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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Friday Photos

In case you missed all of the action out at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, I’ve certainly written plenty about it, but haven’t SHOWN you what it all looked like. Well, this and the next couple of photo posts should change all of that. Join me past the jump for a bunch of photos that I took on Day 1. In this set, you’ll find photos of Bjork, Joanna Newsom, Wire, Woods, Angel Olsen, Mac DeMarco and Mikal Cronin.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Final Thoughts

I’m pleased to be wrapping up this week-long adventure into coverage of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival with a quick look back at the weekend that was. Having attended the festival for the last few years, you really get used to how things are run and where you need to go for everything from water to food to restrooms. So as you return in a sense it’s like coming home, and that’s comforting. I never once felt out of my element or like I had no idea what I was doing over the three days. Of course I didn’t quite see everything I wanted to see and hear everything I wanted to hear thanks to traffic delays and one too many hits of the snooze button, but what I missed was miniscule compared to what I saw. Hopefully you’ve read all about those adventures in my daily recaps (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). That should give you a pretty good idea of the best and worst of the music side of things this year. But just for fun, I put together a little list of superlatives, helping to highlight some of my favorite and least favorite musical treats from the weekend. Check that out:

Most surprising set: Killer Mike
Most disappointing set: Yo La Tengo
Set that best lived Up to the hype: Savages
Band that sounded better live than on record: Parquet Courts
Most openly fun set: Solange
Most likely controlled the weather during their set: Bjork
Set that proved punk rock is alive and well: Metz
Veteran act that still has “it”: Wire
Veteran act that has lost “it”: The Breeders
Band whose set would have been far more popular in a different decade: Chairlift
Band that felt so right in the middle of a sunny afternoon: Phosphorescent
Quietest set (artist + crowd): Joanna Newsom
Funniest set: Mac DeMarco
Most gratuitous use of the word “SWAG”: Lil B
Flashiest performance with the least amount of genuine substance: M.I.A.
Most pathetic attempt to attract attention: Foxygen

Outside of those superlatives, I want to talk for a brief minute about how things went overall. Since we’re on the topic of music, let me say a few words about this year’s lineup. To me, it felt just a little bit weaker than in the last few years, though all of the headliners were certainly nothing to sneeze at. Perhaps that’s where most of the budget went this year. I suspect it was telling that unlike the last couple years, the festival wasn’t a total sell out this year. Sunday was sold out, most likely due to obsessive R. Kelly fans who camped out at the Green stage for much of the day just waiting for him. But Friday and Saturday didn’t sell out, as far as I’m aware. I did keep hearing that there were a “very limited number” of tickets left for Friday, so maybe that eventually sold out too. When I look at it, I like most of the artists on the lineup for this year, but I’m not overly passionate about a lot of them. It made for another fine festival overall and I’m glad I saw what I did, but for whatever reason it sometimes felt like something was missing. Not a whole lot of artists really jumped out and grabbed me by the ears, so maybe that’s what it was. If I were put in charge of naming one act each day that was my favorite, the list would be the following: Friday – Bjork, Saturday – Savages, Sunday – Killer Mike. Of all the days, I’d classify Friday as my least favorite, primarily because many of the artists that performed that day were either relatively bland (Woods, Mikal Cronin) or didn’t quite feel like they belonged at an outdoor festival (Angel Olsen, Joanna Newsom). Perhaps I should have made it to Union Park in time for Trash Talk, I heard their set was crazy.

Music aside, let me comment on the amenities this year. Considering the capacity of Union Park every year, festival organizers have gotten everything at just about the right levels to make things comfortable. The restrooms are plentiful and you’ll never wait too long for one. The food booths offer a wide variety of cuisine for even the most sensitive of palates or dietary restrictions. I had some amazing tacos on Sunday. The return of Goose Island as the provider of alcoholic beverages was an inspired move. The availability of key beers like 312 and Green Line was nice, but even nicer was the special Goose Island booth that had a rotating cast of different beers from the brewer’s catalogue, not to mention two beers crafted exclusively for the festival. I tried both of the fest-exclusive beers, and they were delicious. The singular gripe I have, and it’s basically always been a problem, is with water fountains. Union Park has a distinct lack of water fountains, and therefore the few it does have resulted in long lines. There’s nothing that can really be done about that, but I’ve got to hand it to the volunteer crew at the festival for often walking around with cases of bottled water, handing them out to anybody that wanted one. A lot of people were likely spared a trip to the medical tent as a result of such gestures, though I did see at least a few people go down due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. On the whole, this year’s festival went rather swimmingly, where the sets all started on schedule and the lines were never astronomically or annoyingly huge. It’s a sharp reminder that no matter what the lineup might be, this is one of the best-run music festivals in the country. As I stated in my earlier coverage, Pitchfork Music Festival weekend is my favorite weekend every single year I attend. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true again by the time we reach the end of 2013.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Friday Recap

