TUiW hit the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend, and for those that couldn’t make it out, here’s our blow by blow recap:
Arriving a little late at the festival, the first act I saw was Robyn, who brought a high energy set to the early evening of Day 1. Armed with a band that consisted of two keyboard/synth players and two drummers, Robyn started the dance party with chart-climbing single “Dancing On My Own,” but sadly left out her American breakthrough single, “Show Me Love.”
Broken Social Scene followed, packing the stage as usual with 4-5 guitarists at once. The only downside of the set was Lisa Lobsinger, filling the role occasionally filed by Feist, Emily Haines, or Amy Millan. Lobsinger has a great voice, and “All to All” is one of my favorite tracks on Forgiveness Rock Record, but Lobsinger hardly swayed as she sang and brought little energy to the high energy band. Her bandmates however brought the fire, especially with closer “Meet Me in the Basement,” their instrumental “anthem” as Kevin Drew called it. Closing out the day were indie rock stallwarts Modest Mouse, who took to the stage with “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” and largely played some of their deeper cuts alongside singles “Dashboard” and “Satellite Skin.” Issac Brock screamed and shared knowledge with the crowd, but it was during Modest Mouse that the first signs of Pitchfork’s poor stage setups started to show. Anyone to the side or too far past the sound tent had a hard time hearing any of the banter, and the music was garbled. All this aside though, the band put on a great show.
Opening the day were Free Energy, the James Murphy-produced outfit that genuinely seemed overjoyed to be playing at the festival. The band bounced their way through the impossibly catchy “Free Energy” and “Bang Pop,” and most definitely won over a slew of new fans. Real Estate was a great early choice, with their gentle rocking floating through the oppressive heat before Delorean brought up the energy level with a frantic set that at times evoked M83, if M83 were huge U2 fans. They were followed by one of Saturday’s best acts, Titus Andronicus,
who got the weekend’s first mosh pit going as they ripped through tracks from The Monitor and got the crowed to yell in unison “You’ll always be a loser!” from “The Future, Pt. 3.” The band got major props in my book for dedicating a song to a girl in attendance that they had heard had been in an accident and missed a prior show, a classy move. Unfortunately, the high of Titus Andronicus was followed with the low of Raekwon. Just after his DJ took the stage, technical problems hit, and the Wu Tang Clan member didn’t even hit the stage for another 10 minutes, where he was again slowed by technical glitches, that were followed up by a short, uninspired set that clearly had all of its energy drained from it. Over on the too small Balance Stage, the Smith Westerns put on a more than pleasant set in the shade that would have been better if the sound on the stage didn’t turn the vocals into an indecipherable mess. The smaller stage had a number of problems with, particularly that it was in a small space with limited ways in and out, but the poor sound system made it hard to hear anything if you weren’t positioned right at the sound tent. All of that was thrown out the window during Wolf Parade, who didn’t need banter to show they were clearly loving playing the festival. The band didn’t slow down at all, blasting songs from their superb Expo 86, as well as older cuts like “This Hearts On Fire” and “Soldier’s Grin.” The highlight however came with the monstrous “Kissing the Beehive” closing the set, sending the crowd into a tizzy. All of that excitement would then be immediately followed by the much dissed set by Panda Bear, which consisted mainly of Noah Lennox holding down a few keys on a synthesizer and yelping every now and then as crazy images played on the big screens. The epic scope of Person Pitch was nowhere to be found, and left me hoping that Tomboy sounds better on record than it did live. The night was closed with an epic set by LCD Soundsystem, helped in part by a crowd that was so ready to go nuts they started cheering when the giant disco ball was raised above the stage well before it started. Now, I’ve seen James Murphy and Co. a few times, but this was easily the best. Though the set lacked much of This Is Happening (only “Drunk Girls,” “Pow Pow,” and “I Can Change”), the crowd went absolutely nuts during a particularly pulsing rendition of our favorite song, “All My Friends.” Though few of the twentysomething hipsters can identify with a song about being an aging hipster, the song hit the right note, and created a frenzy of dancing and singing along that was a major highlight of the festival. Capping their set, the band played the chorus of “Empire State of Mind” before hitting the reprise of “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” ending the day on a really high note.
Kicking off my last day of the festival was Best Coast, a band was really excited to see. Bethany Cosentino led the trio through songs from the band’s early singles and EPs, before giving a taste of her forthcoming album Crazy For You, which sounded great. She also got in one of the best punchlines of the festival, joking, “You guys remember Woodstock in the 90s? This reminds me of that.” While Girls played a set that sounded pretty close to their record, Washed Out produced a great set of chillwave jams, but I personally had a hard time getting into a guy playing with his laptop, so it could have been better. Just as the sun went behind the clouds for a while, Beach House took the stage, bringing the soft sounds of Victoria Legrand’s voice and Alex Scally’s spiky guitar to a crowd that seemed more than happy to slowly nod their heads as they jammed along. Songs like “Walk in the Park” carry a little more power live, adding some extra punch to the Teen Dream tracks. Local Natives played to a huge crowd surrounding the tiny Balance Stage, bringing tracks from Gorilla Manor to life with their three part harmonies and thundering drums. Surfer Blood too played to a big crowd, bringing a little more rock with their now polished live act that didn’t disappoint. Next up came a phenomenal set by St. Vincent,
who played all material from Actor with a tight backing band that brought the grandeur of the record into a smaller, but equally stunning sound. Annie Clark brought some of the best guitar work of the weekend to tracks like “Just the Same But Brand New” in a set that, while perhaps a bit too soft for its timeslot, was among the best of the weekend by far. Here We Go Magic impressed me quite a bit, bringing an energy I didn’t expect and getting the crowd moving through the hot afternoon. Everyone that wasn’t at Here We Go Magic was busy at Major Lazer, the Diplo-led crazy factory that featured Chinese dragons, ladder leaps, and a huge party. A Major Lazer show can really be described in so many ways, but its truthfully something that has to be seen for its total craziness be believed. Anyone that was wiped out by Major Lazer got a blast of the chillwave from Neon Indian, who brought a whole band together to groove through tacks like “Terminally Chill” for a big crowd. After Neon Indian, many people stuck around for noise duo Sleigh Bells, but with Neon Indian running over and technical delays, the band went on quite late, and apparently suffered through some sound issues, before finally breaking through and bringing the noise. Meanwhile, Big Boi led the crowd through songs from solo and Outkast repertoires, and even brought with him a crew of really awesome 10-and-under breakdancers. And then it was time for Pavement, the big draw of the weekend. With Drag City’s Rian Murphy offering a hilarious sequel to an act he used to do in Pavement’s heyday opening (highlighted by his claim that, “I’ve been listening to Pavement since 1991, so I’ve been waiting for this reunion for 20 years!”), the mood was frantic for the band, who shut down the festivals webcast under suspicious circumstances. The set was a little more uneven than their triumphant turn at Coachella, with songs like “Stop Breathin,” “Stereo,” and “The Hexx,” hitting perfectly, and others, such as “In The Mouth A Desert” and “Cut Your Hair” coming out sloppily. They still served as a fantastic closer for the weekend, which was laden with more bright spots than otherwise. Pitchfork puts on a great festival, with its small size, constant flow of sets, and high quality acts. If issues like the sound and size of the Balance Stage can get worked out, then there’s nothing to stop Pitchfork from being among the best festivals in the country.