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Pitchfork Music Festival Thu Jul 15 2010
Our staff is pretty excited about the upcoming Pitchfork Music Festival. We'll will be in the mix, with an ear on the stages, along with a table at the CHIRP Record Fair tent. (We fall under "other delights." Come on over and say Hi, buy a GB t-shirt or one of our fabulous anniversary party posters.) Remember to check out all the other non-performance activities this weekend including Flatstock, the Rock for Kids' auction booth, the Coterie craft fair, and more. Transmission writer Lisa White be bringing you daily coverage, as well as a festival wrap-up after the weekend's over from Michelle Meywes (all paired with photos by George Aye), but for now, here's our thoughts on what you can hear in Union Park on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Friday July 16
Sharon Van Etten (a) 3:30 pm
Brooklynite Sharon Van Etten has the pleasure of starting off the festivities a little earlier than usual this year. The crowd that either skips out of work early or wants to camp out for Modest Mouse will get a sweet sweet dose of her sultry tunes. (From her website, Sharon writes: "I am the first act of the first day. I hope people are there. (ha)") With a Feist-ian smoothness to her voice, Sharon could have been one of those girls who rocked the acoustic open-mic at your favorite coffee shop. Instead, she's going to try to win your heart from the moment you enter Union Park. And hey, if you can't catch her Friday afternoon, you can see her open for Here We Go Magic at Schubas Saturday night (if you were already lucky enough to score a ticket, that is).
The Tallest Man on Earth (c) 4:00 pm
The best Swede to see this weekend is most definitely Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, who's coarse, Bob Dylan-like vocals are much nicer solo than they were in the Swedish rock band Montezumas he was hiding in before. Now his high-pitched crooning and folky-plucking conveys nothing but raw emotion, making the crowd feel like he's sharing intimate secrets with them. His latest album, The Wild Hunt, was recorded in-home on a single mic, lending to that organic feel he's meant for. See him kick off Pitchfork's Connector stage Friday afternoon.
El-P (a) 4:35 pm
Now and always, Mr. El-Producto (aka El-P) will be the General on the battleship known as Def Jux. The label/collective exploded on the scene in the mid-'90s with Company Flow, an underground hip-hop trio that was just a few years before its time (see also: the criminally underrated New Kingdom). Without a dedicated underground culture to support them, CoFlow withered on the vine, but El-P came back stronger than ever a few years later to form Def Jux and act as producer to a variety of underground hip hop's leading lights, especially Cannibal Ox. The speed of El's flow as a rapper has eased back from hypermanic to simply insistent, and it's done a world of good — his word-salads on CoFlow's Funcrusher Plus were completely unapproachable without a lyric sheet, and while he's still spitting circles around the competition, it's now possible to yell along with prickly couplets like "Critics all see me twisted/They don't get my whole existence/An actual b-boy brainiac who'll slap you out your mittens." As for his productions, they get more ferocious with each new endeavor — the grinding, near-industrial beats, moaning synths and wailing distress sirens on 2007's I'll Sleep When You're Dead come on like a cross between the Bomb Squad (funkiness, intricacy) and the Beatnigs (industrial horror, '80s 'outside hip hop' attitude). El tends to take his time on new studio albums - and when they do come out, they're perfect — but a new mix album is due out in early August. Perhaps the professor will have a few stashed in his suitcase?
Liars (c) 5:30 pm
Liars may be one of the reasons I no longer fear change. The band twists and turns from song to song album to album like an epileptic cat maintaining their position as one of the best art rock bands of the past decade. A delicious mess of post-punk/noise, drone and repetition,they make their spastic nature work in their favor adding to the depth and mystery with a textured sound that suddenly can drop to another world. I am highly anticipating see them this year and to hear new material from Sisterworld, which was released this past March.
