Five years ago, 2005, Chicago Illinois: It was called The Intonation Music Festival that was curated by Pitchfork Media. I was there. I saw it all. From The Hold Steady playing at about 1:30 p.m. to moshing with Death From Above 1979, leaving covered in dirt from the infield of a baseball diamond. To being disappointed Xiu Xiu didn’t play my favorite song of theirs (“I Luv The Valley OH”), to hearing A.C. Newman play “Miracle Drug” two times, back to back, with the first time about one step out of tune. To wondering what the hell Four-Tet was doing behind that lap top, to The Decemberists’ headlining performance. Topped with Tortoise’s gorgeous set, this was – and still is – an amazing concert memory.
Half a decade later, I now call Chicago my home, and I return to Pitchfork Music Festival for the first time since then. A lot has changed. There are more stages, the line up sports more adrenaline, and it’s certainly become a popular locale for locals and weekenders every July. And while this summer happened to tag along a blitzkrieg of a heat wave, the festival still sold out, drawing thousands upon thousands to the intimate Union Park event.
Without further ado, here are my thoughts, feelings, and impressions…
Friday, July 16th
Sharon Van Etten
Aluminum Stage, 3:30 p.m.
“There’s a lot of pressure.”
For the first hour of Pitchfork, we were treated to two singer-songwriters. The first, Sharon Van Etten, is a kind, nervous, coffee-shop singer who plays a full-bodied cherry-red Gibson guitar. On Friday, cracking open the festival weekend, she played new songs – rather humbly, mind you – but her songs were hardly a change from the silence that preceded it. Maybe this uber slow fade was intentional on Pitchforks part, but poor Van Etten is just not suited to play her tortured love songs in the middle of a giant stage in 90 degree weather. Even if her downstroke-centric guitar playing added a great tension to her work, they still just faded into the ether. In The End: Her gorgeous voice and unrequited love ballads should fit nicely on a small wooden stage while you sip a cino.
Tallest Man On Earth
Connector Stage, 4:00 p.m.
Thank you. I havent slept for two days.
Kristian Matsson, The Tallest Man On Earth, had a pretty easy act to follow, but I still was worried he wouldnt be able to keep this crowds attention. It seems as though 75% of this crowd is lighting up right now, as I smell all the different varietals of cannabis sativa, from dirty to dank. Well, hipsters sure know how to get their smoke on. Anyway. The first few notes of Wild Hunt sent shivers limb to limb. He can whisper and have hundreds of people rapt, hanging on the sound of his raspy voice, eager to follow him on as he wispily travels to his next sweeping vocal line. His lyrics show wisdom beyond his years and his voice dances around his melodies skillfully and soulfully, like a sober Van Morrison. His setlist was a tad off-balance, playing King Of Spain third, and leaving no where to go to top that energy, but the Swede took the day so far, and filled that giant stage nicely. In The End: TTMOE pried smiles, stole ladies hearts, and proved his prowess as frontman. I cant wait until he inevitably gets a band behind him.
Aluminum Stage, 4:35 p.m.
Lets get it fucking started.
Charged with the above task of starting it, the Def Jux rapper El-P took the stage next and oh how I wanted to get with that first song. Oh, oh, oh, how I did. But sound problems plagued it and I just couldnt. Thats not to say El-P didnt do his job, though. His rhyme-centric and rapid-fire flow drew me in, as the backing band played more like a KMFDM industrial goth band than your standard hip-hop fare. El-P spit out his song Patriot a capella, and reeled me in to punch me in the face with his political style. The middle to end of his set suffered from a poor environment setting, but his throwback style and exuberance got it started and kept it going all the way to closer The Overly Dramatic Truth, which built his set to a powerful, distorted finish. In The End: El-Ps dark and cavernous hip-hop may not have been juxtaposed well in the midday heat, but with skill, speed, and spitfire lyrics and production, the group did its job nicely.
Connector Stage, 5:30 p.m.
