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Pitchfork Music Festival: Day One

| July 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

Musical gluttony. That’s the best way to describe the three-day affair known as the Pitchfork Music Festival. 2013 will go down as the year severe storms cut the set of Icelandic princess Bjork short (that’s the sound of a thousand fairies crying) and R. Kelly unleashed a flock of fake white doves into the sweltering night sky at Chicago’s Union Park. Here’s how it all went down:

Day One

Frankie Rose (formerly of the ) cherry picks her music from some of her favorite sources. The Ramones, ’60s Girl Groups, and even accents it with new wave circa 1983. Fortunately for her and the faithful who have arrived early, Rose plays a Blue Stage bathed it shade. Still, she jokes about whether Lake Michigan is safe to swim in, perhaps wishing she were in it treading water. Her set was pleasant enough, but never really achieved liftoff.

West Coast hardcore mavens Trash Talk seem oddly out of place. Instead of shying away from this unlikely booking, they seem to revel in it. Lead singer (is it singing?) Lee Spielman barks, yelps, screams, and convulses himself into a sweaty mess. The set ends with him sitting – lotus position – atop the outstretched hands of the audience trying to swallow his microphone.

Mac DeMarco seems to be treating his timeslot like a midnight set at Zanies that bombs. He and his bandmates do not seem at all invested in their performance. Sure, their sound is super lo-fi to begin with, but shambling runs through “Freaking Out The Neighborhood” and “Rock And Roll Nightclub” seem downright lazy. Covers of BTO’s “Takin’ Care Of Business,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine” are attempted and quickly aborted. Someone please stop the bleeding.

The hushed, reserved performances are usually the ones that suffer in a festival setting. Angel Olsen possesses a voice that seems, well, heavenly. The Chicago singer uses the instrument to great effect, almost like a New Age singer tackling heavy hearted themes over the backdrop of atmospheric, Appalachian folk as seen through the eyes of French film noir. Her performance proves to be hypnotic, but belongs in a dank nightclub, not the blinding afternoon sun.

Once again, a band seems ill suited for their surroundings. But unlike earlier victims, Wire will not be denied. The venerable English lifers leave enough space in their songs that you could drive a tractor trailer through the chasm. The songs stop and start with whiplash authority and crash through the finish line. It’s as if the musicians have been doing this together for decades (because they have), practically inventing a genre all their own. Is this where the genesis of indie rock lies? Wire present a great argument in their favor.

A quiet performance is once again receiving a death sentence. Joanna Newsom has brought with her a very large harp. Her voice has always been an acquired taste and the fact that she’s being drowned out by the din of the festival setting is really working against her. Still, you can’t help but root for her. Her skin is china doll white, she’s exceedingly polite, and her classically trained skills are undeniable. Unfortunately, the sheer size of the venue devours her performance. Behind her, as if to foreshadow what will become an abbreviated set from Bjork, the evening’s headliner, storm clouds are starting to gather and darken.

— Curt Baran

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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