Photo courtesy of Free People
I got a bit of a late start to Friday’s Pitchfork Music Festival due to an afternoon downpour the internet assured me wouldn’t happen. Apologies, readers—I am not at peace with being completely soaked unless it’s a swimming or bathing scenario. Fortunately, even when it's muddy and gross, the festival retains its DIY charm and manageable, good-natured crowds. I’ll take rainy Pitchfork Fest over perfect-weather Other Music Festivals any day.
4:20 PM The rain hasn’t returned! But the half-shirt has.
4:22 PM Man, so have high-waisted short shorts. Really starting to wish I had saved/ could still fit into my clothes from 5th grade (My excuse: I grew up in Appalachia, where half-shirt experimentation runs rampant and strikes early).
4:40 PM First set of the day for me: Chicago native Willis Earl Beal, who greets the crowd with “I used to ride my bike up and down Lake Street right up there.” Awwww.
4:41 PM Beal starts off with an a cappella warm up that already sounds more nuanced and powerful than anything he’s recorded, even his full-length XL release Acousmatic Sorcery. Not to start beef with DIY folks, but the bedroom aesthetic makes Beal sound a little choked and restrained and a powerful voice like his needs space.
This performance is really the best of both worlds—Beal's only accompaniment is a reel-to-reel of his backing tracks which retain Sorcery's creaky aesthetic, but his voice is set free and sounds powerful, crisp and clear.
Set highlight: “Blue Escape,” for sure.
4:43 PM My friend Bob says Beal sounds a little like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. He’s right.
4:50 PM People are struggling to figure out the best way to “move” to Beal's songs. Guy opting for the tomahawk dance, that is the wrong choice for any occasion.
4:55 PM A couple dudes in boat shoes and plaid shorts are carrying around water guns and shooting people who are carrying umbrellas. Opportunity for revenge at Vampire Weekend's set on Sunday?
5:05 PM First contender for Shirt of the Weekend: on the front, the equation “Style + Swag = Stag.” The back: a picture of a stag. Not a guy going stag; a stag deer. Did anyone else see this guy? A cursory Google informs me this shirt isn't one of a kind, but if anyone can provide a backstory I'm willing to listen.
5:26 PM Pro tip: Don’t ever be in a port-a-potty when powerful bass kicks in.
5:29 PM I will always applaud ASAP Rocky’s bold choice to bring out the Frankenstein font for non-Halloween uses—here, for his “ASAP RSVP” jacket.
5:33 PM ASAP has about 15 hype men on stage with him, and it’s working—“Goldie” and “Hands On The Wheel” have clearly touched the hearts and minds of the ex-Quiz Bowl kids standing next to me.
5:35 PM Oh hey, the hype men are Chicago’s L.E.P. Bogus Boys and Spenzo. I need glasses.
5:40 PM “Chicago! CRACK!!!” –A hypeman
5:45 PM ASAP initiates an advanced call-and-response for “Thuggin’ Noise”: “When I say, ‘Rocky, where you been?’ y’all say, “Thuggin’ with my team, ho.” We keep up--good job, everyone!
5:50 PM A guy wearing a pop art Biggie Smalls t-shirt walks by a guy wearing a shirt with a “conceptual” drawing of Biggie that says “I only smoke blunts if they rolled propa.” Perfect opportunity for a fight or friendship to break out, but neither happens.
5:55 PM This guy standing behind me is the third guy I’ve heard imitating an airhorn today. Not with his personal airhorn, with his actual voice.
6:10 PM I am really digging the addition of the Featherproof book tent to the Festival's alternative media offerings. You can enter to win the entire 33 1/3 library!
6:15 PM Planted for Japandroids, but sound check springs eternal and it’s raining again. It’s only a guitar and a drum set, guys.
6:35 PM Brian King brings the Canadian accent/ Canadian politeness in full force, apologizing for being late, for the rain, vowing not to talk after this so they can cram as much as possible into 41 minutes. Love ‘em even more now.
6:41 PM Guy in front of my holds up his phone to take a picture of this great band playing their hearts out for their fans. Wait, I mean, “a vanity self-portrait in the middle of a sweaty crowd.” Memories!
