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Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: The Wrap-Up and Photos

Put it in the books! The 2010 edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival is over and done with, and my what an experience it was. If you had a chance to make it, I hope you had a great time. For those who didn’t, you missed out on quite a bit. One thing nobody will miss was the hot weather that permeated Chicago all weekend long. With temperatures at 90+ degrees every day, it was a potentially dangerous situation that was smartly handled by festival organizers. On the very first day, it was announced that the price of water would be cut in half (from $2 to $1), and that bottles of water would be passed through the crowd to keep people hydrated who really needed it. As somebody who likes to slip through the crowd towards the front of the stage, I can tell you security was extremely liberal with how much water they were giving out, and there was never a time I saw somebody asking for water that didn’t get some. It took me a day, but I also discovered that there was a water fountain on the premises, though the line to fill up was typically 50-100 people deep. Near the end of the day on Sunday I also stopped by the First Aid tent just to see how things were going, and they told me problems over the course of the weekend were limited, with the majority being dehydration-related. It wasn’t just the organizers and security team that played a big role in keeping the hot weather from causing problems. The crowd did their part as well. Everybody I encountered was generally friendly and willing to help out should there be any problems. Call it the communal vibe of Pitchfork.

Amenities-wise, despite the sold out crowds, lines at the food booths tended to move with decent speed. Of course that largely depended on what time of day you wanted something to eat or drink. Friday’s beer lines seemed especially long, but were a little better for Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps that had something to do with the supply of Newcastle Summer Ale, which sold out on Friday and wasn’t available for the rest of the weekend. It turns out that Heineken, who was this year’s beer sponsor, was merely testing the potential of a Newcastle Summer Ale, which is currently not available in stores. So if you like your beer and got a cup of the Summer Ale on Friday, you got a preview of what’s likely to come. But the food vendors were varied as always, with plenty of vegan and ethnic options for those who preferred a little diversity in their meals. The number of various booths for stores and causes seemed to be higher than ever, and depending on what interested you, there may have been a line (see: the Threadless booth). But between those things, the Flatstock poster show and the CHIRP Record Fair, if you weren’t watching music, there were plenty of things to distract. Speaking of music, let’s talk about the weekend’s biggest winners and losers.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Day 3 Recap

Wow, what a festival. I’ll have my complete wrap-up of Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 coverage in one last post (complete with dozens of photos), but I would like to say that it was another strong year for the fest, despite a few minor issues (which, again, I’ll deal with later). Here’s a list of the music I saw on Day 3, along with some brief thoughts on each.

Upon arriving a little later than usual on Sunday afternoon, I was greeted with a long line to get into the festival, longer than any of the other days. I guess that just goes to show you how big Sunday is and how excited people are about the stable of bands playing. It was, after all, the first day to sell out. But I got through the line just in time to see Best Coast. Bethany Cosentino is far more charming on stage than you’d might expect. She’s got a winning smile and the help of a guitarist and drummer on stage, but the banter was what helped to sell the songs. Many of them were sunny melodies that tended to stick with the topics of boys, summer, and weed. Cosentino even told the crowd as much as she introduced many of the songs off her brand new album “Crazy For You” which will be out later this month. In all, Best Coast was a fun, relaxing way to start the day.

The chatter in the crowd before Girls went on seemed to be all about singer Christopher Owens growing up in a cult. When he came out on stage wearing a very colorful and altogether loud shirt completely unlike the rest of his bandmates, somebody next to me said, “Yeah, that dude had to have been in a cult.” Really none of that matters, but the disappointing thing is how often everyone makes reference to it when talking about Girls. Anyways, their set, despite the relatively upbeat and bright melodies on their debut record “Album”, felt a little too sun-baked for the early afternoon hours and sweltering heat. There wasn’t nearly enough toe-tapping going on to make the songs seem worthwhile on stage, though the beginning of the set was decent and the end was as well. The middle part was what hurt things. Playing the lengthy “Hellhole Ratrace” without a whole lot of emotion or additional energy causes things to stagnate out in the crowd, which they did until things descended into guitar-crunching madness at the end. Only “Lust for Life” really smacked hard with everyone, but that’s the big single off the album anyways, so that was sort of expected.

Washed Out is a big part of the whole chillwave/glo-fi movement, and armed with simply a laptop and a sequencer, he gave the crowd some sweet grooves you could relax to. Given the heavy shade surrounding the Balance Stage, there were people plastered down on blankets and just having fun with their friends watching the set. Those who were standing weren’t so much dancing as they were having a pleasant and enjoyable time. That about summed up how Washed Out did, because outside of a couple of clearly “practiced” moves, a guy behind a laptop isn’t the most exciting thing in the world to watch. He did an admirable job with what he was given.

Local Natives aren’t ones to disappoint. The band has only been on the radar for a few months now, but in that time they’ve managed to build an exceptionally strong following. The overflow crowd at the Balance Stage would appear to agree. Clearly Local Natives should have played one of the two larger stages. Still, they charged through their set playing tracks off of their debut “Gorilla Manor” and hitting every single harmony dead on along the way. You knew the big song “Sun Hands” was going to be last, and the crowd went nuts, releasing a huge burst of energy just when it was needed. Chances are Local Natives won over another few thousand fans just from that great performance alone.

While waiting for Surfer Blood to start, I felt like taking a moment to see what Lighning Bolt was doing on the big stage would be a good idea. Well, what was initially a good idea turned into a GREAT one. See, I had never seen Lightning Bolt before, and I’m guessing much of the surprisingly sparse crowd hadn’t either. What they missed could only be described as life-changing. For a band whose music is basically just a bunch of noise with little rhyme or reason, Lightning Bolt proved those rhymes do have a reason. That reason is drummer Brian Chippendale, who, while wearing a creepy looking cloth mask with a microphone built into it, absolutely destroyed everything that came into his path. We’re talking about scorched earth drumming that was on par with the greatest of all time. Words can little express how jaw-droppingly good Chippendale is, except to say that it was the only time all weekend my mind was completely blown. Just when it seemed like he had rolled through one of the toughest drum solos around, he ups the ante and goes for something even wilder. The guy is more than a pro, he’s a superstar, and one can only hope he eventually gets the attention he so righteously deserves. The noise from the guitar helped to give their “songs” a purpose, but the drumming is what turned a mediocre set into one of, if not THE best set of the entire festival. Seriously, you may not like Lightning Bolt on record, but given the opportunity to witness them live is an animal that will tear you apart from the outside.

