Two weeks ago, I took a solo excursion to the Windy City for the buzzed-about Pitchfork Music Festival. In the hot and humid weather, I got quite an earful from 18 great bands, several of whom were high up on my concert bucket-list [Modest Mouse, Pavement, WHY?]. And the $100 weekend ticket satisfied my love for thrift--compared to the $250 folks are dishing out this weekend at Lollapalooza.
As opposed to years past, this year's Pitchfork lineup consisted largely of indie acts who have already experienced some success and received critical acclaim. There was, nonetheless, a good deal of young blood at the festival this year, including rockers Free Energy, the great summer band Best Coast, the heavy metal guitar / electronic dance act Sleigh Bells, and a few others. Also, in inviting Raekwon and Big Boi, Pitchfork reached out to all the hip-hoppin' hipsters out there. It was a fantastic chance to see members of 2 of hip-hop's most influential groups of all time (Wu-Tang Clan and Outkast) play their old-school classics, quite a rare treat.
As for genre, this year's lineup had a heavy serving of sunny, california-inspired indie acts (Surfer Blood, Beach House, Best Coast, Girls, Real Estate). The only critique I had with the mix of performers was the a lack of more experimental music (with the exception of Animal Collective member Panda Bear and the Rhode Island noise rock group Lightning Bolt). If Pitchfork is the standard for what's "in" right now in alternative music, then simple chord progressions and 4/4/ melodies are evidently the cat's pajamas at this moment. But I must admit, the music was pretty irresistible.
It was fantastic to see so many strong leading personalities control the crowds over the weekend. Swedish folk singer The Tallest Man on Earth charmed the crowd and left all wanting more, St. Vincent's Annie Clark brought the house down (she played almost the exact same set as when I saw her last year but I didn't care one bit), Yoni Wolf of WHY? danced and rapped his way through a charged performance (which I caught from the front row), and crazed hype man Skerrit Bwoy of Major Lazer helped throw the biggest party of the weekend--complete with poppin' bottles and plenty of dry humping. Amongst the sea of individually driven bands, however, Local Natives provided an excellent example of what a great ensemble performance can do, as all the members played and sang their hearts out in great form.
As for the headlining acts, LCD Soundsystem took the cake. The weather was absolutely perfect, a 350-lb disco ball lit up the sky, and the jams started off the biggest indie dance party I have ever been a part of. It was sublime. Only letdown: No "Dance Yrself Clean". Modest Mouse gave a very good, hard-working performance, but too many songs off their less-strong latest album were played (maybe I'm being to picky). However, the encore of "Black Cadillacs" and "Gravity Rides Everything" was one of the best I've seen.
And now, the big one: Pavement's reunion performance. I'll admit I had high expectations, but this had to be one of the biggest letdowns of the weekend. Yes, the sound mixing was terrible, but that had nothing to do with the fact that the group looked under-rehearsed and all-around pretty joyless (except for Bob Nastanovich who was having the time of his life). The set was essentially a greatest hits collection, though, making for a good time regardless.
No point in dwelling on the hype, Pitchfork 2010 featured some tasty jams over a beautiful summer weekend--and that is what it's all about folks.
Photos from the Fest