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Pitchfork Music Festival Sat Jul 16 2011
We've got some interviews with artist coming up this weekend at Gapers Block, but Friday we kicked things off by enjoying the first day of Pitchfork Festival with a handful of veteran acts, much buzzed about bands, and Animal Collective.
Gapers Block writer Bonnie Page and I, along with our photographer, Stephanie Bassos, will be bringing you coverage of the fest, interviews, and photos all weekend long. Keep checking back all weekend for more Pitchfork Festival 2011 coverage. Now onward to our part one coverage of Friday!
I started Pitchfork checking out Gatekeeper, the first band to kick off the festival. The energy was high, the crowd was pleased, but a 3pm opening slot was just the wrong setting for Gatekeeper's heavy and dark house and electronic sound. When one of their tracks took an industrial sounding turn, I wished I was at Smart Bar and not relaxing in the shade at Union Park. But their set did turn me on to their music, and the next time they play Chicago (inside I hope), I'll be sure to check them out. -Lisa White
It's Pitchfork day one, and with the heat dialed down (compared to the forecast for the rest of the weekend) the ticket line anxiously wove around Ashland by 2:50pm for the 3:30pm openers, EMA and Gatekeeper. I'm starting day one with EMA, aka former Gowns band member and Midwesterner Erika M. Anderson. The chopped-banged blonde drew a decent size crowd, but unfortunately, the desperate wretchedness of her lyrics were overcome by the 70 plus degree sunshine weather. I so wish I'd seen her at empty bottle the night before. In neon orange socks, netted tights, a red skirt, and her customary "EMA" necklace, EMA and band mates started the set out with the breathy vocals of "Butterfly Knife," a song about a high school friend who'd committed suicide. From there they moved into slow tempos and ballad like moments, the grunged-out guitar riffs of "Grey Ship," and "Gangsta" with it's orgasmically chanted "I'm a gangsta" chorus. They ended the set by giving the state of California the middle finger in her song "California" as she voiced her frustrations with the state and her place in it. -Bonnie Page
It's hard sometimes to keep my attention when you play 7+ minute math rock songs. But Battles made a valiant effort, banging out an agressive set under the sweltering sun. The atmosphere at least seemed more like a festival than my earlier experience with Gatekeeper. I even didn't miss Tyondai Braxton, the frontman that parted ways with the band, during their standout track "Atlas." But monotony got the best of them, and I realized in their current incarnation I'd rather listen to Battles on my stereo than in a field under the scorching sun. We also saw our first passed out fan of the weekend, so keep hydrated folks. -Lisa White
tUnE-yArDs is true DIY, in the fact singer and creator Merril Garbus created her first album with a handheld recorder and released it on cassette tape. This time around she used a more traditional means, a production studio in Oakland, CA. Garbus told NPR's All Things Considered "I love to see how I can stretch using limitation to its farthest reaches of musicality." She certainly did that at Pitchfork. Garbus used a ukulele and drum beats and looped it all under her own sky high vocals to create polychromatic musical pieces. Set highlights included "Bizness" with her vocals shouting above flute like keys and the slightly afro-pop feel on the chorus, lifted by the lightness of the looped noises.
I moved to the Green Stage for the complex orchestration of Battles, and by the time I arrived, Battles' drummer John Staine had either given up on his shirt or decided not to waste the time of putting it on in the first place. The threesome's (minus the recently parted ways lead singer Tyondai Braxton) set included the what could be considered as a pop song - relatively speaking anyway- single "Ice Cream." The track features the upbeat Tropicália style vocals of Matias Aguayo and a bouncy ball beat, which surprisingly complimented tUnE-yArDs "Bizness" with the tracks similar delivery and style. The group wound down their set with the dark and hard edged "My Machine," as digital screens behind the band projected Gary Numan's face while his vocals backed the throbbing beats of Staine's intense drums. -Bonnie Page
Thurston Moore received the award for "most talked over set of the day." Which is unfortunate, because the Sonic Youth frontman's latest solo project, Demolished Thoughts, which was produced by Beck, is beautifully written and acoustically soothing. Moore's solo songs are earnest and introspective, which may not have been what a hot Friday crowd was looking for. The set started off with a long set of acoustic instrumentation and attention spans quickly evaporated. After what seemed like an eternity of light guitar picks and chords, Moore got to his standout track "Benediction." An actual benediction is an invocation for divine help, blessing, and guidance, whereas Moore's song is praying for the constancy of a lover. Unfortunately the sweet prayers were lost amid the side conversations of the audience. -Bonnie Page
I decided to close out the night at the blue stage, having a back to back hip-hop set of Curren$y and Das Racist and capping it off with James Blake. I wasn't impressed by Curren$y's set, which due to sound issues usually sounded like it was coming out of a ghetto blaster from 1982. His delivery style wasn't my favorite, but he did charm me a bit with his banter between sets. And his energy was impressive, getting the young crowd to mimic along with his direction, and he had the gaggle of teenage boys behind me so excited they rapped along with every verse. It wasn't a bad time, just not one of the best hip-hop sets I've seen at Pitchfork. -Lisa White
Keep checking back all weekend and next week for more Pitchfork Festival 2011 coverage from Gapers Block.