Monday, July 31, 2006

Pitchfork Festival

Hey folks, I wasn't able to go to the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago this past weekend but my friend, Tom (he signs his comments with "TK"), was there and sent me this summary of the two days. Tom is now flying to VT for ther rest of his vacation and will be going to the Editors show up in Montreal tomorrow night with me. Needless to say, he's a big music fan. Plus, he gets makes his living as a writer. So, this is better than the usual crap I scratch out. Thanks, TK.


Day One

Quite frankly, the heat is getting to me.

It started with the 2001 Radiohead show in Grant Park with temperatures in
the upper 90s and heat index warnings. Then it continued at Coachella in
2004 (over 100 both days but it's in the desert), Sasquatch in 2005 (mid
90s, record heat wave) and now last weekend's Pitchfork Festival at
Chicago's Union Park and temperatures in the mid 90s both days.

My sidekick Rich and I (I'd be his sidekick if he drove) avoided passing out
by drinking umpteen bottles of water, which were fortunately big and $1 a
pop. As far as the brief setup of the festival, the Aluminum and Connector
stages were about a football field apart, which enabled one band to play on
one stage while the other stage took down/set up for the next act. So you
essentially had a rapid fire succession of acts from 1 to 9. We basically
stayed behind the mixer board at the Aluminum Stage and then just turned 90
degrees to the left to check out the next band.

Before I get into band reviews, I need to point out just how much of a pain
in the ass I found the guy introducing every act to be. He combined the
worst, most condescending traits of your parents and the know-it-all guy
from work, or the bar, that turns out to not know shit. I'll call him MC
Wannabe - an endless string of public service announcements, plugging for
whatever crap they're selling and lame attempts at humor while introducing
bands. Some people simply need to be kept from microphones at all costs. I
came to hear music, not how great this festival is compared to Lollapalooza,
how great the merchandise tents and the local music scene is,

Hot Machines: Described as a "garage-rock supergroup" by the Chicago Reader,
they evidently don't have much in terms of available material on CD. It
didn't stop them from providing an energetic start to the day.

Chin Up Chin Up: Like any bad reporter, I failed to bring a notebook and
write anything down. With all of my notes mental, I'm bound to forget
certain things about certain acts. The good news is that if I forget
anything of note about a band, like local product Chin Up Chin Up, then I
don't have to write much about their unmemorable set.

Man Man: Winner of Best Organized Drum Circle (Saturday) as well as Most
Likely To Throw Its Own Feces At The Audience. They played for 35 minutes
and I think my head was going to explode if they played for 45 minutes. Yet
I was oddly entertained by the whole spectacle...

Band Of Horses: I'm not going to pretend I have encyclopedic knowledge of
every band that played - in fact, a fair number of acts will be new to me. I
have enjoyed Everything All The Time, the debut by Band Of Horses, quite a
bit. Upon listening to them close the set with The Funeral, I was able to
forget for a while that my forearms and legs were covered with beads of
sweat and that it felt like I could actually see myself sweating away.

Mountain Goats: Drum's Not There. If you're going to constantly try to be
clever when you're on the same bill as Art Brut, you need to do a better job
of it than these guys did.

Destroyer: I saw Destroyer open for The New Pornographers in Atlanta last
fall and usually when my friend Nick wants to ruin a band for me, he'll sing
them in his unique, hideous style. This time, it was simply a question, the
type that once implanted in your head will never escape. "Does he talk this
way all the time?", Nick asked of Pornographer/Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar.
We weren't sure but we did find that Bejar sings in the same tone and
cadence, every song, and it gets on my nerves. When moonlighting with the
Pornographers, the trait doesn't reveal itself. When he's doing a set with
Destroyer, I can't help but be agitated. I admire some of his work but it's
a hangup I can't get over.

