Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Day 3 Preview
As Pitchfork Music Festival weekend is nearly upon us, you may be wondering: What’s the weather going to be like? My response to that is: Let me tell you! At the moment, Friday will be sunny and 90 degrees for a high. Saturday will be 85 degrees with a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms. Statistically speaking there’s a 60% chance we WON’T have thunderstorms then. Finally, on Sunday it’s set to be 88 degrees and sunny. Pitchfork Music Fest weekends have been much, much worse in the past. Still, with all that sun and with pretty hot temperatures at hand, there are two essentials you’ll need all weekend: water and sunscreen. Stay hydrated and avoid sunburn. Those are the keys to a successful weekend not just at Pitchfork, but everywhere. Cue the shooting star and “The More You Know” graphic. Okay, so the last couple days I’ve run previews for Day One and Day Two of the festival, along with a collection of songs from every artist performing and a carefully curated Spotify playlist. In other words, things are going along just swimmingly here during Pitchfork Music Festival Week. Today the preview coverage concludes with a look at the artists performing on Day 3, which is Sunday. Will it be great? Of course it will, and I’ll explain why in the paragraphs below. As usual, my personal picks for each day are highlighted with stars (**). As a manner of housekeeping, I’d also like to mention at this time that Pitchfork Music Festival coverage will continue all weekend long and through Monday, where I’ll bring you plenty of day-by-day recaps and share plenty of photos taken of the many bands performing. Keep an eye on my Twitter account as well for more up-to-the-minute updates during the fest. Thanks, and I hope you’re looking forward to this weekend as much as I am!
**A Lull (Blue Stage, 1:00)
Dirty Beaches (Green Stage, 1:00)
For the third day in a row, a local Chicago band is performing an opening set at the festival. That’s one of the nice things about the Pitchfork Music Fest is that they do try and give some love to the local music scene every year. A Lull is one of the more interesting bands you’ll find in Chicago these days, crafting tightly wound and endlessly fun but off-kilter psych-pop. They use a lot of tribal rhythms and harmonies amidst their drifting guitars and synths, and they do sound a bit like Animal Collective. That’s intended to be a compliment, by the way. As a contrast, Dirty Beaches doesn’t call Chicago home, but then again he’d be hard pressed to call any place home. Alex Zhang Hungtai is the man behind Dirty Beaches, and while he has associations with Taiwan and Canada, he’s spent most of his life drifting from country to country and never staying too long. That informs his music in a lot of ways, a lo-fi pastiche of ’50s doo-wop and rockabilly mixed with garage rock surges and arrangements that are forceful, minimal and threatening. His debut album Badlands is quite good, as is his live show reputation. Choosing between these two acts is tougher than you’d think, but I have to vote for A Lull out of local devotion, and because I find their sound a little more interesting and energetic than Dirty Beaches.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Red Stage, 1:45)
**Milk Music (Blue Stage, 1:55)
Sunday afternoon really becomes a battle of the lo-fi bands, and it all starts with Unknown Mortal Orchestra vs. Milk Music. While both bands have a home recorded and somewhat degraded quality to their music, the songs they create are certainly distinctive. They’re also a bit old school and camera shy. Nobody even knew who or what Unknown Mortal Orchestra was at first, because all that existed was a Bandcamp page with a couple songs on it. We’ve learned only a little more about them since then, but that doesn’t seem to matter too much, so long as the music is good. Their self-titled album came out last year to much critical acclaim, and songs like “Ffunny Ffriends” and “How Can You Luv Me?” are bouncy earworms that are fun and quirky. Expect their live show to be described in a similar way. Milk Music have virtually no presence on the Internet. Their website lists only tour dates and ways to buy their music (they only have one EP out). They didn’t have a Facebook page until recently, and have admitted that technology isn’t really their thing. Their music suggests the same. The Washington quartet takes the ’80s DIY hardcore rock scene as inspiration for their music. They’ve drawn comparisons to Dinosaur, Meat Puppets and Husker Du, and all feel warranted. Their set will likely be a head-banging and energetic good time. The smart and safe call would be to go with Unknown Mortal Orchestra here, however sometimes you need to go stupid and unsafe for the sake of a good time. I think Milk Music will be best at providing that.
