|« Pitchfork Music Festival: Day 1 In Review||Review: Wild Beasts @ Lincoln Hall, 7/18 »|
Pitchfork Music Festival Sun Jul 20 2014
Day two of Pitchfork Music Festival brought the heat (literally, and figuratively) with stacked acts of tour-de-force musical performances one after the other, all day long. With a diverse array of artists present, Saturday's festival journey indulged any wishes to dance, see your favorite singer from a packed crowd, and bask in the sunlight amongst a colorfully dressed crowd.
Twin Peaks drew a massive, eager-to-listen musical crowd for the day's first set under the sweltering sun. I interviewed the group earlier this month, and my favorite quality of their style right off the bat was the playful answers to my questions. The youthfulness of their sound was evident merely through these words that they spoke, and I looked forward to seeing how that manifested during their set. To the joy of the audience, their Peter Pan syndrome shone through in their sound in the absolute best way. Their forthcoming sophomore album, Wild Onion, will be released on August 5, available for pre-order on their Soundcloud. Their set featured these energized rock riffs and raspy, wailing vocals in songs such as "I Found A New Way," and "Flavor," while complementing these new sounds with old material from their 2013 release, Sunken.
(Photo by Joshua Mellin)
Their commitment to their niche rock sound was evident, as one of their members sat from a chair onstage and rocked out even while his leg was braced with a large cast, though he didn't look like he was feeling any pain as he jammed out throughout the duration of the set. Their set created a party with their summery garage rock, which engaged the crowd to surf during their second song and beyond, create a mosh pit atmosphere in the front, as concertgoers waved flowers in the air and tattered towels with inscriptions. Their end song featured the band throwing out a guitar (yes, you heard me right) into the crowd in two pieces. However, no one seemed alarmed at the fact that this guitar had been destroyed, and the atmosphere was as chill as ever. Frontman Cadien James ended the set by crowdsurfing himself, a euphoric look across his face as fans moved him throughout the crowd, never wanting the rock 'n' roll to end.
The well-coiffed and impeccably-attired Wild Beasts brought their dark, post-New Order synth rock to the Green Stage for a rousing early afternoon set, catching many of early Saturday's bleary-eyed festivalgoers unprepared. Even with the weather still holding up nicely throughout the weekend, I couldn't help but wish the Kendal, England foursome were playing to a more densely packed crowd in a pitch black or even rainy setting, with more than a few uppers down the hatch of the front row. But sometimes you have to play to the hangover set at 2:30, and the Beasts certainly made the most of it. The drama built into the group's big-block synth leads and Morrissey-indebted falsettos and haircuts (Carson Cox is no doubt a big fan) is palpable, and as flawless as the Beasts were on Saturday, I can report that putting a violin bow to guitar looks far less sinister in the daylight.
Pusha T (Photo by Amanda Koellner)
"Where is Pusha T?" might have been the most asked question around 4:20pm, five minutes after the set was supposed to begin. Or again at 4:30. Or again at 4:45. You get the point. Pusha T made a diva-like entrance to the festival set by starting to play 30 minutes late, as an endless line of photographers waited in a painstakingly long line while festival onlookers wondered, is he ever going to play? Luckily for us, Pusha T emerged eventually, and gave us the best jam-packed set I could dream up. The G.O.O.D. artist and former half of Clipse had an energy that was absolutely infectious as he jumped around the stage, fully engaged in his craft with perfect hooks, beats, and segues into the next ballad. He kept the anticipation building, and sustained it through a full set of crowd-pleasers, all the while amassing one of the largest crowds of the entire weekend. He delighted the audience with original songs such as "Hold On," with lyrics such as I sold more dope than I sold records. He moved from these songs to collaborations that made the crowd go wild, such as "Runaway," and "Mercy," collaborations with Yeezy, to "Don't Like," a Chief Keef ballad. By the end of the set, I forgot that there even had been a delay, due to the energy-packed set I was lucky to witness.