Art Brut: At Sasquatch, I remember The Arcade Fire playing midway through
the afternoon and thinking I was unlikely to see a better performance for
the rest of the day. I felt the same way after watching Art Brut and I was
right. I'll admit I'm biased and a huge fan of Bang Bang Rock N Roll after
Murph burned a few tracks for me and their live set only increased my
infatuation with these clowns. It can easily be lost while giggling to their
silly lyrics just how good the music is and the guitar work proved to be
even more rabid live. Then there's the antics of lead singer Eddie Argoos,
who jumped rope with his microphone, imitated an airplane and made me nearly
pull a rib muscle laughing during the closer of Good Weekend. After proudly
exclaiming the signature lyric of "I've seen her naked...TWICE!" he followed
it up by celebrating "Twice! Twice! Twice! Twice!...". Another memorable
spoof was his oh-so-tender rendition of Rusted Guns Of Milan that proved to
be a pitch-perfect ballad farce.

Ted Leo & The Pharamcists: By this time we were desperate for shade and a
smoothie. I'm not too familiar with Ted Leo but what I heard, I certainly
enjoyed. I'll tack him on the list of bands I plan to find out more about.

The Walkmen: I own a copy of Bows & Arrows and if I've got issues with Dan
Bejar, surely I should have a beef with the Bob Dylan-Rod Stewart strains of
Hamilton Leithauser, right? But I don't and I can only defend my answer with
personal preference. I was pleasantly surprised by their set with its energy
and sometimes even angry outbursts that all seemed to work. They even
callled a couple of guys from Man Man out to play horns on one track.

Futureheads: Once again, a set interrupted by a break for food and drink
(prices were fairly reasonable). What I heard, I liked.

Silver Jews: We skipped out early. Usually I'm the last person to hit the
exit early when I paid money for a ticket but we had a 90-minute commute to
Rich's in-laws an another day of dealing with brutal heat to think about. I
was on the verge of sweating through my shirt for the third time and
something had to give. So I can either kick myself for bailing on a quality
band or relish what I had. I would have paid $30 to see Art Brut and I got
to see a bunch of other good bands to boot.

Day Two

On Sunday Rich and I came far more prepared to deal with elements. We had
sunblock and hats on Saturday but we added some folding chairs, an umbrella
and a gallon jug of water that coupled with a steady breeze made a big
difference. Unfortunately, there was no escaping that punk bitch MC Wannabe
and his diarrhetic banter (Drink lots of fluids! Watch your friends! Check
out all the tents! Wipe your ass after you crap!).

Tapes 'n Tapes: If Tapes 'n Tapes somehow turn out to be the Rolling Stones,
I'll feel compelled to pay for a $200 ticket and see their geriatric asses
touring when they're in their 60s because they've been such a bargain so
far. I paid $4 to see them at a small club in Madison in early January.
Since then, they have a new bass player and a far more refined set. One of
the advantages of playing early is when you have really soft interludes,
there's no distracting noise to mess with it. Tapes' Internet director
introduced them by encouraging people to blog about them in a positive
light, otherwise they'd kill their dog or hurt their weakest family member.
The mock threats were funny but the band stands on its own and has picked up
an edge, which I think it's a good thing. We've had a recent blog discussion
on overhyped acts and Tapes entered the discussion. Having The Loon as a
debut coupled with a live set like this makes me think there's plenty of
promise to be had here.

Danielson: Murph trashed them in a recent live review and I found Ships
falling short of the hype despite help from the likes of Sufjan Stevens and
Deerhoof. I tried to give him another chance but it simply wasn't happening.
Too many off-kilter screeches for my taste.

Jens Lekman: Lekman's breezy pop went over well as the temperature, which
was OK during Tapes 'n Tapes, began to rise. I had trouble ignoring his
backup band, which appeared to be a bunch of middle school girls. Don't ask
me how Lekman enticed this Jimmy Page-aged harem to play with him.

