Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pitchfork Festival | Chicago | Jul 13 - 15

While I spent the weekend watching tennis and taking the kids to the county fair, Senior Midwest Correspondent for False 45th, TK, was with all the cool kids at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago' Union Park. He was kind enough to hustle over a review of all three days before he heads East to visit Vermont for the weekend.

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Fri., July 13
Union Park
Chicago, IL


To kick off this year's Pitchfork Festival, All Tomorrow's Parties "Don't Look Back" joined up with Friday's part of the program to have three bands playing full albums from start to finish.

Sonic Youth headlined by performing Daydream Nation. I'm not completely familiar with Sonic Youth but they put on arguably the best performance of the entire weekend. Teen Age Riot was a little soft on the sound but they eventually got it sorted as the set progressed. It would be a precursor of weekend filled with technical difficulties for many of the acts involved, which I suppose is more likely when you have bands shuffling in and out that much.

Silver Rocket isn't a bad tune to jack the volume with. It seemed like the band even took on a more muscular tone on songs like Eric's Trip and Total Trash midway through the set.

The audience was completely glued to the stage and erupted when they got done. In a cool touch, they threw in a three-song encore off of Rather Ripped, including Incinerate, Jams Run Free and Reena. It was pretty funny to hear the audience collectively groan when Yoko Ono was mentioned as Saturday's headliner by the MC.

GZA did Liquid Swords before Sonic Youth came on. I'm not really big on hip-hop so I was kind of indifferent to their set. Slint played Splinterhead to open but we got their late due to me playing bocce with my friend's family. Perhaps the most noteworthy part of their set is the GZA sound guys started playing intermission music while Slint was still playing. I don't know if I noticed it as much last year but with the proximity of the stages to each other, it was annoying to hear sound checks during other band's performances.

Photo above courtesy of a bee c.

Sat., July 14
Pitchfork Festival - Day Two


The Twilight Sad - Missed them due to lines around two blocks to get in. Nice work by Pitchfork and the schmucks they had working security. Knowing an event is sold out means getting more people to work things like the door. Big thumbs down to the festival staff for making me stand in line with my thumb in my ass rather than watch a band.

Califone - Not particularly memorable, for better or worse.

Voxtrot - Upbeat while narrowly avoiding coming off like Up With People. They weren't totally my cup of tea but they didn't irritate me, either. Their lead singer had kind of a prissy-boy thing going that played well with the females. I just hope there were other people around in case they accidentally ran into Mastodon backstage.

Grizzly Bear - Fascinating and frustrating at the same time. Because they were at the other stage from where we were set up, we constantly had to deal with noise and other crap. I enjoyed what I heard and only wish I could have heard more.

Battles - I believe they call this a mash-up on the other side of the pond. It was like three different cars had music blaring out their windows, got into a pileup on the Dan Ryan and had sirens coming in the distance for good measure. A rather entertaining little smorgasbord.

Iron And Wine - Like Grizzly Bear, they sounded great but too much interference from the near stage. Sigh. Talk about a day of odd transitions. You go from Grizzly Bear, to Battles, to Iron And Wine, to...

Mastodon - I've been curious about Mastodon but a friend told me it's nothing that hasn't been done before by the likes of Metallica. You can make the argument that damn near all of this has been done before, so if it's done this well, I'm fine with it.

Length of hair, including beards, is about all they had in common with Iron And Wine. I guess a good way to gauge the reaction is the cloud of dust kicked up by the moshers in front of the stage.

Ear-bleeding sound. Bodies pulled out of the pit. Ah, makes me nostalgic for the good ol' days of when I used to catch body surfers working security. It was a hoot to watch the energy of the pit and band feed off each other while some of the hipster showponies fled for cover.

Clipse - Yet another odd transition. Once again, I'm sure there's plenty of bloggers out there excited about hip-hop and giving reviews of it. So I won't waste time hating on something I wasn't overly concerned with.

Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues - Mellow and fine. We were kinda wiped by this time.

Girl Talk (Balance Stage) - We thought we'd try to catch a bit of Girl Talk on the way out while fleeing Yoko but the Balance Stage was a complete zoo. It's a small side stage on a basketball court surrounded by a high chainlink fence. It was so insane that several people left the show to run around and catch it from the other side of the fence, only to get in the way of traffic and draw the ire of the police. One of the pratfalls of having multiple stages is you get a band that's too big for its surroundings. We opted to bolt rather than deal with the frenzy.

