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Feature Wed Jul 16 2008
Friday, July 18
Mission of Burma / 6pm (C)
Mission of Burma have a difficult legacy to live up to. The anthemic bombast of early tunes like "Academy Fight Song" and "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" would eventually earn them the reputation of being American punk rock titans and godfathers of the '80s indie-rock movement. Nonetheless, Burma had their share of artier inclinations. While their 1982 album Vs. lacked some of the overt hookiness of Burma's earlier material, it revealed the group was expanding its sonic palette to cover more moody and experimental material. Still, when the band launched into high gear, they played with an unbridled fervor that at times suspensefully teetered on the edge of collapse. Considering that Vs. is the only full-length the band recorded during its initial run in the early '80s, its candidacy for Friday night is pretty much a no-brainer. Since Mission of Burma reunited in 2002, reports of their live performances describe them as being about as flatteningly loud and ferocious as one could hope for.
Sebadoh / 7:15pm (C)
It's always interesting when the side project overshadows the original band, and regardless of how you feel about Dinosaur Jr, it's hard to argue that Lou Barlow's Sebadoh hasn't managed to eclipse his original band in both popularity and influence. Pitchfork has Barlow and original collaborator Eric Gaffney reunited to perform the band's landmark fourth album Bubble and Scrape, an effort which spawned a million lo-fi imitators since its release in 1993. Flannel shirts and high-waisted jeans optional.
Public Enemy / 8:30pm (A)
It's easy to forget how hard Public Enemy used to be now that Flava Flav is some kind of cartoon pimp, but the pioneering hip hop group was responsible for bringing political consciousness to mainstream rap, and DJ Terminator X elevated scratching to an entirely new level. The 'fork has booked the boys for a straight-through performance of It 1988's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, and while you already know "Don't Believe The Hype," chances are you'll be familiar with every other track as well — every hip hop artist since has been ripping them off.
Saturday, July 19
Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar / 12:30pm (B)
A left-field choice for the festival that seems to be without precedent for Pitchfork or any other western news media source, the choice of Yugoslavian master of the flugelhorn Boban Markovic and his 20-year-old co-band-leader son Marko are strong bets to win over a few stray Beirut fans who showed up early. With a lively, worldly, and multiple-award winning brass section, the band should have everyone fired up immediately, no matter what part of the set their audience shows up for. Get a sneak peak at the band's fist-pumpingly good anthems Thursday night at the Pritzker Pavilion with Extra Golden, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Fleet Foxes.
A Hawk and a Hacksaw / 1:25pm (B)
Dig this: Balkan is the new black. This year, Pitchfork gets into the current trend of gypsy- and klezmer-influenced bands, including Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar (a bit more authentic than the others on the bill) and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. Featuring violinist Heather Trost and former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes, the Albuquerque-based group will be especially interesting to watch, particularly just how they pull off such lush, emotional music with so few people (assuming they perform as a duo, per usual, of course).
Jay Reatard / 1:30pm (A)
If the name Jay Reatard rings any bells with you, chances are good that you've spent some amount of time perusing (or living) the Goner Records catalog. The Memphis-based label has prided themselves for years — decades! — on promoting and revering all blends and flavors of real honest-to-hell rock and roll, with none of the sickening rock-and-roll-never-forgets wedding dancefloor safety-valves, and Jay was one of their original poster-children. He has fronted the Reatards, the Final Solutions, the Lost Sounds, Angry Angles, Terror Visions, and others. Now, Jay returns to his own name, sounding like a person who lives in a perpetual state of rock readiness. His output ranges from anthemic sing-along blasters to detached post-punk (he's no more afraid of keyboards or tricky changes than he is a fist to the face) to tracks that resemble the hardier side of glam — Bowie/Ronson, Slade, that lot. Daniel DiMaggio of Home Blitz has recently followed a similar path of open-faced rock and roll devotion, and received near-immediate (and warranted) recognition for his work. Here's hoping Pitchfork will help Jay catch up for lost time — this man deserves the rock and roll life if anyone does.