“We’re gonna do a Bauhaus cover. We were going to do Tribe Called Quest but those guys did it first”
If youre ever inclined to have intimate relations while on a punk spaceship, I suggest you check out Liars. Unlike James Murphy, I actually am inclined to believe that Liars were at the first Can show in Cologne. Lead singer Angus Andrew bounces around stage like a sex Christ on acid, distorting his vocals with a chaos pad. We Fenced Other Gardens With Bones Of Our Own sounded tight, or as tight as Liars choose to be. That aforementioned Bauhaus cover resulted in a pretty good version of In The Flat Field. In The End: Festival band? Probably not, but Liars commanded their set and asked the audience to get down with their art rock. Many people did.
Aluminum Stage, 6:25 p.m.
[Brought] this thing like a Dancehall Queen
Another Swedish import showed us lowly Americans how fem-pop is done. Robyn, armed with an all alabaster backing band put on the show of the day as she danced and cooed her way through a set mostly focused on her latest album, Body Talk Pt. 1. The radius of dancing that expanded from the center of the crowd was fearlessly led by the songstress whose afro-R&B gyrations inspired the masses. During Dont Fucking Tell Me What To Do, Robyn took part in her own personal workout routine that would have made Billy Blanks/Kanye West proud. In The End: As festival performances go, it doesnt get much better than this. Sexy, groovy, and endearingly foreign, Robyn should be a regular headliner at American music festivals.
Broken Social Scene
Connector Stage, 7:20 p.m.
This song is Forced To Love. Its our mantra.”
If the music business is indeed an industry of cool, Broken Social Scene (BSS) are the CEOs. This dectet knew how to rest on their heels and play with confidence and is one of the few bands that doesnt have to push or force it. This works both for and against them, especially with such a late spot in a festival. Its one thing for fans, who love to hear their full sound on World Sick and 7/4 (Shoreline), but outside of the fan realm, their Ray Bans sound is somewhat innocuous. People bragged to me about their 2 ½ hour set at SXSW, and their headlining material at other festivals. I felt short-changed. Songs like KC Accidental and Its All Gonna Break were dearly missed from their set, (though they did play those songs five years ago at Intonation/Pitchfork Festival, so I understand). Its hard not to like them, though, because they make you feel so cool, and their guest musicians added more layers to their towering music. If The Bands Robertson, Danko, and Helm formed a group in Canada in the ’90s, I bet they would sound like Broken Social Scene. In The End: BSS came up a bit short, but they go down like a nice glass of red wine as the day ends. Bluesy and mature, they were head-nod producers.
Balance Stage, 8:00 p.m.
[As Broken Social Scene played] See, from here it sounds like theres an intergalactic war happening.”
Kudos to Pitchfork for adding a comedy tent on Friday to the festival. They had nothing but the best of intentions, and with Hannibal Burress, Wyatt Cenac, Michael Showalter, and Eugene Mirman, you couldnt have asked for finer lineup. But heres the thing, just like some bands dont translate to festival settings, some comedians dont transfer to festival settings. Michael Showalters brand of anti-humor mixed with the thickest sarcasm fell flat. Eugene Mirman, the headliner dealt with the sound bleeding in extremely well and warmed the crowd over, all while understanding that he was working under not-so-convenient conditions. Favorite moments were him playing a song from Joe Piscopo’s website and just letting it be stand-alone as a joke, grammatically incoherent protest signs (“Abortion is neither here nor there!”), and a delightful little story about sending a time machine full of a childs cum back to Hitler. In The End: There probably won’t be a comedy stage next year, but at least for Mirman, he got the bulk of the crowd engaged, which was no small feat.
Aluminum Stage, 8:30 p.m.
I am my own damn god.
Modest Mouse (hereafter: The Mouse) headlined Friday night as the sun was setting. Its the best time slot because youre starting at dusk and it really is this sort of starting gate for the night: anything can happen. Full disclosure: I was not exactly looking forward to The Mouse unlike the thousands of other people. After this show, I am now convinced there are only two options for optimum Mousage. Option a) you get silly drunk and elbow your way to the front of the crowd and rock the fuck out. Option b) you listen to them at home. Any other option will leave you seriously disappointed, as was the case with yours truly.
Its not that Brock has lost it, but his trademark braythat scary and penetrating voice that sounds like its one rude screw away from becoming unhinged (a voice that drew me into The Mouse in the first place, even going so far for me as to compare him to Mr. Tom Waits a few times) – is homogenized live. It never feels dangerous, or unhinged. Just sloppy and loud. Thats not to say the band acts the same. The Mouses musicians are tight and are continually improving in sound over the years. But its Brock that has been left behind.