**Iceage (Green Stage, 2:30)
**Thee Oh Sees (Blue Stage, 2:50)
With these two bands, you can’t go wrong. Either one you choose, you’re guaranteed to have an out-of-control and wild experience. The real question will be: Can they get the crowd on board with their antics? For Iceage, it’d be surprising if their set lasted more than 20 minutes. Their 25-minute debut album New Brigade came out last year with high praise and people calling it a welcome revival of the punk genre. Still in their teens and early 20s, they’ve got plenty of energy to spare, and their live shows have become notorious for moshing and body surfing by band members. Photos of fans walking away bloody, but with smiles on their faces should tell you all you need to know. Thee Oh Sees have less of a punk edge to their sound, but they’ve got more than enough energy and back catalogue to keep things exciting. They’re best described as a psych-pop band, and their swirling melodies will likely blast out your eardrums if you’re close enough to the stage. They run around like chickens with their heads chopped off, and scream song titles before launching into them. If you can’t handle that heat, then stay out of the kitchen. If you’re afraid for your ears or your physical health, maybe this point in the afternoon is a good time to take a break and explore some the non-music options the festival has to offer. For the rest of us, you can probably catch all of Iceage then 90% of Thee Oh Sees if you move quickly. I’d recommend trying both.
**Ty Segall (Red Stage, 3:20)
The Men (Blue Stage, 3:45)
The lo-fi noise rock love fest officially wraps up in the 3pm hour on Sunday with Ty Segall and The Men. Ty Segall is quickly turning into the new Robert Pollard, cranking out multiple albums over the course of a single year. Segall will release 3 full lengths in 2012, but his latest with his band is called Slaughterhouse. It is a wild, fuzz-laden and ear-destroying ride through a house of horrors with Segall as your carnival barker guide. It’s the sort of madness that brings back memories of the earliest records released by The Stooges, but with less emphasis on establishing a groove and more on peeling back pop hooks. In a live setting, Segall and the band are punishingly loud. If you’re close enough to a speaker, your ears could be ringing for days. Knowing you’ve been thoroughly rocked though, it won’t matter nearly as much. The Men are a loud rock band, but in a more reasonable ’90s indie rock sort of way. Their latest album Open Your Heart has gotten great reviews and drawn comparisons to both Foo Fighters and MC5. You can actually hear bits of both in their sound. Mostly though, The Men are a fun band that makes energetic and often loud rock songs, with a few instrumentals and softer bits in between. In other words, they’re a little more balanced out and nuanced than what you’ll get from the hyper-punk of Ty Segall. Both sets will be good, but I think Segall’s will both kick ass and take names.
Real Estate (Green Stage, 4:15)
**Kendrick Lamar (Blue Stage, 4:45)
If insane sets from Iceage, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall and The Men totally zapped you of your life force on a Sunday afternoon, there’s nothing better than finding a shady spot in the park and listening to some Real Estate. After two critically acclaimed full lengths and an EP, the band has established themselves as the perfect soundtrack band for a relaxing day at the beach. A shady grass oasis in Union Park runs relatively close to that setting, so try it out and see if it works. The last time Real Estate played the Pitchfork Music Festival, I liked their on stage vibe, but it was sleepy and not at all beneficial to the large crowd standing in the hot sun. Expect more of the same this year, so be smart and find a place for the drifting guitars to wash over your relaxed body. Kendrick Lamar earns my recommendation for this time slot not just because Real Estate’s set will be slow and drifting, but also because he’s a genuinely talented and formidable presence in hip hop. His 2011 album Section.80 was heralded by some as the “rebirth of West Coast rap,” and it came complete with some sort of secret connection to Dr. Dre. Whatever he’s up to and whoever he knows, Lamar holds his own by taking on introspective topics in his tracks and geeking out to things besides money and women. He’s absolutely an exciting new figure in hip hop, and with any luck he’ll be very popular very soon. Seeing him on the small Blue stage should be a treat.
