Pitchfork Day One: Josh’s Take
(All thoughts below should be tempered by the knowledge that I was tired and crabby from waking at 4:30 and driving all day)
The ever expanding Pitchfork Music Festival took the next logical step for expansion, which was making Friday night more of a real night and not just a chance to “classic” indie bands to school the young hipsters in attendance. Where in the past we could see bands playing classic albums front to back or vote for which songs a given band will play (although they ignored most requests), Friday night this year was a more real start to the festival.
The one big difference was that there was no overlap amongst bands (there was a comedy stage), so the whole crowd was able to wander between sets to catch each act. First up was brooding singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten, who had the unfortunate spot of first act on the first day. She did a good job of connecting with the growing crowd, but her stripped down singer songwriter act seemed slightly out of place on a sunny afternoon. Squinting into the sun while playing for a sweaty mass of beer drinking people, her music just didn’t connect in a way that it can in a smaller, more ideal venue for her style. Next up was another solo, folky act, but one that seemed more able to adapt to the situation. I have seen the Tallest Man on Earth a few times and have always been impressed, so I was not surprised that his early afternoon set ended up being my favorite set of the day. Starting off with the title track from his sophomore album “The Wildest Hunt,” Kristian Matsson played a spirited 40 minute set that drew from both of his albums and really won over the crowd. While many of his songs were as somber and quiet as Van Etten’s, his quirky personality really helped him connect with the audience and set him up for what was the best set of the day.
The next three artists all got about half of my attention, with the other half split between wandering around, drinking beer and eating food, and marveling how tired and hot I was. All three (El-P, Liars and Robyn) are groups that I have like to certain extents, but are not groups that I was searching out to see. In fact, if they had played on Saturday or Sunday, I almost surely would have chosen another option for El-P and Robyn and only checked out part of Liars. El-P had a cool live band supporting him for his grimy hip hop songs. At their best they were intense and brooding, at worst they seemed emo and overblown. Liars are a band I have liked in the past (especially their more somber/spacey Drums Not Dead), but have never seen live. Their live show was entertaining, but just didn’t fully connect with me, which probably had to do with the fact that I was a sweat soaked zombie at that point. Their eclectic sound, ranging from noise rock to electro dance stutters, sounded good live and wild front man Angus Andrew kept the crowd engaged with his crazy antics. Robyn was super slick dance pop that really had the crowd moving. It didn’t do a ton for me, but her band was tight and I can see why many people found her set to be one of the best of the night.
The last two bands of the night were two institutions of indie rock from the last decade. First up was the boisterous anthems from the small army that was Broken Social Scene. While some of the famous ladies from the group have moved on, Kevin Drew and company still powered through a solid set, mixing in tracks from their new Forgiveness Rock Record while still playing the old classics. Songs like “7/4 Shoreline” sound epic with multiple guitars and the pulsing rhythm the group created really brought the crowd to life as the sun was setting behind the band. Last up were headliners Modest Mouse, who were clearly the band that many of the young, name brand clad kids were there to see. While I was once a pretty big Modest Mouse fan, their last few albums have left me a little underwhelmed and it gets a little tiresome seeing them so overexposed. My experience from last night involved watching young, tipsy kids dressed to the nine pushing their way past other young, tipsy kids dressed to the nine, as each was certain they would “get right to the front.” I also was able to witness a woman projectile vomiting, which in the grand scheme of things of things ended up being more entertaining than the bands lackluster set. I thought to myself during their set “I will put up with this shit for LCD Soundsdystem and Pavement, but not for Modest Mouse.” Thus ended day one of the Pitchfork Music. While there were about 10,000 people who probably would think I am crazy, an air conditioned hotel room sounded exponentially better than Modest Mouse at about 9:30 last night. I’m looking forward to seeing some of my favorite bands in the next two days and will also hopefully benefit from a little more energy than I had today.
Keep an eye out for more of Jon’s awesome pics and some videos I took in the coming days.