Live Report: Pitchfork Music Fest 2012

 

Last
weekend in Union Park it was a twentysomething’s buffet o’
hip hits, near misses, and some fun times.

 

By Tim Hinely

OK, so I lied. Me, the person who swore of never going to a festival lied. There, I
said it, I lied. When my Illinois pal, Eggman, a
P4k (the shortening of Pitchfork for those of you who don’t know) fixture,
asked me to come this year I couldn’t possible say no. The lineup wasn’t great
but hey, in all of my years of trotting the globe I had never been to the Windy City
(true dat) so I figured now was as good a time as any. While driving around the
town, specifically Wicker Park, I noticed that the traffic in this city is  a cluster and thus, while I could never live
there, it’s a terrific city with some great record stores (Reckless) and plenty
o’ good restaurants and watering hole, but you knew all that. The P4K Festival
is now in its 7th year and would seem to be a well-oiled machine but
there were definitely some kinks in the armor (band’s playing before the fans
were even let in on Friday, the breaks in-between bands was way too long at
times, sound men who were possibly deaf, etc.) OK, enough moaning, on to the
music, shall we?

 

***

 

Day 1:
Friday

 

Not a strong opening lineup but we still made it there in time
to catchy the first band, hometown heroes OUTER MINDS who sported a few rockin’
females and whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a healthy dose of soulful
garage rock and Grade A tunes. Good stuff. I had heard good things about the
motorik sound of LOWER DENS but I was a bit bored by them – although, to be honest, I didn’t
give ‘em a fair amount of time (bands overlap at P4K). 

        The talk of
the town is WILLIS EARL BEAL who on record sounds like a lo-fi Wesley Willis
(if you can get any lower-fi than W.W.) but on stage channeled his best Teddy
Pendergrass and the ladies (and a few men, too) loved it. Athens, GA ‘90s faves
OLIVIA TREMOR CONTROL started out real rough, a bad mix and they didn’t seem
into it but the set got progressively better and by the end a good time was had
by all (and horn player Scott Spillane, deserves some kind of award for that
beard). I completely missed Canadian ambient dude TIM HECKER and while I’m not
easily offended I got tired of A.S.A.P. ROCKY’S 4-letter words every other
word. JAPANDROIDS seemed to be the band of the night as everyone was crammed in
the back blue stage for them and they delivered a set of Green Day-ish
punky/punchy tunes.

        I also completely
missed BIG K.R.I.T. and was honestly bored by CLAMS CASINO (the pride of Nutley, New
Jersey, who I was lookin’ forward to seeing).
Speaking of boring, why the hell are DIRTY PROJECTORS so damn popular? Recent
4AD signing PURITY RING seemed to add a nice pulse to the evening with their
low-key brand of techno and the night ended with the ever-popular FEIST on the
big green stage doin’ what Feist does best (with some lovely back-up singers).

 

 

Day 2:
Saturday

 

Do you think we stayed dry on Day 2? Well, we didn’t. I got
poured on again, but this time we were prepared with rain ponchos. Missed the
first two bands (damn Chicago traffic) THE ATLAS MOTH and THE PSYCHIC PARAMOUNT
but caught a terrific set from Cleveland’s CLOUD NOTHINGS who’ve added some
punch to their poppy stylings (“Wasted Days” sounded amazing), and while the
P4K house band, Deerhunter, didn’t play this year their two side projects
played (and overlapped, too…sigh). LOTUS
PLAZA (Deerhunter’s
guitarist Lockett Pundt) put on a terrific set of dreamy, experimental shoegaze
while Mr. Bradford Cox, sitting in a chair on stage with a big sun hat (and way
too much sunscreen on), played a set of fairly boring acoustic tunes.

        Completely
missed LITURGY but went back to the red stage to catch CULTS who don’t seem a
comfortable fit on these big, festival stages as  when I caught them in a smaller club a few
months back. Still, they played a greatest hits set (i.e., their one
full-length) and looked like they really needed the sun (and a hot meal, too).
YOUTH LAGOON, who sounded awful in a small club a few months back sounded great
on the big festival stage (go figure). It was then dinner time so we missed
both FLYING LOTUS and NICHOLA JAAR but then got a good seat for WILD FLAG who
were awesome. They opened with a smashing cover of Television’s “See No Evil”
and closed with a smashing-er version of their single “Romance.” Well done
ladies!

