Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Things I Saw at the Pitchfork Music Festival (2011)
Here is what I saw / what I learned / observed:
EMA – It’s a hot Friday afternoon (the afternoons only got hotter as the weekend wore on) and the awkwardness of EMA in glare of sun was more than apparent. This music is definitely better suited for brick-lined basements. Still, despite it all, she managed to pack some punchiness into her dark, gothic, grit-punk, and her half-baked rock moves were definitely amusing (albeit in a humorously awkward way). All I really was planning to do was watch her set until she played “California”, but she played “California” last so I ended up seeing the whole set. Good move, EMA, good move. “California” ended up being pretty anticlimactic and yet it still gave me chills – I’, not going to pretend to understand why.
Battles – Erin and I took turns on this one. Battles sounded perfect. Super amazing, tight, brilliant as you would hope. Still a favourite record for me this year. The trio is simply a machine of mathy rock goodness.
Guided by Voices – Felt weird seeing GBV, for the first time, in an ocean of high schoolers, or what looked like high schoolers, rocking out to a band that looked as old as The Rolling Stones. There was certainly a huge age discrepancy here. But GBV, despite a couple of the members looking like pirates, were reall really great, and Robert Pollard’s high kicks are equally hilarious as they are impressive and somehow appropriate. Such a great great band.
James Blake – Erin went to see James Blake but couldn’t find a good spot it was so crowded, and was outside of range for the quite parts of his songs. She told me the bass though, when dropped, was about the most amazing thing that happened all weekend. I already knew that though, I could hear it from across the park at our booth. It was amazing.
Animal Collective – Erin and I took runs listening to Animal Collective’s set. We’ve seen them a few times now (and before at P4 in 2009). I came away thinking, Animal Collective is the most important band of our generation. I still think so.
Julianna Barwick – beautiful, beautiful, though a bit more enya-feeling than I had expected (and Darkstar’s bass was rumbling annoyingly from across the park, like a neighbor partying through thin walls). Three songs seemed enough, since they all tended to sound the same.
No Age – Erin watched this, wished she was in the mosh pit, thought that they were amazing, as did everyone else I talked to said they thought.
Wild Nothing – saw a little bit of this. The guitars sounded sweetly, and the shade was inviting and I really really like Wild Nothing. Wish I had time to stay…
Gang Gang Dance – Groove-shiftingly bliss induced and bleeding drums into drums into drums and then killed, straight up, with agnarly melody….as expected. And they had some ridiculous guy up on stage with them dancing (half-dancing) and burning incense. Good sounds to twist into the heat.
Destroyer – All in white with a water bottle full of beer and a million brass instruments, what’s sexier than that? Nothing.
The Dismemberment Plan – This is one of I think 3 sets that I actually watched from start to finish, and for good reason. Around ten years ago I missed what I thought shortly after was my last chance to see The Dismemberment Plan live. It’s been a regret I’ve been living with ever since. Discovering DP was playing Pitchfork, I was more excited to see this show than any other and Travis Morrison and Co. did not disappoint. I came away from it fairly certain that the DP was/is the best live band ever. I came away wondering what Weezer could’ve been, had they stuck with the awesome geekiness that they originally inhabited, and the good songs. I thought about Weezer for some reason. I thought, The Dismemberment Plan is a band I would see over and over again, whenever I had the chance. I thought, this is definitely one of my favourite bands, ever. Morrison was dorky/funny, the band was ever energetic, and the anthemic pull of their songs were perfect for a sea of devotees. Actually, after the set I heard the girl standing behind me comment that she wasn’t really into the set. I wanted to slap her.
How To Dress Well – Creeper mustache + a string quartet (with a conductor) / shade = win
Kurt Vile and the Violators – Erin said he was boring. I believed her.
Twin Sister – Erin will complete this in the comments maybe. She REALLY liked this set.
Shabazz Palaces – Caught a couple songs, too hot, hip hop is kind of boring to watch sometimes, who cares about Odd Future?
Deerhunter – No expectations, no new songs, classic, fairly staid rocking happening on stage, yet somehow still really really good. Deerhunter is really really good. Their songs are really really good. I’m finally sinking into, loving Halcyon Digest. Another very important band, I think.
HEALTH – Arrived early for HEALTH. I saw HEALTH at P4 in 2009. Was the best set I saw by far at that P4. The craziest. Again, the best (sorry Dismemberment Plan), the craziest. Partly due to a crowd released from their inhibitions. I came away after sloshing around in sweat and mud (and back-pocketed liquor that spilled all across my shirt) and elbows and hair and energy energy energy and noise noise noise and passion, soaked from head to toe, my shoes mucked and ruined (bought new shoes out of necessity, the next day), my spirit renewed, my belief in live music rejuvenated (good live music doesn’t happen to me very often any more).
(All images stolen.)