Caribou / 2pm (C)
It's completely cool to play a recorder again. Caribou and I firmly believe this. Anyone else? Changing his name from Manitoba after a lawsuit too unnecessary to actually go through with, Daniel Snaith has been releasing his airy psychedelic worlds as Caribou since 2004. 2007's Andorra moved him beyond the niche world and is earning respect among a more widespread indie fan base. He earned an opening spot for math-rockers/ass-kickers, Battles, last fall with a live show that engulfs you with lights, videos, and of course, music. He moves beyond the expected show experience to deliver a spectacular performance that leaves you with absolutely no idea where you've just been and an uncontrollable desire to go back immediately.
Icy Demons / 2:20pm (B)
The terms "eclectic" and "uncategorizable" get lobbed about pretty frequently these days, but Icy Demons earn the distinction moreso than any other local band. A restless entity, their five-plus member roster is made up of musicians who each play in at least two other bands. The band's current line-up is heavy on percussion and keyboards, with plenty of instrument switching occurring throughout (sometimes in the span of a single tune). With their new album Miami Ice, Icy Demons juggle genres and strip stylistic gears in a brilliantly brilliant and elegant manner. Live, however, they're a much hungrier and more agitated beast. Since their around-town appearances are pretty infrequent, here's your chance to catch one of Chicago's best off-the-radar acts.
Dizzee Rascal / 4pm (C)
Mix meaty beats and a East Ender mouth full of marbles and you got yourself a certain Dizzee Rascal. Backing up his latest album, the Mercury Prize-nominated Maths + English, Mr. Rascal has been wooing audiences since his (Mercury Prize-winning, bitches) 2003 Boy in Da Corner brought grime into college radio stations the world over. Check his single "Sirens" for his trademark mash of synth bleeps and gut-punch vox.
Vampire Weekend / 5pm (A)
Bringing a preppy sound to your indie rock channel is much-hyped Vampire Weekend. Not the goth band that their misnomer of a name might lead you to believe, this group is actually part of the more parent-friendly end of the festival's lineup. Their self-titled debut LP met with mad air play (including many a rotation in Chicago bar jukeboxes) and a rush on tickets at their spring show at the Metro. Don't fear though, this isn't any kind of easy-going bubblegum pop music. Vampire Weekend's songs are filled with excessively smart lyrics (some might say too smart... a song about commas? For real?), afro-pop melodies and are topped off with a little bit of that unfamiliar thing called happiness. It's pretty darn upbeat stuff, and you just might like it, or at the very least get up and boogie.
Elf Power / 5:20pm (B)
Pitchfork will play host to three relatives of the Elephant 6 collective, Apples in Stereo, A Hawk and a Hacksaw and certainly the most musically buoyant of the bunch at the moment, Elf Power. What may be the only reason to love Athens, GA, these veterans have worked with members of the impressive collective for years such as Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Magnum and Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes. Their 2008 release, In A Cave, is no stranger to the characteristic lo-fi sound and spacey lyrics. It oozes with a classicism that makes you want to simultaneously dance and cry, much like being confronted with Jack Nicholson's 1989 (not Dark Knight) Joker bombing your restaurant/city street to a Prince soundtrack. Elf Power is for lovers and children, except not at all.
Extra Golden / 6:25pm (B)
Extra Golden's origins trace back to Kenya, but their sound spans the globe. They have a unique history, having lost one of their original members to liver disease during the early stages of the band, a fact which actually spurred the remaining members to action to make sure their music was heard. Since then, they've released two fantastic releases on Thrill Jockey, and the band has developed a sound that incorporates many familiar textures and feels of rock and roll while retaining a distinctly international flavor. Their sophomore effort from 2007, Hera Ma Nono, made many top 10 lists for the year, and their live show consistently lives up to the promise of their recorded output, not to be missed.
