If you’re headed to Union Park this weekend, I sincerely hope you’re following along with this 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival preview guide. There’s a lot of great and interesting artists playing the festival this year, as there are every year, and I just want to make sure you have the absolute best time possible. That’s why I try my hardest to educate you on all the artists on the lineup and try to help you make choices about what bands to see during what hour of each day. Yesterday we previewed Friday, and that’s a shorter day than Saturday and Sunday. So now here’s the guide for Saturday, which is longer and ideally more compelling. I think much of the day on Saturday is beset with fascinating conflicts, so you may want to skip around and catch pieces of different sets all day just to get a fully rounded experience. Now then, without further ado, let me present to you a guide to Day 2 at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival!
KEN Mode [Blue Stage, 1:00]
White Lung [Green Stage, 1:00]*
Fans of hard rock are going to have a difficult time with this one. Well, actually they’re probably going to have a difficult time just being awake enough at 1 p.m. to actually drag themselves to the festival for these sets. But in terms of what each band has to offer, there’s a lot of similarities. Technically speaking, KEN Mode is metal. The KEN stands for Kill Everyone Now, and their music sounds like they’ve been slaughtering a lot of things. That’s not to call it bad, because it’s not, but it is punishing and brutal and to coin a phrase here, mosh-tastic. You could say similar things about White Lung, though this co-ed band is classified more under the category of hardcore punk. The guitars are still heavy, but the speed and precision with which they attack is so fun and addictive you can’t help but be drawn in. I’ve also heard some great things about their live show, so if you’re up for some capital “R” Rock and Roll to start your Saturday, I’m going to advise breathing in some White Lung.
Julia Holter [Blue Stage, 1:55]
Pissed Jeans [Red Stage, 1:45]*
If you’re still on a heavy guitar high after that first set of the day got you all revved up, maybe you’d like to continue that ride by checking out Pissed Jeans. If their live shows are anything like their records, it’s going to be a wild and crazy good time. They’re a high energy punk band that gives it their all and plays like they’ve got nothing to lose. Their songs are remarkably catchy and don’t be surprised if they interact with the crowd quite a bit by stage dives and other fun traditions. By comparison, Julia Holter’s set is going to be extremely tame. To describe her music is to use words like “classically trained” and “artistically strange”. In fact, it’s quite fantastic. I recommend her last record Ekstasis to anyone looking for music that’s a little off-kilter and innovative. The way she effortlessly mixes genres and styles is impressive to say the least. But her music is also a little on the quieter side, which for a music festival doesn’t always work so well. If you’re nursing a hangover from Friday and maybe just want to chill out in some shade by the Blue stage though, definitely don’t miss her. The better overall live performance though? Pissed Jeans wins that contest.
Parquet Courts [Blue Stage, 2:50]*
Phosphorescent [Green Stage, 2:30]
How do I describe the sound of Parquet Courts? Let’s call them post-punk, with plenty of influence from garage rock. Their record Light Up Gold actually reminds me quite a bit of early albums from The Strokes, though a little sloppier and with serious slacker vibes. That mess works well for them, and their songs are infused with an anxious energy and hooks that will stay in your head for days. At this point, you could still be riding the punk rock, high energy train from earlier in the day and fall into Parquet Courts to keep things high-spirited and fun. I’ll tell you right now that while Parquet Courts are good, Phosphorescent makes better music. Not much better, just sort of the antithesis of the slacker, messy vibe that will likely run its course over 2-3 records. Phosphorescent aka Matthew Houck has been making music for longer and has proven over several records that he can take alt-country through all different sorts of phases and still come off sounding original and excellent. The problem, if you can call it that, is of course the “alt-country” part. It’s likely to be a little slower and less engaging, even though the songs themselves are very smartly written and composed. This one’s a really close call, but the edge barely goes to Parquet Courts primarily for stage presence purposes.
Merchandise [Blue Stage, 3:45]
…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead [Red Stage, 3:20]*
Merchandise are the sort of band you’d expect to hear on the soundtrack to an ’80s action movie. Their songs kind of sound like they could be used in one of those classic training montages, though they’re a bit more psychedelic and complex for such a purpose. Still, their latest effort Totale Nite is one of 2013’s most interesting throwback-styled records, and there’s something charmingly Smiths-esque about it too. They’re definitely a band to watch in the coming years. But then there’s …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead. They’ve had one record that could be classified as “perfect” in the form of 2002’s Source Tags and Codes. Since then, they’ve all but fallen apart. Okay, so not really. But they struggled for a few years and had a few not-so-great records. Their last couple have been remarkably good though, and they’re starting to redefine themselves and their legacy. I just wish they were still that same band from 2002, who treated every show like it was their last and destroyed everything on the stage with the crowd climbing over the barriers to join them. They’ve matured, and calmed down a bit since then. It’s not going to be a destruct-a-palooza during their set, but it’ll still be exciting to watch them perform and their high energy rock songs are a great fit for the festival atmosphere.
