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Pitchfork Music Festival Preview

| July 13, 2011 | 0 Comments

We’ve been asked for weeks: Are you guys doing a Pitchfork preview? What kind of preview are you doing for Pitchfork? Pitchfork?

Not that we don’t believe that all our readers have the utmost individuality and taste, but you can kind of leave Pitchfork goers on their own, right? True, it’s the bigger bands who will be responsible for most of the wristband sales (Animal Collective, Neko Case, TV On The Radio, DJ Shadow, and Fleet Foxes). Odds are if you own any of those folks’ albums, they’re not the most obscure entries in your collection. Lollapalooza tapping Eminem, Foo Fighters, and Coldplay, however . . . those fans might require some maps.

As fun as it is to root for the Sox and look down on the stereotypical Cubs supporter, however, any visitor to U.S. Cellular knows the population of fans toting scorecards slumps under the numbers of drunks chanting “Packers suck!” in June. As such, because Pitchfork will draw from the sort of audience that populates West Town/Bucktown/Wicker Park clubs, there will be some very knowledgeable campers — and there are going to be people who will never shut the funk up. The key to fun at Union Park, then, is to go where it’s loud. Case will be a tough one to endure from the back. Fleet Foxes courted a very respectful crowd last time, but that was when they were unknowns, and Saturday they’ll be playing when everyone’s lit and unable to talk over another artist.

EMA‘s (ee-em-ay; her first name’s Erika not Emma) appearance might strike you as the sort of coffeehouse waif who would blow over if a latte were ordered too loudly, but Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions) might be one of the most violent excursions you’ll hear all weekend. The way she opens “California” (e.g., “Fuck California”) will draw cheers, but she shows surprising mastery of light/dark and letting abrasive textures fade into ambience and back again. Opener “The Grey Ship” goes from scratchy acoustic torch song to a subwoofer exercise in a blink, rarely doing with her voice what a testy, overheated batch of samples, distortion, and loops can do most gratefully.

If you can recognize Helmet’s John Stanier and Don Caballero’s Ian Williams on sight: congratulations, you probably knew it was going to be noisy the first time you came upon them as Battles. The post-rockers, no longer including Tyondai Braxton, dropped their second album, Gloss Drop (Warp), this spring, and we’re still trying to make heads or tails of (without cheating) the cover image. At first it looks like a zoomed shot of partially congealed Big League Chew, but, knowing what we do of the soft-serve demeanor of pre-cooked chicken-nugget chicken, we have another idea. Or it’s sculpture. Don’t be so surprised if you come away from their set equally disoriented.

Hip-hop can be hit or miss out in the open (mostly miss), but it’s never the case that you can’t hear it. While little mid-range fits between the shouting and the beats (Dizzee Rascal vs. Billy Squier comes to mind) there might be more nooks and crannies in Shabazz Palaces‘ work to make it interesting. The Digible Planets offshoot ain’t cool like dat to do anything; Black Up (Sub Pop) squirms and writhes when it doesn’t black-out completely. The album’s meandering blur of genres (mostly atonal) even smudged onto the song titles (sample: “A Treatease Dedicated To The Avian Airess From North East Nubis (1000 Questions, 1 Answer)”) and don’t expect to dance, or be able to once it’s all over.

How well Toro Y Moi faces another stage’s music is up to it. Needle-like synths provide Underneath The Pine‘s foliage, but there’s not always a trunk and roots holding things up. “New Beat” awakens early to forage for breakfast in the open summer market, but a lot of its time is spent reading with a cool drink on the back deck, as happy to be ignored as cranked up.

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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