The Devils Work Day live is a mere husk of song compared to its palpability and immediacy on the album. Autumn Beds was a yawn. But there were moments of respite from the doldrums of Brocks vocals: Dashboard cohered surprisingly well, and the Dramamine into Life Like Weeds medley was a great showcase of their dynamic possibility as a band. Oh, and they didn’t play “Float On”, which made me laugh. You’re at a fucking festival, dude. Sorry, but you have to play it. In The End: Modest Mouse is a decent festival headliner, but Brock needs to figure out a game plan and work with his band better if theyre going to be a great headliner, which honestly right now, they are not too far from. But far enough.
Saturday, July 17th
Aluminum Stage, 1:00 p.m.
Were breaking out this time.
Fridays opener Sharon Von Etten didnt do it for me. Free Energy on the other hand, well, did. Either Pitchfork accidentally put them at one ‘o clock instead of way later in the bill, or Pitchfork is breaking music festival tradition and putting one of the best acts of the day first. I knew these guys could make a pretty good album, but I was blown away by their live show, and it honestly wasnt anything all that special. They are a young-ish band who borrow from the likes of early Rolling Stones, The Strokes, T-Rex, and a little of The Hold Steady. Nothing fancy, nothing digital: just some good ol fashioned roots rock to open up Saturday. Their simplistic lyrics are about high-steaks love, implying theres nothing else to do but make these choices, like this is all we got tonight or “we’re never waking up if we never let it go.” They also (cheaply) throw in the casual indefinite pronoun like child and kid, which just win me directly over. In The End: Poppy, fun, and packaged for arenas, Free Energy is a must see live act, kids.
Connector Stage, 1:45 p.m.
Budweiser, Sprite, everything is alright.
After Free Energy, I was already a hot mess and only one band into the day. I needed a cool down and lead singer Martin Courtney served up the best kind of afternoon refreshment, a Suburban Beverage. As I laid supine in the shade and took in the surf rock of Real Estate, I thought about their song structure, style, dynamics, and themes: its all pretty much the same. I couldnt really tell what song was which, or what direction they were going with their setlist. Normally this would make me bored or angry or mysteriously hungry, but as the notes pawed at me under the tree, I never wanted it to end. Visions of pools, beaches at sunset, barbeques, and laughter danced in my head. Real Estate is the epitome of summer, and added a great feel to an oppressively hot afternoon. In The End: Refreshing, chill, and dreamy, the oasis that was Real Estate disappeared too soon.
Aluminum Stage, 2:30 p.m.
Its hot out at half past two, about 92° by my phone. Delorean acted as our first foray into the dance-pop column at Pitchfork, and after winning The World Cup, these Spaniards were riding high with big hopes of besting the heat to get the crowd moving. Cutting to the chase immediately with Seasun, Deloreans electronics sounded crisp and digestible, but lead singer Ekhi Lopetegi sounded quivering and unsteady. His reverberated vocals never reached the audience as a command; only a suggestion. And with that, the heat won. People conserved their energy and nodded politely to their pounding electro-pop, though each individual track begged for something more. Bad luck, Delorean. In The End: Aggressive, optimistic, but vocally unspecific, Delorean played like the US Team in The World Cup: with heart, skill, and pride, but their competition got the better of them.
Connector Stage, 3:20 p.m.
Wow, thats my head up there on the screen. Its like a metaphor about our post-modern condition. More about that later.
Titus Andronicus won.
They won new fans, (I heard These guys are amazing and Holy shit! and Why have I never heard of these guys?) They won best onstage banter about the heat, (Im sweating like a pregnant nun talking to the Pope up here.) They won best audience participation when lead singer Patrick Stickles dove into the audience during No Future Part Three and offered the mic to a fan. They won best onstage augmentation with a horn-blower, keyboardist, and cellist complimenting most of their set. They won best rock show. They won for giving a shout out to public libraries at the end of their set. But most importantly, they won for convincing all of Pitchfork Music Festival that we will always be losers. In The End: Titus Andronicus forever.
Balance Stage, 4:15 p.m.
Came to kill this mother fucker today.