Most things about Day 1 at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival could be considered challenging. Or, perhaps described a little differently, most things except the performances. The main factor on Friday was the weather. A glance at the temperature would tell you the heat index was in the upper 90s, and therefore it bordered on oppressive. Then again, it’s nothing particularly new for this festival or mid-July in Chicago. Still, the volunteer staff could be credited as doing a fair to good job of distributing bottled water to the sweaty masses, even walking around with cases of it through the crowd during sets. Yet if you went to one of Union Park’s few water fountains, the lines were long. The same could be said for all the beverage tents. Everyone was in need of some fluids. And while outside of the heat it was a nice and sunny day, it became less so when severe storms rolled in during the evening hours and effectively shut down Bjork’s set 30 minutes early. It hadn’t rained a drop when organizers pulled the plug on the evening, but there was a pretty great lightning show that could hypothetically have put people in danger. The actual rain, as it was reported to me, started about 30-45 minutes after the park was cleared. Hopefully it won’t be a soggy mess for the rest of the weekend. Beyond weather and lines though, let’s talk about the music itself. Here’s a recap of the artists I saw:

Free MP3: Joanna Newsom – Gossip (Starlight Girls cover)

It is, instead, a rather brilliant April Fools Day prank. Unfortunately, not one perpetrated by me. Allow me to take a half moment to explain. An email shows up in my inbox, with the sender being a very reputable PR person I’ve worked with before and who also coincidentally works with Joanna Newsom. There was nothing in the email to suggest anything was fishy, and technically speaking it made it to my inbox after midnight on April 2nd anyways. If you listen to the mp3, it too sounds pretty legit, though the vocals are just a tad too cutesy, even for Joanna Newsom. It sounds like a professionally recorded harp version of the song, which I assume it is by someone other than Joanna Newsom. Are Starlight Girls behind this, hoping to generate some press? Wouldn’t surprise me if they were  (see statement from Starlight Girls below). Keep in mind it could also be somebody else, I’ve not yet identified the culprit (and probably never will unless the culprit openly admits to it). There you have it, after playing a
poorly received April Fools Day prank of my own and thinking I got away scot free, turns out I got hit on April 2. I have removed the impostor mp3 along with everything else in this post to avoid confusion with the real thing. You may still be able to find it online (at least streaming) if you do some searching.

This is regarding the supposed cover of our song “Gossip” by the folk musician Joanna Newsom. While we are flattered that anyone would put so much effort into covering our song, we assure you that we were not involved and had no foreknowledge of its creation and we would like to clear the air to avoid additional headache and heartache as a result of the dissemination of this video onto the internet.

To clear up any “conspiracy theories” regarding why our music video seems to have “premiered” at the same time we want it to be known that the director uploaded this video publicly without our consent and our lawyer is currently inquiring as to why. The music video for Gossip is neither finished or approved for release and it contains an earlier demo of the song than the one currently available on our FaceBook, which is also a demo. The final version of the video was not planned for release until next month, when our EP gets mastered and the final version of the song is finished.

Any e-mail you receive about this did not come from us, nor was it approved by us. The jokes on us as much as it was on you.

