Pitchfork Music Festival: Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation Part 2
With the exception of Modest Mouse, I returned to Pitchfork on Day 2 still in awe of the previous night’s performances. Broken Social Scene, Liars, Robyn, and The Tallest Man on Earth had all played brilliantly the night before, setting the standard for what was sure to be a great festival. I arrived around 3, filled up my camelback, and headed over to the A stage in time to catch the end of Delorean’s set. I had never heard this Barcelona pop/punk/electronic band, but as with the best performers of electronic music these days, they put on a high energy set. These guys looked like they were having a great time up on stage, moving around from guitars to synths, and getting the crowd riled up without saying a single word directly to us. After getting to see three they left the stage, and I pushed my way closer to the front to secure a good spot for Reakwon as the crowd thinned out. I ended up at center stage, about 4 rows back and turned around to see who had just started over at the A stage, and what I saw over there blew my mind.
Titus Andronicus had been on my radar since they released their most recent album “The Monitor” in May, but I had never heard their music nor seen them perform. But as Patrick Stickles finished his short introduction, prompting the crowd to “make this the best afternoon of our lives,” and launched the band into “A More Perfect Union” I instantly wished I was up close shouting along with everyone there. Even from a couple hundred yards away, the massive amount energy was incredible. The Jersey outfit put on a show perfectly fitted to their unique brand of post punk indie rock. Sing alongs, dancing and moshing, great guitar solos, a horn section, and a healthy amount of fist pumping, the show had it all. Midway through the show, when playing the 14 minute long “The Battle of Hampton Roads,” the band was joined on stage by several horn players, and managed to take this already epic song, and turn it into something you rarely get to experience in a live setting. As band closed the set with “Four Score and Seven Years” and walked off-stage, I turned back to the A stage, ready to see a hip-hop legend perform.
Alas, I had to wait. Raekwon did not take the stage for another 20 minutes as major sound problems with his DJ pushed the show back, causing some of the crowd around me to lose interest and go elsewhere. When Raekwon did finally go on, he wasted no time, getting right into a full fledged setlist of Wu-Tang songs as well as solo songs from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… parts 1 & 2. Some I spoke with questioned Raekwon’s ability to handle a solo performance (he had performed with Ghostface in 2008), but he emphatically proved his performance abilities to me in the 40 minute he had to fill. Towards the end, Rae brought out “CHI TOWN FINEST BREAKERS” a family of four kids, all under the age of eleven, who proceeded to wow the entire crowd with their breakdancing prowess. Unfortunately the show ended too soon (mainly due to the technical difficulties at the beginning), but during the short time he had, by dint of his flawless lyrical delivery and general showmanship, Raekwon the Chef did not disappoint!
As The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (recently shortened to simply, Blues Explosion) took to the C stage, I managed to push up even further, succeeding in actually grasping the security fence and thus securing a front row spot for LCD Soundsystem later that night. I was so focused on holding my ground, that I didn’t pay much attention to the C stage, talking to other festival goers about the last two shows, and watching Wolf Parade set up.
When Wolf Parade did take the stage however, I realized a very important fact: I didn’t know any of their songs. I had heard their music on a few occasions, but I obviously didn’t remember it very well. I had been expecting some mellow indie rock, but when they took off into their first song though, I realized this was not the band I thought I was going to see. They still had the indie sensibilities I had been expecting, but they were by no means mellow. The band flew through their setlist, stopping only to briefly say hello to the massive crowd that had steadily gathered for them. They played well overall, with the band’s constantly changing instrumentation managing to consistently work well, and let the four members show off their musical expertise. Overall, though, I was not especially enthralled by the show..
Once Wolf Parade finished their set, I could hear the strange dreamy sounds of Noah Lennox, better known as Panda Bear, drifting over from the C stage. I turned around to try and see some of the stage on the big monitors, only to find that they were being filled with psychedelic imagery to compliment the experimental musician’s performance. I really have nothing against Panda Bear or Animal Collective as a whole, but I just don’t understand what the attraction of seeing them perform live is. Lennox’s set consisted of him standing there and sending his guitar and voice through various effects which were then complimented with synths and some samples. It wasn’t bad music, there was just no extra benefit to seeing it live that a listener could not derive from his records. I turned back around and instantly got a huge grin on my face as I saw a giant disco ball being raised into the rafters as the techs set up for LCD Soundsystem’s sure-to-be-legendary show.
James Murphy and his band took the stage and dove right into a funkier version of Us v Them, and the show had already reached that legendary status. The crowd was overflowing with it. From the front to the back there was non stop dancing, moving, singing along, and more dancing as Murphy and his group brought the house down with popular songs and fan favorites from his three now legendary, dance punk albums. Confusion, disillusionment with the music industry, getting older in a profession that is doctored for the young, massive amounts of self doubt, Murphy has managed to turn elements of his own mid-life crisis into something that gets people in their teens to dance and shout along with reckless abandon. It’s nothing less than stunning, the way Murphy and crew can connect to people of our generation with great music like “Losing My Edge,” a song about how he feels like he is getting less cool as he gets older. The band was tight as expected, flawlessly executing the often complex arrangements and rhythms so often found in LCD Soundsystem songs.
An hour and a half later, Murphy said goodnight to the crowd and left his band to finish off “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” which featured a short chorus from Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Tired, sore, and drenched in sweat, the entire crowd still managed to call out for an encore of “Dance Yrself Clean” off of the most recent LCD record “This Is Happening.” Alas we were not obliged, and so – tired, sweaty, sore, and thoroughly amazed – I wandered back to my car, ready for anything that Sunday would throw at me, but doubtful it would ever be able to top what I had just witnessed.
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