I caught DÃ¢m Funk (pronounced dame) at the Bottom Lounge on Thursday night, because I knew scheduling wouldnt allow me to catch his set here. But since Raekwon was running late, I stopped by. He looks like Ice-Ts younger cousin, plays a keytar, and champions P-funk mixed with enough synths and MIDI controllers to make the 80s something we can reach out and touch. His festival performance faltered a bit, due in part to the expanse of the space and his backing band not being a significant part of the show. His vocals come off a bit milk-toast soul, like a studio singer as a guest on a hip-hop track. But DÃ¢m Funk is a damn fine musician, tickling the horizontal and vertical ivories deftly. In The End: Funky, futuristic yet retro, go see DÃ¢m Funk at a club and get your resurrected groove on.
Aluminum Stage, 4:15 p.m. (But lets call it, 4:35)
Yeah hi, I ordered one large Mother Fucking Ruckus to be brought by Raekwon and its like 20 minutes late. Can I get it for free?
So: strike one. But when Raekwon did show up on stage, he informed us that we were gonna hear some old shit. And with that, much to everyones delight, he went right into C.R.E.A.M. This should have been fresh, but from where I was standing, the levels were way off and Raekwons verse was swallowed. After the song, the DJ was ill-prepared and was having serious issues with his decks. Technikal diffuculties? [rim shot] Anyhow, strike two. But Raekwon covered decently, surveying the audience on a variety of topics between how much we Chicagoans like Chicago and if we think this sound problem is shitty, too. Finally things seemed to be rolling along. Everything except for an interest in Wu-Tang classics. Back-tracking, song-truncating, and hype-men interfered with what could have been a unique hip-hop set. The old Wu-Tang songs sounded cliche at best, and stale at worst. Da Mystery Of Chessboxing was a smart choice, if only more songs carried that kind of intellect. Of note were guests Chi-Town Finest Breakers, a group of four pre-pubescent brothers and sisters who came on stage and boogalooed through Wu Tang Clan Aint Nothin to Fuck With. In sum, the kids stole the show. In The End: Raekwon wanted to please, but the lack of new solo material left me feeling cheated. Good flow, bad punctuality, weird and choppy energy.
Aluminum Stage, 6:15 p.m.
Its getting better all the time.
Wolf Parade was the first band of the day that, for me, didnt draw any comparisons to other bands. Wolf Parade is carved into the hall of music as Wolf Parade. Two singers with two distinct voices, heavy rock blended with synths, and an image-based lyrical style that mixes with some real anthemic love songs. Everything they played off Expo 86 seemed like the amps were up to 11, jumping out of the speakers, allowing for copious banging of heads. The climax came mid-set with crowd (and personal) favorite Ill Believe In Anything, as hands reached up to the heavens like a regular tent revival. Pen- and ultimate songs Cave-o-Sapien and Kissing The Beehive also reignited the energy, though the crowd seemed less receptive. Maybe Wolf Parades distinction is too limited for those unfamiliar with their sound. In The End: They could be a headliner, but that would require some research on the audiences part. They rock too hard to have songs go unknown. Steady, solid, and hard-hitting, but maybe too much of Wolf Parade is a bad thing.
Connector Stage, 7:25 p.m.
There was some talk at the festival about how disappointing Animal Collective was last year at Lollapalooza. Ive only seen their live videos, but it does seem a little strained and thin. So Panda Bear was fighting some negative vibes from me already, but Im open to everything and I kept telling myself this is going to good. Since Saturday, I’ve actually been torn on how to write about Panda Bears set. On one hand, the music was almost entirely unentertaining, self- indulgent, easy to make fun of, and so left-field avant-whatever that theres no way a crowd of thousands would have the patience to absorb it. On the other hand, there wasnt anything remotely chill on the A or C stages since Real Estate played a whole six hours beforehand. The festival was close to lighting up the tilt button at that point, and after careful consideration, I find myself actually behind the Panda Bear set. It was a genre not yet explored at the festival, and yes, we should have something that hardly anyone understands or follows. Im serious. We all need to live in the abyss sometimes, in the dark unknown of sonic experimentation, even if its challenging, esoteric noise peppered with level-peaking vocals and only two or so songs with a real nice beat. I recognized a few tunes: new track Tomboy and Person Pitch diddy Ponytail, but most were streamlined through a constant tone of Pandas nasally drone. In The End: Atonal, bizarre, and challenging. Good or bad, Panda Bears set allowed for a new kind of energy, one that led nicely into LCD Soundsystem.