Annie Clark has been back in the U.S. for less than 2 days, but she still showed up at Pitchfork no matter how bad her jet lag might be. With the sun beating down in one of the hottest parts of the day, St. Vincent came out and played a generally delightful, if not somewhat underwhelming set. Given that many of her songs are more slowly paced, the festival atmosphere wasn’t entirely the best place to hear them. What Clark and her band tried (and only somewhat succeeded) to do was offer up a few reworkings of some album cuts. As the set progressed however, it became clear that despite all the preciousness early on was gone and in its place was a roaring guitar goddess who had no problem whipping out a loud and effective solo should the moment so require. It’s just a shame most of those deft guitar moves didn’t come sooner, and things were somewhat problematic anyways because the mixing was a little favorable to everything but Clark’s voice and guitar. Having seen St. Vincent before, I know she can do better, so whether it was heat or jet lag or a combination of other factors, something wasn’t quite right for this Pitchfork set. Maybe next time, Annie.

After a bite to eat and not much interest in seeing the spectacle that apparently was Major Lazer, I heard the strains of Here We Go Magic’s “Fangela” coming from the Balance Stage and was attracted to it like the Pied Piper. What I saw upon arriving was an extended version of that song and “Tunnelvision” that were both surprisingly great. When it was just Luke Temple recording those songs in his bedroom that was one thing, but now as a full band Here We Go Magic is allowed to explore the melodies with as much space as they require. Not only that, but they infused some extra energy too. There were descents into noise rock basements, but every time the main part of the song came back again to rescue a freight train of music out of control. Though I only caught part of this set, I was impressed enough to want to see Here We Go Magic again. They may have finished 10 minutes late, but it almost seemed worth the cost for such excellence.

With Here We Go Magic ending late on the Balance Stage, Neon Indian started 15 minutes late as a result. Armed with a collection of keyboards, synths, and other sonic bits and pieces, Alan Palomo was prepared for a dance party. I saw Neon Indian several months back around the release of his album “Psychic Chasms”, and the experience was a little off-putting. Not anymore, because Palomo has really grown as a performer these last few months. The band ripped through a set that includes the new single “Should’ve Taken Acid With You” and “Deadbeat Summer”, during which Derek Miller of Sleigh Bells did a huge stage dive and crowd surfed while lighting up a cigarette. On the whole Neon Indian was a very fair amount of fun and the crowd seemed to agree the way they put on their dancing shoes.

By this point in the festival, things have built up to a fever pitch. After 3 days of hot hot weather, people are looking for a release. The light is at the end of the tunnel and with the knowledge that Pavement is in the house, it’s taken the excitement to a whole different plain. Enter Sleigh Bells. Are you looking for a true rock and roll cure that hits harder than a pile of two-ton bricks? That’s what the extremely packed crowd got, though some fine tweaks needed to be made along the way. My worry early on was that the band wouldn’t sound so good with the small speakers at the Balance Stage. When security rolled out a line of amps that stretched across the back of the stage, I felt better. That didn’t stop one of the stage speakers from getting blown out less than 2 songs into the set. Alexis Krauss also had some microphone trouble early in the set that didn’t help matters, but once everything got cleared up, there were sweaty bodies jumping like I’d never seen before. Suddenly the Pitchfork Music Festival was the greatest party in the world and bumping, grinding and everything in between was not just an option but an essential. With people packed in tighter than sardines, Krauss worked the stage like the badass she is while Derek Miller ripped through some killer riffs. Who knows how long the band’s hard-wired guitar destruction is going to last, but for those moments during the Pitchfork Music Festival, not much else in the world mattered more than those great songs off their debut album “Treats”.

Finally, at the end of a weekend worth remembering, the Pavement set had arrived. But first the tired but thrilled crowd had to sit through a brief pre-Pavement comedy bit that very few people actually understood. There was an initial surprise when Rian Murphy first showed up on stage and began to hype Pavement before asking the crowd if they were having a good Lollapalooza (as if he didn’t know what music festival he was at). Well, several more “misunderstandings” followed, where Murphy riffed on the 90’s alternative rock scene, Chicago alt-rock station Q101, and the suggestion he’s been waiting “20 years” for this Pavement reunion, even though they’ve only been broken up for 10. To clarify, Rian Murphy is the president of Chicago’s own Drag City Records, who signed Pavement to their first record contract. He knows not only where he is, but made up that entire speech just to get the crowd riled up. All the “boos” and general anger directed towards Murphy sprang from those who had no idea none of what was said was truthful but was poking fun at Pavement’s history with Lollapalooza, the Smashing Pumpkins, and of course Q101. To be clear, you’ve got to be old enough or musically savvy enough to have seen through such a ruse, so don’t blame yourself if you were left wondering exactly what happened there.

Now then, the big moment with Pavement. While they were 90’s indie rock heroes and remain revered as such today, the fact of the matter is that Pavement have never been known for exceptionally strong live shows. Great yes, but life-changing probably not. So to expect them to step back onto that stage and somehow be that amazing band you envisioned in your head is unrealistic. Going in with the lowered expectations of simply hearing the band play a (purposely) mangled version of “Cut Your Hair” is far more the speed things worked at. And the good news is that Malkmus and the rest of the guys all seemed to be in very high spirits. Whether they’ll continue to feel that way across the gigantic tour they’ve scheduled for the rest of the year remains to be seen.

But in terms of the music, Pavement hit on all the necessary bits they needed to to satisfy moderately casual fans. If you own the band’s greatest hits album “Quarantine the Past” you probably never got too lost with tracks like “Frontwards”, “Range Life” and “Silence Kit” being played with the sloppy irreverence Pavement specializes in. That is to say these guys are slackers, and between Malkmus constantly cracking smiles at his bandmates and multi-instrumentalist Bob Nastanovich going nuts most of the time, perfection is kind of their enemy. So the crowd, who seemed pretty laid back (or tired) anyways, went along with Pavement for the night. Most seemed to have a good, if not great time. There wasn’t anything revolutionary about what Pavement did or said during their Pitchfork set, but it was still a thrill to see them playing together again and going over the classics. Should you have an admiration for Pavement and the legacy they’ve left us, seeing them perform is a gift at this point, a way to either bring back your past memories or to finally get the chance to see one of the greatest bands of the 90’s. Do yourself a favor and try to make the most of it.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Day 2 Recap

Photos coming Monday!

Unlike yesterday’s recap, I need to make this one quick(ish). To sum up why, let’s just say I stayed out way too late and have to be up very early so the sooner I finish this the better. If this winds up too short, I may do something more lengthy and appropriate in regards to Day 2 before I finish the weekend’s worth of coverage. That said, here’s what I saw today at Pitchfork Music Festival, good and bad.

Real Estate started my day with their effortlessly sunny melodies. They’re the perfect band for the beach, the only problem was that we were nowhere near a beach. Instead we had the beach-like sand that was the softball field dirt, and the park pool which was behind the stage and hidden by a fence. The set was heavy on new songs, but they sounded a lot like the old songs so everything worked quite well. Despite the sweltering heat, Real Estate’s set made it feel just a little cooler in the park.

