J. Neas reporting from the final day of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago at Union Park. A hard and fast thunderstorm tore through the park area right before kick-off today and the result was a muggy, hot afternoon. But as I said yesterday, Sunday was no slouch of a line-up, and it seemed bands were determined to make sure people remembered today as the best of the weekend.
The first band I caught was L.A.’s Best Coast. Bethany Cosentino and the band put on a fantastic set. However, I wish they had been just a bit louder as the A stage would prove to be a problem for B stage performers off and on throughout the day. Sounds bleeding through were worse than in past times and it made for a bit of confused listening at times if you weren’t solidly close to the B stage. They did “Boyfriend” and that was more than enough to satisfy me when it was time to go catch Girls on one of the main stages. Opening with “Laura,” the band performed a dynamic set full of ballads and pure noise that was sequenced beautifully. Christopher Owens teased the crowd when, later in the set, people began shouting out for lead track “Lust for Life.” “Yeah, we don’t do Iggy Pop covers,” he deadpanned. But they soon ran through one of their best songs in excellent form.
Beach House brought a beautiful opening to the main stage next, but I found myself instead at the B stage to catch Local Natives. As with every other day this weekend, the B stage became incredibly popular for its shade and it was difficult to get into the area to even see the band. Without question Local Natives got one of the biggest audience reactions of the day, getting numerous huge pops for songs from their Gorilla Manor album. Their songs played well to an energetic afternoon audience in terms of sing along moments and catchy, hypnotic melodies. Meanwhile, back on the main stage, Lightning Bolt brought possibly the festival’s only true example of chaos as they tore apart the afternoon in a flury of noise and explosive drumming.
In one of the weekend’s more jarring shifts, Lightning Bolt was followed by St. Vincent on the main stage. Annie Clark’s performance was subdued, obviously, compared to the noise mavens in Lightning Bolt, but she moved nimbly amongst songs from her two records, mostly from 2009’s excellent Actor. Her multi-instrumental accompanists played everything from flute and clarinet to violin and it gave an interesting organic feel to music that seemed so precisely structured in the studio on record. Before heading to see St. Vincent, I spent a few songs on the edge of the B stage watching Surfer Blood. At this point it was nigh impossible to easily get into good listening position at this stage, and I stayed long enough to hear them plow through a few high points from Astro Coast, notably “Twin Peaks” and “Swim.” A good performance that made me eager to catch them in a club sometime soon.
At this point I had to make a choice: start positioning myself for Pavement’s set by working my way into the A stage audience currently watching Major Lazer or stay out to catch sets by Neon Indian and Sleigh Bells as well as to better watch Big Boi. I went with the former and found myself witness to the weekend’s most dominating performance. Major Lazer had the entire field in the palm of its hand with its unique vision of Jamaican dancehall music. The stage show was incredible: Chinese lions, ballerinas, women dancers, DJ Diplo and hype man/vocalist Skerrit Bwoy. Between watching Skerrit Bwoy dive off of a ladder into the open legs of a female dancer and the near constant flow of music and audience baiting, it was a dynamic and utterly awesome spectacle to watch. It made it all the easier to wade further into the crowd and be entertained as I fought my way forward.
As I stood waiting for Pavement, I got to listen to Big Boi’s set which was surprisingly full of Outkast songs. I honestly expected more from his excellent new solo album, but was treated instead to a whole bevy of Outkast songs going all the way back to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik‘s “Player’s Ball.” New tracks like “Shine Blockas” and “Shutterbugg” went over well, but seemed oddly low in priority versus the older music. While the audience seemed engaged from where I was, it still seemed an odd choice for an artist with such a current vibrancy.
So then came Pavement. I’ve never seen Pavement live, so there was a lot of anticipation in this for me. I had heard that towards the end of their original run, their live shows became routinely sloppy and chaotic, but the reviews of these post-reunion shows had been uniformly strong. The band came out and immediately grabbed an eager audience with “Cut Your Hair” and it was off to the races from there. The show blitzed by in the hour and a half allotted for the band. I was disappointed not to hear a few songs (“Date with IKEA,” for one) and stoked to hear a few obvious ones (“Stereo,” “Grounded,” “Gold Soundz“), but it makes a case for trying to catch the band at any of their non-time restricted shows.
The closing tandem of Slanted and Enchanted‘s “Here” and Terror Twilight‘s “The Hexx” made for a symbolic summation of their initial career and an astonishingly beautiful close to a great set, a great day and a great festival. words/ J. Neas