Aluminum Stage, 8:30 p.m.
Sorry, but we have these 12-minute songs and its just the same shit over and over again.
Quipped James Murphy in a moment of improv during Pow Pow. LCD Soundsystem can arm themselves to the teeth with lyrical wit, self-deprecation, pop-culture references, and, like Titus Andronicus, couple that with songs that speak earnestly to the hearts of their listeners. They fire those beats into you and cull from your body every last ounce of energy to dance with strangers and celebrate the search for unattainable solutions to relationships, modern music, and the conundrum of life in the 21st century. Theres that, and theres also the fact that their 90 minute set tore into Pitchfork the way a headliner ought to.
The Aluminum Stage capped the night off right with one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend: LCD Soundsystem. As the first bass drum hits pulsed through the speakers (which, admittedly, didn’t resonate well toward the back of the crowd), the band soon glided into Us V Them, picking up where Titus Andronicus left off. Live, LCD find a heavier sound in David Scott Stones guitar, which sounds like they have some real nice Marshall stacks hooked to it. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House turned into a punk ‘n’ roll headbanger, and Movement had a powerful hard rock tweak to it. It was a running theme to have a bands climax in the middle of the set, as All My Friends united the crowd in joyful, teary sing-a-long. Groups of people were locked arm over shoulder and yawped together the final lyrics of the song, only to realize that friends were all around, whether strange or familiar.
Following that, LCD played on into the evening, with other mini-climaxes appearing in Yeah and the closer New York, I Love You But Youre Bringing Me Down + Empire State Of Mind. The pit was a sweaty mass and on the edges of the crowds, dance pods ebbed and flowed. Murphy sounded perfect, blending those shielded ironies (Losing My Edge) with real close to the vest moments (Someone Great). The gamut was run, and LCD Soundsytem left me wholly and wonderfully exhausted. But then again, Im an easy mark. In The End: Its what a headliner should be: pushing the crowd to the finish line of an exhausting and amazing day and being the best reward when you get there. Epic, inspirational, spectacular, and totally awesome.
Sunday, July 18th
Balance Stage, 1:00 p.m.
Dont forget to check out Bitchpork.
I get CAVE, cause I was in a similar band during high school. Riff-based hard-rock with few if any lyrics. Like CAVE, our drummer was a metal drummer and heavily influenced our sound. The band digs back to like an early Faith No More aesthetic with some nasty synths and hard hitting guitar, and prog-rock leanings. They slammed the side stage into fifth gear with near 40 minutes of doom-funk. In The End: I wouldnt hear anything harder for a long while on Sunday.
Balance Stage, 1:55 p.m.
Clouds loomed overhead, as Bethany Cosentino and her California outfit Best Coast begun the first of many chilled out acts at Pitchfork on Sunday. Im not entirely sold on her act: shes 22, shes super reminding me of Heather Graham from Boogie Nights, shes certainly alluring, but her siren songs lacked a fundamental truth to them live. As a performer, shes too static, and her sentiment seemed detached and aimless. Best Coast is young, and Im anxious to follow Cosentinos song-writing skills as she ages As the heads of the crowds traced tiny infinity symbols side to side, I eventually followed suit. The sun was out by the time she finished. In The End: Fuzzy, cute, tropical. No wonder this exists.
Aluminum Stage, 2:30 p.m.
Now Im a ghost man, in a ghost town.
You know that scene in Back To The Future where Marty McFly plays Johnnie B. Good? Well, take the house band from The Enchantment Under The Sea dance, and replace Marty McFly with The Jesus And Mary Chain, and youll get an idea of what Girls set was like. The juxtaposition of Ghost Mind and Hellhole Retrace was a favorite moment for me. The former sounded so fragile and the latter was by far the loudest song I heard at the festival. However, I believe they are among many bands here that are attached to a ticking time-bomb: their brilliant flash in the pan will soon be a mere afterimage. In The End: Twee, treble, and tremolo are Girls specialty, and since Paul Revere & The Raiders or The Troggs arent really touring anymore, the band finds their niche and plays to it nicely.