Delorean seemed to be out for blood. That’s figuratively speaking of course, because the way they threw down danceable melody after melody was nothing short of impressive. It looked mighty hot up on that stage, and it was mighty hot in the crowd, but the band never let up and the crowd never stopped dancing. They were a few songs in when people started body surfing, and that’s always a great sign the crowd is into it. It made for one of the best sets of the day.

Next up was Titus Andronicus, who would like everyone to know that they’re Americans. If the large American flag draped from the keyboard on stage wasn’t an indicator, singer Patrick Stickles has a mini flag tied to the base of his guitar. As is the case with the band’s punk rock epics, the set was very high on energy and on stage antics, with lots of guitar playing in sync and jumping around. Stickles at a couple points jumped into the crowd, which was thrilling enough, and the stage banter was equally amusing. But the music spoke for itself and the band delivered on all counts. Quite frankly, their set made me prouder to be an American.

It was at this point I decided to get a drink and take a break, because Raekwon was set to start and I wasn’t very interested in seeing him. Turns out Raekwon was more than a little late for his set, and I was surprised when 15 minutes past the scheduled start time I heard no sound coming from his stage. I heard he showed up a few minutes after that and put on a lackluster set simply running through the hits with little to no enthusiasm. Sorry if you were excited about it, I’m glad I skipped out.

I did have a moment to see part of the Smith Westerns, which was surprisingly crowded. Having seen them before, I pretty much knew what to expect, and the band delivered on those expectations. That is, they were decent, but not great. They’re young guys with one album under their belts, so to hold them to a higher standard might be unfair, but one hopes they’ll get better with time and more new music to play.

“Blues Explosion!” Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer and the Blues Explosion kept yelling that throughout the band’s set, and it became almost a mantra after awhile. Really he said it enough that I wanted to yell it randomly at friends for the rest of the day. Dressed in black with some very tight fitting leather pants, Spencer cranked out song after song with enthusiasm and vigor, like he was channeling all the heat his body was absorbing into his performance. It turned into quite the exciting set, with a whole bunch of classic ramshackle numbers that played well as the sun began to set. Jon Spencer may be nuts to the point where he’ll slam a microphone on the ground over and over again until it’s obliterated, but his showmanship is only one part of a complex arrangement that sees the three-piece band deliver a raw and uncompromising set that’s a wake up call more than anything else.

Wolf Parade played out well with the slowly setting sun and following up Jon Spencer’s wild man performance with something still energetic but not nearly so over the top. Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner both seemed to be in great form when they weren’t spending time saying hello to their friends and family watching them via the webcast. The set seemed to lean more heavily on Krug’s Wolf Parade songs, but at this point it doesn’t matter so much given that Boeckner is remarkably close to him these days when it comes to writing lyrics. They hit all the marks they needed to, played the best songs off their new album, went for the throat with a more than stirring rendition of “I’ll Believe In Anything” and capped it all off with the 10-minute “Kissing the Beehive”. Well played gentlemen.

Panda Bear’s set was of interest to me, and I did recommend it largely based on the strength of his albums. I also offered the disclaimer stating that hopefully Noah Lennox would play his songs as they appear on record and not pull an Animal Collective and just simply play an extended jam session that included parts of songs. Well, it turned into that extended jam session, with Lennox all by himself on stage and using looping pedals among other things to craft bits and pieces of ambient noise mixed in with segments of some songs. With the rainbow-infused psychedelic pictures appearing on the monitors as well, the only way you could probably really enjoy his set was with the assistance of hallucinogenic drugs. Sorry Panda Bear, your spaced out set wasn’t for the timid, especially after such a long and hot day.

Finally as the sun was nearly gone from the sky, LCD Soundsystem took the stage. It was every bit as exciting as you might imagine. Fun was the name of the game, and James Murphy seemed to be having a whole lot of it. One of the more surprising things about the LCD set was how the band didn’t seem to hold back any of their best moments, choosing to play songs like “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and “All My Friends” earlier in the set rather than closing with them. Getting those out of the way was a gambit that worked really well, and maximized the amount of fun that could be had over the course of the entire set. If this was indeed the last time Murphy and his band played the city of Chicago, they left it destroyed with their supremely enjoyable set that was a dance party from the start until the sobering moments of closing song “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”. Might this be the best headlining set of the entire festival? It was definitely better than Modest Mouse, but can Pavement do better? Only one way to find out, so stay tuned for the conclusion of my Pitchfork Music Festival coverage on Sunday night/Monday morning for your answer!

LCD Soundsystem Set List:
Us v. Them
Drunk Girls
Pow Pow
Daft Punk Is Playing at My House
All My Friends
I Can Change
Someone Great
Losing My Edge
New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Day 1 Recap

Note: Photos coming Monday!

Yes, as things tend to go in Chicago in July, this entire weekend is looking like it’ll be hot and sticky. That’s what she said. But temperatures in the 90s means sweaty indie kids, and nobody likes sweaty indie kids. Ah well, on the opening day of the Pitchfork Music Festival, there were plenty of liquids everywhere, from the beads of sweat to the bottles that were being passed through the crowd to keep everybody hydrated. That seemed to be the big worry among organizers across the entire day, as multiple announcements were made telling everyone to keep drinking water and stay in shaded areas or go to the first aid station if you’re feeling a bit overheated. As there are apparently few to no water fountains in Union Park, or at least not ones that are easy to find, festivalgoers were forced to either subsist on any sealed bottled water they brought in with them or purchase bottled water. The good (and frankly nice) thing was that due to all the possible heat-related problems, the price of a bottle of water was reduced from $2 to $1 for the rest of the weekend. So if you’re out doing Pitchfork this year or will be in the coming days, make sure you drink as much water as you can, even if you have to pay for it. Or just keep an eye out for the free bottles of water being passed out by security by the fronts of each stage.

The weather out of the way, let’s talk about the music. My day went rather smoothly, and I hope yours did as well despite the oppressive heat. Kicking off this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival was Sharon Van Etten. Her quiet, folk singer-songwriter act was really intended as more pleasant background music for people arriving to the festival when the gates opened. By her 3:30 start time, people had been milling around and exploring the festival grounds for about 30 minutes while plenty more continued to filter in. To her credit, Van Etten did everything right during her set. Almost keenly aware that the majority of the people standing around watching her set were unfamiliar with her music, she took her half hour and played mostly new material. She’s got a new album coming out this fall, and if the songs played during her set were any indication, it should be a pretty good one. But for a lone female and her guitar on stage, she also was charismatic and tried to inject as much life into her quiet songs as possible. It helped, and when a string on her guitar broke, the guys in Modest Mouse were kind enough to let her borrow one of their guitars to close out her set. It turned out that Sharon Van Etten was a lovely way to start the festival, and though she claimed she was under a lot of pressure being the very first act of the weekend, she fared exceptionally well.

Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man on Earth may be from Sweden, but the guy oddly didn’t appear to have any accent when he spoke to the crowd. Prior to Pitchfork though he most definitely wasn’t in the country- he kept mentioning how sorry he was for not being in top form because of severe jet lag. Outside of momentarily stopping in the middle of his first song after he apparently made a mistake, there were few indicators that The Tallest Man on Earth wasn’t performing in tip top shape Friday afternoon. Matsson’s music, like Sharon Van Etten’s, is of the folk singer-songwriter variety, but where Van Etten’s songs are sleepier, The Tallest Man on Earth is a little more vibrant both on record and in a live setting. Playing without a backing band of any sort, that Matsson was able to captivate an ever-increasingly large group of people for the 30 minutes he was given felt like something of a miracle. The guy was not only jaw-droppingly great in the renditions of songs from his last two albums, but he moved around the stage, sat down now and then, and just generally appeared to get lost inside the songs he was playing. Those were real emotions on hsi face as he was playing those songs, and it was a set that wound up about as exciting as just a guy and an acoustic guitar can get.

El-P was up next, and thanks to the wonderful sound people over at his stage, there were a number of times when the beats slammed so hard that ears were being blown out. Seriously, that set was loud, and not always in a good way. El-P and the hype man he had with him really tried to win over the crowd right from the start of the set, telling everyone to jump as high as they could to the beat. About 1/3rd of the crowd did that, and then it promptly stopped after a good 10 seconds. Not so successful. A few early “call and response” tracks did pick up more crowd support though, and things generally got better wth putting “hands in the air” or clapping along with the beat. The setlist was relatively diverse too, pulling some classic material along with tracks from his latest album “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”. After awhile though, probably about mid-way through his set, things started to get boring. El-P and his guys had seemingly exhausted their bag of tricks, including showing off their keytar (yes…keytar, the combination keyboard and guitar), and a certain complacency set over just about everyone. The heat might have been a factor in that, or the crowd simply not liking hip hop so much but being forced to watch it because there were no other acts playing at the same time. Whatever the reason, it meant that El-P’s set wasn’t as successful as The Tallest Man on Earth before him. The guy and his crew really did try hard though, and above all else that’s admirable.

Just before Liars come out on stage, security comes out to talk about the dangers of dehydration. This apparently did not sit well with Liars’ Angus Andrew, because he pretty much riffed on that through the band’s entire set. He wholeheartedly encouraged people to take off their clothes and throw them on stage. He also “sternly” reminded everyone that if they were to get a bottle of water passed to them, throwing the open bottle into the air was a “bad idea” because it could hurt someone. Well, maybe he wasn’t being sarcastic. The band certainly wasn’t during their blistering set that was so surprisingly entertaining that the weather automatically felt cooler during it. For the moderate number of slower, quieter, moodier songs in Liars’ catalogue, the decision on the set list must have been difficult. But the band was incredibly smart with their choices in the end, playing to their louder sides as much as possible, and taking their slower songs to new and unexplored regions by shifting tempos or guitar parts. They also covered Bauhaus’ “In the Flat Field”, which after all was said and done might have been better than the original. Decked out in a Men At Work (the band) t-shirt and hot pants, Angus Andrew played his role as vocalist for all it was worth, moving around the stage, shoving the microphone down his throat, grabbing at his crotch and a host of other antics that were fun to watch while the songs themselves didn’t suffer one bit because of them. Liars’ set, which those who’ve seen the band live before might have already known, was really, really really good. The band may not make the most commercially viable music, but their oddball sensibilities are what helps to make them so damn fun to watch.

No offense to pop stars and all that, but as it got later in the day and I hadn’t been handed a free bottle of water yet, a drink was in order. By the time I got through the insanely long line, Robyn had already been playing for a little bit. So I missed the start of her set, which as the rest of her performance seemed to indicate, was a master class on how to be a pop star. The girl killed it, figuratively speaking, and the crowd was in shambles trying to figure out what exactly they had just witnessed afterwards. Call her a storm of good music, Robyn came to town and wiped out the village and all the villagers with her insanely catchy tunes and dancing that was just one step short of an aerobics class. The energy was poured out fervently on stage, and the final result left more than a few satisfied. I’m not the biggest fan of her music, but man can Robyn put on a classy show that’s proof the Lady Gagas and Christina Aguileras in this world are just cheap imitations.

Broken Social Scene had Tortoise member and Chicagoan John McEntire playing drums for them at this show, and that was just one of a number of Chicago-based musicians brought on stage during their set to help play through the band’s catalogue. With all those talented musicians though, you’d think they would pack some extra punch during their set. Yet in the now three times I’ve seen Broken Social Scene live, their Pitchfork set was probably the weakest. Of course things have changed within the Broken Social Scene ranks in the last year, what with the ladies in the band each moving on to focus on their other bands, and then there was the “hiatus” which saw other core members of the group taking time off while the more prolific frontmen Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning both released pseudo-solo albums under the BSS moniker. The assurance was that with their new album “Forgiveness Rock Record”, the full, uncompromised Broken Social Scene was back (with a few new ones and old ones joining the band). That may have been the case, but that didn’t stop it from feeling like there were important pieces missing. At the very least, songs like “7/4 Shoreline”, “Stars and Sons” and “Superconnected” were all played with energy and relative precision, but the heart of those last couple performances I saw just wasn’t quite there anymore. Kevin Drew may have told the crowd to give a big cheer for themselves and the city of Chicago, but it wasn’t nearly as rousing as their 2006 call to action, when people were cheering so loud for so long the band played just a little bit beyond their established set time. The magic of those moments was gone, and in its place was a solid performance from a solidly anthemic rock band, and not too much more.

Closing out Day 1 was Modest Mouse, a band that as I learned today, many of my friends seem to strongly dislike. For the record though, their problem is more with the Modest Mouse live show than the band on record. Still, having seen Modest Mouse twice before myself, I have no hatred or even a strong dislike for the band, but instead feel ambivalent toward them. After their Pitchfork set I can now say that the ambivalence remains. No, they’re not mind-blowing live, but when they start their set with an 8-minute rendition of “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”, that’s pretty damn cool. That they also later took on classics like “Dramamine” (in an extended version as well) and “Gravity Rides Everything” while ignoring the most obvious “Float On” is also remarkably smart of them. “Float On” is what virtually everyone was waiting for, and by not delivering I’m sure more than a few people left the grounds upset they didn’t get to hear their “favorite” Modest Mouse song. You would hope though that at an event like the Pitchfork Music Festival, which doesn’t really specialize in the mainstream, bands would try and avoid playing their big hits. Still, “Dashboard” got the biggest cheer of the night, and with newer stuff like “Satellite Skin” and “Autumn Beds” played with “Black Cadillacs” and “Satin Coffin” , there was still an outright favoritism towards the “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” and beyond era that most fans are intimately familiar with. With the switching between instruments and Isaac Brock’s strange on-stage proclivities (such as pouring glowstick fluid down his throat) and stark-raving mad vocals, Modest Mouse still has its share of the weird these days. Hopefully despite all their success, those strange proclivities will continue to alienate crowds for years to come. As is their typical modus operandi, Modest Mouse probably didn’t become somebody’s new favorite band because of their show at Pitchfork. Instead the band came out and played whatever the hell they wanted to for the most part. That didn’t bother me one bit, and I hope it didn’t bother you either.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Day 3 Preview

