The Pitchfork Music Festival, Rating: 8.6

Friday Night—Part of the “Don’t Look Back” thing, which I don’t know anything other than someone in Old Britain somehow convinces creepy old dudes to play their best or seminal (ie, not their best) album in its entirety live. One watches with grotesque curiosity at degenerating bodies flubbing their own lyrics. It was a pleasant warm cloudy day.

  • Mission of Burma (Rating: 7.1) My exposure to Mission of Burma far exceeds my appreciation of them. I have 3 albums and have seen them twice and I don’t get their celebrated status. Probably having something to do with when—not what—they played. That said, this wasn’t too bad since they were restricted to playing their best album in its entirety. But that “roman empire” song stinks, even in context.
  • Sebadoh (Rating: 6.5) I don’t remember Bubble and Scrape and I don’t think I would have liked it that much if I had. My experience of Lou Barlow begins with the beautifully sadsap Bakesale, and seeing this album in its live entirety kind of wants me to keep it that way. Lou delegated too many responsibilities back then it seemed.
  • Public Enemy (Rating: 7.0) Everyone but me seemed to be swooning with anticipation. Britt Daniel even came out and stood next to me (I asked him to not suck). Never got into these guys and I lack the capacity to fake enthusiasm. Their songs seemed to die when Flavor Flav did that “Yeah Boy” thing and Chuck D seemed to be stuck in one militant mood. Still, Flav’s television stuff and notorious undependability brought some celebrity and tension to the night. Was Flavor going to flake? But for missing the first song, he put in a solid show. Whatever people like of these guys, they liked this. Pitchfork Priceless Moment 1: As the crowd boos Flav for hawking his next reality television show (it’s on Wednesday nights!), he responds “Why you booing? You a bunch of ghosts? Don’t boo me, you fake ghosts!” Zing and zung.

Saturday—It poured all morning and was not letting up. It was far far from the nightmare that was Woodstock ’98. Still, the sogginess would persist for the rest of the festival. And then arose the dancing mud people. Oh, dancing mud people, what do you do when you’re not doing your filthy jive? Do you have jobs? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving with family? Do you even read blogs?

  • Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar (Rating: 8.5) Late start because of rain, but still kind of a nice way to begin the festival proper. Nothing of the raucous show they put on a few days before in Millennium Park. Yet, the unpretentious galvanizing gypsy horn tunes served as a nice palate cleanser. It’s like they were wiping the slate clean for us, but we still end up chalking the same shit.
  • Titus Andronicus (Rating: 7.9) I do like them. And I think they did well in the rain. It’s still early Bright Eyes to my ears, but I don’t prize originality that highly. I like the combination of modern overeducated-underexperienced disaffected white boy angst with unhinged 50’s garage rock type pop. Reminds me of my dad. They didn’t need to be on such a big stage, though.
  • Jay Reatard (Rating: 6.4 by day; 9.1 by night) I’m a big fan of 2 minute songs. Get in and get out. And Jay is a master. No banter. Names the song title and boom he’s going. But it doesn’t work too well in the big outdoor setting. Way better for a musky windowless black room (where I would see them later that night).
  • Caribou (Rating: 7.6): Much more rocking than expected from the ethereal Andorra album, but not that much more interesting. Stayed for a few and scooted.
  • Icy Demons (Rating: 7.9): Way more interesting. And not so tricked out in weirdness, but definitely looking for new territory. Didn’t close the deal for me, but I’m not walking away yet, either.
  • Fleet Foxes (Rating: 9.1): I’m pulling for the Foxes to not be destroyed by their ridiculous press. They make pretty sounds, but they need better songs. But I think they’re all only 12 and I need to work through some jealousy. Nonetheless, they do a great job of translating their 70’s country folk sound live.
  • Fuck Buttons (Rating: 3.2): Knob rawk, don’t waste my time.
  • Dizzee Rascal (Rating: 5.1): Oh Rahzkooh, why do you hate us?
  • The Ruby Suns (Rating: 9.1): Their show minted at least one new fan. The breezy disjointed Carribean grooving were an unexpected treat as the sun came out.
  • Vampire Weekend (Rating: n/a): Didn’t see them. Just wanted to say again that I think they’re the Jar Jar Binks of Indie Rock. That’s copyrighted, btw.
  • Elf Power (Rating: 5.0) They’re like the Platonic Ideal for 90’s indie rock. If we ever do one of those satellites we fill up with crap to launch into space for aliens to find and then use to conquer us (wa-wah), we could do worse by throwing in an Elf Power CD. Completely what you (or I) would expect. Stayed for 2 songs. The aliens will have our number, for sure.
  • !!! (Rating: 6.2) I probably needed to be closer to appreciate this show. I had my !!! experience 2 years ago and was content to keep it distant. And it’s hard to get into dance-punk with a backpack. The kids seemed to like it, so good for them.
  • The Hold Steady (Rating: 9.2) I spent the first 3 songs trying to will myself not to like these guys. And I can’t do it. It’s almost un-American. Fist-pumping sing-along anthems about the self-destructive brats. They have embraced they’re place in pop and made it they’re own. I’ve heard Craig Finn say 3 separate times that there’s so much joy in what they do, I almost believe it.
  • Jarvis Cocker (Rating: 9.6): Holy mole, this guy puts on a show. I have a solo album and liked it alright. I liked Pulp, but then my exposure was only through albums there, too. The performance is a revelation. How can I become Jarvis?
  • No Age (Rating: 8.7): Wanted to see more, but was delayed by being unexpectedly impressed by and unhealthfully wanting to be Jarvis. Then they were having problems and I’m like the wind. I got to hear “Teen Creeps,” the Pitchfork 08 anthem I think.
  • Animal Collective (Rating: 9.2): Knob rawk, but on a much higher level. I was expecting something much more sloppier, befitting an Umphry’s McGee (or whatever) opener. These guys were tight. And efficient. They came to work. I wasn’t putting up with much by then. I just might learn not to regret buying “Strawberry Jam.