6:44 PM Sun comes out during “Adrenaline Nightshift.” Earnestness chases the rain away! The Secret only works if you're Canadian.
6:50 PM I love this band, but the opening chords of any Japandroids song could be the opening chords of every Japandroids song.
6:52 PM “One night to have and to HOOOOOLLLLLLD!” I’ve been waiting all day to sing along to that.
6:55 PM On the way to Big K.R.I.T., I see a man kicked back in a lawn chair with two huge servings of fries—one covered in cheese sauce, one plain. He’s taking the plain fries and using them to scoop up the cheese fries; essentially, using fries as a dipping sauce for…fries. This man is living Celebration Rock.
7:02 PM Big K.R.I.T. is a divisive figure among rap critics, and I know I’m not supposed to fall for his “hey everyone remember how awesome mid-90s Southern rap was” M.O., but I’m sorry guys, I can’t help myself. I fall for that schtick every time. When I reach the stage, he’s doing “Money On The Floor” and I bust out a reflex “WOOOOOOO!”
7:06 PM Holy shit, Big K.R.I.T.’s hypeman is a Pimp C doppelganger. Who will help bring a conspiracy theory to fruition? Asking for "a friend."
7:17 PM Big K.R.I.T.: “Make some noise!” Crowd: “WOOOOOOOOO!” Big K.R.I.T.: “Now make some noise for y’all selves!” Crowd: [lackluster cheer]. Sorry, K.R.I.T., Pitchfork Fest attendeed don't represent a cross-section of society noted for high self-esteem.
7:20 PM K.R.I.T.’s done, but Japandroids are still playing. I hear King sing, “It’s raining in Chicago/ I don’t give a fuck tonight.” Topical!
7:24 PM I’ve always felt that Dirty Projectors had all the ingredients to create a band I love—intricate harmonies, atypical percussion, a man with a borderline yell-y voice—but the vast majority of their songs have a kind of clinical touch that doesn’t sit well with me. Swing Lo Magellan shoos that technical coldness away; it sounds warm and heartfelt, and the first few songs the Projectors play are, unsurprisingly, new ones—“Offspring Are Blank,” “See What She Seeing.” They sound amazing live.
7:44 PM People are busting out the Shazam app left and right. Lots of new converts tonight, Dave Longstreth!
7:47 PM Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle, and Olga Bell’s harmonies on “Beautiful Mother” are unbelievable. They’re precise without sounding mechanical. Kind of wish Dirty Projectors would release a live album right about now.
7:50 PM Momentarily distracted by a “You forgot it in people” chest tattoo. First Broken Social Scene tattoo I've seen, doubt it'll be the last.
8:10 PM Amber is singing “Stillness Is The Move” and doing some R&B diva moves and everyone in this crowd is in love with her.
8:14 PM Dirty Projectors close it out with “Impregnable Question,” a personal favorite, a gorgeous song to hear at dusk and a cap to a solid set.
8:14 PM Three separate groups of people: “We’re gonna split—we have no interest in seeing Feist.” Sad trombone.
8:20 PM Based on the strength of their new album, I choose Purity Ring over Feist—and am immediately rewarded by their lighting set up: a skeletal looking tree with paper lanterns hanging like blossoms from the branches. The lanterns slowly change color. I say, “It looks like someone’s fancy back yard decorations!” (See: Appalachia, Grew Up In).
8:44 PM Things take a while to coordinate, but it’s well worth it; for me, adding visual interest to any electronic act is always a welcome choice. The lantern tree is a perfect accompaniment; blinking in time to the stutter beats in the excellent “Belispeak.” I'm really glad Purity Ring were slotted to play at night--and guessing the fest schedulers learned their lesson from putting DJ Shadow and his Sphere of Multimedia in late afternoon last year.
8:50 PM So many couples bumping and grinding to all these songs about the horrors of being corporeal.
9:00 PM Sadly, I’ve got to tap out early. I’ve been awake since 5:30 for work and my hair hasn’t been dry since 4:00 pm. Back tomorrow, guys.