Here it is, your guide to Day 3 of the Pitchfork Music Festival. This is arguably the absolute best day of the three, and currently the weather forecasters are predicting the possibility of scattered showers in the afternoon and evening hours, but let’s hold out hope there’s zero rain. It’s gonna be hot though, with temperatures at around 90 degrees and with other factors added in it might feel like 95 or higher outside, so staying hydrated will be not only important, but essential. Just a little tip for you. But getting back to the music, in addition to the stellar lineup, you also get a fair share of diversity too, from the psychedelic to the lo-fi to the glo-fi to hip hop and straight up indie rock. There’s something for everybody, if you catch my drift. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the artists playing or are just struggling with who to see when, I hope this little guide helps you out. I’ve broken the schedule down into pairings with artists playing within the same hour or at least close to the same time as one another to help out, and my personal picks for each matchup are indicated with an asterisk (*). Best of luck to you this weekend in choosing your music, and if you’re looking for more Pitchfork Music Festival preview coverage, just follow the links below. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be bringing you daily recaps of all the weekend’s proceedings, so check back here to find out what you may have missed!

Free mp3s from every artist playing the festival
Day 1 Preview
Day 2 Preview

SUNDAY MUSIC GUIDE (Gates open at 12PM):

Allá [1:00pm, Aluminum Stage]
*CAVE [1:00pm, Balance Stage]
Two Chicago bands are set to bring a highly interesting start to your Sunday. Both have their quirks, although there are some close similarities in sound between them. Allá makes, as you might suspect from their name, music with a decidedly Hispanic influence. The band members are Mexican-American and pay tribute to that via their songs. They also go for a moderate psychedelic angle that’s present all over their debut album “Es Tiempo”, one that should go well with the hot weather and a crowd that will probably still be hazy from too much fun the day before. Speaking of hazy, CAVE is probably the most legitimately psychedelic band playing the entire festival. Their songs are mostly derived from instrumental jam sessions they have, and between their combination of guitars, synths, organ and drums, their melodies swirl around on themselves and are catchy often thanks to their repetitive nature. They’re also very much on the rise. Their early material isn’t their best, but lately with last year’s debut album “Psychic Psummer” and the new “Pure Moods” EP this year, they’ve been on a hot streak. Considering they’ll be heading off on an international tour soon, now might be a good time to start giving them proper attention. When choosing between these two groups, I can testify that Allá are pretty damn good live, having seen them last summer. CAVE I have yet to see, but there’s a very strong word of mouth about their shows, so I say take a chance on these guys.

Cass McCombs [1:45pm, Connector Stage]
*Best Coast [1:55pm, Balance Stage]
Best Coast is the essentially one woman project of Bethany Cosentino. Her early music is almost exactly what you’d expect in that the songs are poorly recorded and typically only feature Cosentino’s electric guitar and vocals. Call it a very lo-fi listening experience in the vein of a Vivian Girls or Wavves. The melodies have a very heartening tone to them, with shades of both New York and L.A. influences pulling them in different directions. The hotly anticipated debut album from Best Coast, “Crazy For You”. comes out in a couple weeks and it’s of better recording quality and features fuller instrumentation than all of her earlier material. Word just came across in the past couple days that Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler has left that band to join Best Coast, so she should add some great percussion to the great songs on stage. And be on the lookout for Bethany’s now famous cat, Snacks! On the other side of the park you’ll have the option of seeing Cass McCombs, whose latest album “Catacombs” was one of my favorites from last year. The guy’s been around making music for quite awhile, and while he can be a little difficult to pin down, affixing the singer-songwriter tag to him works just fine as a generalization. His songs tend to border on the edges of folk and alt-country in an almost Wilco sort of way, but with less electric guitar and tendency to avoid extended jam sessions. Actually, perhaps the best comparison is to say he sounds like early Ryan Adams, in a time before he started to suck. What makes this choice more difficult than it should be is how quiet Cass McCombs’ songs are. They’re not exactly the sort of things you want to be standing in the hot sun listening to, whereas Best Coast has a much more rocking, California hot feel. Cosentino’s upcoming album is still pretty untested, but trusting that the new stuff is as decent as the old, Best Coast could make for one of the better sets on Sunday. So despite the beauty and brilliance of the music, Cass McCombs can’t quite deliver when it comes to the live department, otherwise he’d be getting the seal of approval in this matchup.

*2:30 Girls [2:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
2:50 Washed Out [2:50pm, Balance Stage]

Sadly, in the past year there’s been more talk about Girls frontman Christopher Owens’ past than there has been about his band’s music. He grew up in a cult, and now that I’ve mentioned it, please promptly do not ask about it again. But Owens and J.R. White are the duo known as Girls, and they make sunny, jangly guitar pop that’s got a very West Coast feel to it. You listen to it and are transported to beaches and bright locales where people are having nothing but fun. This is sort of the ideal sound for a festival atmosphere, and given how well their debut record “Album” was received last year (it was one of my personal favorites), there’s not much reason you shouldn’t go see Girls. Unless Washed Out strikes your fancy. The musical genre sometimes referred to as glo-fi or chillwave has an originator, and Washed Out’s Ernest Greene is largely regarded as the guy who started things. So much so that sometimes the genre is referred to as simply “washed out” instead of glo-fi or whatever else. The genre basically involves taking electro-beats and sometimes samples, and mixing them into moderately quiet, laid back arrangements with a lo-fi aesthetic. In other words, it’s slower dance music that sounds cheaply recorded. It’s also got a huge following right now. Washed Out notably doesn’t do many live shows, so his appearance at Pitchfork could be called something special. There’s also a very real possibility that his set will be tons of fun to dance to. The cards might be pointing in favor of Washed Out, but I honestly think that Girls will put on a better live show. Of course you might not realistically have the chance to see Washed Out again. Maybe go with your gut, and whichever artist speaks to you more in a case of guitars vs. electronica.

