Pitchfork Music Festival | 07.29-30.06

 

Eddie Argos of Art Brut | Photo by Todd Owyoung

Saturday 

4:00: After a late morning start, horrendous traffic on LSD (that's Lake Shore Drive to you laypeople), and a painfully slow El ride, I finally make it to Union Park. I run around the perimeter of the park, trying to find the press entrance. People laugh at me. Apparently running gets you no cred.

4:20: Destroyer. I end up standing next to Aziz Ansari, indie rock's favorite comedian who is not named David Cross. He dances funny. Destroyer has always sounded to me like Jon Lovitz discovered Pavement, but I assume that I am in the minority on this one.

4:50: I'm talking with some people in the crowd when the following exchange occurs:

Girl: So my second favorite band is [obscure psych-rock band from the '70s]. Have you ever heard of them?

Me: Um, no.

Girl: What about [obscure punk band from the '80s]?

Me: Um, I don't think so.

Girl: Oh and my first show was [obscure college rock band from the '90s]. What about them?

Me: [Trying to change the subject] So what shows are you going to after this?

Girl: Lollapalooza. It's my birthday present.

Me: That's cool…how old are you turning?

Girl: 13.

OWNED.

5:10: Art Brut. Art Brut is excellent. Eddie Argos pogos up and down and dives into the crowd during "Modern Art." We all rock out. In the middle of "Good Weekend," Argos references Jay-Z's "99 Problems." It doesn't get much better than that. The crowd is extremely responsive despite the heat, and as the sun bears down on us, Argos leads us in his signature Top of the Pops chant, albeit with a little variation. "Man Man! Top of the Pops! Os Mutantes! Top of the Pops!" If Indie Rock University ever needs more cheerleaders, they know who to call.

6:10: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. I'm so tired from dancing (or as it is better known, jumping up and down) during Art Brut's set that I leave early and miss Ted Leo smacking himself in the face with his microphone hard enough to draw blood. I have terrible timing. "Me and Mia" sounds good, though, or at least as good as any song about eating disorders can.

6:20: I decide to scope out some of the vendors. DEPART-ment, or as I affectionately call it, the hippie craft show, is pretty disappointing, seeing as I have not yet found a legitimate use for overpriced jewelry or postcards that smell like hemp. On the other side of the tent, the massive WLUW record fair is intimidating, with its endless boxes of vinyl. I don't even bother to look through any of the stuff, because I know that it'd take weeks to go through it all. I might be missing out on some deleted German import fanclub 7" of some seminal electroclash group, but at least my sanity is still intact. I stop by all the record label tables to snag some free pins and stickers, and I'm out.

7:10: I had no idea the Walkmen were still relevant. Didn't we all agree that they sucked years ago? At any rate, the number of Walkmen fans is astounding, so I decide to give them another chance. Unfortunately, I was right all along and after I hear Hamilton Leithauser overemote like he's in Simply Red for a few minutes, I leave for the most important part of the festival: the food.

7:15: I walk the entire length of the food stalls so I can see what all my options are. Vegan tofu curry? Vegan ice cream? I feel like I'm at Bonnaroo. There's the usual festival fare as well, hot dogs and burgers and deep-dish pizza. I end up doubling back and taking the curry. It's $6 and cold, but at least it's better than the Walkmen.

8:10: I don't know why, but I've never enjoyed the Futureheads that much. Their debut was spotty at best to me, and I can't even listen to News and Tributes. Live, however, they sound great. Their harmonies are spot on and translate surprisingly well in a concert setting. They lead the crowd in a sing-along for "Hounds of Love;" one side singing guitarist Ross' part and the other singing bassist Jaff's. I am on Ross' side. We kick ass and take names.

9:10: The night before, Silver Jews played a show to a couple hundred at the Duck Room in St. Louis. Tonight, they headline Pitchfork and play to a crowd of 15,000. Try to wrap your head around that inconsistency. The sound mixing is terrible, and David Bearman's voice is often drowned out by the rest of the band. The music is still soothing, though, and against the dark silhouette of the trees, I watch the stage's banners billowing with the wind, in and out like a sail.

Sunday

12:45: On the El. A hipster couple steps on the train, clad in matching American Apparel short shorts. An elderly woman sitting across from me looks pained.

1:00: Tapes ‘n Tapes rock it, but I can already see the backlash starting, and it's not pretty. Maybe it was just the section where I was standing, but there are an awful lot of crossed arms. I hope to myself that these people are just jaded bloggers. Josh Grier says to the crowd that he was in the audience last year, watching Thunderbirds Are Now! open Sunday of the Pitchfork-curated Intonation Festival. It's a cute story, but it just makes me wonder about what happened to TAN!, and what's going to happen to Tapes ‘n Tapes next.