Metz [Blue Stage, 4:45]
Savages [Green Stage, 4:15]*
If you ask me, this is the toughest choice to make all weekend. These are two bands with incredible records and incredible live shows. You really can’t go wrong by going to see either one of them. In fact, I’ll practically encourage the idea of trying to catch both. Metz are a punk band with hooks galore and killer energy. They pretty much give it their all on stage, and that unquestioning commitment to giving you one of the best shows of your life makes them a do-not-miss act. But so are Savages, a band that has quickly made a name for themselves with a post-punk intensity rivaled by Joy Division. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard and seen a band with this much chemistry and incredible talent. Even though they function best in total darkness, I’m certain you’ll be moved and compelled by every moment of their set. I’m technically awarding this one to Savages, but really it’s a tie for what could be the two best sets of the entire weekend.
Ryan Hemsworth [Blue Stage, 5:45]*
Swans [Red Stage, 5:15]
This one’s a pretty tough call too, but for entirely different reasons. Ryan Hemsworth has really made a name for himself recently with a number of really fun, danceable electronica tracks. That, plus quite a few strong remixes have certainly made him an artist to pay attention to in the last year. Undoubtedly he’ll continue to do great work for the foreseeable future. As for Swans, they’re a pretty legendary no-wave, industrial-style metal band, and their first incarnation in the ’80s yielded some classic records. This revived version appears to be no less potent, as their last album The Seer was an epic double disc pile of heavy, intense and experimental rock. I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out on a stage in the late afternoon heat, but it’s probably worth finding out. Personally, while I love and am more familiar with Swans, I think a little bit of dancing in the shade to whatever Ryan Hemsworth puts together will make for a nice cool down period. But that’s just me.
Low [Blue Stage, 6:45]
The Breeders [Green Stage, 6:15]*
If we’re being totally honest here, the last time I saw Low perform, the group I was with complained of boredom the entire time. Of course none of them were Low fans and it was outside on a hot day, so some of their complaining felt justified. By that same token, if you’re not familiar with Low’s music, listening to their set outside on a hot summer day probably won’t be your cup of tea either. Many of their songs, especially on their more recent albums, are slower and much more sedate, and there’s no reason to suspect they’ll be pulling from their more energetic back catalogue all too much. Speaking of back catalogues though, The Breeders will be on hand and they’ll be playing their classic album Last Splash. It’s a fun record with a good energy going for it, and I think it’ll work like gangbusters in the festival atmosphere. ‘Nuff said.
Andy Stott [Blue Stage, 7:45]
Solange [Red Stage, 7:25]*
Andy Stott’s music is often described as “dark electronica”. By 7:45 p.m., it’s not going to be dark by the time he takes the stage, though it could be much closer by the time he gets off of it. So the whole darkness element that would likely add some great atmosphere to what he’s doing won’t quite be in place on this particular festival occasion. Still, I’m sure his set will be a good time, and though some of the tracks on his latest effort Luxury Problems are very bass-heavy and on the slower side, I suspect he’s going to use energy as a weapon. It’s not quite dubstep, but it’ll still be awesome anyways. Meanwhile, Beyonce’s sister Solange will be bringing her interesting brand of psych-tinged R&B to Union Park, and that should make for a really enjoyable and fun time. If you haven’t heard her latest album True, get on that sooner rather than later. There will likely be sing-alongs and plenty of dancing, and all of it done with a friendly wink and a smile.
Rustie [Blue Stage, 8:45]
Belle & Sebastian [Green Stage, 8:30]*
The good news about the headliners on Saturday is that they’re both very different from one another, so if one is not to your liking then you’re more than welcome to go watch the other. Rustie is sure to bring the dance party, and I hear he’s got a pretty great light show to go along with his EDM jams. If you’ve been having some high energy fun all day and want to keep that going well into the evening, this is a great opportunity for that. Or maybe you were waiting for the sun to go down and the temperature to drop ever so slightly before you started moving and shaking and sweating. All I can tell you is, Rustie’s set is going to be fun and high energy. So is Belle & Sebastian actually. The indie pop legends have their fair share of slow, medium and briskly paced songs in their catalogue, but in a live show setting, they really come to life more than ever, bouncing with reckless abandon. Frontman Stuart Murdoch is a relentlessly charming presence as well, and between the classic collection of songs and witty stage banter, it seems like the perfect end to the day. I hope you’ll check them out and agree with me.
TOMORROW: DAY 3 PREVIEW!