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Pitchfork Music Fest roundup!

| July 23, 2008 | 0 Comments

Pitchfork Music Festival
Union Park, Chicago
July 18 to 20, 2008 / 7.5


It took nearly 24 hours of festival, but Pitchfork 2008 finally had its Dan Deacon moment after the “last band” took the stage.

To put it in perspective, crowd safety was never threatened the way it was when fences were toppled during Deacon’s 2007 set. But when it was announced at 9:25 p.m. that Cut Copy would indeed perform Sunday night — 30 minutes after headliner Spoon, an hour later than scheduled because of unclarified transportation problems — kids sprinted across Union Park as if Deacon himself were handing out glowskulls. The sight of the Australian electro-pop band rolling their luggage onstage sent the crowd bananas, and it preemptively pogo-hopped for the duration of the half-hour shift.

Until then, the weekend had been missing an oh-my-gawd transcendent moment, something to unite its fragmented pretty-goodness. There were fantastic bits throughout, but there was also the constant nag of the Ravinia/blankets ‘n’ chairs landscape, unavoidable mud, and the publicity of Pitchfork’s struggle to compete with Lollapalooza for the bands it wanted.


9.7: Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker’s solo set gave a good dose of meta. While Pitchfork’s indie sphere strives for musical ambition and perfection, it entirely lacks professional entertainers. King Kahn and Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington fill the wild-man role adequately, but compared to Cocker they’re like clowns making balloon animals to Jack Nicholson. Cocker, resembling an inverted mop with glasses, donated a (Pulp free) performance that was simply magnetic as it denounced “Fat Children” or masked “Crimson & Clover” in “Black Magic.” Ironic poses and whipcrack arm movements were countered with stunning sincerity on his ballads, and the hour felt choreographed to perfection.

8.5: Before you accuse this review of Anglophilia, consider Spiritualized’s set was so underhyped we forgot they were playing until they came on. Jason Pierce, sullen in the blinding sun, managed to out-volume Boris (alas, poor Bon Iver) and augment their chest-rattling orchestrations with a mini choir. Rumbling masses of guitar melted into Philly soul grooves, and even Pierce shook off his lull long enough to rise to “Come Together.”

8.3: Following the Sebadoh debacle on Friday, most probably could have gone without seeing Lou Barlow’s mug for awhile. Dinosaur Jr. hadn’t done themselves any favors either, with a bloodless Lollapalooza reunion in 2005 and a just-all-right disc last year. Fearing they’d stick to the new disc and SST years again, Barlow surprised the audience and took a (mostly) backseat to J Mascis for a stroll through the full catalog. Murph was especially powerful driving “The Wagon” and “Out There,” though, in the end, “Freak Scene” starred as a glowing tribute to the festival.

8.2: Boris polarize, and it didn’t take long to discover why. Metal’s lone representative, the Japanese trio were busy scorching the crowd mid-set with a driving shredfest. Smoke billowed from the stage in mock fashion before the supports came loose and feedback turned the soundsystem into a gnarled car wreck. (Debate over the volume of Pitchfork’s system ended a day earlier, when it felt like Dizzee Rascal’s house party was about to spill into The Ruby Suns’ bedroom.)

7.8: The time it took for Public Enemy to take the stage Friday night suggested if the revolution ever does come, they won’t get their shit together in time to participate. After an embarrassingly lengthy intro by the Shocklees, PE emerged sans Flavor Flav to begin their revisitation of 1988’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. Opener “Bring The Noize” felt hampered because Chuck D — Chuck D — could barely be heard; as it turned out, Flav had his microphone somewhere backstage. When the clock-bandying sidekick arrived, he was greeted by a testy Chuck D and later booed for hyping his reality TV shows. Somehow they were able to overcome all this, and, by “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos,” had engaged the fury of ’88. (Some fans complained about the volume, however Millions isn’t as loud an album as bass-bombs Welcome To The Terrordome or The Enemy Strikes Back.)

7.5: You can feel a divide forming in The Hold Steady camp, between fans who cling to the band’s first two albums plus days as Lifter/Puller and those accepting of 2006’s Boys & Girls In America and the new Stay Positive (Vagrant). Thank God for frontman Craig Finn. No matter how tiring his odes to street urchins are on plastic, his spazzy effervescence becomes a contagion onstage. “Massive Nights” works inside, outside, daytime, or dusk — a fist-raising anthem whether you realized you were doing it or not. He may have been schooled by Cocker, but he remains the marshall of this parade.

6.6: Whatever doesn’t make it across on this year’s Street Horrrsing (ATP), beamed from the Balance stage. More agitated than M83, but the Bristolians produce an enveloping, gauzy comfort.


5.0: As goes Tim Harrington, so go Les Savy Fav. Unfortunately, he spent a good chunk of their set in the audience. First he inaudibly abandoned his stage post. Later, during “Paddy Lee,” he handed his mic off entirely. Finally, Harrington stepped into a plastic garbage bin, and was carried into the crowd where he joked, “I feel like Oscar The Grouch — this stinks!”


4.3: It becomes harder and harder to contemplate the pull of Vampire Weekend. Their bouncy, summery melodies are perfect for outdoor settings, but maybe those trafficked by the white-baseball-cap/seashell-necklace folks in East Troy. This isn’t commentary on their dress, but the polished suburbanity of their Corona Extra beats.


0.8: Sebadoh’s acceptance into the All Tomorrow’s Parties/Don’t Look Back theme night was a mistake, and manifested itself as such on Friday. The purposefully disjointed set was too much instrument-switching to bear, and Public Enemy were telling Lou Barlow something as they tested their intro during “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee).” Utter disaster.


Incomplete: The buzz around King Kahn & His Shrines’ set at Bottom Lounge the night before was palpable, and excruciating once the band didn’t start playing until 10 minutes before Les Savy Fav across the park. The Balance stage was inexplicably behind all weekend (as it was in 2007) — humorously capped by Cut Copy’s near-failure to appear.

Steve Forstneger

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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