As part of a never-ending quest to deliver new music into the waiting hands of our readers, Street followed the noise all the way to Chicago last weekend for the first two days of the Pitchfork Music Festival.
The event brought together new bands and those we’ve loved for ages, covering everything from rap to avant-garde, freak folk to screamo. As anyone familiar with Pitchfork’s reputation for hyper-critical reporting might expect, the crowd was more skinny-jeaned than tie-dyed, and the likelihood of having a cup of Sparks poured down your back far outweighed that of getting second-hand high.
The weekend kicked off with Friday’s “Write the Night,” named for the fact that the four acts (Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, The Jesus Lizard, and Built to Spill) played set-lists based on requests submitted online beforehand. With all of the control placed in the fans’ hands, the performances were chock full of old classics. Unfortunately, the volume was turned down too low to appreciate, or even hear, most of it. Yo La Tengo, in particular, was almost inaudible at times, leaving us oblivious to the fact that they played “Sugarcube,” and remembering instead the endless guitar noodling heard faintly behind the conversations of our neighbors.
It was Jesus Lizard’s high energy set, complete with crowd dive by David Yow, that had everyone banging their heads and wanting more. Built to Spill had a tough time following, due in part to their mellow set-list. A jam session that lasted around ten minutes did not help matters, and the result was a deflated crowd.
On Saturday, the festival expanded to three stages and saw an increase in energy and attendance. Fucked Up and Beirut made great use of the outdoor setting in loud, crowded daytime shows. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart added some punch to their jangle with a set that went so well, it even surprised the band — singer Kip Berman mumbled a number of thank-you’s throughout the performance. The National lucked out with a cool evening slot that provided a perfect environment for their intense, slow burning ballads. This memorable, headline-worthy performance made it even harder to duck out before Sunday’s impressive lineup, which included The Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, M83 and more.