Welcome to Day 1 of the preview guide to the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival. In this guide, the purpose is to take a look at the artist schedule hour by hour and recommend the which acts to see when. I’ll be doing this for each of the three days of the festival, for the next three days leading up to the festival. That will be followed by daily recaps of all the action happening in Union Park in Chicago each day. In case you missed it, yesterday I started off Pitchfork Music Festival week with an Artist Guide, providing web links, audio streams, mp3s and even a Spotify playlist to help get you more familiar with the full lineup of this year’s fest. It’s gonna be a great one, I suspect. Now then, let’s get right into this preview of Day 1 (Friday) at the Pitchfork Music Festival. If you’re going, I hope you find this guide helpful!
Frankie Rose [Blue Stage, 3:20]*
Daughn Gibson [Red Stage, 3:30]
The first decision of the day, and already it’s a tough one. Frankie Rose has been in a number of bands over the last few years, often playing various roles ranging anywhere from drummer to guitarist to frontwoman. Her last album and first official solo effort Interstellar was one of 2012’s best, effortlessly blending synth pop and rock music in a way that’s both fun and dynamic. Rose’s live show is interesting and engaging as well, pretty much the perfect way to start your weekend at a music festival. By comparison, Daughn Gibson is a deep-voiced crooner in the vein of Lee Hazelwood or Stephin Merritt from The Magnetic Fields. His songs are an ambitious blend of rock, blues and electronic elements. While his second effort Me Moan received only so-so reviews, his 2012 debut All Hell earned him raves as an artist to watch. I’ve not seen him perform live before, but can tell just by listening to his songs that while he’s a fascinating artist, his set won’t be the upbeat and energetic boost needed for mid-afternoon on a Friday. This one goes to Frankie Rose.
Trash Talk [Blue Stage, 4:15]*
Mac DeMarco [Green Stage, 4:35]
Mac DeMarco is an impressive guitarist and songwriter. His album 2 distilled those strengths into a brutally honest yet slyly addictive slice of music that emphasized AM gold and lazy summer vibes. He’s like a lyrically darker, weirder version of Real Estate, you could say. And that’s not bad in the least. If you want to spread out on a blanket in the shade and just relax for a bit, DeMarco is definitely your man. If you want to kick the energy up another notch and maybe even go a little crazy, you’d be an idiot to miss Trash Talk. They are punk rock at its most visceral, and I’ve heard nothing but raves about their live show. If you’re not the sort of person who likes to get up close and personal with your neighbor and maybe even bash into them a few times while moshing, maybe stay towards the back. You’ll have a good time anyways, or at least be very entertained. It’s very likely Trash Talk will have one of, if not THE best set of the entire weekend, so don’t miss them. Seriously.
Angel Olsen [Blue Stage, 5:15]
Woods [Red Stage, 5:30]*
If you haven’t heard Angel Olsen’s album Half Way Home yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy or stream it via Spotify or something. It’s jaw-droppingly good, a mixture of folk singer-songwriter tradition and Emmylou Harris-style alt-country. Anchoring it down is Olsen’s voice, which is a powerhouse of emotion and simply one of the most unique, impressive things you’ll hear. She’s also a Chicagoan, so playing at Pitchfork is a hometown show for her – one that should be appreciated by a hometown crowd. Yet her music is also a little bit sleepy, aka not quite built for the outdoor, extremely heated festival atmosphere. Not that Woods are a whole lot better, but at least they’ve got some bouncy energy in a bunch of their psych-folk songs to make things at least a bit more bearable. Woods performed at Pitchfork back in 2011 and did just fine. Expect them to do just about the same this time, which will ultimately make them a better act to see in the 5 o’clock hour.
Mikal Cronin [Blue Stage, 6:15]
Wire [Green Stage, 6:25]*
This is the most challenging conflict you’ll likely face on all of Friday. What it really boils down to is old vs. new. Mikal Cronin has put out a pair of strong indie rock records that are lighthearted and bouncy while also being incisive and smart. All signs point towards a great career ahead of him. Meanwhile, Wire is a classic punk band who not only have three absolutely essential, classic albums under their belts from the late ’70s, but their more modern output from these last few years has been remarkably great as well. They don’t play a whole lot of the early material in their live sets these days, preferring to stick with the newer stuff. When you really think about it though, does it matter? In a sense that makes the final decision a bit easier. Mikal Cronin will very likely be around 5 years from now. But Wire? Who knows. See the legends while you can. Come to think of it, that “challenging conflict” wasn’t so tough after all.
Joanna Newsom [Red Stage, 7:20]*
With nothing to compete against her, Joanna Newsom gets the crowd all to herself. Now what will she do with it? I’m happy to recommend Newsom’s records. Her last couple, including the triple album Have One on Me as well as Ys, are monuments to creativity in music. They’re innovative and exciting pieces all bolstered by Newsom’s unique voice and winning charm. But then you think about how everything is going to come together for this festival show, and panic starts to set in a little. Newsom plays the harp, which is a delicate instrument with a delicate sound. You can’t exactly call her music rock and roll, and much of the time it’s rather soft and lacking in energy. I’d argue she should be performing in a dark, seated theater rather than outside on a hot summer day. Will the crowd bake in the hot sun during a very static set? I can see it happening. Still, let’s hold out hope she injects a little more energy and fun into her set, and maybe even plays some new material from her forthcoming album.
Bjork [Green Stage, 8:30]*
Oh yes. Bjork’s set should be nothing short of great. Technically speaking she’s the headliner you should be most excited about, though the other two are excellent as well for different reasons. What Bjork brings to the table is a wholly unique live experience, replete with her excellent catalogue and strange fashion sense. It’s going to be weird, wild and highly enjoyable, even if you’re not her biggest fan in the world. Word on the street is that she’s still performing a lot of material from her last record Biophilia, which is certainly one of her weakest efforts, but even then hearing her powerful voice in person should make it instantly more engaging. So do yourself a favor and stick around for all of Bjork’s set. It’s totally worth the price of admission.
TOMORROW: DAY 2 PREVIEW!