1:30: Danielson's matching outfits make them look like Amish postal workers, which probably isn't far from the truth. I know a lot has been written about the placement of Christianity in their music, but it's so pervasive in their sound. There's a religious fervor here, and it's actually pretty catchy. Songs like "Did I Stomp On Your Trumpet" turns us all into followers of the Danielson cult. Plus I've totally got the hots for Jedidiah.

Jens Lekman | Photo by Todd Owyoung

2:00: I am in love with Jens Lekman. I'm pretty sure that all of the women at the festival (and probably some of the men) feel the same. He plays a new song, "A Postcard to Nina," about pretending to be his friend Nina's fiancée to alleviate her parents' worries and conceal the fact that she is a lesbian. Lekman tells the story through monologues before each verse of the song, and you can just hear the collective "Awwwwwwww."

2:30: The National are good, but we all expected that.

3:30: Virtually everyone I will talk to later in the day will list Liars' set as one of their favorites. I think they sound terrible. I guess I'm not cool enough to like Liars. When I see frontman Angus Andrews take off his pants, I don't say, "AWESOME! THIS ROCKS!" Instead, all I can think is, "I can't believe Karen O dated this guy! I can't believe ‘Maps' is about him!" After the first few songs, Andrews ends up wearing nothing but an oversized oxford shirt belted at the waist and a pair of tighty-whities that looks like a diaper. Coincidentally, this is how many of the women at the festival are dressed. I escape from the snarling singer to the VIP section, where I gorge myself on free chips and salsa and stare longingly at Jens Lekman.

4:20: Day 2 of the festival get a kick in the ass when Aesop Rock and Definitive Jux labelmate Mr. Lif take the stage. All day, the audience has been relatively quiet (aside from shouts of, "We love you Jens!"), but with the hip-hop throbbing…let's just say that Sufjan only wishes he could get people to feel the Illinoise like this. Set closer "Daylight" is a perfect mantra for the festival: "All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day/put the pieces back together my way." If I had it my way, I'd pick this festival apart so Spoon and Diplo weren't playing at the same time. Woe!

5:10: Apparently, Mission of Burma bring the rock, but the rock is too much for me and I puss out and go over to the poster convention. Clearly, I am not hardcore enough for the indie-rock lifestyle.

5:30: Posters!!!!!!!!!

6:10: Devendra Banhart is a dirty hippie. He has a tremendous beard. He takes off his shirt. He takes a swig of whatever is in his flask from time to time. The rest of his band look like lost members of Fleetwood Mac, including a modern-day Stevie who, guess what, plays nothing. And yet, he is a dirty hippie who covers Lauryn Hill. The incongruousness of this is making my head spin.

7:10: Yo La Tengo is not afraid of you and will beat your ass. That said, I nearly fall asleep listening to their rather dull set. To wake myself up, I contemplate whether or not I should go over to Jens Lekman and make a fool of myself.

7:20: I go over to Jens Lekman and make a fool of myself.

8:10: This is the moment I have been dreading all day. Do I go see Spoon or Diplo? I've been lucky; there haven't been many dilemmas like this throughout the festival, but this one is big. I decide on first three for Spoon, then Diplo, then back to Spoon for the last song. And I almost pull it off, until I rush over to the Biz3 tent for Diplo and am denied access to the press section. The thought of cramming into a tiny tent with sweaty dancing hipsters does not appeal to me, so I wait outside before realizing that I am missing Spoon for a guy playing his laptop. I go back to Spoon's set, where I will later realize that I have missed "I Turn My Camera On." I lose at life.

Britt Daniels of Spoon | Photo by Todd Owyoung

9:10: The most prominent question I hear before Os Mutantes' set is "Who the fuck are Os Mutantes?" It's a good question; not many people are well versed in '70s Brazilian psych-rock. If anything screamed "PITCHFORK!" about this weekend, it would be naming this band as the headliners. Virtually everyone around me agrees that Spoon should've stayed as headliners, but then we realize that no one would've gone to see Os Mutantes at all. But when the band arrives on stage, looking like Broken Social Scene's Latin American division, they're exuberant. And we all dance and shout "Mambo!" like we've known who they were all along. It's a fitting end to a self-conscious festival, after all. Not only do Os Mutantes give us the gift of pretending we loved an obscure fucking band from Brazil, they also give us a good time. And while I leave early to catch a spot on the El, it's the first time all weekend that I've wished I were back at that crazy party we call the Pitchfork Music Festival.

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