        SCHOOLBOY Q
took a page out of the A.S.A.P. Rocky book of how not to speak to women, and
SLEIGH BELLS, well, what can I say, they’re not my thing, but they had the
crowd eating out of their hand (and the songs are hooky, I’ll give ‘em that).
Had not heard CHROMATICS’ brand of ominous rock before, and they were better
than expected  and, as the evening
neared, NYC’s HOT CHIP got the young un’s shaking their moneymakers with a pulsing,
electro-pop set.

        DANNY BROWN is
not Willis Earl Beal (or Wesley Willis) but it wasn’t his fault he decided to
go by his own, normal name (start going by maybe D-B.R.O.?). I needed to get a
good spot near the green stage for GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR.  About 20 minutes in I turned to my pal and
said, “Umm..is this still the sound check?” (it wasn’t) but they built to a
massive crescendo and all three of the stages came crashing down (in my dreams,
anyway). GRIMES (Canadian Claire Boucher) ended the night tucked away on the
blue stage in the back (where she should not have been) and we heard her sweet sounds while walking back to the car).

 

 

Day 3:
Sunday

 

The 3rd and final day and guess what? No rain in the
forecast! I threw my umbrella javelin style out into traffic (wish I hadn’t
nailed that cop in the head) and got there in time to catch the 2nd band
(missed A Lull) the other dirt band I don’t like, DIRTY BEACHES. I liked
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA a lot more this time than when I caught them in Portland last year. They
seemed to get tighter (or maybe better songs, or both). The young cats in MILK
MUSIC aimed to please in a Dinosaur Jr sort of way and succeeded! Lots of hair
, melodies and terrific tunes, too. Don’t miss these guys.

       Compared to
them, Norway’s
ICEAGE paled in comparison, though I’ve heard they stir the pot up a lot more
in tiny clubs as the big festival stage seemed to eat them up. San Francisco’s terrific THEE OH SEES were
again hidden back on the blue stage when they clearly should have been on red
or green. Aw well, John Dwyer and company held their guitars up high and ground
through another stunning set of bent garage rock (only one drummer this time,
though). Guess who did the same thing? Yup, Dwyer’s San Fran pal, TY SEGALL and
his unkempt pal burned through some
great songs as well. Back to the blue stage for NYC’s THE MEN who grunted out a
30 minute or so of howling scorch while New Jersey’s jangly, poppy REAL ESTATE
, like many others, needed the confines of a smaller club as their precious
songs got swallowed up by the big Chicago sky (did Albini put a curse on ‘em?).

        Moving right
along…I needed to use the bathroom (porta potty) at some point so I did it
during KENDRICK LAMAR’S set but popped back out smelling like a rose for the
mighty CHAVEZ who played most of the tunes from their two stellar Matador
releases and rocked oh so mightily (drummer James Lo is still a beast on his kit). 
It was back into the bathroom (those damn pulled pork sandwiches) for
both ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER and ARABMUZIK but back out for the soulful crooner
KING KRULE who sounded like a poor man’s Richard Hawley. Baltimore’s BEACH
HOUSE brought the noise to the red stage and played all or most of their hits
(and vocalist Victoria Legrand joked “Hey everyone, it’s breeze o’clock,
starting to cool down, huh?”) but far off in a distance (ie; the blue stage)
you could hear the glimmering pulse of Swedish techno masters, THE FIELD (who
had a bassist and drummer, too).

        Finally, at
8:30 PM on Sunday night the final band of the festival, NYC’s VAMPIRE WEEKEND
came out and brought their “Upper East Side Soweto” to the drunken teens and
twenty somethings of P4K. They played all of the hits while informing the crowd
that “we haven’t played any festivals or even any shows, in a long, long time Chicago so it’s good to
be here.”  BY 10:00 PM on this Sunday
evening the hired help had begun to break everything down, the grass had dried
out, the revelers had (mostly) sobered up, and everyone made the long walk back
to wherever they were headed. G’night P4K.

 

 

 

 

 

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