*Beach House [3:20pm, Connector Stage]
*Local Natives [3:45pm, Balance Stage]
This, for me, is the most difficult choice of the entire festival. The supremely talented Beach House have released 3 critically acclaimed albums, each new one being better and attracting more attention than the last. The duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally make warm melodies that come from the heart and occasionally soar with grace. Not meaning to diminish Scally’s role in the band, but Legrand’s sparkling synths and emotionally bare voice bring added richness to the already gorgeous songs. Beach House is also one of the few bands that can say they’re veterans of the Pitchfork Music Festival, having played two years ago. The challenge when it comes to watching Beach House live in Union Park is the setting. It’s Sunday afternoon and you might be dead tired, in which case a subdued and fully relaxed set from the band might bring you the rest you need to finish things strong. On the other hand, the gracious lullabyes Beach House have to offer could slow you down to the point where you might not recover that energy. Fear not, for should you be looking for music that’s got uptempo vibes and a whole lot more, Local Natives have you covered. Their debut album “Gorilla Manor” was released earlier this year to widespread praise, and it’s filled with insanely addictive songs that will stick in your head for days. Not only that, but they’ve got some incredible 4-person vocal harmonies that sound just as good performed live as they do on record. When it comes to riveting sets, Local Natives might just deliver the punch in the arm you need for the time and place. I’m calling this one an official “no decision” in that the choice you make here should be determined by how you feel at the exact moment, though given the 25 minute difference in the set start times, you could probably see a healthy amount of both bands. That’s my actual recommendation.

Lightning Bolt [4:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
*Surfer Blood [4:45pm, Balance Stage]
If you were watching Beach House and fell asleep in the middle of the field where the Aluminum and Connector stages are right near one another, you might wake up to find Lightning Bolt blasting their guitars at extreme volume levels next to you. Among other things, Lightning Bolt are a noise rock band, which basically means they get very, very loud and if the speakers go up to 11 they will take them there. It’s almost punishing how loud this band can be, and they like to toy with crowds at shows by setting up at the back of venues while opening bands play on stage, and then hitting them with a wall of noise as soon as that opening band finishes. In other words, Lightning Bolt doesn’t do shows on stage often, perferring instead to play on the floor in the middle of a huge crowd. Now chances are they won’t be able to do this at the Pitchfork Music Festival given the logistical challenges it provides, but don’t be surprised if there’s some stage diving or heavy interaction between the band and the crowd. As fun as Lightning Bolt might be, their music is difficult to like and as I’ve mentioned loud as hell, so be warned that there could be some unpleasantness involved. Surfer Blood, by small contrast, are a slightly less loud rock band whose debut album “Astro Coast” has attracted them all sorts of great attention. Their sound is decidedly 90’s rock influenced, with guitars and vocals layered in reverb and songs that are remarkably catchy. They also make fun, summertime music, which is just perfect for this festival. They’re young guys who may not have the live show experience to be as batshit insane as Lightning Bolt will be, but expect them to bring a positive energy to their set anyways. If you’re making the choice between these two bands, my personal pick has to be Surfer Blood for the music’s sake, but as you may have some time before they start, witnessing 30 minutes of the spectacle that is Lightning Bolt could be highly entertaining.

*St. Vincent [5:15pm, Connector Stage]
Here We Go Magic [5:45pm, Balance Stage]
Annie Clark is my girl. She performs under the moniker of St. Vincent, and she’s basically the patron saint of awesome. Her songs are effortlessly lovely, as she’s proven over the course of her last two records. “Actor”, which is her latest album, was one of my favorites last year and remains something I still listen to on a regular basis even today. It’s a record filled with densely composed indie pop songs that are lyrically deep telling stories about complicated women or the challenges of suburbia. In their live incarnations, these songs lose only a little bit of their magic, and that is replaced by some serious guitar shredding courtesy of Ms. Clark. She is simply too wonderful to miss, which is why at this point my discussion of Here We Go Magic will be something of a moot point. But Luke Temple is the main dude behind Here We Go Magic, and prior to this band he’s been a part of a couple other, less successful projects. Here We Go Magic started to make waves off their self-titled debut album last year, which Temple recorded by himself in his bedroom. The song “Fangela” struck it big among bloggers everywhere, and Temple hasn’t looked back since. He recruited a few people to join the band full time, and a few weeks ago they released their second album “Pigeons”, which features the full lineup and as a result feels like a legitimate full band record rather than just a solo project. Both albums are good in different ways, the first harnessing acoustic guitars and percussion pieces in a remarkably catchy way and the second getting much more beautiful and layered in a way that would make former tourmates Grizzly Bear proud. Though the full band might bring a remarkable bit of life to the much quieter, early material, the songs still probably won’t have the energy needed to maintain the full attention of the crowds at Pitchfork. This is why, as I’ve already mentioned, St. Vincent is your best bet for the 5pm hour.

*Major Lazer [6:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
Neon Indian [6:45pm, Balance Stage]
Why Neon Indian gets a slot so late in the day can be called something of a mystery. Neon Indian is most basically a solo electronica project of Alan Palomo, who prior to this might best be known under the moniker of VEGA. He was inspired to work under the Neon Indian name upon the realization that the material he was creating wasn’t quite the same as the more standard electro and remixes that VEGA did. No, Neon Indian focuses on different themes and sounds, specifically those which might be classified as glo-fi or chillwave. With the emergence of this much-hyped genre of music, pitting low quality bedroom synth pop with found sounds to create something you can both dance and relax to, Neon Indian has struck proverbial gold. Since the release of the debut Neon Indian album “Psychic Chasms” last year, Palomo has recruited a full band to help him play these catchy dance tunes live. I’ve seen Neon Indian live before, and they’re pretty good. What might be a bit more intriguing could be the set from Major Lazer. There’s a fun little backstory about this cartoon character Major Lazer and how he was a Jamaican commando that lost his arm in a war against some zombies in the 80’s, only to be outfitted with by scientists with lazers as a replacement limb. It’s all pretty hilarious, but the reality behind the project is that it’s two brilliant producers and remixers known as Diplo and Switch, who most recently had a hand in the creation of the not-so-highly-regarded new album from M.I.A.. Anyways, there is a Major Lazer album titled “Guns Don’t Kill People- Lazers Do” and the guys recruited a number of Jamaican guest vocalists (and other notables such as Santigold and Amanda Blank) to help them out with these songs designed to get people moving on the dance floor. There’s little to no expectation that any of these guests will appear with Major Lazer at the festival, but Diplo and Switch will presumably be working the turntables with a hype man or two. It has the potential to be a whole lot of fun, as the album seems to suggest that as well. For diversity’s sake, you could do pretty well watching Major Lazer instead of Neon Indian.