The National: The National started with an upbeat set until I heard one of
the mixer guys say "Everyone's ripping off Joy Division." As if almost on
cue, the set lost steam and a citation had to be issued for poaching Ian

Liars: Winner of Most Organized Drum Circle (Sunday). I've been reeled in by
their latest release, Drum's Not Dead, recently so I was intrigued by what
I'd see from them. Easily the loudest band to perform at the festival, Liars
ranged from searing primal noise to limits-pushing screaming. Like Man Man,
I found myself strangely engrossed, perhaps even more. The lead singer at
one point stated "the stage is hot and black," which I didn't think much of
until realizing after the song that he was barefoot and wisely opted for a
pair of shoes. He later stripped down to what appeared to be a blue waitress
dress, which offered a bit too much of a tighty-whities show than I cared
for. He made up for it and then some by mocking MC Wannabe by saying
"Remember what the guy said. Be sure to drink lots and lots of beer and rub
yourself with a fried chicken. That's what we did before we came on." It
wasn't knocking him out cold by swinging a guitar at his head from behind
like I'd hoped, but sometimes you have to celebrate the small victories in

Aesop Rock & Mr. Lif: I tend to get bored very quickly with the hip-hop
genre if the band isn't named Public Enemy or the Beastie Boys. So Aesop
Suck and Mr. Stiff gave Rich and I an opportunity to rehydrate in the shade.

Mission of Burma: When a band decides to reunite after 19 years, I start
thinking hip replacements and county fairs. So you have a fairly compelling
story when a band returns from nearly two decades off by playing hip
festivals and kicking ass like Mission of Burma does. Their latest, The
Obliterati, has been a favorite disc of mine recently and the set was
fantastic. They had one glitch when a unit overheated on them but they
quickly hopped to another tune. The set blended in chaotic numbers from
their early days with more streamlined recent numbers, all played with
relentless driving force. You wonder what possessed them to reunite and find
a somewhat different sound but they certainly showed no signs of slowing
down. Most bands at this point in their careers would have folded the tent
or should be begged to do so. With that said, Mission of Burma simply
doesn't know how to act its age.

Devendra Banhart, Yo La Tengo, Spoon and Os Mutantes: We bailed again early.
Rich has a wife and two kids he wanted to get back to at a resonable hour
and I only have the next day before heading out to Vermont on vacation. So
while I skipped out on a fair number of bands, I've also done my share in
terms of enduring ridiculous heat to see bands I like. I don't second-guess
myself for not seeing every part of a place I go on vacation to and I won't
look back on missing some of the bands I'd normally hang around to check
out. Instead I'll take to the road with delightful visions of Art Brut and
Mission of Burma dancing in my head. For $40 total for two days, it proved
quite a bargain.


It should also be noted that Eddie Argos of Art Brut gave a nice shout-out to Team Band during "Formed a Band". "TEAM BAND! TOP OF THE POPS!" Watch the video of it here.

Plus, in the photo above, that's a Team Band button that Argos is sporting.

I like Art Brut and Team Band. And now Art Brut likes Team Band. The world is in harmony.

Art Brut | Formed a Band (acoustic) | buy the album


jds said...

Great synopsis. Thanks.
Even non-bloggers are writing more then me!

Flatlander said...

jds, knowing that you enjoy blogging, I'm guessing you are just buried in the new job. We'll miss you at Editors.

But post something. Just anything so we know you are alive.

K. said...

no Diplo? no CSS? no Spank Rock? no Spoon? no Flosstradamus or Os Mutantes? your killing me.

Nice right up though ;)

K. said...

and that should be you're not "your" i do that all the time...terrible habit.

Anonymous said...

I stuck to the main stages so I was going to miss out on anything in the tents (i.e. the Biz 3 stage). Spank Rock played at the same time on a different stage as Art Brut and there's no freaking way I would miss Art Brut. Easily the biggest negative of festivals like this and Coachella is that two or more bands you'd like to check out could play simultaneously. Spoon or Os Mutantes were casualties of me bailing out early and much as I wanted to stay start-to-finish, the heat was insane. I certainly wanted to see them, Silver Jews and Yo La Tengo. Thanks for the feedback.


PS - Editors were fantastic in Montreal Tuesday night.