In all of its infinite and pretentious wisdom, there is hardly any doubt that Pitchfork has become one of America’s leading sources for modern music recommendations and critiques. Love or hate their opinions, it is true. And regardless if they seem to leave a bitter taste in your mouth every once in a while, they do manage to do one thing very right: Pitchfork Music Festival. Three short-but-not-too-short days in the city of Chicago with a solid lineup of acts every year. Even with Death Grips canceling their performance this year, I along with fellow LxL’er Wes and a few friends still showed up for the party, and a glorious three days it was. Here is the one sentence (or more) breakdown of what we encountered:
— Day 1 —
The Florida band opened the festival with serene and smooth electronic pop and R&B in the vein of Chairlift and Polica, but with a flute-playing front woman.
Hypnotic and relentless electronic music from the DFA label, they prompted the first dance-line of the weekend.
Sharon Van Etten
A light, crisp, and refreshing beer that still packs a bit of wonderful floral flavor. Oh wait, that was SVE’s/Goose Islands collaboration Kolsch beer that was good, but not as good as her non-chalant evening set filled with some new and old favorites alike.
Sun Kil Moon
No matter what form you see Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters, or his greatest, Stillwater) you are guaranteed a raw performance that taps straight into the man’s own life and thoughts. Things get funny, emotional, pretentious, and weird, all in good ways.
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
You can blame the Blue Stage’s ever-persistent sound problems, or blame Avey for not properly constructing good live sound for his solo act, but I am going to opt choose the former as to why this act was mostly good for merely standing back and drinking a beer.
Giovanni Giorgio Moroder
…but you can call him, Giorgio! Standing above his crowd like a conductor leading his orchestra, Giorgi instead conducted a massive crowd in dancing along to the music produced by this legendary 74 year-old Italian Godfather of everything dance-pop while the sun was setting in the background. Quite a show to say the least.
Beck put together one of my favorite all-out rock sets of the weekend, consisting of multiple songs from every single album from Mellow Gold to Morning Phase. A much better experience than my first Beck show, and makes me wonder why he is not praised as more of a live act legend.
— Day 2 —
Broken ankles and broken guitars. Maybe not quite Orwells-crazy, but the young punks brought the Saturday audience to life with their ragged energy even with their lead singer and guitarist Cadien Lake James playing the entire show on a wheelchair thanks to a bum wheel.
Thoughtful spoken-word-style rap from the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn, Ka raps about the uglier side of Brooklyn in the style of the chef Raekwon.
An aggressive and chilling act that is disguised behind a shoe-gaze buzz. This somewhat melancholic and very dramatic set seemed to get better and better with each song.
Cloud Nothings are a great mid-day set, especially when needing to settle that thrashing urge to rage. The journey into the mosh pit was short-lived for me, but enjoyed by many for the entirety of the set. Grungy, grimy, punk music with more fuzz than most can handle.
When Pusha T finally came out 45-minutes after his scheduled time, he did put together a fun, but very short set. Most of it was filled with Kanye West tracks that he is featured in, but he aims to please the crowd.
Merrill from Tune-Yards was the antithesis of Pusha T when it comes to punctuality. She came out on stage 45 minuets before her set time and quietly waited until the very second Pusha was over, then without a moments hesitation began one of the better performances of the festival. Tune-Yards earthly, bellowing, beat-heavy live act has always been a treat, and even seems to have become better over time.
Another late arriver to the stage, but man does this guy know how to perform. His energy on stage is unlike most others, and always seems to be having a great time. As does his crowd.
I could gush over her live performance for hours, but to keep it short, it is hard to say that there was anything that matched her performance at this festival. Every time I see her, I am more and more blown away, and this furiously-charged, over-eccentric set of wild guitar licks, body movements and absurdly great vocals was no exception.
More than any other missed act, I wish I could have seen this one. Unfortunately, St. Vincent overlapped all but half of one song, which was beautiful but also was being performed on the mix of the infamously bad Blue Stage, so sounded a bit muddy as well.
Neutral Milk Hotel
I am sure if you like these guys, you would have enjoyed this show. To me, it was a good opportunity to enjoy a nice pulled pork sandwich from Wishbone.
— Day 3 —
Female-lead garage rock in the way of the Breeders, but without too much sizzle or fireworks in their set.
Orchestral folk is a pleasant way to start your Sunday, but nothing more than that.
Female-led punk band that with melt your face off. Didn’t have the energy to get myself into this mosh pit, but if you missed Cloud Nothings on Saturday, this was your chance.
Not screamo, not shoegaze, not quite metal, but a heavy combination of all three. A cool experiment, but something I did not stand in front of for too long.
Dum Dum Girls
Dee Dee Penny and all her cronies put on the best show I saw at the Blue Stage. Despite some cloudy mix, the punky shoe-gazing broads have some great tonal qualities that shone through, as well as some sexy stage swagger.
Good for a nice Sunday nap.
Talk about making the most out of a horrible situation. The only instrument these guys use live breaks on stage before their set. So what do they do? Put on a chilling and beautiful mostly acapella set anyways. Then smashed the hell out of the keyboard on stage afterwards of course.
A buzzy, wall-of-fuzz show in the vein of My Bloody Valentine. I wish I knew of these guys back when they were still making music.
The ever endearing and charismatic Grimes graced the fans at Pitchfork with some new tunes, some beloved classics, and the best dance show of the festival. Near one of the best overall shows as well.
I saw Kendrick play three years ago and he was great. Now with a full band backing him he is a whole different animal. He easily put together the best rap set of the weekend, and among the better rap sets I have yet to see.