Hannibal Buress (b) 5:45 pm
Chicago native son Hannibal Buress should already be a household name to comedy fans here in town. If he isn't, I feel bad for you - his style is classic, clever and concise, always pulling large (and weird) insights out of day to day happenings that pass through most of our heads unexamined. Courier New font? The ultimate solution for when you need to write a long paper and are running out of ideas. "I'm two pages in, say 'fuck it,' switch to Courier New, and suddenly it's 72 pages! I go from writer's block to 'in conclusion...'" On the SUV that directs fire trucks to the fire: "What's there to direct? 'See that fire over there? I want you to put water on it until there's no more fire.'" People who would rather make lazy comparisons than describe for themselves tend to call Hannibal "The black Mitch Hedberg," and it's true that some of the analysis of the mundane is similar, but Hannibal's got his own style; his timing is tighter, he knows how to work a callback, and he can pull an audience in with his stories, moreso than Hedberg's tendency to flop a joke and then get a laugh by pointing out how weak the joke was. Buress is currently a writer on Saturday Night Live, so it's unsurprising that he's really got the art of the joke written in his DNA. This should be a no-brainer for a comedian, but considering the makeup of the so-called "alternative" comedy scene, where punchlines tend to dribble out in a mess of pop culture allusions and dime-store replicas of surrealism, Hannibal's line-em-up-knock-em-down delivery is a welcome relief.
Robyn (a) 6:25 pm
When Robyn last played Chicago in 2008, it was in support of her self-titled album distancing herself from the 1997 hit "Show Me Love" and years of being pushed like a stereotypical female pop star. Robyn was a breath of fresh air with a sharp feminine electropop sound. In the years since, she has notably collaborated with Basement Jaxx, Fleshquartet, Kleerup (for the monster "With Every Heartbeat") and Royksopp. On 2010's Body Talk series, she tackles loneliness. The finest example of this is on the single "Dancing On My Own." Clearly, Robyn understands the subtle beauty in sad electronic pop music - taking advantage of the juxtaposition between dance floors full of people and heartbreaking subject matter. On the stage, she is a feisty performer pouring out her heart and making every person hearing her feel the truth in her music.
Wyatt Cenac (b) 6:30 pm
He makes you laugh, he makes you think...and he makes you a little bit uncomfortable on purpose. He's Wyatt Cenac, writer and correspondent on The Daily Show, and damn good standup in his own right. Cenac's standup criss-crosses easily between absurdist, filthy ("I've found myself masturbating on the ground a lot lately....that's my way of pouring a little out for my ladies that can't be here tonight."), political, and racial with ease. His was poking fun at Barack Obama when he was still a junior senator, suggested that the DNC convention would have been less boring if they included a LOST-styled gimmick, like releasing a polar bear on the convention floor, and now hosts Daily Show segments like "Rapper or Republican?" He also starred into indie drama Medicine for Melancholy in 2009.
Michael Showalter (b) 7:15 pm
You might have heard that Pitchfork is doing something a little different this year with a round of Friday-night stand-up performances by a crop of severely talented comedians. Michael Showalter, who you might remember from MTV's series The State (he played Doug, solamente Doug, among other characters) as well as his stand-up with State alumns Michael Ian Black and David Wain in a 3-man troupe called Stella, or even is his wacky video bits for someecards.com with Black. You probably remember him from Wet Hot American Summer as that weepy counselor who's unlucky in love. I have to say, I've never seen Showalter on his own on stage, but always as a part of an ensemble, or riffing of another character, so I'm definitely intrigued not only as to how he'll handle himself up under the lights, but also how the music-loving, possibly slightly confused, slightly inebriated audience will react to this skinny dude trying to make them pee their pants with laughter. It's like he's performing in front of a sea of Doug and Dougettes and "teens and 'dults don't mix." Godspeed.
Broken Social Scene (c) 7:20 pm
It's been almost exactly three-quarters of a decade since Ryan Schreiber poured his heart out into one of the most heartfelt album reviews he or anyone else at Pitchfork has ever produced. He was writing about an album he'd found in the endless stacks of promos — no hype, no promotions company, and certainly no catchy cover art led him to find one of his (and other's) new favorite bands. Now onto their fifth album (if you want to count debut Feel Good Lost and the Kevin Drew project Spirit If...), Broken Social Scene has played Lollapalooza, made countless side projects (not that they weren't doing that before, but, you know) and arrive as something of an elder amidst the performers this weekend. Luckily, the new record is anything but a collection of chops losing luster - in fact, Forgiveness Rock Record is easily on par with anything they've done before, and bursts with new ideas -particularly ones that should rock in festival form.