Sunday—It was a scorcher. Applied sunscreen 4 times to my sweat-slick forehead and I’ll still burn. But it was cost effective. Made 4 beers feel like 8.

  • Times New Viking (Rating: 7.3) I was expecting both much worse and much better. Their ridiculously low-fi ecstatic recordings portended either a brilliant live show or just sloppiness. Nonetheless, the short set of minimalist bursts of atonal poppy screaming didn’t offend or inspire.
  • The Dirty Projectors (Rating: 8.1) Maybe I’m just overly impressed that they can play Dirty Projectors’ songs. So oddball and overly constructed. But they sounded like the recordings. No fist pumping sing-alongs, though. And did they need to be on the big stage? Stay in the library, you nerds. I change my mind. 4.3.
  • Boris (9.1 for content; 4.3 for length) Japanese lady shreds. Drummer wears white gloves and plays a gong. But the token metal group only goes for 25 minutes? They flew from Japan for just 25 minutes of stage time. What kind of carbon footprint did that leave? Drummer says something about “electrical problem” but I can’t understand him.
  • Apples In Stereo (Rating: 8.5) Exactly what I expected. More nerd pop. At least these nerds were trying to be likeable. They were the eager-to-please waterboys to the indie jock squad.
  • King Khan and His Shrines (Rating: 10.0) I pretty much hate anyone who has not seen King Khan live. That casts pretty big net, I know and sorry. But by missing the rarely US-touring Canadian-Indian paunchy naked-but-for-lavender-hotpants-and-a-gold-beaded-head-dress Memphis-style soul-punk KING, it probably says something about them missing something rare and essential to life that I just can’t abide. Pitchfork Priceless Moment 2: I score a press pass gaining me front stage access. While the KING unnecessarily pantomimes lyrics from their transgendered anthem “I Want To Be A Girl,” my head ends up about a foot from where he has unsecurely tucked his manhood, exposed for all to see. Some see too much.
  • The Dodos (Rating 8.2) They probably need a smaller stage and to not come after King Khan, still the 3 guys do pretty well for the little instrumentation they bring.
  • M. Ward (Rating: Whatever) I’ve seen this guy so many times. And he doesn’t need anymore press.
  • Les Savvy Fav (Rating: 7.80 They’re alright I guess, but I’ve seen too many unappealing naked bodies today to be shocked by this guy’s antics. But still, they do an old school Superchunk cover. 
  • Spiritualized (Rating: 6.9) I really like Songs in A&E. But this seemed kind of boring here. But maybe I’m still coming off my Khan high. Too bad. He had some soulful backup singers that ended up doing too much of the lifting. Saw 3 songs and moved along.
  • Bon Iver (Rating: 9.3 for the originals; 1.2 for the Talk Talk cover) There were some really nice moments here. The crowd participation was well managed and made the experience almost cozy in the overflowing crowd. Pitchfork Priceless Moment 3: Bon Iver makes a very wrongheaded detour with an overlong cover a forgettable Talk Talk mess. The confused crowd politely applauds and yet someone shouts “More Talk Talk!”
  • Dinosaur Jr (Rating: 7.9) Holy guacamole, J Mascis is old. He now reminds me of this creepy dude who used to clean the pool at our YMCA when I was a kid. Or a short pudgy Gandolf the Grey. And say what you will of his reunion with Lou Barlow, I’m not too sure they deserved the prize spot they get in the schedule. But it was sweet that people still seem to like them. For me, that ship has sailed.
  • Spoon (Rating: 9.0) They did their job as headliners. Nothing too mindblowing, though. Speaking of jobs, I have one to wake up to tomorrow in 5 hours. I’m no dancing mud person.
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8 Comments

  1. Apparently, right before Spoon’s set, King Khan, the guy from Atlas Sound whose name I unfortunately do not know and Jay Reatard did an impromptu jam session over in stage B. Did you see it? I missed it because I wanted to see Spoon. I really like them, but I thought their music didn’t translate as well as I hoped it would to the big stage. Maybe I was really tired.
    Still, I wish I had been over at stage B to see King Khan and Jay Reatard again. When KK played his set in the afternoon, I was standing not too far from where you were, since at some point his belly was right in front of me and a I was baptized by a few drops of his sweat. I think King Khan and the Shrines put on the best rock n roll show out there.

