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Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork ’10

on July 19, 2010, 2:47pm

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.”

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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 Pitchfork’s 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 haven’t slept for two days.”

p4k03 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10Kristian Matsson, The Tallest Man On Earth, had a pretty easy act to follow, but I still was worried he wouldn’t be able to keep this crowd’s 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 can’t wait until he inevitably gets a band behind him.

El-P
Aluminum Stage, 4:35 p.m.
“Let’s get it fucking started.”

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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 couldn’t. That’s not to say El-P didn’t 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-P’s 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.

p4k12 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10Liars
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 you’re 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.

.

Robyn
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 “Don’t 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 doesn’t get much better than this. Sexy, groovy, and endearingly foreign, Robyn should be a regular headliner at American music festivals.

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Broken Social Scene
Connector Stage, 7:20 p.m.
“This song is Forced To Love. It’s our mantra.”

p4k24 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10If 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 doesn’t have to push or force it. This works both for and against them, especially with such a late spot in a festival. It’s 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 “It’s 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). It’s 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 Band’s 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.

Eugene Mirman
Balance Stage, 8:00 p.m.
“[As Broken Social Scene played] See, from here it sounds like there’s 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 couldn’t have asked for finer lineup. But here’s the thing, just like some bands don’t translate to festival settings, some comedians don’t transfer to festival settings. Michael Showalter’s 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 child’s 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.

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Modest Mouse
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. It’s the best time slot because you’re 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.

It’s not that Brock has ‘lost it’, but his trademark bray—that scary and penetrating voice that sounds like it’s 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. That’s not to say the band acts the same. The Mouse’s musicians are tight and are continually improving in sound over the years. But it’s Brock that has been left behind.

“The Devil’s 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 Brock’s 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 they’re going to be a great headliner, which honestly right now, they are not too far from. But far enough.

Saturday, July 17th

Free Energy
Aluminum Stage, 1:00 p.m.

“We’re breaking out this time.”

p4k31 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10Friday’s opener Sharon Von Etten didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 there’s 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.

Real Estate
Connector Stage, 1:45 p.m.
“Budweiser, Sprite, everything is alright.”

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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: it’s all pretty much the same. I couldn’t 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.

Delorean
Aluminum Stage, 2:30 p.m.

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It’s 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”, Delorean’s 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.

Titus Andronicus
Connector Stage, 3:20 p.m.
p4k51 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10“Wow, that’s my head up there on the screen. It’s 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, (“I’m 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.

Dâm Funk
Balance Stage, 4:15 p.m.
“Came to kill this mother fucker today.”

I caught Dâm Funk (pronounced “dame”) at the Bottom Lounge on Thursday night, because I knew scheduling wouldn’t allow me to catch his set here. But since Raekwon was running late, I stopped by. He looks like Ice-T’s 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 Dâm Funk is a damn fine musician, tickling the horizontal and vertical ivories deftly. In The End: Funky, futuristic yet retro, go see Dâm Funk at a club and get your resurrected groove on.

Raekwon
Aluminum Stage, 4:15 p.m. (But let’s call it, 4:35)
“WU-TANG, WU-TANG”

“Yeah hi, I ordered one large “Mother Fucking Ruckus” to be brought by Raekwon and it’s like 20 minutes late. Can I get it for free?”

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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 everyone’s 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 Raekwon’s 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 Ain’t 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.

Wolf Parade
Aluminum Stage, 6:15 p.m.
“It’s getting better all the time.”

Wolf Parade was the first band of the day that, for me, didn’t 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 “I’ll 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 Parade’s 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.

Panda Bear
Connector Stage, 7:25 p.m.
“…”

p4k59 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10

There was some talk at the festival about how disappointing Animal Collective was last year at Lollapalooza. I’ve 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 I’m 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 Bear’s set. On one hand, the music was almost entirely unentertaining, self- indulgent, easy to make fun of, and so left-field avant-whatever that there’s no way a crowd of thousands would have the patience to absorb it. On the other hand, there wasn’t 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. I’m serious. We all need to live in the abyss sometimes, in the dark unknown of sonic experimentation, even if it’s 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 Panda’s nasally drone. In The End: Atonal, bizarre, and challenging. Good or bad, Panda Bear’s set allowed for a new kind of energy, one that led nicely into LCD Soundsystem.