**Chavez (Red Stage, 5:15)
Oneohtrix Point Never (Blue Stage, 5:45)
One of the things the talent bookers at Pitchfork Music Festival like to do is place a great reunited or “classic” indie band on the lineup. Typically, that band will play their set in the 5pm hour on Sunday. Superchunk did it last year. Actually, that doesn’t extend beyond last year, so I guess it can’t be called “typical.” I guess it was a poor train of thought. But for the second year in a row, a legendary indie band plays late Sunday afternoon. That honor goes to Chavez, and I guess a three year career with two great full lengths constitutes “legendary.” Gosh, I’m bad at this. But Chavez’s sound, in case you’re not familiar, is heavy on the guitar attacks, falling somewhere between post-punk and prog-metal. Comparisons to Guided By Voices and Shellac are pretty accurate, and via their very sporadic live shows since reuniting in 2006 have been pretty damn exciting. By comparison, Oneohtrix Point Never features zero guitars and his songs often glide along softly. Oneohtrix Point Never is the name under which Daniel Lopatin (of ’80s pop revivalists Ford & Lopatin) records solo. He takes in and repurposes old vocal recordings with fresh melodies and backing beats to accompany them. It makes for a fascinating listen, and earns its comparisons to things done by The Books. I’m not sure what he’ll do at Pitchfork, but if its anything like his albums there will be a creative ambience to it. It’s not so much dance music, but its beauty might just be the thing you need on a late Sunday afternoon.
**AraabMuzik (Green Stage, 6:15)
King Krule (Blue Stage, 6:45)
Similar to Clams Casino, AraabMuzik is another hip hop producer stepping out into the spotlight to showcase the many beats he’s created. So place another check mark in your instrumental electronica artist category. And while he has worked with A$AP Rocky and Cam’ron, many of the compositions that appeared on Electronic Dream weren’t exactly club bangers nor could you imagine somebody rapping over them. They were just a little too subdued and weird to make them seem mainstream, and that was actually a huge part of the charm. One of the most fascinating things about AraabMuzik is how he approaches his live performances, moving past simply pushing buttons and actually creating some beats and percussion work on stage. Very few electronica artists can operate with that sort of intensity and physical presence, and it’ll be something to behold at Union Park. For those wanting to hear a band play guitars, your option on the other side of the park is King Krule. Londoner Archy Marshall operates under the King Krule name, and to look at him you’d think the 18-year-old was actually even younger, what with his small frame and baby face. Yet listening to his deep crooner voice you’re almost instantly reminded of Leonard Cohen or Billy Bragg. Marshall also has a very distinctive sound, one which often merges jazz, rockabilly, electronica and hip hop. If you think that’s a weird description, try listening to some. It’s interesting stuff. Maybe not as interesting as what AraabMuzik is doing, but still interesting.
**Beach House (Red Stage, 7:25)
The Field (Blue Stage, 7:40)
Sunday will mark the third time Beach House have performed at the Pitchfork Music Festival, after sets in 2007 and 2010. It’s fascinating to think about how far they’ve come since then. both on their records and in their live performances. The early material was so soft, wispy and minimal, yet beautiful in the sort of way an antique gets when the light hits it just right. Nobody thought the duo would be able to top their last album Teen Dream from 2010, which wound up close to or at the top of many critics’ year-end lists. Shockingly, Bloom does reach a new peak for the band, giving their melodies more of a pulse and soaring skywards in ways that can actually connect with the larger and larger crowds they’ve been performing in front of. They may not be the most engaging live band, but they’ll make the most of their early evening time slot. The sun will be at just the right place in the sky to give everything that nostalgic glow present within the music. Axel Willner is otherwise known as The Field, and what he brings to the festival at such a late hour is some rather engaging experimental techno. He loves looping beats and other elements, going so far as to call his last record Looping State of Mind, and then throws actual instruments on top of them to give it more of a band feel. Being able to incorporate punk or shoegaze into an electronica track takes serious talent, which The Field has. You might not be able to dance to a lot of it, but it’s compelling, often beautiful stuff that in some ways is more effective on a crowd than Beach House’s calmer pastiche. This matchup is a tough call, but I think Beach House has the edge only because their material is slightly stronger.
**Vampire Weekend (Green Stage, 8:30)
As is custom on Sunday nights, the headlining act performs unopposed. Purity Ring plays against Feist on Friday night and Grimes plays against Godspeed You! Black Emperor on Saturday, but nobody plays against Vampire Weekend on Sunday. Of all the acts all weekend long, they’re probably the most popular anyways. I’m glad to see that Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig gave up a lucrative career in hip hop to start a band with his Ivy League friends that liberally draws on the Afropop stylings of Paul Simon. I hope that doesn’t come off as at all mean or menacing. Really I’m just joking around a little because there’s not a whole lot to say. Go see Vampire Weekend. Have lots of fun. Sing along to the songs you know. Get excited that they’ll probably play a few new ones too. It’ll be a nice and comfortable end to a nice and comfortable weekend. I’m happy to say that I’ll see you all on the other side.