Eugene Mirman (b) 8:00 pm
Claiming to be the "worlds foremost Eugene-named entertainer", Eugene Mirman isn't going to get any argument here. Mirman comes off as possibly either a chess prodigy or an A/V club geek, either way, he speaks to the silent but funny contingent in your group of friends. He's that guy who sits in the backseat of your car on roadtrips, doesn't say anything for 3 states, then makes you spit your milkshake through your nose with an appropriately-timed killer joke. You might remember him from Flight of the Conchords as the not-so-handy super. He's the last man standing before Friday's headliner starts up, and folks will be raring to get their Modest Mouse on, not necessarily listen and play nice. Still, he's a seasoned pro, and here's hoping he can handle a sea of skinny hecklers who just won't know what to do with him. Maybe he can remind them all on what grunge was.
Modest Mouse (a) 8:30 pm
I saw Modest Mouse a few years ago in an old, run-down roller skating rink somewhere in Iowa and it was one of the best live shows I've ever seen. Not because of the nifty silk-screened posters they were selling, or their twisted rendition of "Bukowski" — although that was pretty cool — but it was the crowd's contagious, cult-like camaraderie that made the concert so unforgettable, even in Iowa. Frontman Isaac Brock and his indie-rock brain child has gone places very few neurotic, lo-fi bands go: to a major label, to the Grammy Awards and to mammoth festivals. Since the radio-friendly success of "Float On," Brock's clever wordplay sometimes gets lost on the wrong crowd. Though it will be fun to bop around to the pop-hooks of songs like "Dashboard" and "Ocean Breathes Salty" at Friday's set, take time to identify the tried-and-true fans around you, the ones who act like Brock and his wailing, unstable vocals are reaching right into their souls. They're the ones who, like me, know that the lyrics often push the music aside.
Saturday July 17
Free Energy (a) 1:00 pm
Free Energy may be Stuck On Nothing, but we're stuck on them. We've seen a lot of this band already this year, from the Empty Bottle, to Beauty Bar, to a barn party in Wisconsin. The Philly group teamed up with none other than James Murphy (performing with LCD Soundsystem the same night) and DFA Records for their debut album, and the 70's glam tinged rock and roll and danceable hooks have earned them comparisons to the likes of Thin Lizzy and The Strokes. Be sure to check out the lead single, "Dream City." They're the first band of the day on Saturday, and a great reason to get to Union Park early. They'll be a fun outdoor set, and a great way to start the day.
Netherfriends (b) 1:00 pm
It's always nice to see a friendly face, hear a familiar voice, or a song that references your home. The atmospheric "Lead You Through The Misty Fog of Milwaukee Ave" is one song that does just that, among many other Chicago references on Netherfriends' debut album, Barry and Sherry. Shawn Rosenblatt, the man behind the music, pays a quick visit home for Pitchfork amidst his 50 songs 50 states tour. "Let me sleep on your couch" is his MySpace tagline since he's given up his apartment for one year to "play a show and write and record a song in each state in the USA." While this project and his sound will no doubt draw comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, there is a much heavier psychedelic touch to Rosenblatt's dramatic feel good tunes, and unlike Stevens, he is dedicated to finishing the project. Check out the video for track one from the album, "Bret Easton Ellis Novel."
Real Estate (c) 1:45 pm
The music of indie rockers Real Estate has been compared to bands like The Feelies. The four man band from Ridgewood, New Jersey, channels the experience of being young, unemployed college grads into a surf-rock aesthetic captured in lyrics like "What you want is just outside your reach / You keep on searchin' / You're walking down that Pensacola beach / You keep repeatin'." With contemporaries like the Vivian Girls and Titus Andronicus, Real Estate is part of an emerging scene out of New Jersey of bands who aren't afraid of representing where they're from.
Sonny & the Sunsets (b) 1:55 pm
Lo-fi rockers Sonny & the Sunsets recently got tagged as a great "summer band" on NPR's All Songs Considered Summer Music Preview episode, with their recently released debut album Tomorrow is Alright. With raging summertime temperatures and plenty of sunshine, the band's tag will certainly work this weekend at Pitchfork. Songs like "Too Young To Burn" and "Death Cream" might not be much of a peppy example of blissfull young adulthood, but the band's sound can charm you into submission. They're a little drone, a little shoegaze, a little bit like something you really should be listening to out of a transistor swinging from your rearview. But hey, they're a mellow San Francisco band, man, just go with it.