Big Boi [7:25pm, Connector Stage]
*Sleigh Bells [7:40pm, Balance Stage]
People love Outkast. The hip hop duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi became one of the best selling rap groups of all time, and it’s pretty understandable why. Together, these two guys came up with highly intelligent rhymes matched to bangin’ hooks that just wouldn’t get out of your head. I’ve fallen prey to many an Outkast song in my day, and perhaps someday soon the two guys will get back together and release something new. In the meantime, there are TV, movie and solo music projects both guys are pursuing. Big Boi released his first official solo album just last week, and it’s titled “Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty”. It took 3 years to record and was delayed for awhile thanks to some record label issues. The good news is that it’s finally out there and Big Boi is touring to support it. Critics seem to have been exceptionally kind towards the album, which I have not heard nor am I particularly inclined to give it a try. It’s nothing against Big Boi personally, I just seem to have trouble listening to hip hop these days. What I have seen are a few Big Boi performances on the late night TV talk show circuit recently, and they’ve all been pretty great. Of course things tend to look even better when you’re on Jimmy Fallon and have his house band The Roots performing with you. But there’s nothing to indicate Big Boi’s set won’t be fun and cool as hell, so if you’re in the mood for some hip hop, check it out. On the smaller stage, with the smaller speakers, Sleigh Bells might have a hard time. The reason I say that is because I’m not sure the sound system is going to be able to support their intensely loud and low-range songs. Assuming it can though, Sleigh Bells should be nothing short of incredible. The duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss have made one of this year’s best albums in “Treats”, and not only that but they’ve become widely known for their jaw-droppingly great live show. Krauss is a frontwoman in the truest sense of the word, getting the crowd amped up to the level they need to be, while Miller rips through the melodies on his guitar while being backed by a laptop. As much as I’d like to give a good faith recommendation to seeing Big Boi, Sleigh Bells are going to destroy Pitchfork and you kind of need to be there to witness it.

*Pavement [8:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
As they tend to do, the organizers of the Pitchfork Music Festival like to leave the very best for the very last. 90’s indie heroes Pavement have reunited and are playing shows again for the first time in 10 years, and it’s gotten fans unbelievably excited. For those too young to see Pavement when they were releasing records and touring during the 90’s, now’s finally the chance to get that experience checked off the bucket list. For those who saw Pavement back in the day and are still nostalgic about that period of time, now’s the opportunity to relive it in some form or another. How long this reunion will last and what the future of Pavement will be is still very much up in the air, which is what makes the band’s 2010 tour so special and important. For some, Pitchfork will be the only place they’ll get to see a Pavement show, though no matter where you live the band will probably come relatively close to your town if they haven’t already. So there’s not a whole lot to say. Hopefully you own copies of, or at the very least have heard albums like “Slanted & Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”, which are two of the best things to come out of the 90’s. Though they may not have been fully recognized as such when they were around initially, Pavement is among the most revered indie bands simply because their songs were great and that early 90’s era was also the true beginnings of the college/indie rock scene. Look for a set packed to the gills with some of their greatest “hits” (if you can call them that). Reports from other stops on the tour so far have had nothing but positive things to say about the reunion shows, so skipping out on the band isn’t really recommended. What I do recommend is sticking around and having a fun time. Hopefully if you play your cards right, this year the entire Pitchfork Music Festival will be a really fun time.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Day 2 Preview

Continuing onward with Pitchfork Music Festival Week, today I’m happy to present my guide to Day 2. The first full day of bands brings up only a couple of difficult choices when considering what to see. The real challenges arrive on Sunday. I’ve positioned the schedule in pairs, pitting band against band playing similar time slots. As it gets later in the day, the gaps between bands and stages gets larger, but that’s because balancing out 3 stages where only two can operate at once requires more space. So just be aware that while I am choosing one band over another in these spots, moving from stage to stage or only watching half of one set and half of another isn’t very difficult in reality. So take comfort in that. My personal picks in each pairing are marked with an askterisk (*) to help guide you along. Good luck, and I’ll have a preview of Day 3 for you tomorrow! Oh, and if you’d like to download songs from every artist playing this year’s festival, just click here.

SATURDAY MUSIC GUIDE (Gates open at 12PM):

*Free Energy [1:00pm, Aluminum Stage]
Netherfriends [1:00pm, Balance Stage]

The matchup of Free Energy vs. Netherfriends to start off your Saturday afternoon isn’t too difficult of a choice. Free Energy is a nationally recognized band that is largely deserving of the hype they’ve gotten in the past several months. Their debut album “Stuck On Nothing” might not be exactly revolutionary on the sonic front, but it is a slice of down-home American rock that tends to skew towards the fun and toe-tapping variety. By contrast, Netherfriends plays up the psychedelic pop card and does so with style. The group is essentially a one-man project of Chicago’s own Shawn Rosenblatt, though in their live incarnation he’s got some friends performing with him. If you’re a loyal Chicagoan or just happen to like your songs drenched in a drug-induced haze you may want to check out the Netherfriends set. Of course you don’t need to be on drugs to enjoy Netherfriends, the songs are relatively catchy without the need for illegal substances. As much as I love the little guy, I think that not only will Free Energy deliver a better set, but their songs are more tailored to the festival environment. They should be a very welcome start to Saturday.

*Real Estate [1:45pm, Connector Stage]
*Sonny & the Sunsets [1:55pm, Balance Stage]
Considering their star is on the rise, the name Sonny and the Sunsets attains a fresh irony given the circumstances. They probably wouldn’t have it any other way themselves, as their laid back and charming songs tend to have a thread of humor in them. That’s one of the many delights the band’s debut album “Tomorrow Is Alright” has to offer. Fronted by renowned singer, playwright and author Sonny Smith, the band’s songs are great sunshine melodies that are ironically drenched in darkness and despair. That balance between dark and light, in other words the hazy glow that appears when the sun meets the horizon, is what has gotten Sonny and the Sunsets a fair amount of attention in recent months. In a similar tone, the band Real Estate have been the benefactors of hype since last fall, when their self-titled debut album came out. That contained a track titled “Beach Comber”, which succinctly distilled everything that was great about the band into a singular song. The melodies are for lazy days on the sand where there’s not a cloud in the sky and the tide is just about to roll in. Given that Union Park is not exactly within blocks of a beach shouldn’t matter, because you can just chill out and enjoy Real Estate’s summery songs while laid out on the grass. The choice between these two somewhat similar-sounding bands is actually a little tough, but when pressured I’d say go with Real Estate. Don’t be surprised if you hear nice comments coming from people on both sides of the park, and you might consider splitting your time between the two bands.

*Delorean [2:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
Kurt Vile [2:50pm, Balance Stage]
It’s battle of the Matador-related bands for this part of your Saturday. The good news is that unlike the last pairing, these two couldn’t be more different. Delorean has been pulling in major praise from people ever since they released their “Ayrton Senna” EP last year. Their debut album “Subiza” came out a few months back and that was met with nearly equal enthusiasm, people getting completely sucked in by this hook-filled dance party. Delorean both are and aren’t part of this glo-fi/chillwave movement in that they’re often lumped in with those groups but their songs are far too clean-cut and energetic to really earn that tag. That’s perfectly okay though, and for those looking for an early afternoon dance party, Delorean have the Balearic beats to feed your hunger. Of course if pure rock and roll is more your style, Kurt Vile has got you covered. When armed with a guitar of any sort, the guy has delivered a string of albums that defy any rigid genre aside from the hghly generalized tag of rock. Whether he’s getting all confessional with a quiet acoustic song or bringing down the house with some heavy electrics and his backing band the Violators, Kurt Vile puts on an impressive live show that only gets better the more familiar you are with his music. The guy is something of a legend in his own right, and there’s maybe only one other artist performing on Saturday with more live experience than him. When choosing between these two it all comes down to your mood, and while I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Kurt Vile, the prospect of having a really fun time dancing to Delorean is almost too good to pass up.

