2009 Pitchfork Music Festival – [Live]

Friday, 24 July 2009

Sunday’s 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival coverage can be found HERE.

Here’s another reminder of why I love Chicago in the summer: Pitchfork Festival. Stationed at Union Park, it is not as big as Lollapalooza but it’s better that way. A weekend of hippies and hipsters joining together for a music festival that brings in new talent, unnoticed bands and groundbreaking veterans. Sometimes it breaks my heart that I can’t see it all. Overlapping band schedules are always a bummer and bathroom lines can take up to 25 minutes. Add food and beer lines to that, and you have missed out on something for sure. So it was important to me to really get to see a little of everything. Here is my account of the shows on Saturday…

2:15 Plants & Animals: After hopping off the green line, I bee lined to the C stage to check out the last few songs of P&A’s set. Their artsy, melting pot of influenced jams gave off a distorted prog rock sound mixed with subtle guitar layers. Off of their debut album, Parc Avenue, they played a recognizable “Good Friend,” which was smooth and groovy-chill with repetitive lyrics that were spellbinding. From what I saw, this band is just getting started and has real originality.

2:35 Fucked Up: This Canadian band changed the vibe completely as frontman Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham came out on stage with energy and a mission. He’s a bigger dude with a shaved head, mangled beard and killer metal vocals. But the band was all-around punk sounding without Abraham’s vocals. It’s hard to think what metal-punk sounds like, but let’s just call it “hardcore” like everyone else. The crowd loved his persona and tossed beach balls up into the air only for Abraham to grab it, strangle it and rip it open with his teeth. He killed it. “Fuck Yeah!!” he shouted to the crowd while he thrashed around the stage. He continued to pull up his shirt around his neck while he sang (screamed/shouted) to expose his impressive beer belly and hairy back. Another beach ball is tossed up—this time he ripped it open to create a hole on one side, and essentially made a nice hat to wear for the majority of the set. Everyone liked this. Someone threw him a sunflower and of course Damian made good use of it. “Where’d this come from?” he said as he rubbed it around his belly button and down the side of his pants to have it stick out half way. All this happened after the first song, “Son the Father.” His antics continued and you could tell he was having a great time because after playing around he jumped down into the crowd and stayed down there for the rest of the set. Despite some missing vocals and lots of hairy man visuals, he entertained and really put on a show. He wore himself out so much that he took a water bottle and started to suck it down. “Chug! Chug! Chug!” the crowd chanted. Nice.

3:15: After all that intensity, I needed to chill for a minute with a refreshing I.P.A. I walked around for a little and checked out the art and hard-to-find music merch tents that filled up a large chunk of the festival. There were lots of local artists, screen prints and random merchandise (good prices, too). I wish I had more time to really check everything out but I had to get back to stage C.

3:22 The Pains of Being Pure At Heart:
I started listening to the POBPAH album a few weeks before this event and really like their shoegazy indie pop style but I was little disappointed in their live performance. The sound was really off. I could barely hear keyboardist/backup vocalist, Peggy Wang. And singer Kip Berman looked really depressed. Their set list mostly consisted of songs off their self-titled debut album. Favorites like “This Love is Fucking Right!” “Young Adult Friction” and “Come Saturday” were well received from the crowd. As a fairly new touring band, I have to give them credit as their melodies are crisp and clean, they just were not loud enough for an outside venue. Kip told the crowd “Fucking cool to be here. Thanks to Fucked Up.” Maybe Pink Eyes gave them a pep talk before the show? Some of the other songs POBPAH played were “Everything With You,” “Higher Than the Stars,” “103” and of course, “The Pains of Being Pure At Heart.” Overall, it was so-so.

4:16 Final Fantasy: Canadian prodigy, Owen Pallett, is the string arranger to many bands including Arcade Fire. His “one-man band” approach will remind you greatly of Andrew Bird. I’m sure they are compared a lot, but that’s what comes to mind when a talented soloist is creating intricate and classical melodies to which anyone can appreciate. Owen has created a baroque pop sound with classical influences mixed with an upbeat electronic backdrop. He uses foot pedals to loop, layer and add to sound like a full symphony. Armed with his violin, Owen’s opening song was a little reminiscent of Radiohead with distorted chords and tapping/plucking add-ins. “I’m a little nervous,” he admitted to the vast crowd. “I don’t usually do these shows for America or anywhere outside of Canada.” Even if he was nervous, his talent broke down a wall as he performed, “This Lamb Sells Condos” which featured a fast tempo, eerie violin echoes and high-pitched vocals. Just because his music is heavily influenced on classical doesn’t mean it’s instrumental. He sang in an angelic way-hard to describe. Very stunning, though. And yes, his performing name comes from the popular video game that Owen is a fan of.

4:45 I unhappily had to leave Final Fantasy early because, at this point, I did not eat yet and I was feeling a little woozy. What to choose? They had all kinds of yummy food; veggie burgers, ice cream, curry? I went for Connie’s pizza because I’m safe like that.
On a side note, the weather was touch and go all day. The pretty puffy white clouds that were covering the sky earlier in the day were by now, dark gray. Definitely on the cooler side.