Delorean (a) 2:30 pm
With more than a million Catalan citizens having marched in Spain for greater autonomy just a day before the country won the World Cup on July 11, some might be wondering what sort of mood the members of this Barcelona-based band will be in as they play Chicago on Saturday. Best bet is they'll just want everyone to dance. With the recent release of its third album, Subiza, Delorean continues to solidify its position in the dreamy synth- and dance-pop genres. Get ready for Union Park to suddenly feel like a tightly packed nightclub.
Kurt Vile (b) 2:50 pm
Philadelphia's Kurt Vile is perhaps best known for the War on Drugs. However, his solo career has been skyrocketing as he's delivered releases at the dizzying pace of 3 LPs and 2 EPs in the last 2 years. Vile's records first pop out with psychedelica, some folk, a little proto-punk, etc. And so it's difficult to pinpoint his major influences, though it's easy to say music that predates his life has been monumental toward shaping his sound. There's a little Neil Young, Warren Zevon, Lou Reed and perhaps even Iggy Pop winding in his head. And it's all drenched in reverb. So sit back, relax and listen to the antithesis of Delorean under the trees. (Not that there's anything wrong with Delorean, but that side stage sure is ideal for Kurt Vile.)
Titus Andronicus (c) 3:20 pm
Verily, this band with the Shakespeare-inspired name doth play rowdy bar music of the highest caliber. Lead singer Patrick Stickles' voice continually takes on Oberst-like strain and angst, and his lyrics are filled with high-brow historical and literary references (see the band name). The band's sophomore album, titled The Monitor as a nod to the American Civil War, was released in March to largely favorable reviews, and Rolling Stone even named the Jersey-based group one of the top ten bands of 2010. At Saturday's show, expect epic-length rock songs with punk — and maybe just a few bluegrass — undertones.
Dâm-Funk (b) 3:45 pm
Dâm-Funk is an LA DJ whose name comes from a blend of his nickname and his love of funk. His sound is part disco glam, part Prince-era nostalgia, and part synth, and he has been dubbed "the ambassador of boogie funk". His influences are wide, and include late '70s-early '80s boogie, Chicago house, and '90s gansgsta rap; the resulting sound was described by the LA Times as "the kind of stuff that would blare from the stereo of a homemade spaceship." He made his first SXSW appearance earlier this year.
Raekwon (a) 4:15 pm
Raekwon the Chef (so named by his fellow Wu-Tang members because he's "Cookin' up some delicious shit for your ears") tends to err on the right side of the quality vs. quantity line. Sure, there's plenty of mixtapes with his mug on them, but only four full-length albums in the past 15 years. Most heads know Rae from the truly legendary (not just record review hyperbole legendary) Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., and all these 15 years later, it still holds up. When a legendary rapper drops a legendary album and then, a decade or more later, drops a second with the same name, how many people flinch a little at first? Stillmatic? Tical 2: Judgement Day? How many Blueprints are we up to now? But Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 (2009) is nothing to fear - Raekwon isn't going to drag that name out of Wu-storage unless that album is worthy. And it is. Raekwon's never really out of the game, but sometimes, he hangs back until the time to strike is just too delicious to pass up.
Smith Westerns (b) 4:45 pm
One of the few Chicago selections for this year's festival, Smith Westerns (no "the" allowed) have a big city on their shoulders this weekend. Still, they're up to the task. Signed to Fat Possum records, they'll bring their super pop sound to the stages to get the crowd riled up for Saturday night's Marshall stack-bustin' music. They've honed their sound over the years in many a tiny club, bar, and pop-up party around town, and really put their time in scraping out a living. And what I can say is they're songs are passionate. It's hearts-on-fire kind of power pop — the kind that melts microphones and sends girls screaming to the floor. If we were talking half a century ago, they're songs of love lost and love won would probably be drowned out by the screams of hundreds of fans. As it is, I imagine head bobbing, maybe some exuberant dancing and I hope a lot of props from the stage to the city with big shoulders that's holding them up tonight.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (c) 5:15 pm
I'll go out on a limb and say that Jon Spencer will be the best performer of the weekend. The man was born to be on a stage. With the loyal Judah Bauer and Russell Simins backing him, the Blues Explosion is a tight trio that's been banging out some raw hybrid of blues, punk and noise for 20 years. Even when their source material wasn't up to par (sorry, ACME), they were still ferocious live. Some bands have trouble translating excellent recordings to a crowd, but JSBX's issue was always packing the punch of their show into a record. With their Dirty Shirt Rock'n'Roll anthology of the first half of their career out, they're on tour to show off. Now, I wouldn't expect a Recovery reprisal, but it wouldn't surprise me to see something a little like this.
