Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival
2010 kicked off on July 16 at Union Park, giving exposure and highlighting a unique assortment of artists from indie rock powerhouse Modest Mouse to Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene to Swedish pop sensation Robyn to art rockers Liars to hip hop act El-P to folk singer-songwriter The Tallest Man On Earth.
* The Tallest Man On Earth
It's hard for any band to capture a hot, sweaty, and antsy audience at any music festival, so the folk artist has a lot of extra work to do to make you forgot about all of your problems and negative outside forces that could break your enjoyment. Sweden's Kristian Matsson a.k.a. The Tallest Man On Earth was going on two days without sleep and only had himself and his guitar to charm us. And charm us he did. His strengths and talent showcased in playing guitar, delivering intriguing vocals, and connecting with listeners on his 2008 debut LP Shallow Grave
and 2010's The Wild Hunt
was magnified in this experience as his insomnia and reaction to the heat seemed to make for a more intense, tortured, and heartfelt performance. First Wild Hunt
single "King of Spain", Shallow Grave
opener "I Won't Be Found", and set closer "Where Do My Bluebirds Fly?" were especially captivating as we saw Matsson fight against the demons trying to pull him down to give Pitchfork early arrivals a special show they curiously would not be able to wipe from their minds for the rest of the weekend.
Brooklyn rapper and producer El-P was our lone hip hop act to grace day one and, while I do think he is a solid rhyme and word-twister, his instrumentals are what sells me. Luckily, his best beats were out in full force both backing his lyrical tracks and used as electronic dance interludes in between. There were quite a number of sound problems and uneven meshing of the words and music at times, but when they were on, it was on and the still-fairly-small audience seemed like they were eating it up. I'll Sleep When You're Dead
single "Up All Night" seemed to elicit the biggest response and his crew put forth their best effort to get everyone pumped for the rest of the night. For a group that has been out of the spotlight since 2007 besides a couple mixtapes, it was good to see them back in action in the midst of preparing their follow-up LP.
Angus Andrew, lead vocalist of experimental rockers Liars, is a walking sideshow before you ever meet him. Short shorts, mad 'stache, quasi mullet, bugging eyes, the works. He makes for a sharply entertaining frontman and he has the comedic edge, the vocal punch, and an endlessly talented band of musicians to back him up. From their albums alone, Liars fans have learned to "expect the unexpected", so all live curveballs, one-liners, air-humping, shirt-lifting, and general nuttiness came as just another deliciously fun Liars treat. The band stuck mostly to their most recent effort, Sisterworld
, which was released earlier this year to rave reviews, with the building disc opener "Scissor", a grander "No Barrier Fun", the maddening "Scarecrows On A Killer Slant", and memorable single "The Overachievers". Their passion and collaboration on stage made their moody, well done album versions almost seem terribly restrained in comparison. It was loud, it made you move, and it smacked a devilish smile on your face from their ferocious rocking and Angus's humorous banter, which probably beat anything going on at the comedy stage that night. "Proud Evolution" finished off the set with a head-bopping, shoulder-swinging jam that certainly will make more word of mouth spread about this band's shows and tunes.
Believe it or not, the act I was most ecstatic about seeing on Friday was Swedish pop sensation Robyn. While most people in the US know her from her '90s hits "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know (What It Takes)" from Robyn Is Here
, others have rediscovered her in the past decade with her irresistible self-titled comeback record as well as this year's energizing Body Talk, Pt. 1
featuring should-be club hits "Dancing On My Own" and "Fembot". "I've got.. some news for you." Robyn came out swinging with her unequaled style and power, her band launching into "Fembot", and our leading lady never missing a step or beat the whole show. Unlike many choreographed pop shows out there, Robyn didn't have all the lights and glitter and back-up dancers and, best of all, no lip-syncing, which meant all eyes were on her entrancing the crowd and owning the stage. The pop show is a whole separate beast from indie rock, but I doubt any other artist at the festival could have shown up with as much explosive energy and charisma as Robyn did if they tried. She played through the majority of her first Body Talk
record including the ready-to-fight chantalong "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do", the fierce Royksopp-produced "None Of Dem", and the aforementioned single "Dancing On My Own", which will certainly find its way onto a lot of year-end best song lists, pop or not. Self-titled hits "With Every Heartbeat" and Teddybears cover "Cobrastyle" were thrown in the mix to strong enthusiasm while she closed out as powerfully as she began with what she said was her best song, "Be Mine!".
* Broken Social Scene
I had heard a decent amount of complaints about the sound at the festival in the past, but the first time I found huge issues myself were during the Broken Social Scene set. This was incredibly unfortunate considering their expansive, layered sound requires the full potential of any speaker system and it wasn't anywhere near satisfactory from anywhere outside the box between the speakers and the sound booth and this crowd stretched back quite far and wide. From the side, we could pretty much only hear the vocals and very little of the music, which made for a hollow-sounding "World Sick", while beyond the sound booth, there was a total lack of bass and loudness, which inspired people to strike up conversations or abandon the show for food for otherwise fan favorites "Stars and Sons" and "7/4 (Shoreline)". I've seen Broken Social Scene a solid half dozen times now and they're one of the best live bands out there, so this did not do them justice. Once we could make our way closer, the rocky issues began to lift and new band anthem "Forced To Love" paved the way for the usually grand Broken Social Scene experience I've come to love. The band rounded out their set with the full-of-life Forgiveness Rock Record
jamfest "Meet Me In The Basement", which got a great, jumpy, cheering reception.
* Modest Mouse
As darkness fell over Union Park, indie rock darlings and our Friday night headliner Modest Mouse took the stage and erupted right into their set with an extended "Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes". The Moon & Antarctica
piece immediately got the fans head banging, raising their fists, and moving around. Unfortunately that energy didn't hold through the entire set as the band kept to some of their more low energy tracks, which seemed to inspire the audience to reject the band's most recent output like "Satellite Skin" and "Autumn Beds", which were played back-to-back, even more. Standouts included the stretch from back catalogue favorite "Dramamine", which teased the spectacular "Life Like Weeds", through what was arguably the best Good News
entry of the night, "The View", sandwiching We Were Dead
's "Parting of the Sensory". Offering the only encore I witnessed all weekend, Modest Mouse returned with one of my favorites and what seemed like a huge crowd pleaser with the gorgeous airy singalong "Gravity Rides Everything" from The Moon & Antarctica
followed by the rowdy finale of Good News
number "Black Cadillacs". While the set lacked some of their more recognizable hits that would have been more appropriate for the average festival-goer like "Float On", "Missed The Boat", "Ocean Breathes Salty", "3rd Planet", and "The World At Large", they certainly provided a solid mix for fans and sounded supreme in their delivery.
Photos from weeklydig.
> Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 Report - Day Two
>> Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 Report - Day Three