LCD Soundsystem
Aluminum Stage, 8:30 p.m.
“Sorry, but we have these 12-minute songs and it’s 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. There’s that, and there’s also the fact that their 90 minute set tore into Pitchfork the way a headliner ought to.

p4k63 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10

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 Stone’s 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 band’s 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.

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Following that, LCD played on into the evening, with other mini-climaxes appearing in “Yeah “ and the closer “New York, I Love You But You’re 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, I’m an easy mark. In The End: It’s 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

CAVE
Balance Stage, 1:00 p.m.
“Don’t 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 wouldn’t hear anything harder for a long while on Sunday.

p4k66 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10Best Coast
Balance Stage, 1:55 p.m.
“Free Weezy.”

Clouds loomed overhead, as Bethany Cosentino and her California outfit Best Coast begun the first of many chilled out acts at Pitchfork on Sunday. I’m not entirely sold on her act: she’s 22, she’s super reminding me of Heather Graham from Boogie Nights, she’s certainly alluring, but her siren songs lacked a fundamental truth to them live. As a performer, she’s too static, and her sentiment seemed detached and aimless. Best Coast is young, and I’m anxious to follow Cosentino’s 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.

Girls
Aluminum Stage, 2:30 p.m.
“Now I’m 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 you’ll 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 aren’t really touring anymore, the band finds their niche and plays to it nicely.

p4k68 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10

Local Natives
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.

p4k76 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10St. Vincent
Connector Stage, 5:15 p.m.
“I’m an actor.”

Annie Clark’s success in her band St. Vincent is predicated on the fact that she’s 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) it’s 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. There’s 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.

Major Lazer
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?

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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, there’s 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” wasn’t 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 anyone’s for the taking.

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Big Boi
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 I’m going to make a stand right now and say “stop it.” If you’re 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 band’s 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.

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 Sure, throw in a ‘Kast tune here and there, ya’ll are dungeon family first generation. But don’t 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 didn’t 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 Raekwon’s breakdancing kids came bounding back did the energy get relit. In The End: Big Boi’s 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.

Pavement
Aluminum Stage, 8:30 p.m.
“This song’s called ‘Range Life’.”

We’ve come to the end, you and I. If we haven’t 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 don’t troll this wonderful website who’s graciously let me post the following review. The onus of what’s to come lies solely on the author.

p4k88 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10

There’s little point in me reviewing this show. I could fake it. I could fake it really well. I’m 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 doesn’t understand Pavement? It’s 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 it’d be a waste of my time and yours. So, in lieu of a review, here’s a brief letter:

To the youth of Pitchfork Music Festival who felt Slighted and Disenchanted,

Pavement sang songs, but I didn’t know most of them. People danced, but I didn’t 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.

p4k90 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10

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 you’re better than me.” Young or old, you know what I’m talking about. The whole show left me supremely melancholic. I wanted desperately to connect to what was happening on stage, but I kept failing.  Where’s my generation’s Pavement? How come I don’t 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 Pavement’s 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, didn’t know what song just played, so I went up to him and asked him what song that just was. He didn’t know. I asked him if he’s 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. I’ve been to all six Pitchfork Festivals and that was the worst thing they’ve ever put up on stage. Horrible.”

p4k92 Revelations in Union Park: CoS at Pitchfork 10I 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 didn’t understand, I felt so good knowing that this guy didn’t “get it”. I’m included once again. My sanctimonious soul was revived, and now I am confident, intelligent, and unique. I have agency in this man’s stupidity at not realizing the genius of Major Lazer. And now I’m even more depressed than I was before.

Please don’t 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 it’s the bullshit that I felt about Pavement’s exclusivity that I know a lot of people felt about a lot of bands. Just because you don’t “get” something doesn’t make it a personal slight on you. Just because Pitchfork hypes a band that you don’t like doesn’t mean they understand something you don’t. There’s 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 couldn’t 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.
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