Balance Stage, 3:35 p.m.
[lead singer during sound check, 8va] I still owe money, to the money, to the money I owe.
Grizzly Foxes Local Natives Gorilla Manor is one great listen, and in anticipation of seeing their recreation of it live, I might have overplayed it. Local Natives reproduced it note for note, tone for tone, and beat for beat. Which means a) they are one of the most well-rehearsed and professional bands performing at the festival and b) I wanted something more, something to make Gorilla Manor pop. They half succeeded, but nearing my 20th band of the weekend, my palette has waned towards cynical, and only during Sun Hands did they add a couple measures of anticipation before the breakdown. That was cool. In The End: Harmonious, lively, and wildly talented, Local Natives have staying power. If they can dissect their sheen live, they will soon be on top.
Connector Stage, 5:15 p.m.
“I’m an actor.”
Annie Clarks success in her band St. Vincent is predicated on the fact that shes a well-versed musician who plays on the full spectrum of music. Actor allows her free range to use her experience to create this ethereal contemporary classical rock sound that stands atop so many other acts this festival. When an audience can see a band experimenting with real instruments (listen up, Panda Bear) its tolerable, welcoming, and engaging. From the dynamic opener Strangers to the fuzzy free jazz of Marrow, St. Vincent can rock just as hard as anyone, yet on Party her voice soared across Union Park like an angel. Theres a feeling to her live show akin to hearing Kid A live for the first time: a glorious challenge. Also, her guitar dance is the cutest thing ever. In The End: Thorough, mature, and innovative, St. Vincent are stylistic chameleons and are the standard bearers for the best female rock show in the scene today.
Aluminum Stage, 6:20 p.m.
I came to party! Do that crazy ballerina shit! Most importantly, someone is going to have sex and get pregnant! After all that butt sex, I need to smoke some weed! Gonna need to go to church after this.
You ever miss a crazy party, and the next day your friends all gush about what you missed?
In what will probably go down as the wildest party of the festival, Major Lazer was jaw-droppingly good. Diplo manned the decks, and listen, theres a reason people pay hundreds of dollars to see a Diplo DJ set. His skills are unsurpassed, and when the first beat dropped, the powder keg blew. Diplo is the spine of Major Lazer, grinding out non-stop dub mixes with reggae, house, and that signature lazer effect. But his team-work with Skerrit Bwoy is a match made in heaven. SB and his duo of daggerettes took the stage and hyped the crowd with do or die sentiments that left us with no other viable option but to dance our asses off. Two traditional Chinese dragon puppets bookended the stage and danced with the daggerettes, bottles of Henny and Champagne were imbibed and sprayed, Ace Of Base and Sleigh Bells were sampled, ballerinas pirouetted (and were eventually daggered), crowd members were dragged on stage (and were eventually daggered as well), Skerrit Bwoy dove from a ladder into the crowd, Skerrit Bwoy dove from a ladder to dagger one of his ladies. The list of ridiculous events goes on. Pon De Floor wasnt just the highlight of the show, the entire show was the highlight of the festival. In The End: The theatre of Major Lazer may be cheap thrills, but Diplo and Skerrit Bwoy owned the stage and the crowd. With two acts left, it was anyones for the taking.
Connector Stage, 7:25 p.m.
Oh yeh yer.
Talk about a tough act to follow. Big Boi came on stage to a warm cheer from the gathered crowd and launched right into Outkast classic ATLiens which won over pretty much everyone. Following that, Big Boi performed one half of plenty of other Outkast songs. Only in hip-hop is this practice encouraged and Im going to make a stand right now and say stop it. If youre a solo artist, be confident in your solo material. It was pathetic and naive for Big Boi to think he had to go through his other bands greatest hits to win over a crowd who no doubt were just as, if not more, excited to hear songs off of Sir Lucious Leftfoot.