WHY? (b) 5:45 pm
He came into the game as one of the strangest, most unconventional hip hop personalities since Sensational. Now, he's...something else. Oakland's WHY? (real name: Yoni Wolf) first came to prominence as a member of the groundbreakingly weird trio cLOUDDEAD, one of the first breakout groups in the Anticon collective, a group dedicated to injecting high weirdness into rap via strange flows, abstract, often depressive subject matter, and sideways production techniques full of bony elbows and stepped-on hi-hats. WHY? eulogized a college student who jumped from the top of the math building wearing a mask in the cLOUDDEAD track "Jimmy Breeze," and his sung/spoken cadence is especially potent on the Reaching Quiet track "Broken Crow," detailing the mundane horror of winters in the Midwest. It doesn't usually rhyme, but it always reads, and in his delivery, it's devastating. "I know, all beautiful places are prone to natural disasters, but being swallowed by the earth in Manilla beats a slow death in the Midwest." Then, one day, much of the hip hop inflections were gone, Anticon discovered indie rock, and WHY? started releasing straight up indie rock albums like 2008's Alopecia. Some old fans departed, a lot of new ones came on board. Same old story. WHY? comes to this year's festival on the strength of 2009's Eskimo Snow, the flipside to 2008's Alopecia.
Wolf Parade (a) 6:15 pm
The Montreal based indie band Wolf Parade named themselves back in 1986 when the band members met at the World's Fair in Vancouver (outside the Cars of the Future exhibit) as kids, and swore to form a rock band when they grew up. They made good on that pact and have released three albums so far, the most recent being Expo 86, released just last month. They have recorded with Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock, and their musicality isn't limited to this particular band: Spencer Krug is also the lead singer of the band Sunset Rubdown; Dan Boeckner is a member of Handsome Furs, which he founded with his wife Alexei Perry; and Dante DeCaro is involved in Johnny and the Moon.
Bear in Heaven (b) 6:45 pm
Brooklyn-based psychedelic rock band Bear in Heaven originated as Jon Philpot started messing around by himself late at night in an Atlanta studio. After moving to New York, he hooked up with a handful of other musicians and recorded Bear in Heaven's debut album, Red Bloom of the Boom, in 2007. The band tends to get lost among the slough of like-minded Animal Collective-influenced indie acts, but set themselves apart from the crowd by turning the abstract synths and chaotic sounds into a cohesive piece of art, a feat at which many of their peers fail miserably. The band have recently put together a remix album to be packaged alongside their 2009 album Beast Rest Forth Mouth and released September 14th on Hometapes.
Panda Bear (c) 7:25 pm
Although Panda Bear's last album, Person Pitch, provided many of us with a soundtrack for the summer of 2007, its blissfully dubbed-out vocals and psychedelic kaleidoscope of sampled loops haven't aged a day. Arguably his best work to date, the album grabbed the number one spot on Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2007 list, so it's no surprise they've booked this shining Animal Collective star for their own festival. With his follow up full-length, Tomboy, slated for this September, expect to hear as many new tracks as old favorites. Regardless of the set list, Panda Bear's 7:25 pm performance on Saturday will be the ideal time to lie back in the grass and feel the day's heat coolly drift away.
Freddie Gibbs (b) 7:40 pm
Who is this Freddie Gibbs fellow? Oh, honey, pull up a chair and listen up. Gibbs is a rapper from--get this--Gary, Indiana. He's been garnering so much attention for his mixtapes, The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs and Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik, that he was even named as a candidate for MTV's "Hottest Breakthrough MCs of 2010" (voting http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1643087/20100706/freddie_gibbs.jhtml closes July 25). And no wonder: The man has a gift for cadence, and his patter-heavy flow is reminiscent of Southern artists such as Ludacris and Outkast with melodic beats that go down nice 'n easy.
