This was our first year at the Pitchfork Music Festival and there is no doubt we had a great time in Chicago for the weekend, but the jury is still out if this is an event that we can recommend or will attend again. I think I was expecting something more like the Fun Fun Fun Festival I attended last year in Austin, TX. There were quite a few differences. Since I don’t have the time to put together a true review of this event, I am going to give Pitchfork a taste of their own medicine and rate aspects of the festival on a 0.0 – 10.0 rating system….being fully aware that this is the only the opinion of ILSUDH2. I do realize some of you actually enjoyed that Panda Bear set!
The heat, oh man, the heat! It was so hot and humid when we arrived our first day that I thought it might crush us. Luckily we had our tickets in hand and did not need to stand in the ridiculous will call line. El-P’s energy on the A stage had the crowd bumpin’ but the sound was less than ideal. After watching half the set we journeyed off to get our bearings.
Finding out that they only serve beer was a big disappointment. Especially since it was only Heineken or Newcastle and they ran out of Newcastle the first day.
The venue was relatively small, especially compared to the big festivals like Coachella and Outside Lands. And at this point it wasn’t overly crowded.
I’m sure if you’re a Liars fan you enjoyed this set. The sound was better than is was for El-P. I have just never been a fan and their live performance did nothing to change that. We watched them on the C stage for a bit before getting ourselves situated for Robyn…the act I had been waiting for. (it was announced at this point that the cost of water was brought down to $1…a great move by the promoters)
Everything I expected and more! Her outfit, her set list, her voice and moves…and they even got the sound right for her set. Robyn had the crowd dancing and almost made them forget about the heat. She was the highlight of the day and one of the highlights of the weekend.
After her set we had to hit restrooms, grab drinks, etc. It was cooling off but still pretty damn hot. The place was getting packed as well, so we missed the first few songs from Broken Social Scene.
Broken Social Scene 7.4
Broken Social Scene are one of my favorite bands, but it sounds like they got off to a rough start with sound problems, so I’m not too disappointed I missed the beginning. Once we did get over there I thought they put on a good show, but something was lacking. I saw them at SXSW this year and they blew me away! Maybe it was the sound, maybe it was because they were playing in daylight, maybe it was just because they had to follow the Swedish dance machine…whatever it was, they were just good instead of great.
Modest Mouse 4.9
This was probably the 5th or 6th time I’ve seen Modest Mouse and the 5th or 6th time they have disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Modest Mouse fan, but they have always sucked live. Isaac‘s voice sounds like crap and they always choose bad set lists. We only stuck around for the first half hour or so and then bailed. Not even dual-drummers to could us motivated for this set. We were beat from flying in from Denver that morning and had a long day in the sun…and there were still 2 more days to come. Time to grab some food and check out some Chicago nightlife!
On Saturday we woke up feeling a little rough around the edges. But we rallied, met up with some friends, got some breakfast at a Bagel Shop in Lincoln Park, bought a few supplies for the day (including a flask of Jack Daniels which went perfect with the huge $3 Arnold Palmers they were selling at the festival) and got to the stage in time to catch Delorean‘s set.
Delorean were in a bad spot, playing the A stage in the middle of the blistering day. They had a light show going, but lights don’t do much in the afternoon sun. They had a crowd, but the crowd was dying from the heat. With these factors against them, they still pulled out a great set that had the shirtless, sweaty crowd dancing along as if we were in clubbing in their native Spain.
Right after their set, we got a great spot in the shade of the sound board which became our home base through out the day.
Titus Andronicus 8.3
Patrick Stickles was “sweating like a pregnant nun about to meet the pope”, but that didn’t stop him and his band, Titus Andronicus, from putting on an in-your-face punk rock extravaganza on the C stage. We left the comfort of our new homebase to catch a song or two and ended up spending almost the whole set up near the stage.
The crowd was still drunk on the stage-diving Titus Andronicus set and Raekwon‘s late start and sound problems were the ultimate buzzkill. You cant’ leave people standing out in that type of heat for a half hour with no entertainment, no matter how much warm bottled water you pass out.
Luckily, when Raekwon finally took the stage and got the beats worked out (sorta), he brought it! New rhymes from Cuban Linx 2, old Wu-Tang bangers and even a Chi-Town children’s breakdance crew made for an entertaining set that was worth the wait.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion 8.0
You gotta give it to anyone who shows up on a day like this wearing black leather pants and rocks your ass off for an hour. Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion were one of the surprises of the weekend. I was expecting a noisey mess but what I got was a lot of great Elvis-on-acid Blues Explosion jams. Once again the energy was lifted!
Wolf Parade 8.6
Wolf Parade brought a great set of old and new material. The sound was awesome, the crowd was awesome, the weather was cooling down and we had a good buzz. This was probably the peak of Day 2 for us.