Sure, throw in a Kast tune here and there, yall are dungeon family first generation. But dont open your set with half a retrospective of your singles. That being said, his new songs were outstanding. Big Boi amps up his flow live but still keeps it light and tight. His focus as a performer is like watching Ali in the ring, bobbing and weaving landing his punches and blows with skill. After a most unfortunate performance by Vonnegut on Follow Us, (I didnt know that was Vonnegut at first. I just thought some white guy won a contest or something.) Shutterbug proved the most entertaining song of the evening. There was a certain lull that happened after Shutterbug, and not until Raekwons breakdancing kids came bounding back did the energy get relit. In The End: Big Bois crossover rap is funky fresh, he (mostly) avoided live hip-hop clichés, but his setlist was mismanaged and unbalanced. An unfortunate misstep for one of the most talented performers in hip-hop.
Aluminum Stage, 8:30 p.m.
“This song’s called ‘Range Life’.”
Weve come to the end, you and I. If we havent parted ways yet, dear reader, I will bid you a fond farewell and offer you my sincerest thanks for reading. I mean that. I hope you enjoyed my observations. I also hope you dont troll this wonderful website whos graciously let me post the following review. The onus of whats to come lies solely on the author.
Theres little point in me reviewing this show. I could fake it. I could fake it really well. Im staring at a setlist online right now, I wrote notes on every song, I could piece it together and make it something really okay. But who wants to read a review from someone who doesnt understand Pavement? Its disingenuous. I did my research like a caring and responsible individual. I listened to Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain Crooked Rain a whole heaping ton before the performance. But, in the end itd be a waste of my time and yours. So, in lieu of a review, heres a brief letter:
To the youth of Pitchfork Music Festival who felt Slighted and Disenchanted,
Pavement sang songs, but I didnt know most of them. People danced, but I didnt really know why. The guitars were sloppy, but they sounded fine. Malkmus sounded above average; at times even good. But the whole premise for Pavement headlining is that they were really popular 20 years ago. I was five years-old 20 years ago.
The best way I can describe the show for me is this: seeing Pavement is like watching Godfather Pt. 2 without ever seeing The Godfather. I know this is supposed to be a masterpiece, a legend before my very eyes, a band known by everyone in the music industry. Unfortunately, I have no context. So what I see before me is a mediocre band playing mediocre lo-fi music. To me, this is what Pavement is out of context.
For the first time in a long while, I felt excluded. I went back to these old feelings of animosity toward Pitchfork which had long sense been buried. Stop making me feel stupid for not getting this, stop acting like youre better than me. Young or old, you know what Im talking about. The whole show left me supremely melancholic. I wanted desperately to connect to what was happening on stage, but I kept failing. Wheres my generations Pavement? How come I dont get to celebrate this? I left feeling guilt-ridden as a music writer, a music fan, a person. It was rough.
But there was a moment during Pavements set that saved me from throwing my computer in front of a train and never writing about music again. Between songs, I noticed a guy who was jumping up and down, clapping, having the absolute time of his life. I, of course, didnt know what song just played, so I went up to him and asked him what song that just was. He didnt know. I asked him if hes liking the show, and he said Yeah, this is amazing, you? I lied to him and said I was loving it. We talked about the festival a bit and he asked me what my favorite act was today and I told him it was Major Lazer. He jumped in, Oh my god, they were the worst thing. Ive been to all six Pitchfork Festivals and that was the worst thing theyve ever put up on stage. Horrible.
I was saved. I found my Pavement. It was, for this moment at least, Major Lazer. I had my circle of understanding, my opinions that someone else didnt understand, I felt so good knowing that this guy didnt get it. Im included once again. My sanctimonious soul was revived, and now I am confident, intelligent, and unique. I have agency in this mans stupidity at not realizing the genius of Major Lazer. And now Im even more depressed than I was before.
Please dont fall victim to what I felt. Pitchfork Music Festival was an amazing celebration of music and community, filled with so much love from the staff and artists. And its the bullshit that I felt about Pavements exclusivity that I know a lot of people felt about a lot of bands. Just because you dont get something doesnt make it a personal slight on you. Just because Pitchfork hypes a band that you dont like doesnt mean they understand something you dont. Theres no such thing as elitism in music, from Panda Bear to Free Energy.
If this whole treatise seems all too obvious and jejune and preachy, I apologize. These are my thoughts at the close of a wonderful weekend. I couldnt have asked for anything more from a festival, even Pavement. In The End: Pavement was pretty good, after all.
All photography provided by Meghan Brosnan.