LCD Soundsystem (a) 8:30 pm
What can you say about James Murphy that hasn't already been said? The man writes perfect electronic pop songs, but he's not from England, oh, and don't expect a "hit." You can expect perfectly crafted albums though, that become hits in themselves, at least across a demographic in the know--and if you're reading this, that's most likely you. LCD Soundsystem's recently released This Is Happening was an anticipated follow-up to 2007's Sound of Silver — a record that pretty much blew all other '07 releases completely out of the water. Songs are long (sometimes reaching out over 8 minutes), sometimes slow paced and chill, sometimes disco dance inspired and sometimes just ballistic (just watch the video for "Drunk Girls"). On stage, Murphy (a former sound engineer and drummer) settles for nothing less than perfection. Nothing prerecorded. Nothing fake. Nothing that isn't, well, Happening. In an interview in The New Yorker he states, "Nobody onstage can hear anything the audience doesn't hear. No click tracks, no guides, nothing can be heard onstage that isn't going to the front of the house. If it's a synthesizer, you have to make that sound happen on stage with a synth. If it's an organic sound, it absolutely cannot be put on a sampler." So what should you expect from their live show? "Volume. Volume. Volume. Volume onstage. We like it to sound uniform, even and loud as fuck." And in the crowd, dancing. Lots and lots of people in the zone, dancing.
Sunday July 18
Allá (a) 1:00 pm
Sunday kicks off with delicious local trio, Allá. I happened to see the band open at Schubas last year, and was pleasantly surprised. They dip their toes into fuzzy jazz offerings, distorted shoegazer melodies, and just plain ol' rock. Singer Lupe Martinez, backed by Jorge and Angel Ledezma, is a force to reckon with. Keep an eye on these folks, y'all.
Cave (b) 1:00 pm
At the exact same time (that is, 1 p.m.), Cave is bringing their rootsy/psych/fuzz monster/nu jazz shenanigans to the Balance stage. With heavy doses of sludge, electro, groove (and just a hint of hacky sack), Cave manages to pull it all together in a tight, surprisingly cohesive package. Prepare to be aggressively tripped out, mang.
Cass McCombs (c) 1:45 pm
It's easy to imagine Cass McCombs as a mysterious wandering wayfarer who writes sad songs to himself in hotel rooms and then only once in a while stops to record them on a whim. The gentlest of crooners, McCombs plays a meditative brand of slow-moving rock with stripped-down lyrics best listened to while staring thoughtfully into the bottom of a pint glass. In the last decade he's spent time moving from Baltimore to L.A. to Chicago, and he's arriving at Pitchfork with four albums under his belt, the most recent of which, Catacombs, was released last summer.
Best Coast (b) 1:55 pm
Fans of '60s girl groups, surf tunes and garage rock should be sure to arrive early on Sunday to see Best Coast. While it's easy to compare their sound to contemporaries like the Vivian Girls (Best Coast does, after all, borrow their drummer on occasion), Best Coast owes a greater debt to Phil Spector than C86. Mixing just enough stoner haze and amplifier overdrive to temper the wistful songs about sunshine and boys, Best Coast's greatest accomplishment perhaps lies in the simplicity of just being a damn good lo-fi garage band. If gray clouds dare to form on Sunday, fear not, for singer Bethany Cosentino has enough songs about summer to coax a lazy sun out of hiding and make the daylight seem to linger longer.
Girls (a) 2:30 pm
If you've heard anything about indie rock band Girls, you've undoubtedly heard of singer Christopher Owens' cultish past as a member of Children of God. After he escaped the Huntington Beach-based cult that indirectly caused his younger brother's death (the cult didn't believe in medical care), Christopher moved to San Francisco, started swallowing a multitude of pills, and formed the ironically-named all-male band. Quite the fodder for compelling lyricism, wouldn't you think? Owens sounds like a poppier Elvis Costello, while exploring the sounds of classic 1950's rock, psychedelia and surf rock. The band is currently working on the follow-up to 2009's Album.
Washed Out (b) 2:50 pm
Ernest Greene, the man known better known as Washed Out, has only had his star rising for about eight months. On the other hand, that basically makes him the grandfather of chillwave at this point, and his tunes have just enough bombast to their dreamy pop layers to please a crowd in Union Park. Or at least, a Chili's. Grab a blanket and some Wayfarers and sink into a hazy dream.