Starlight Girls

Album Review: The Roots – How I Got Over [Def Jam]

The Roots are without a doubt the best band to ever work in late night television. That, after 20 years as a band they chose to sign a contract to become the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon is just a little bit surprising. Their star has been on the proverbial rise in the past several years, and given their ever-increasing popularity, it’d make sense if they just kept at it and continued the recording and touring cycle they’ve done for so long already. Of course given the challenges of working in the music industry these days, and that most everyone in the band has families they should be spending time with, agreeing to a job that has decent hours, a steady paycheck and doesn’t require travel must seem like a good idea. When they did agree to work in late night, they also said that they were done writing and recording new albums as their entire focus would be on the TV show. It turns out they lied to some degree, and in their spare time were able to piece together a new record that due to a number of different issues was delayed multiple times in the last year. At long last, “How I Got Over” is finally out this week, and if you know The Roots, chances are you know what you’re in for.

The surprises on “How I Got Over” come in the form of guest artists playing with The Roots this time around. While they are very much a band (or more of a collective, given their large numbers) that plays their own instruments, The Roots have rarely worked with other actual bands on their albums. Instead, because their songs are largely hip hop in nature, you get a number of rappers and R&B stars making guest appearances. This time around, perhaps informed by some of the groups they’ve seen perform on “Late Night”, they’re diversifying a bit more than usual and incorporating some notable indie artists into their songs. Opening track “A Peace of Light” features guest vocals by Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian and Haley Dekle of Dirty Projectors. The Roots collaborate a little with Monsters of Folk (or more likely just Yim Yames) to give the song “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” a little hip hop edge in what becomes “Dear God 2.0”. They also do a track with Joanna Newsom, which samples her song “Book of Right-On” along with new vocals to become simply “Right On”. Aside from those rather interesting guests, there’s also some more familiar faces for Roots fans in the form of Dice Raw, Phonte, P.O.R.N. and the great John Legend.

In terms of pure musical interest, long-time fans of The Roots will feel pretty comfortable with how this record sounds. It’s very much in line stylistically with their last couple albums “Game Theory” and “Rising Down”, though with a couple notable exceptions. First and foremost, “How I Got Over” is very much the sort of record that you want to sit down with and listen to from start to finish. The track sequencing is incredibly important in this case, though if you happen to stumble upon a song from the album while on shuffle it probably won’t feel too out of place. Really what might bother some people is how long it takes for things to really get going and settle into a groove. The first few tracks may be slow, but they’re also dark and immensely intriguing. Listened to in order, they blend into one another effortlessly and from the “do do do” harmonies provided by the ladies of Dirty Projectors through the piano-and-drums over hip hop of “Radio Daze” there’s some intensely deep and smartly composed moments along the way. The second half of the album also boasts some serious highlights as well, and the string of tracks from Joanna Newsom’s “Right On” through the seriously hard-hitting hip hop of “Web 20/20” feels particularly brilliant. Sandwiched in between those are two songs in a row with John Legend which are exactly as great as they need to be. Really there’s not a weak track on the album, and special credit goes to the two main players in The Roots, Questlove and Black Thought (Tariq) for their work both performing and producing the record. Tariq’s extremely smart, if occasionally politically motivated rhymes and Questlove’s rock-solid drumming make for the absolute best things about this album, whether guests are involved or not. The Roots refuse to be outshined on their own record.

Whatever the actual reason(s) for the multiple delays might have been, “How I Got Over” almost seems worth the wait. It may not be the band’s best album, nor their easiest to like, but it’s still highly interesting and holds firm their reputation of being one of the best hip hop acts out there today. Whether or not there will be another record beyond this one is still a huge question mark given their late night duties, but if this is the last original material we’ll hear from The Roots, they’re going out on a great note. Those completely averse to hip hop probably won’t find much if anything to like here, but for the indie kids who haven’t heard a Roots album before, this is as good of a place as any to get started. Virtually all the collaborations turn out well, and it’s particularly nice to hear a Joanna Newsom or a Yim Yames popping up between the smartly written rhymes. Hopefully there will be more of that in the future. For the time being, it’d be a good idea to buy a copy of “How I Got Over”, and to witness the incredible skills of The Roots, watch them weeknights on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Not only do they have the right entrance song for every guest (they had Heidi Klum on the other day and did a play on The Go Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”, renaming it “Her Lips Are Seal’s”), but every now and then they’ll improvise songs about audience members using various musical styles. It is nothing short of incredible, and proof positive that not only are The Roots the best band in late night, but also one of the best bands working today.

Follow link to download “Dear God 2.0” free from RCRD LBL

Buy “How I Got Over” from Amazon

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