The Hold Steady / 7pm (A)
With a powerhouse album released in 2006, Boys and Girls in America, The Hold Steady finally started to make their well-deserved named among the Pitchfork crowd. These crooners call Brooklyn home but rock with a force that is unmistakably southern, yet dominants anything the region could hope to put out. They're latest offering, Stay Positive, released only days ago on Vagrant, overflows with feeling as well as talent. "Sequestered in Memphis" slams with that classic piano jam we love the Hold Steady for, while darker tracks such as "Both Crosses" show a musical maturity in the new album. "Lord I'm Discouraged" transcends the sum of its parts and literally becomes the intense melancholy that is lead singer Craig Finn's acid-washed voice at it's best. There's also a few Northside/Southside references. Perhaps they've been spending more time in Chicago then they're letting on? At least we know they'll be here once, and you'll be sorrily mistaken if you're not there, too.
Jarvis Cocker / 8pm (C)
There are not many performers in the music industry who've spent as much time languishing in mediocrity as Jarvis Cocker before breaking big. From the late 1970s through the early 1990s, he led different versions of Pulp through lineup changes, red tape and indifference. In 1992, with a new lineup and new perspective, Pulp finally began to show signs of their forthcoming greatness. Over the next ten years, they'd release four revered albums and achieve stardom before going on indefinite hiatus. In 2006, Jarvis released a self-titled album that was clearly a step in a new direction. Jarvis showcased a more sedate and domestic side than Pulp while still keeping the wit. Now he returns to the Midwest for the first time in 12 years hopefully to make up for lost time (and maybe even preview some cuts from the Jarvis followup supposedly in progress).
Animal Collective / 9pm (A)
Avery Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakon are four of the weirdest pseudo-stars of the indie world. Constantly threading disparate howls, yelps, and, well, animalistic energies that veer from serene to spasm, the boys of Animal Collective find new nooks and crannies or caves and pits that you want to follow them into. Their latest, — the mildly new Water Curses EP — features a brief but promising tour through where the band could have gone with last year's excellent Strawberry Jam, and where they're heading to now with it under their belt.
Sunday, July 20
Mahjongg / 12:30pm (B)
With the arrival of their freshman album Kontpab this past February, Mahjongg moved beyond the punk-funk trappings of their prior output and steered their sound percussion-heavy West African territory. While a fair number of artists of opted for the Remain In Light move in the past year or so; but Mahjongg throw themselves into the groove with unmatched abandon. To top it all off, they wrap all this polyrhythmic ping-ponging around plenty of synth-punk bubble and throb in what makes for a brilliant tug-of-was between hot and cold. In its best moments, Mahjonng's music often verges on a deliriously unhinged energy that vaguely recalls the Butthole Surfers in their brain-scrambling heyday.
Times New Viking / 1pm (C)
Best known by some as the band that brought Tom Lax and his Siltbreeze label out of retirement, this ramshackle, crappier-than-thou-fi band from Columbus, Ohio share a sonic affiliation, if not a similar sound, with projects like Sic Alps and Home Blitz. All three bands play within standard rock forms, yet somehow manage to avoid any major comparisons with their musical influences (coincidentally, all three have seen their earliest recordings explode into Ebay fetish objects). While mention has been made of the Vikings' association with Mike Rep, thereby connecting them, six degrees style, to those other fidelity skanks Guided By Voices, TNV are comfier amidst comparisons to another, earlier Mike Rep collaboration, St. Louis' favorite sons the Screamin' Mee Mees, whose "Live From the Basement" 7-inch still shines as a beacon to all who would walk the path of willful scuzziness and intelligent abandon. Times New Viking's Dig Yourself LP will hopefully fill the same role for the next generation of high-octane trash-strutters.