Panda Bear 2.1
I would say Panda Bear was disappointing, but that’s not true. I expected this. He didn’t do any material from any of his albums, he was boring and he does not belong on a festival stage. I’m sure those few people who were standing right up front would disagree with me…but he was a a real downer after a good run of great sets.
We tried to hold our homebase while Panda Bear was performing over on C stage and LCD Soundsystem were setting up on A stage, but it just got impossible. This is where the day took a turn for the worse. There were just way too many people trying to get a spot for LCD and I realized this festival was much larger than I thought, maybe even oversold. After all the pushing, spilling and just plain rudeness of people…we gave up our spot and headed toward the back.
LCD Soundsystem 9.2
Jame Murphy and crew put on the show I expected them to put on. A full-on disco dance party with a punk twist. His voice sounds quite a bit different live, but the music is what makes the LCD sound and it was spot on. I would give his set a perfect 10.0, but being brought down by Panda Bear‘s sleepy set and then being forced out of the spot we held all day (right before the headliner) had me in a bitter mood. I wasn’t able to enjoy LCD in the way I would have liked to. But I can’t wait to see him headline his own show someday soon.
We had a plan for Day 3. We were going to setup camp on the smaller B stage, in the shade and stay there all day. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
Washed Out 5.6
Washed Out put on a chill show as expected, but it wasn’t that chill on our blanket in the shade. People were walking through us and the path became miserable. I understand needing to get up front to see a guy play with a laptop, but c’mon! Anyway, his set was good but was drown out by the main stages. I knew at this point that I couldn’t hang here all day.
Local Natives 7.3
Local Natives put on another great performance that did it’s best to overcome the noise from the main stages. I really enjoyed their set but couldn’t help comparing it to seeing them at the tiny Larimer Lounge just a couple months ago.
Lightning Bolt 7.1
When I first ventured out of our little camp over on B stage I heard the noise rockers Lightning Bolt on A stage. I couldn’t help but be drawn to this 2-man ear-wrenching show. Not being a fan of Lightning Bolt, I have to say their pure aggression was addictive. If I actually liked this type of music, they might have even gotten a perfect score.
Surfer Blood 6.5
Having no clue how young these kids were, I was a little astonished when they took the stage. I had been looking forward to their set and while it was a good set, once again it was drown out by the other stages…making it really hard to hear. After Swim, we packed up and left B stage.
St. Vincent 5.0
Not really a fan of St. Vincent and seeing her live on a huge stage did nothing to change my view on that. Liked the orange dress though. One good thing about this part of the day is that we were back on the main ground, in the direct rays of the sun and it was much cooler than the days before. There was a cool breeze going through. This was nice since it was turning out to be a lackluster day musically and we were considering leaving early if things didn’t pick up.
Major Lazer 9.0
And then everything changed. Major Lazer took the stage with Chinese dragons, ghetto booties, ballerinas and an electronic hip-hop, reggae funk circus that gave us all the adrenaline shot we needed. Within minutes I had abandon any thoughts of bailing and got lost in the show. Major Lazer was the #1 surprise of the weekend.
Big Boi 9.1
An OutKast show? Might as well have been one. Big Boi tore through a bunch of OutKast hits with some new stuff from his solo album peppered in. I wasn’t planning on seeing Big Boi because Sleigh Bells were on the B stage at the same time, but I was hooked with ‘cooler than a polar bears toenails!’ (plus, Sleigh Bells had that small area around their small stage so packed you couldn’t get close and since I’ve seen them up close and personal a couple time over the past few months…Big Boi was the better bet). Big Boi built on the energy Major Lazer started and amplified it. The day/evening had finally started..and unfortunately it ended there.
Pavement. What can I say that won’t cause hate mail? I guess all I can say is I appreciate their influence but am bored with their music. We watched a few songs, congratulated ourselves for making it through all 3 days and headed to the Viper Room for drinks.
A few other thoughts on the festival:
Weather 2.9 (way too hot and humid to be outside for 3 days)
Location 5.5 (nice small park, but in an ugly part of town)
Size of venue 7.9 (pretty small venue, so a nice change compared to the large festivals)
People Watching 7.0 (a good diverse crowd for your entertainment)
Capacity 4.3 (they sold way too many tickets)
Green initiative 9.0 (giving away merch for recycling…would be a 10.0 if it worked better)
Newcastle Summer the first day 9.4 (damn good beer!)
Running out of Newcastle Summer the first day 0.0 (WTF?!!)
Only Heineken 0.4 (not really what I want on a 100 degree day)
No liquor 0.0 (I do understand this, with the heat and all, but drinking beer in the sun all day sucks!)
Not being very strict on getting liquor in 8.1 (we got a bottle in 2/3 days)
Food choices 8.0 (veggies or meat, they had it)