Beach House (c) 3:20 pm
Improving on the lushness of Beach House's self-titled debut and Devotion was no small task, but the swelling soundscapes on 2010's Teen Dream point to just that. The Baltimore duo still uses the same ingredients, just in different quantities. The reverb has been toned down, the hooks are up a notch and Victoria Legrand's vocals have taken on some husky Marianne Faithfull-like approach. In most worlds, it's a lateral move. For Beach House, it's a step up. And their live presentation of Teen Dream, which they've been hitting hard on the road, is nearly perfect for summer days surrounded by thousands of strangers.
Local Natives (b) 3:45 pm
As indie bands go, Local Natives are somewhat predictable. And though that sounds like a dig, I mean that only with love for this California-based band. Everything they touch comes from a DIY mentality — from their self-funded debut album Gorilla Manor to their addicting, multi-media website. Like almost every "little indie band that could", the group got their big break at Austin's SXSW when their equally-hyperactive, indie-rock sound first got some attention. Think catchy, three-part harmonies and addicting rhythms — in the vein of Grizzly Bear, but with a West Coast twist. It's worth checking them out Sunday for the absolutely-adorable lead singer Taylor Rice alone, whom I dream of romantic encounters with from time to time (every-other-day).
Lightning Bolt (a) 4:15 pm
This is not a band for everyone. If you need normal time signatures,perfect song structure and lyrics that are intelligible, soothing and make sense to enjoy music then read on to the Beach House preview. Lightning Bolt is beautiful noise and confusion,even for fans who can take in tracks that are as long as a half hour and in some places, are still going. They might even forgo the whole idea of playing on the stage and just let everyone crowd around them. You will get chills, your head will no numb and a chaser (either musical or chemical) might be required afterwards to get the ringing out of your ears. I can't promise you you will like the hard, angular noise that can be the equivalent to nails on a chalkboard, I can promise that you will never forget seeing them live.
Surfer Blood (b) 4:45 pm
Nothing is quiet or subtle about this quartet from the southern end of the Sunshine State. The indie-pop/rock band's January-released debut album, Astro Coast, layers on the guitar hooks until you can't help tapping your foot -- if not doing full-on air guitar. Some songs on the album, such as the single, "Swim," seem custom-built for play in a crowded stadium, and the rest would still feel right at home amid the beers and good vibes of some kind of hipster barbecue. Surfer Blood's stop in Pitchfork is the last in the U.S. before a month-long tour through Europe, where it's hard to imagine the music inducing as many high-fives and chest bumps.
St. Vincent (c) 5:15 pm
Annie Clark has been a busy woman since releasing the critically acclaimed Actor in 2009. Actor is a charming yet haunting album that offers up a darker and more visceral side of St. Vincent compared to her debut Marry Me. It showcases a mature and polished piece of work from the former member of The Polyphonic Spree, and justifies what all the fuss is about surrounding this doe-eyed girl from Oklahoma.
Here We Go Magic (b) 5:45 pm
The odd canvas painted by Brooklyn's Here We Go Magic is full of minute, oddball details that sound like David Byrne drunk-drove a Delorean to the present and had his way for a weekend with all sorts of modern recording techniques. How exactly the band will transfer their sound to a hot and sweaty crowd of the masses could be tough, but turning the volume up on sunshiney pop hits like "Collector" or bizarro jams like "Vegetable or Native" could make for fun results.
Major Lazer (a) 6:15 pm
If you want bombastic dancehall beats that will get your body shaking and work up a sweat then you better be front and center for Major Lazer this weekend. The collaborative music project of DJ/producers Diplo and Switch crank out over-the-top dance tracks with obvious island flair. If your plans for Pitchfork don't include shaking your ass to the beat, then maybe check out another act. But if a memorable dance party is your cup of tea, then you know where to be come Sunday afternoon.
Neon Indian (b) 6:45 pm
Electronica act Neon Indian became one of the most hyped blogger buzz bands of 2009 after the release of their debut album, Psychic Chasms. While emulating the fuzzed-out chillwave sound that rose to popularity last year, Neon Indian evokes dreamlike psychedelia at its finest. Although Neon Indian is an electronic act, composer Alan Palomo tours with a live backing band that will be in tow at Union Park. For those of us impatient for the festival, Neon Indian will be playing the official Pitchfork kick-off party July 15th at Bottom Lounge. After Pitchfork Fest, the band will be venturing out on tour with Lollapalooza headliners Phoenix before heading back to Chicago on October 11th for a show at Metro.