5:13 Yeasayer: I was pretty excited for this group because their music has popped up many times in my Pandora “Thievery Corporation” radio station over the past year and I always clicked the “thumbs up” icon on their songs. Their 2007 release of All Hour Cymbals is an organic collection of a variety of different influences that stem from Middle-Eastern beats, experimental sampling, Latin pizzazz and American pop giving an other-worldly sense of oddity. But all the eclectic sounds are not lost to complication; it’s still smooth, catchy and relaxed. The group got on the stage quite naturally and the sound was perfect. Maybe they worked out the kinks after POBPAH? Singers Chris Keating and Anand Wilder were chillingly harmonic and upbeat. They performed “Tightrope” with a heavy influence on percussion. Then onto “Waiting for the Summer,” which was an electro-world song with Indian sitar sampling. Yeasayer played “Many Waves,” which featured a dramatic echoed effect between the vocals and percussion. Now the rain clouds were really looming and without warning, it poured. Not sprinkled, but poured. Umbrellas and sweaters went up over the crowds’ heads. But 90% of us just smiled, laughed and embraced the rain. Maybe it was because Yeasayer kept going with no regard whatsoever or that their music blended perfectly for a mid-afternoon rain dance party. Then just as quiet as it came, it stopped after the song was finished. How funny. Just for that song, we danced in the rain. They also played favorites “2080” and “Sunrise” along with their other groovy tunes. By the end of their set, the sun came out. Keep a look out for their upcoming album sometime within the year, should be good.

6:30 Doom: I had to check out this performer just for the fact that he wears a creepy metallic mask. He came on a little late but when he did he had a big introduction and to me who admittedly does not know too much about underground hip-hop, he sounded good. Too good. There were rumors that he lip-synchs. I’ll never know. But to me, he was entertaining enough to see a few songs. He was comparable to Method Man’s style. Now, off to the tree-encased B stage.

6:45 Lindstrom: I needed an electronic fix for sure. As I waited for some spacey and groovy electronic from Hans-Peter Lindstrom, a crowd gathered around a large tree. Apparently, this guy was trying to climb this monster of a tree to get to the first limb that was 20 feet from the ground. His friends were pushing the bottoms of his bare feet up, as tall as they could reach. Quite the spectacle. After 15 minutes, he finally made it and the crowd cheered in approval. Security came quickly and swung around hand-cuffs before they threatened him to come down immediately. It took him another 10 minutes just to shimmy and slide down the trunk without killing himself. Anyway, Lindstrom came on with a cowboy hat and sunglasses on. His trance-like mix reminded me of old Paul Oakenfold, but something was missing. After 15 minutes, I knew what it: the bass. Well, he brought out the bass times ten and it was so hardcore that it vibrated every hair on my head. Lindstrom’s simple melodies via his Mac and dizzying bass satisfied the crowd into a frenzied disco dance party.

7:30 Porta Pottys: Fail. Waited for 30 minutes!

8:05 Beirut: Sadly, I was not paying full, undivided attention to this band because I was in the process of looking for my friends to meet up and get a good spot for The National. But it served as my background music and what I caught was very eclectic. Folk plus electronic with some added horns and percussive anomalies. Final Fantasy’s Owen was on stage at some point helping out with some violin accompaniment. He performed favorites like “Elephant Gun,” “Nantes” and “Mimizan.” Wish I saw more.

8:41 The National: The final show of the night was highly anticipated ever since the Brooklyn-based group left Pitchfork in 2007. This time as the headliner and a full 18-song set, they started out with a new song, “Runaway,” and instantly, the buzzed crowd went totally silent. No side chatter or side conversation went on. Matt Berninger’s chilling baritone voice was hauntingly beautiful. His lyrics are just as stunning. With the support of the soft trombone and trumpet, breezy guitar and heart beating drums, this song is a keeper. Next was “Start A War” that included a frantic violin accent. Some other highlights included “Baby We’ll Be Fine,” and when the dramatic lyrics coupled with the violin being played like a guitar was striking. Also, popular “Slow Show” gave me chills. Wearing a causal suit coat and tie, Matt wins at being hypnotizing. They went on to play “Mistaken for Strangers,” “Brainy,” “Secret Meeting,” “Squalor Victoria,” “All the Wine,” “Green Gloves” and “Ada” among others. For “Fake Empire,” the piano chords took over the song and towards the end, both guitars were held above their heads for an eye-pleasing finish. “Last time we played at Pitchfork, it was 95 degrees,” Matt told the crowd. “This is a lot more comfortable.” “Mr. November” was a hit with the crowd, and was more energetic and upbeat than most of his melancholy songs. Matt dramatically leaped off the stage into the photo pit area and out of view while he sang. He got closer as he stood up on the edge of the fence to get a closer look at us. For the encore, they played “About Today” that featured a dramatic build-up to a mini jam session with a shredding violin solo. It was a perfect ending to an accomplished band. They are well deserving as a headliner and gave a smoldering performance.

10:03 It was a long day of music and I felt like I accomplished trying to see everyone I could. Unfortunately, I already made plans with a friend for her birthday for Sunday afternoon so I was going to miss out on some of my favorite acts like M83, The Walkmen, Mew, Grizzly Bear and Flaming Lips.

More on the 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival:

Artists: – [The National] – [Lindstrom] – [Fucked Up]


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