High Places / 1:25pm (B)
Oh the joys of indie pop. Formed in 2008, this boy/girl duo consisting of Rob Barber and Mary Pearson combine playfulness with tribal rhythms to pleasantly weird effect. High Places are Brooklyn-based artists who released their debut self-titled EP on Chicago's own Thrill Jockey in 2008. How they got noticed began with a Chicago connection. A familial relation with Pitchfork Media (Pearson's sister used to work there) led to a review of their self-titled debut EP by critic Mike Powell, sealing them as confirmed members of the indie universe. They blend Hawaiian music with Chinese pop and hardcore, which, strange as it sounds, is danceable, in a jumping around type of oddball fashion.
Boris / 2pm (C)
A few years ago one of my friends saw Boris in Atlanta and wrote the next day, "It was like standing in front of a jet engine. My brain is complete jelly today." That was actually a rousing endorsement. Over the last sixteen years, the trio that emerged from Japan's hardcore scene has stayed out of genre niches by regularly altering their sound. They've played all sorts of metal and even released experimental albums, as well as notable collaborations with Merzbow and Sunn O))). Even though their latest, Smile, is more in line with drone metal, expect an eclectic set from Boris. Turning brains into jelly is just the beginning of what they have to offer. (Plus, they have tremendous equipment for the gearheads to gawk at.)
HEALTH / 2:20pm (B)
I will never forget the night, standing right in front of a small stage in a café in Dekalb, IL, my ears were brutally assaulted at the hands of the Los Angeles noise band HEALTH. You see my first experience with HEALTH was listening to a few tracks through the tiny speakers of my work computer at a low volume. I wasn't sure what to think and basically wrote them off and moved on. This was is until they opened for Crystal Castles one night in May. I moved close to the stage when I saw some one taping a keyboard to floor. There were electronics and pedals and cables everywhere. Anticipating the sound that all of this might make I moved a little closer to the left speaker, and suddenly the room exploded. This young band plays with so much energy it only amplifies their raw sonic output. The word of the night among the shocked concert goers was "primal". HEALTH released their self-titled debut album last September (Lovepump United), and in May they also put out a fantastic remix album (Lovepump United).
The Apples in Stereo / 3pm (A)
You may not know it, but you probably know Apples in Stereo. Does their "Signal in the Sky" from the Let's Go! EP sounds familiar? That's because it appeared in the Powerpuff Girls movie, you stoner. Does guitarist/singer Robert Schneider look familiar? That's because he introduced the infamous shred-off between The Decemberists and Stephen Colbert. Check out their so-sunshiney, sugary-sweet indie pop as the Denver-based Apples make their Pitchfork debut.
King Khan & The Shrines / 3:15pm (B)
King Khan arrived in The States late last month for his first American tour already carrying with a reputation of putting on wild and dangerous performances. He has been noted for combining the erotic and the soulful, and the results are often chaotic. Forming in Germany in 1999, at the age of 22 Kahn started to gain a reputation for his understanding of soul music and his ability to perform. The band, a super bad 10 piece soul inferno which includes Chicago-born Ron Streeter, has been touring Europe with Kahn for the last eight years. Recently signed to Vice Records, the band released a greatest hits collection just last month, and will be tearing up stages across America through August 3rd.
Les Savy Fav / 4pm (C)
Anyone who's seen Les Savy Fav probably doesn't need added incentive to see them again. The energetic Tim Harrington is one of the best frontmen of this era and the band he leads sounds far more dynamic on stage than on any record. Whether it's rolling out slip'n'slides, crawling underneath floorboards, cutting hair or kissing audience members, Harrington manages to be both entertaining and borderline insane at all times. While he provides the visuals, the band nullifies the awkwardly varying production levels on its albums by delivering a chunky post-punk rock sound that they can only seem to pull off live. Even non-fans should make a point to experience the inevitable spectacle.
