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. Here’s how it all went down:
Pitchfork is in the homestretch and Foxygen singer Sam France is determined to make the most of his band’s set. The singer crashes over monitors, climbs the stage trellis, and then leaps from an unsafe height. He splashes the cymbals on his drummers kit and crawls back to his keyboard. And it’s still early. But it all feels like a fireworks show that leads with the grand finale. The antics make for good copy, but the music needs to back it up when the gimmicks dry up, and that never happens.
Atlanta MC Killer Mike does not live up to his moniker and that’s a good thing. The rapper takes his genre in the direction that hip-hop promised it would. He wore his heart on his sleeve, getting visibly choked up when speaking of his life and how music kept him alive. No thuggery, no misogyny, no empty boasts about money and cars. He performed from a place of undiluted conscience and his performance was one of the most powerful in the festival’s history.
Devonte Hayes channeled James Brown, Prince, and countless other smooth operators when he performed as Blood Orange. The wiry vocalist seamlessly cruised from frontman crooner to a straight-up guitar hero on a dime. That he made it look so easy speaks volumes about the depths of his talent pool.
The 20-something Sky Ferreira is a bit of a conundrum. She plays the wounded dove to her advantage, but she also wants to be the girl with the most cake. Her persona shifts from tough chick to a pouty little brat late for a method acting clinic. Will the real Sky please step forward.
M.I.A. owns her crowd and she knows it. So she never hesitates to give the people what they paid for at the gate. The stage looks like an old Benetton ad from the ’80s. Backup dancers twirl about in one-piece body suits that are comprised solely of primary colors. Pinwheels are adorned with similarly themed lights, turning Union Park into a carnival. The Sri Lankan rapper gets the subs pumping so hard the music is felt as much as it’s heard. The size of the swelling crowd seems ten times what it is, purely because no one is standing still.
Day three closes out with what has to be the festival’s strangest booking. What is R. Kelly – a mega star with records that have sold millions – doing closing out a festival that is more about what’s coming than what’s already been? From the New Year’s Eve-like countdown it’s apparent he isn’t going to tone it down for this demographic. A huge choir adorned in flowing fire-engine red robes precede him. He finally emerges in a white sequined sweater, dark shades, plenty of gold, and a crisp Chicago Bulls cap.
As he works his way through his baby-making catalog, lasers shoot across the park while dozens of white beach balls bob up and down throughout the crowd. The light rain (seriously, again?!) serves as a refracting surface. Who would have guessed that the closing moments of Pitchfork 2013 would resemble a scene from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind?
— Curt Baran