  2. Yes, “baptized” would be the word. The show did feel like a sacrament. I have no knowledge of the jam session and I had a connect. Jay and the King seem to be buds, though. And Atlas-Sound-Guy seems to be up everyone’s butt. So I believe it, but I can’t imagine it. Hopefully, they stuck strictly to Talk Talk covers.

  3. I wrote an approximately 800-word piece about the Cut Copy performance for the radio station I work at. Here it is:

    Being the only person from UTM’s CFRE crew to actually witness the unforgettable, show-stealing performance by Cut Copy last Sunday, I feel obliged to give, at the very least, a brief report of what transpired.

    Cut Copy was schedule to perform at 8:25PM, and not until 8:50 did I begin to question why they hadn’t come on stage yet. I joined the crowd in yelling “Where the f*** is Cut Copy?” at the stage. Instead, Bradford Cox of Deer Hunter comes on the stage, picks up a guitar, and promises to give us a good show. He speaks in his microphone: “You came here expecting quality entertainment, so quality entertainment is what we will give you.”

    Joining him on stage was Jered Gummere on the drums, and King Khan, also on guitar and vocals. They started to jam, which lasted a good ten to fifteen minutes before people started to give up, accepting that Cut Copy was not coming. It was difficult to hear the musicians speak in between songs; they mentioned something about the band being held up at an airport. A couple in front of me left the crowd: “They’re not coming. They’re at the airport, there’s no way they can play.”

    I was hopeful, and reasonably so. It wasn’t as if they were not in the city; and I wouldn’t want to be caught dead at a Spoon concert. So I stuck around. And I am glad I did.

    I cannot say that I was any better than the portion of the crowd yelling at Bradford Cox and King Khan to get off the stage. They were saying what I was feeling. I would have rather been watching Cut Copy then these guys. But what I saw, I will never forget.

    Around 9:05PM, Jay Reatard come on the stage for awhile and started screaming into the microphone. I suppose he wanted to contribute to the jam session. Awhile later, I suppose out of respect, admiration, and courtesy, the concert crew handed King Khan a large bouquet of flowers for his efforts. Unfortunately, the crowd was not so respectful; they were in fact yelling “f*** you” to the performers on the stage. King Khan yelled “f*** you” back. It was around this point that Jay Reatard pulled down his pants to moon the crowd. He then took one of the flowers of the bouquet, carefully inserted it in his anus, and walked around the stage with the flower protruding from his rectum. He then took it out and threw it toward the part of the audience that the “f*** you” came from. King Khan then drank a large portion of beer, and spit it out onto the audience. I got some of that one.

    By 9:25PM, all except Bradford Cox left the stage. He said, before he left, Cut Copy will be on in five minutes. Now I got excited, but I had wondered if he only said that so that we would wait there like idiots while Cut Copy remains stuck at the airport. But at 9:30, Cut Copy came on stage and started setting up their instruments.

    And still, the crowd was not happy. One person yelled “You guys are pussies! Hurry up!” When the band was just about ready to play, another “f*** you” made its way to the performers. The keyboardist and the guitarist exchanged glances and sighed, with a facial expression that read: “holy s***.”

    Then Cut Copy started. They only had time to do 4 songs; and maybe it was because of this, or because it was the last show of the night, or because it was gathering more attention than Spoon, or because the crowd had been restless from waiting, that the energy in the crowd during Cut Copy’s performance was absolutely over-the-top. The 4 songs they played were some of their biggest hits, and the choruses had every single person jumping in unison. Everybody was singing along. Everybody was dancing. Everybody was out of their mind. I had to hold my shoes in my hand so I wouldn’t lose them. If you see any pictures of the event, look for a guy holding Reef shoes in the air. That’s me.

    They finished by 10PM, and people chanted for an encore for about fifteen minutes. They could not deliver; which might have been one of the biggest let-downs I have ever seen. But Cut Copy had this to say on their Myspace page the next day: “We are truly sorry about [the plane delay], but the short set we were able to pull off before the noise curfew was thrilling for us. Those of you who stuck around energized us, and your seeemingly never-ending hollering, foot stomping and whooping for an encore (we sadly couldn’t provide due to city ordinances) will stay with us forever.”

  4. Thanks Pete for the tale. That jam session seemed to have been perfect. Did the anus-tainted flower show up on eBay?

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