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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Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #2: March

This would have been up earlier, had I not erased the first version. Oh blog posts…easy come, easy go, not so easy coming back. And don’t get me started on WordPress’ new formatting limitations. So here’s a shorter, less funny and image-restricted version.

This month was an even more insane for music accumulation than both January and February combined. The mere prospect of documenting every album I now have gives me a stomach ache. So I’m limiting this post to albums I had a chance to think about. Even though it only represents about like 10%. I still have this glut problem. But I still appreciate all of it. Unless it stinks. 

Michael Showalter – Sandwiches and Cats This should have been funnier. I was just as disappointed with the Michael Ian Black CD. What happened to these guys? They are so stand-up-comedy-ish. The “clean penis” bit is great, but nothing of the genius of the State. It’s still old school observational comedy. But I may be overestimating the State from the 3 episodes I kind of watched.

Dengue Fever – Venus on Earth Chhom Nimol’s voice is the seller here. Their whole kitschy Cambodian pop shtick has been getting a lot of hype lately (Fresh Air?), and it’ll be too bad if her voice gets overlooked when the balloon bursts. She’s had to have been with better bands. If you can recommend a better album, I’m all ears.

Stephen Malkmus – Real Emotional Trash God bless Stephen Malkmus. He’s been a seminal influence, he always impresses live, but the fear is his solo output has diminishing returns. He’s like the George Lucas of indie pop, where Pavement are like the solid original trilogy and all the solo stuff are the treacly goofy prequel mess…okay, that’s unfair. But still, I think he needs a band, he needs someone to prevent him from indulging every eccentricity. Would it be so bad if he just joined the Jicks? It doesn’t matter, I guess. I’ll still buy it. “Wicked Wanda” is pretty good.

Thao – We Brave Bee Stings and All “Beat” is my new running song. And I feel good about running to it. It earns its driving force, without programmed beats or gimmicky loudness, but with a catchy and rhythmic hook. I feel like hitting myself at points. So it’s been weird. I’m happy, I’m running, I’m hitting myself.

Atlas Sound – Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See I need more soft noises to drown out the dumb sounds of a college town. And this one does the job nicely. Not a memorable tune in the bunch, though. But I put it on to forget it, so no surprise that I don’t remember anything.

The Gutter Twin – Saturnalia Much better than I thought. The terrible band name for the Greg Dulli-Mark Lanegan collaboration was bested (or “worsted”) by an even more awful album name. Who wants to think of these fogeys engaging in an orgy, ritual-based or not. But still they’re backed by a great band and they continue and build upon with cool shady guy reps. No real standouts, but this is an old fashioned album. Good for night listening. If you buy into either of their vibes, like I do, you’ll be happy with it. But it’s not canon-bound.

Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different Wow. This was made 34 years ago? It’s like a coked up Erikyah Badu got in a time machine and crashed into Sly and the Family Stone’s garage (Overblown Time Machine Simile #1). I’m not a funk fan. It’s faux cool bothers me. But she keeps it pretty weird. “He was a big freak/I whipped with him tourquoise chain”…What?

Destroyer – Trouble in Dreams Another Dan Behar album. I’m onboard with the schtick, but it’s not for everyone. And it’s not as great as This Night or Streethawk—which have moments where you might actually identify with Dan. Nope, you gotta set sail here. I haven’t listened to it that much. Too busy playing the Destroyer Drinking Game

She & Him – Volume One I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this good. It’s like M. Ward got in a time machine, picked up Carly Simon on a lonely day, and hung out at Phil Spector’s studio during its gaveyard shift (Overblown Time Machine Simile #2). Still, it may be offering up its pleasures too easily.

John Cale – Paris 1918 I still don’t know who he is, but this is of course excellent, elegant and well-crafted. It feels like I should already have this, like I’ve lost $15 while simultaneously finding an old cd.

Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster I like it, but I’m a little skeptical of the let’s-get-ecstatic-by-the-beauty-we-create thing. Or that means I’m bitter.

The Everybodyfields – Nothing Is Okay My family makes fun of me for loving unapologetically sad albums like this. Screw them. They ache and wrench beautifully. Canon bound

Tift Merritt – Another Country The song I love the best is the one my father taught to me. “The kindness of a stranger is dust from an unseen wing. But an old friend at my table is by far the finest thing this tired mile could give to me.” The colors of the man I love are deepest blue and green and it isn’t very often that I say just what I mean, ’cause the feeling seems to scatter and these words fall in between. For what I miss, I’ll just tell you this. It’s something to me.

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