Big Boi (c) 7:25 pm
The usual discussion of the token rap acts at Pitchfork can be put aside for once — whatever your thoughts on indie rap, co-opting of music, trap rap, whatever — it doesn't matter and doesn't apply to Big Boi. The simple fact that defeats all other discussion about Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty is that it's a deeply layered, well-executed, and incredibly engaging masterpiece. And of all the pieces involved in making such a record — a roster of producers letting their ids run at their wildest, guest spots from promising newcomers like Yelawolf and legends like George Clinton, sharp lyrics — it's all matched by the part we will have: Big Boi's velvet hammer delivery, hitting the audience hard directly into the groove. Sleigh Bells and Pavement may have their guitars up to 11, but they'll have a hard time pulling away from Big Boi's magnetic beats.
Sleigh Bells (b) 7:40 pm
Cranking out an abrasive slice of electronic and punk fused indie rock that clocks in barely over the half hour mark, Sleigh Bells have catapulted into the spotlight in what seems like record time. So is the speed of a buzz band, especially one that is loved by bloggers worldwide and signed to M.I.A.'s label. The attention is well deserved though, since the Brooklyn duo have released one of the must infectious albums of 2010, their debut Treats. It's loud enough to bust speakers, but I can't stop myself from hitting repeat again and again.
Pavement (a) 8:30 pm
When The National's Matt Berninger sang the lyrics "You've been humming in a daze forever/Praying for Pavement to get back together" in their song "So Far Around The Bend" it was a collective prayer that too many people related with. Now after years of breaking and re breaking the hearts of anyone who's worn out copy of Slanted and Enchanted replaced their security blanket, this is the second coming, the answered prayer that has restored the faith of indie rock fans everywhere. The band confirmed a world tour last fall making every teen who watched MTV's 120 minutes waiting for "Cut Your Hair" or snuck in to Lounge Axe in the 90's teary eyed for a chance to see the band that is at the top of the influence list for numerous musicians, and properly you as well. Stake out a place up front early. It is going to be a mess of old timers (people my age) recalling life in the '90s, singing along and saying "I remember when these guys were "College Rock"!
Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 Schedule
Stage assignments are as follows (a) = aluminum, (b) = balance, (c) = connector
Friday July 16 (gates open at 3 p.m.):
3:30 Sharon Van Etten (a)
4:00 The Tallest Man on Earth (c)
4:35 El-P (a)
5:30 Liars (c)
5:45 Hannibal Buress (b)
6:25 Robyn (a)
6:30 Wyatt Cenac (b)
7:15 Michael Showalter (b)
7:20 Broken Social Scene (c)
8:00 Eugene Mirman (b)
8:30 Modest Mouse (a)
Saturday July 17 (gates open at 12 p.m.):
1:00 Free Energy (a)
1:00 Netherfriends (b)
1:45 Real Estate (c)
1:55 Sonny & the Sunsets (b)
2:30 Delorean (a)
2:50 Kurt Vile (b)
3:20 Titus Andronicus (c)
3:45 Dâm-Funk (b)
4:15 Raekwon (a)
4:45 Smith Westerns (b)
5:15 The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (c)
5:45 WHY? (b)
6:15 Wolf Parade (a)
6:45 Bear in Heaven (b)
7:25 Panda Bear (c)
7:40 Freddie Gibbs (b)
8:30 LCD Soundsystem (a)
Sunday July 18 (gates open at 12 p.m.):
1:00 Allá (a)
1:00 Cave (b)
1:45 Cass McCombs (c)
1:55 Best Coast (b)
2:30 Girls (a)
2:50 Washed Out (b)
3:20 Beach House (c)
3:45 Local Natives (b)
4:15 Lightning Bolt (a)
4:45 Surfer Blood (b)
5:15 St. Vincent (c)
5:45 Here We Go Magic (b)
6:15 Major Lazer (a)
6:45 Neon Indian (b)
7:25 Big Boi (c)
7:40 Sleigh Bells (b)
8:30 Pavement (a)