The Dodos / 5pm (A)
Meric Long (vocals/guitar) and Logan Kroeber (drums) are two musicians from San Francisco who have been playing together since 2006. The remarkable thing is that it is just two men walking on stage to an acoustic guitar and a worn drum set, and they create the most electric, energetic, sound I have heard in years. With rhythmic strums, graceful vocal tones, and inventive drum play, The Dodos released their second album (first as The Dodos, formerly Dodo Bird) on March 18th via Frenchkiss Records.
Occidental Brothers Dance Band International / 5:20pm (B)
OBDBI is one of the hidden gems of the Chicago music scene, representing an international conglomeration of first rate musicians playing some of the most joyous, danceable music around. Formed by local guitarist Nathaniel Broddock, the band also features Ghana natives Kofi Cromwell and Daniel "Rambo" Asamoah, and local jazz scene stalwarts Greg Ward and Josh Ramos. The band started out as a cover project, playing classic Ghanian highlife and Congolese rumba, but as time has gone on they've developed their own unique compositional voice and style. The result is an infectious mix of African grooves and blistering improvised passages that lives up to the band name's promise to get everybody dancing.
Ghostface Killah & Raekwon / 6:25pm (B)
At the dawn of the Wu-Tang dynasty, when each of the initial participants started ripping out their own solo records, Ghostface (then Ghostface Killah) and Raekwon (the Chef) established themselves as having the albums that you had to check out first... after you, y'know, checked out Method Man, Old Dirty Bastard, and the GZA. Lacking attention-getting novelties like dope, insanity, or being the head when the group "forms like Voltron," Ghost and Rae had to depend instead of tight, inventive, fluid raps and unique flows (Ghostface's urgent, high-voiced machine gun vs. Raekwon's deeper, duskier noir narratives), as well as solid word-of-mouth from hip-hop fanatics, who know skills when they hear 'em. Looking back now, time's been kinder to the catalogs of these two than just about anyone in the original stable, save perhaps for the GZA. Expect nothing less than sweat, intensity, hand-raising and skills... from the artists, that is. What the crowd will do during this is anybody's guess.
Spiritualized / 7pm (A)
UK psychedelic/experimental Spiritualized counts over twenty-six years of music history under its belt. Members have come and gone as often as the many looks of Madonna, yet front man Jason Pierce remains the steady driving force. Hailing from Rugby, England, the vocalist/guitarist formed the band back in 1990 out the ashes of Spacemen 3, ensuing controversy over the band's breakup. In 1999 Pierce completely stripped the band, hiring brand new members. It's this type of risk taking and unwillingness to compromise that typifies the music of Spiritualized, which has continued to evolve over the years. The band's trademark spacey minimalism is present in Songs in A & E, the band's sixth album, yet the heavy layers of gospel and blues exhibit a new depth of emotion. It took Pierce two years to finish the album, during which time he was hospitalized for double pneumonia. It's not called Songs in A & E for nothing, as A &E is a reference to the UK terminology for ER (accident and emergency), where Pierce spent considerable time on the verge of death. So yeah, if you want to hear what back-to-life music sounds like, go see this band.
Dinosaur Jr. / 8pm (C)
J Mascis is a rock god! I have contended for many many years that he is the greatest guitar player of all time. You may or may not agree, but the fact remains that no other musician take a pop melody and insert a roaring yet majestic guitar solo quite like J. Forming in 1984, Dinosaur Jr. release three studio album before the departure of bass player (and Sebadoh frontman) Lou Barlow. J continued on as Dinosaur Jr. releasing four more albums between 1991 and 1997. In 2005, the original line-up finally reunited and they haven't looked back since. Last year, the band released their first studio album in over ten years, Beyond, and the sound is just as fresh and raw as it was back in '84. It is well documented that the live performance of Dinosaur Jr. are some of the most sonically impressive and loudest shows around. Just to witness the stacks of amps and microphones the J plays in front of is worth the price of admission.
