Monday, July 21, 2008

Pitchfork Music Festival

I went to the Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday. Here's my notes and reviews.

The bands I saw (stage):

Icy Demons (B) (I'm pretty sure I saw 'em...I'd just got there)
Fleet Foxes (A)
Fuck Buttons (B)
Dizzee Rascal (C)
Vampire Weekend (A)
!!! (C)
The Hold Steady (A)
Atlas Sound (B)
Jarvis Cocker (C)
No Age (B)

First off, I'm going to call out the phoniness of blogging or live-blogging festivals like Lollapalooza or Austin City Limits. These writeups pretend to give a nuanced review of almost every band playing, to give you a feel of what it's really like Being There. If they are anything like Pitchfork, and I know they're bigger, it's impossible to see or do everything. There are too many people at the front of the stages, too much concurrent music, to give a fair shake to everyone.

Other random thoughts:

I felt similarities to the 2007 Fourth of July show at Battery Park: I took an unfamiliar commute to get to a park I'd never been to before, in a neighborhood I'd never been to before. I was there to see one band only, but had to sit through a soporific set by the opener first (in this case, multiple openers). There was rain, making the grass wet at best, and muddy in parts, and leading to near 100% humidity later in the day. There were unusual bands and unusual people (more so at the festival, as you'd expect with 19 acts in one day). I usually feel comfortable at a Hold Steady show, but at this festival I feel old, stable and normal.

The festival was sponsored in part by Goose Island. Here's proof.

I got to the festival around 2:30; smelled my first pot at 3:30 (in the Fuck Buttons audience). Not just one guy either, but a full crowd. Maybe that's how one makes sense of their "music" (see criticism below).

Dizzee Rascal (British rapper) started while I was at the far edge of the "B" stage. I was about as far away physically as you could get, and I could hear the bass clearly. Any closer and I'd probably feel it in my stomach.

Over by the "B" stage, I hear: "Yeah! Iowa Hawkeyes!" I am wearing the Iowa hat, so I turn around. It's an older black man, in his 50s, with a mustache and graying hair. I give him a thumbs up and a smile, and I realize I am no longer the most un-Pitchfork-demographic person here today.

My main reaction to these bands is: there's no rock! Fiery Foxes were very My Morning Jacket, down to the hirsute lineup. They were very low key, quiet, atmospheric, but not really singalong-worthy. Icy Demons were so forgettable, I don't remember anything of their set.

And now, the reviews:

Fuck Buttons: I wanted to see Fuck Buttons just so I could say I watched a band called Fuck Buttons. I listened for about five minutes to the droning electronica thinking, have they started the set? Or are they warming up? After 10 minutes of the continuous, non-musical drone, I thought, when does it get going? You know, vocals, guitars, maybe a song with a beginning, middle and end? After 20 minutes I realized there *was* nothing more--this IS Fuck Buttons.

In fact, the name is ironic because the "band" is two guys who make sound using laptop computers! Far from disparaging buttons, they need buttons (on their computers) to create sound!

The two men of Fuck Buttons.

And that sound is a constant wail of feedback and reverb, with a droning thump...kinda like slowed-down house music.

Fuck Buttons is not fucking nor buttoning anything. A bunch of random noise with no vocals, real instruments or musicality? I say fuck Fuck Buttons.

The crowd stands stunned by musiclessness of the FBs.

With no audience reaction, no head-bopping or clapping, I'm almost eager to go see Dizzee Rascal just to see some people movin'. In fact, I do wander over to Rascal a bit later, and I'm pleasantly surprised by his attitude and smooth vocal delivery. I'm not a fan of rap, but he does say "fuck" and his own name quite bit, so that's cool. I think his best line, delivered in his thick accent, was "Y'all might not understand a fuckin' word I'm sayin', but by the end of the day you'll know my name."

That's Dizzee Rascal up on stage. His name rhymes with a lot more stuff than you would have thought, cause he puts it in many, many lyrics.

I enjoyed Vampire Weekend more than I expected. They are a basic rock band with a strong reggae influence. The lead singer/guitar player looks like John Mayer and sings with a bit of a lilt. I recognized at least one of their songs, which is possibly from the radio, or more likely from TM's cousin's friend's boyfriend Adam. (Really. He was the one who played me a Vampire Weekend song on his iPod several months ago, not Igoe. Sorry for the mixup, Igoe.) They were probably the second-best band there on Saturday, but that ain't saying much.

!!! (pronounced with any sound effect syllable repeated three times, such as "chik-chik-chik") was not what I'd thought. I was under the impression they were an indie punk-rock band, like the Strokes or the Killers, that kind of thing. Instead, it was very much a dance-pop band, with the repetitive driving bass of house music. In fact, !!! was probably the only band of they day where I thought the bassist was the most important member of the band. They were co-fronted by a black woman with short hair and a white guy in 1980s short shorts, who strutted around like he was at a dance club. (Note: I watched the entire !!! set on the video screen, as I was waiting for the Steady at the "A" stage.)

As for the later bands.....
No Age was basically "me the singer/drummer and my friend." They made a lot of noise for what appeared to be two people, but I was otherwise unimpressed.

Atlas Sound was one guy with an acoustic guitar and a soundbox with echo-y effects and loops to create the mirage of a full band, not unlike Anders Parker of Varnaline when he opened solo for Jay Farrar/Gillian Welch. However, I was unimpressed. Maybe five years from now he'll be the next Beck, but right now he's just a guy with a guitar and a soundbox.

Jarvis Cocker was British, and at least he sorta rocked. He had discrete songs, with a defined beat and a melody. Doesn't sound like much in the world of pop/rock, but at Pitchfork, I guess it qualified him to be a headliner. I didn't notice anything else special about him.

That's Jarvis Cocker, the last act on the "C" stage.

Chicagoist, always with the pulse of any city that can have "-ist" appended to the end of it, reviews Saturday's Pitchfork here.

Boys and girls in Chicago, they have such a muddy time together. (photo by Jim Kopeny of Chicagoist.)

Oh, and for my own personal headliner? That review is coming next.....

No comments: