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« Footwork Meets Tapework: RP Boo and Jason Lescalleet's Secret Collaboration Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 2 In Review »

Pitchfork Music Festival Sat Jul 19 2014

Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 1 In Review

pitchfork2014.jpgPitchfork Music Festival 2014's day one acts encompassed varied examples of musical greatness. With a range of talents and genres represented, there was a stellar act for each attendee to enjoy. Pitchfork is an odd festival in that the people watching in Union Park's annual soiree is almost more entertaining than the festival acts themselves. Thankfully, that's not always the case. Here are some of the acts from Friday that truly warranted a head-turn or two from the swaths of questionable/avant fashion choices and that Kevin Spacey sign camped out in the front of the Green Stage.

Hundred Waters

Hundred Waters is a group I've grown to admire over the past couple of years. They're very new to the scene, yet their sound is so organic and pristine, as if they've spent years and years refining it to bring it to this very point. The group created their sound after living together, immersed within a communal environment and given that space needed to experiment and grow their sound into what it is today. I first saw them open for Freelance Whales in January of 2013, where I was pleasantly intrigued by what I heard. I can't say I had ever heard a sound like that before, and was immediately entranced.

Seeing them a year and a half later, I have been able to visualize how much their sound has grown, and the progress they have made as they've shaped their identity further. Opening with "Show Me Love," a layered a capella ballad off of their recently released sophomore album, The Moon Rang Like A Bell, Nicole Miglis's voice was pristine and pure. They then continued with material off of their newest release by playing crowd-pleasers "Murmurs" and the tumultuously rhythmic "Cavity." The sound, amplified for the crowd, was on-point and direct, drawing you in naturally and allowing you to crave more. Their sound is completely other-worldly, and makes you feel like you're lost in a dream and literally have to pull yourself back to reality.

It was their first festival appearance ever, and they absolutely stunned the crowd with their beautiful and attention-grabbing sound. With songs such as "Out Alee," for example, each member of the group was completely immersed in the unique sound, and world, that they were creating with their music. They utilize a range of interesting sounds, rhythms, and lyrical patterns which held the audience's attention fully and grew the crowd naturally. They ended the show with "Seven White Horses," which was created from deliberation and intention as synthesizer rhythms emerged organically. They are able to create another world through music effortlessly and with grace, which in my opinion, is invaluable and made for my most interesting set of the day.
- Sarah Brooks

Sharon Van Etten (Photos by Joshua Mellin)

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten is truly a master at the craft of folk music that can bring you to your knees with emotional impact. Her songs pull you in, bring you to the most vulnerable place possible, and hold you there waiting for more. Her set at Pitchfork showcased how far she has come in her artistry and how her identity has shifted, but maintained the same essence of her deliberately hard-hitting tunes.

She opened with the haunting "Afraid of Nothing," which can resonate truly on a universal level and knows how to jab you where it hurts, but in the most beautiful way possible. She sings with an earnest vulnerability, and brings you into that emotional place, but it's not a place that you want to leave any time soon.

Sharon Van Etten_14689128212_l.jpg
Sharon Van Etten (Photos by Joshua Mellin)

Her voice sounds pristine in Pitchfork's outdoor setting; I last saw Sharon at Millennium Park last summer, and her voice has retained its pristine, glorious quality all the while. However, what is different about this performance is her use of a backing band throughout the set, even on her earlier acoustic ballads. She emphasized her newer material first, for example, the raw and wistful "Taking Chances," and the brooding "Break Me." Her words on this album are explicitly honest and the words have a freeing candor, while the electric guitar backings utilized amplify her vocals as strong and haunting.

She played old favorite, "Save Yourself," with a full backing band this time, from her second album, Epic, released back in 2010. She recalled the days when she would play this material solo, and now can't imagine playing it with anyone else but with the support of her band. The song winds down perfectly as the sun begins to fall beneath the trees, allowing for peaceful reverence.

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Sharon Van Etten (Photos by Joshua Mellin)

She ends the show with "Your Love Is Killing Me," and juxtaposes it with the more optimistic "Every Time The Sun Comes Up." It's an odd blend to play one after the other if you stop to think about her set's order, however in the context of the festival, it was a perfect segue. Sharon Van Etten is what you listen to when your world has fallen apart and you want to piece it back, or when you're having a day where you just want to feel everything or think a little deeply. In an outdoor venue in community with thousands of others, her music was allowed to truly resonate with messages for all to hear.
- Sarah Brooks

Sun Kil Moon

I was curious how Mark Kozelek's winding, visceral storytelling would go down in a live festival setting, and I have to admit something was lost in translation during his early evening set on the Green Stage. Punctuating Benji highlights like "Carissa" and "Dogs" with a smattering of older material, Kozelek's clear baritone was obscured by reverb and dodgy mixing, and the words (the best part to any Sun Kil Moon experience) seemed to be reserved for someone listening in between Kozelek and the microphone; they just weren't getting through to the sound system at large. Maybe it would have gone down a little better in an early afternoon set and on a smaller stage, but the lack of clarity on his vocals, combined with the already sparse arrangements for a lot of his material, made his twilight performance all the more baffling. Perhaps he'd wanted it that way. Though he was flanked by a live band (lead guitar, keys, drums), the songs were more often than not anemic, with Kozelek's host of cozy licks and shot-to-the-heart lyrics barely audible above the muddy din.
- Mike Bellis

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks

Oh, Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks. Arguably the strangest set I traveled to all day, and honestly, exactly what I expected it to be. Lending lead vocals to psychedelic power group Animal Collective, Avey Tare has truly honed in on the genre of strange and alluring sounds, comprised into a frenetic, mesmerizing tune. The group played songs off of their only release from this year, Enter The Slasher House, and lulled the crowd awake with their crazy beats and rhythms.

They mixed songs one after the other such as "A Sender" and "Little Fang," which are completely different musical styles, with ease. Utilizing synthesizer beats, vocal layering, and trippy, frenetic melodies, the group was able to hold the attention of the immediate crowd as they moved from eccentric numbers to more loaded headbangers. The only downside to Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks' set is that the Blue stage didn't necessarily set the group up for success. The stage is more social than the other two, allowing for more chatter and more difficulty in holding the attention of every attendee that is present. However, while paying attention to their unique set, I felt entranced by the unique sounds I was made privy to.
- Sarah Brooks

Giorgio Moroder

No, the affable old man making jazz fingers at the crowd from the Red Stage is not your run-of-the-mill, jolly festival dad who happened to pick up a few drum machine moves: that's Italo-disco producer-extraordinaire Giorgio "Hot Stuff" Moroder! The younger members of the crowd (surely most) might be forgiven for not knowing the man's oeuvre, but as he circled back on a few of his more well known hits from the disco era, including the ubiquitous "Hot Stuff," "Love To Love You Baby," and even that one song from Top Gun, it was clear that his influence on multiple generations of pop culture extends far beyond his recent dalliance with "the robots." The impeccably mustachioed Moroder was as unassuming as he was genuinely excited to be playing to the festival set, and admitted as much when he said "This is one of my favorite shows of all time." For a guy who hasn't played out much in recent years, that really is saying something; credit to the kids singing all the words to that one Flashdance song.
- Mike Bellis

Beck (Photos by Joshua Mellin)


The inscrutable Beck may be in the journeyman-big-hat-wearing stage of his career (it happens to the best of them, folks) but as a man who has worn his share of figurative hats over the years, too, trading personas and genres from record to record with gleeful abandon, there's an (admittedly pretty big) part of me that's just happy to see Mr. Hansen bust out goofy moves to "Loser" onstage.

Beck (Photos by Joshua Mellin)

Keen to dot his more dour Morning Phase material with the fun-loving electro-trash of classics like "Devil's Haircut" and "Where It's At," Beck made the most of his headlining spot, putting on a genre-bending display that neatly summed up his career to date. He even brought out his classic harmonica freak-out for the kids, showcasing the rarely seen (these days, anyway) backwoods outsider-artist schtick from his Jandek-obsessed days of the early- to mid-'90s. In the time of chimpanzees he was a monkey, you may remember, and let's hope he continues wearing new hats for years to come.

Beck (Photos by Joshua Mellin)

- Mike Bellis

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


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Auditorium Theatre
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Park West
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Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
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The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

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  & Shops:

Alligator Records
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Dave's Records
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Drag City
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Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
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Numero Group
mP Shows
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Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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