Cut Copy / 8:25pm (B)
While last year's laughingly bad sound problems caused many to flee the Balance Stage early, the final, late, aggro set from the Klaxons put a nail gun to the coffin and let it rip. So it would be unfair to say that Cut Copy have bid shoes to fill — rather, they could do nearly anything they wanted to and top last year's Sunday finale with ease. Yet, the men of Melbourne have proven to be a dance-floor inducing live show even for kids standing around at a rock concert, and thusly do they deserve the honor of finishing off the night for those who want to head home when the dancing stops. With great hipster limb movement power comes great responsibility, so expect the band to push only the best of their classic material while they milk the cohesion and energy of their astounding In Ghost Colors.
Spoon / 9pm (A)
With the release last summer of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon confused many a tongue-tied radio deejay and delighted most critics who raved about the latest efforts of this Austin, TX-based indie group. Classified as some sort of "gentleman punk" or a lo-fi indie romp, Spoon defied conventions once again with their latest work. At only 36 minutes, Ga Ga... is a whirlwind trip through lyrical mazes, production dubs and crafted percussion — but in a good way. As an album that has been labeled "a grower" and "one to be revisited" by the critics, I wonder how well it'll go off live on Sunday night. I'm not entirely sure why this Texas-bred group seems to have so much trouble getting their energy level up when playing summer festivals, but after watching them play a steamy Lolla set and an equally hot and lazy Pitchfork performance over the past couple years, you got the feeling they just didn't have their hearts in it — maybe a headliner slot is what they craved (and finally received). As it is, my fingers are crossed that Britt and the boys are out there somewhere, taking it easy, getting hydrated, and maybe getting a neck rub, because if the weather holds out with this hazy, hot and humid business, I'm not sure that they're going to make it through the weekend. And hey, it's not the first time you'll hear it, but take a chance on a winner of an encore, boys, and give the fans a little something from the past and play "Chicago at Night" (after all, it will be Chicago... at night).
Pitchfork Festival Schedule 2008, Union Park, Chicago, IL
Friday, July 18 (in conjunction with All Tomorrow's Parties/Don't Look Back):
6:00 - Mission of Burma performing Vs. (C)
7:15 - Sebadoh performing Bubble and Scrape (C)
8:30 - Public Enemy performing It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (A)
Saturday, July 19:
12:30 - Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar (B)
1:00 - Titus Andronicus (C)
1:25 - A Hawk and a Hacksaw (B)
1:30 - Jay Reatard (A)
2:00 - Caribou (C)
2:20 - Icy Demons (B)
3:00 - Fleet Foxes (A)
3:15 - Fuck Buttons (B)
4:00 - Dizzee Rascal (C)
4:15 - The Ruby Suns (B)
5:00 - Vampire Weekend (A)
5:20 - Elf Power (B)
6:00 - !!! (C)
6:25 - Extra Golden (B)
7:00 - The Hold Steady (A)
7:30 - Atlas Sound (B)
8:00 - Jarvis Cocker (C)
8:25 - No Age (B)
9:00 - Animal Collective (A)
Sunday, July 20:
12:30 - Mahjongg (B)
1:00 - Times New Viking (C)
1:25 - High Places (B)
1:30 - Dirty Projectors (A)
2:00 - Boris (C)
2:20 - HEALTH (B)
3:00 - The Apples in Stereo (A)
3:15 - King Khan & the Shrines (B)
4:00 - Les Savy Fav (C)
5:00 - The Dodos (A)
5:20 - Occidental Brothers Dance Band International (B)
6:00 - M. Ward (C)
6:25 - Ghostface Killah & Raekwon (B)
7:00 - Spiritualized (A)
7:30 - Bon Iver (B)
8:00 - Dinosaur Jr. (C)
8:25 - Cut Copy (B)
9:00 - Spoon (A)
(A) - Aluminum Stage
(B) - Balance Stage
(C) - Connector Stage
(For a full map, click here.)