charm. Washed Out's set managed to be beautifully dreamlike and physically compelling for the audience, the latter of which Panda Bear's Saturday set had veered far from.
I have a feeling that at least half the crowd up front for Local Natives, like me, were simply waiting it out for Neon Indian and/or Sleigh Bells but by the end of their rapturous set everyone was way into it. Trying to describe their sound ("multi-part harmonies," "afrobeat-inspired rhythyms") would make them sound merely like a pastiche of all that is indie rock in 2010, and maybe they are, but that doesn't change the fact that they're damn good songwriters as well. Lead singer Taylor Rice got more and more into the music as the set went on until he was almost convulsing during the finale and the enthusiasm was contagious as all hell.
Hearing Neon Indian on record vs seeing him and his band live is like the difference between Super Mario World and Super Mario 64. It's hard to refer to Alan Palomo's creations as anything other than jams when you're caught bouncing back and forth to "Deadbeat Summer." And the whole set was jam after jam- even new song "Sleep Paralysis" felt as warm and familiar as anything on Psychic Chasms. I'm definitely onboard the Neon Indian bandwagon for the foreseeable future.
After such a set, Sleigh Bells- another band with only one (near-perfect) album out- had a lot to live up to. It was their homecoming to the festival of the site that crowned them. And when eight amps got wheeled out to the stage, the anticipation was almost unbearable. Especially since we had all missed Major Lazer (the other sureshot party act) to be there. Guitarist Derek Miller and singer/force of nature Allison Krauss came out, the crowd noise rose to a fever pitch, and the set started. But something was wrong- we couldn't hear the guitar ("Infinity," or otherwise) at all. The crowd was still in a frenzy as Allison sashayed, cooed, and yelped across the stage but the sound was pretty much at the same volume that the house music had been in what was easily the most crushing disappointment of the festival.
Pitchfork 2010 didn't live up to my lofty expectations of BEST P4K EVER, but it was definitely a blast and well worth the time and money. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! See you next year!