I’d like to think my Pitchfork Day 2 experience officially began while switching from the Blue Line to the Green Line, when the conductor leaned her head out the door and shouted over the intercom, “All male passengers PLEASE make sure you put your shirts on while you’re on the train. PLEASE.” For a festival noted for heat advisories and fashion-forward missteps (they often look like one and the same), it seemed like an appropriate starting point.
First up on my list was Cold Cave, their feedback-laced shoegaze synthpop standing in stark contrast to the blistering heat and midday sun. To maintain a projected image in keeping with their sound (and not the weather or time of day), the band was clad in tight dark jeans and leather jackets. Early on, frontman Wes Eisold coolly informed us, “I can’t remember the last time I left my apartment when it was this early.” It was a bit of an eyeroll moment…but not exactly a stretch of the imagination. The three were excellent, especially considering the rough set time, with a set list that incorporated both old and new material; tunes like “Icons of Summer”, “Youth and Lust” and especially “Theme From Tomorrowland” practically turned into group singalongs.
Walking over to No Age, I noticed that my feet were covered in dust and lamented there was no good way to wash them off — and then some girl promptly dumped half a cup of Heineken Light on my feet. I have the grossest Shining! No Age got off to a bit of a rough start; mic issues dictated a lengthy sound check that devolved into “Check! Check! Fuck! Fuck technology!”, whereupon they gave up and kicked in to “Teen Creeps”. Honestly, it might have been worth spending a few extra minutes to sort out the issue. Randy Randall and Dean Spunt are excellent performers and their energy kept the crowd enthralled, but it was frustrating hearing the vocals get lost in the mix and knowing they could sound a hell of a lot better.
Gang Gang Dance sound appreciably different in a live setting. They played a blissed-out, drum heavy set with Taka Imamura (their hype man of sorts) waving a makeshift flag thing at the crowd. Basically the aural equivalent of the feather-in-hair trend.
After Gang Gang Dance, I decided to split my time between two markedly different sets: OFF! and Destroyer. Between frenetic renditions of “Poison City”, “Fuck People” and others, OFF! frontman Keith Morris (formerly of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks) dispensed a fair amount of fatherly advice for a hardcore icon with waist-length dreadlocks: “Don’t be throwing water around. Drink it! Share it with your friends!” Shortly thereafter, I made my way over to Destroyer right as the band kicked into “Chinatown”, showcasing a masterfully mixed horn section. Between Dan Bejar’s white linen suit, lots of bros bumping cocaine in an accidental tribute to Destroyer’s yacht rock roots, and some dude weaving through the crowd carrying a sign that said “I’m looking 4 shrooms,” it was kind of a perfect storm of a summer festival experience.
The Dismemberment Plan was one of the festival’s most anticipated sets, for good reason. It’s the first time most of us have had a chance to see the band in years. Their setlist was (naturally) heavy tracks from seminal album Emergency & I, tearing through favorites like “What Do You Want Me To Say?” and “The City” with twitchy energy. — plus, a fantastic cover of Robyn’s “Dancehall Queen”, thematically a great cover choice for a band who’s been around for a while but still has the capacity and cred to charm an audience.
I meant to catch both Zola Jesus and DJ Shadow, but I ended up getting trapped in the crowd and sort of mesmerized by DJ Shadow’s performance. Even though the lingering sunlight made it nearly impossible to see the projections on the spherical screen surrounding his DJ booth, the cameras inside the booth did a great job capturing his precise movements. Dude is a pro. A less-obvious booking choice for a (mostly) daytime festival, since DJ shows don’t give the audience much to watch, but one that oddly worked well.
DJ Shadow proved kind of a weird segue into Fleet Foxes, but that’s the nature of a multi-genre festival. Although the default ideal venue for Fleet Foxes’ particular brand of harmony-soaked folk is a small room with great acoustics, their sound carried beautifully. The set was (naturally) biased toward tracks from the recently-released Helplessness Blues, including masterful takes on “Battery Kinzie” and “Lorelai”. Frontman Robin Pecknold told the crowd about their experience playing the Pitchfork Festival in 2008; they were on the small stage and played before Dizzee Rascal, who responded to their set with “Fuck that folk shit!” Now they’re here on the big stage. Success! Perseverance!
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion: Day 3.