One stage over and a few hours later, Merril Garbus gave us her day-glo Carribbean pop as Tune-Yards, with vocal loops and jagged synth triggers sounding as playful as her ever-present face paint. Flanked by a small band of stick-wielding backup drummers and otherwise polyrhythmically-inclined keyboard players, Garbus was extremely comfortable during her late afternoon set at the Red Stage, combing through material from her latest, Nikki Nack. Garbus gave a virtuosic performance, giving her afro-futurist pop and winding, circular synth lines a heavy dose of pre-verbal chanting and charismatic Voodoo. By the end, she was poised to convert us all.
Danny Brown (Photo by Amanda Koellner)
A few hours after Pusha T's anticlimactic set (it's tough to really set it off when you're 30 minutes late), Danny Brown clocked in on the Green Stage and picked up where Pusha's gradually boiling set left off. As soon as Brown took the stage, gave a few shouts-out to Detroit, and inevitably started spitting venomous left-field bars like none other, the crowd, especially those furthest up, reached its most frenzied point I'd seen all weekend. Brown's Green Stage crowd was surely more turnt-up than Neutral Milk Hotel's huddled masses later in the night, and I'm curious to see if Kendrick (or Grimes, or anyone) can provoke the same kind of hysteria as Brown on Sunday.
St. Vincent (Photo by Joshua Mellin)
It amazes me that Annie Clark/St. Vincent isn't more of a thing in the national consciousness/mainstream/whatever-you-want-to-call-it; her future-queen alien pop is as thrilling as it is singular, and she taps into the present's fixation with escapism and fantasy more than most.
St. Vincent (Photo by Joshua Mellin)
Combining almost Prince-like shredding with cryptic vocals, St. Vincent stood atop her lone set piece on stage (a three-stair, futuristic prop) literally and figuratively at the peak of her powers, playing material mostly from her new (and best) self-titled record. Even from my vantage point behind the sound booth, her power over the audience was clear: Everyone within eyesight stood transfixed under Clark's spell, unable to register anything else.
Neutral Milk Hotel
Neutral Milk Hotel has a quizzically puzzling relevance in the music industry. Their last album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, was released back in 1998, met with critical acclaim. However, I began listening to them in 2003, five years later, and continued to play their songs for another decade, and beyond. There's something about Jeff Mangum's voice that is magical, and almost spiritual, with his set at Pitchfork becoming a church for the masses. I was luckily able to snag a spot with clear view of the band, and as Mangum emerged for his first song, "I Will Bury You In Time," the gigantic screens flanking each side of the stage remained dark. Yes, Jeff Mangum was being Jeff Mangum, and truly took the no photographing mantra to heart, much to the dismay of many fans resting in the back of the crowd. However, I was not terribly surprised by this fact. Mangum has always been a private person, his musical persona modest and almost secretive. The stage set rested without flashy lights, special effects, smoke machines or gilded costumes. The only thing on stage to focus upon was Mangum and the band, a beautiful array of pure musical artistry.
His voice rang out clear and pristine as ever, more lovely even than I've found on his recordings, sending mere chills up my spine, a long-listening fan. The hour-long set wound through 18 songs from the band's discography, including their earliest EP, Everything Is, and first album, On Avery Island. The crowd-pleasers were not ignored in the least, as the crowd morphed into one dancing form for fuzzy, quick-paced "Holland, 1945," and stood in near-silence (well, except for many voices singing along) for ballads such as "The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1," and "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea." Ending the set with a perfect transition from "Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2" to "Oh Comely," the air turned reverent for the hauntingly beautiful 8-minute long ballad. The set indulged the crowd's nostalgia, as Mangum stepped from the stage without an encore, and spoke about 20 words to us total. It's the mystery almost that makes the genius he possesses more special; we're left with the music, and the music alone. A spiritual energy was in the air as Neutral Milk Hotel left their wisdom with us, never to be forgotten.
(Photo by Joshua Mellin)