Yoko Ono - A headliner? Who's on for next year? Courtney Love?

Photo above courtesy of Gapers Block

Sun., July 15
Pitchfork Festival - Day Three


Deerhunter - Between the scrawny frame of Bradford Cox and the fact that he slipped one dress off and had another one (more comfortable, I guess) underneath it, I got a bit of a Marilyn Manson vibe. He also came out with some puppet-glove contraption on to start the set.

I could give a frog's fat ass what they look like if they sound this good. For me, one of the better sets of the festival. I wish they could have played longer than the 30-minute starter slot they were given.

The Ponys - They sounded all right. Right up until the point the main speakers went out for a song. It was a bad weekend for technicians at Pitchfork.

Menomena - The streak of good acts continues, complete with sax appeal.

Junior Boys - Time to dance. Or sit, in our cases with them being at the far stage. An infectious and welcome change of pace.

The Sea And Cake - Another solid sounding set. Here I was thinking we had a nice, easy set to relax too. Then they cranked up for the last couple of numbers. Maybe this year's lineup isn't the shell of last year's that I thought.

Jamie Lidell - Someone had to ruin the streak. His white boy wannabe act didn't really do anything for me.

Stephen Malkmus - No Pavement, no Jicks, just Malkmus. He even joked about anything that makes you sound closer to a band gets people excited. There's something lacking about playing solo at a festival full of bands but the audience gladly bought whatever Malkmus sold them.

Of Montreal - I thought Man Man was bizarre last year. They don't even hold a candle to these guys. Extra-large strange salad with weird dressing. I felt like I was back in the French Quarter at Mardi Gras. If it wasn't the guitarist with the pink angel wings, it was the guy singing with a leather bustier, leather shorts with a zipper in front, red scarf tied around the neck and turquoise boots. Pitchfork has some work to do to top this spectacle next year.

The New Pornographers - Bad times simply go away whenever I listen to them. They went back and forth between trying out material off their new album, Challengers, and playing their older favorites. This is the third time I've seen them, with the first being in Atlanta with a full band including Neko Case and Dan Bejar, and the last being in Madison without Case and Bejar. The Madison show seemed like a cover band but they sounded much better and more confident this time around. They seem at ease with the fact that if they get Case and Bejar to play, great; if not, they do their thing anyway. Kathryn Calder certainly seems to be more assertive this time around. It's certainly got me curious for the new disc.

De La Soul - We bailed. In the absence of reviewing their set, I'll rattle off some pros and cons of Pitchfork 2007:

Pros - Video screens to see the other stage better, the cost ($50 for the weekend), minimal set-up time between acts, easy access, free parking on the street within two blocks, much better weather than it was last year, relatively decent prices on food, exceptional prices on beverages and quality (Fuze or water for $1).

Cons - Waiting way too long to get in Saturday, interference and noise from other stages (wait until in between songs or afterward to test instruments, you rude assholes), lame headliners and after bashing him incessantly last year, a host that annoys me to the point I want him to shoot himself in the head.

For the cost, you can't go wrong. But I left kind of feeling that it wasn't nearly as good as last year with Art Brut, Mission of Burma, Liars, Jens Lekman and The National among others.

So here's a simple wish list to get me back next year: Get Deerhoof.

Photo above courtesy of kirstiecat.

4 comments:

NDfrom NJ said...

I am against bands whose song titles or whose name includes the word cake. They seem like they are trying to hard. Like 20 something guys who wear sinatra style hats.

Is that petty?

the le duo said...

I'd say after 45 years of ground breaking art & music (whether you like it or not, its true) yoko ono is more deserving to be a headliner than most of the other folks. she's hung out and worked with everyone from La Monte Young to John Lennon to Cat Power. I would have loved to see her!

jds said...

Great review TK! This is a synopsis review that I got from friend Jeff.
went to pitchfork fest. it was aight. BATTLES ruled. sonic youth/daydream nation was lame. of montral was a pleasant surprise. Slint sucked HARD. they sat down and played real quiet. even for the loud parts. Mastodon killed everyone. I hope I never have to see live hip hop again for the rest of my life.

Nico said...

I'm probably one of the few people that own Voxtrot and Mastodon albums.