*Titus Andronicus [3:20pm, Connector Stage]
Dâm-Funk [3:45pm, Balance Stage]
On pure critical acclaim alone, Titus Andronicus wins in this matchup. That’s something you should know right off the bat. That’s not meant to be a knock on Dâm-Funk, whose gloriously funky and fun songs should provide some welcome enjoyment to those who go check him out, but Titus Andronicus just have so much going for them right now. Their latest album “The Monitor” is one of the absolute best albums of 2010 so far, and its mixture of Springsteen-esque American rock and razor sharp punk rock into long-form songs can only translate into a great live show that’s high on energy and content. Of the many hotly anticipated bands playing on Saturday, Titus Andronicus are probably high up there on the “must see” list. Don’t let that stop you from going to see the culturally vibrant and very danceable set from Dâm-Funk, who’s sure to bring up memories of great past artists like James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and Parliament. It’s not exactly my sort of thing, but I totally get why there’s an appeal there and wouldn’t blame you for turning down some heavy guitar rock and roll in favor of the boogie. Perhaps an even better option, since they don’t start at the same time, is to maybe watch the first 20 minutes of Titus Andronicus and if you’re not completely sold on them after that time, go get some Dâm-Funk.

Raekwon [4:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
*The Smith Westerns [4:45pm, Balance Stage]
Given that these sets start 30 minutes apart from one another, there’s not a ton of choice you have in who to go see, though if you’re already at one stage or another you might just go with the flow of the crowd. As it stands in this matchup though, your choice is between hip hop and 90’s-inspired rock. The two are on sort of opposite planes from one another, but if your tastes are diverse enough, this might be a tough choice for you. On the one hand you have Raekwon, who’s essentially a hip hop legend. The guy was a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, and has put out a couple of highly influential rap records on his own too. There’s probably not a high likelihood he’ll bring some of his Wu-Tang buddies like Ghostface and Method Man with him, but there might be a guy or two handling all the guest roles your average hip hop album has (a lot). The Smith Westerns call Chicago home, and that’s just one of many reasons to see theim perform at Pitchfork. The songs off their self-titled debut album are fuzzy, lo-fi rock that’s amazingly dynamic and in many senses classic. I’ve seen these fresh-faced youngsters live a couple times now, and can guarantee that they put on a solid and fun show. If you’re weighing your options and are having trouble with this one, my personal selection here is The Smith Westerns. Of course I’m not the greatest Raekwon fan, so there may very well be something I’m missing.

*The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion [5:15pm, Connector Stage]
WHY? [5:45pm, Balance Stage]
I call the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion “The Original Black Keys”. The reason is because Jon Spencer has been around longer and may have even inspired The Black Keys somewhere long the line. Here’s a band with a handful of classic, blues-inspired albums under their belt, who are veterans on stage. They’ve opened for such notables as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones anad Tom Petty without so much as breaking a sweat. Not only have their albums been called great, but their live show is also extremely well regarded, some might even call it bordering on legendary. Between the incredible guitar work and the way that Spencer works the microphone, these guys are performers through and through. They don’t do a ton or recording and touring anymore either, so that they’re playing Pitchfork is something of a special treat. While on the other side of the park you have Yoni Wolf’s band WHY?. Why would you go and see WHY?? Well, to start, their lyrics are among the weirdest and most fascinating things I’ve heard in a long time. They also have a number of catchy songs, in particular on the album “Alopecia”. They used to be a group of white guys doing rock-infused hip hop, but with their last album “Eskimo Snow” they all but stopped rhyming and started singing. “Eskimo Snow” isn’t their best work, but it’s still pretty interesting on multiple levels. Still, you should stick with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. WHY? is good and all, but there’s really no practical reason to go see them given the force they’re up against.

*Wolf Parade [6:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
Bear in Heaven [6:45pm, Balance Stage]
Separately, Spencer Krug is best known for his band Sunset Rubdown, who’ve released increasingly effective and odd indie rock albums over the past few years. Dan Boeckner is known for the band Handsome Furs, which is the project he established with his wife. The last Handsome Furs album “Face Control” was a sharp advancement in their sound and songwriting, turning the band into one worth watching closely. Together, Boeckner and Krug are members of Wolf Parade. The combination of these two great talents in one band, each of them taking on a few songs apiece across what now amounts to three albums, is almost too much to handle. The debut Wolf Parade album “Apologies to the Queen Mary”, released before Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs were even on anyone’s radar, has gone down in indie lore as one of the best albums of the last decade. They’ve got a new record “Expo 86” that came out a few weeks back that’s really damn good too. Given that Krug and Boeckner are so busy with their other bands, Wolf Parade doesn’t tour too often. Consider their stop at Pitchfork to be a rare opportunity to catch them. On the other end, Bear In Heaven have risen to hypeworthy prominence via their second album “Beast Rest Forth Mouth”, which is a swirling and addictive synth-infused psych-pop record. Yes it’s worth your time, but to ignore Wolf Parade seems almost foolish. So sorry Bear In Heaven, you got put in a tough time slot.

*Panda Bear [7:25pm, Connector Stage]
Freddie Gibbs [7:40pm, Balance Stage]
It isn’t, but it almost might as well be a joke placing Freddie Gibbs in this late time slot against Panda Bear. That’s not meant to offend fans of Freddie Gibbs, but more to acknowledge the prominence of Panda Bear amongst the indie bretheren. See, while Panda Bear is best known as a member of the white hot Animal Collective, he’s also a notable solo artist in his own right. His last record “Person Pitch” is among the most critically acclaimed albums released in the past decade, and listening to it today, it still feels ahead of its time. There’s a new album that Panda Bear has been working on that’s due sometime later this year, and the anticipation for it has hit something of a fever pitch. The first single “Tomboy” was released last weekend and you can hear the masses salivating over it. By contrast, you have Gary, Indiana hip hop star Freddie Gibbs. The guy is good at what he does, and that’s writing honest rhymes about serious situations he’s witnessed in his life. He’s definitely talented and will hopefully hit it big amongst the hip hop crowd, but for the moment he’s not much more than a blip on the radar. Even by underground hip hop standards he’s not quite reached the elite just yet. If you like rap and haven’t heard of the guy before, I definitely advise you to see his set – particularly if Panda Bear’s oddball psych-pop doesn’t float your boat. Otherwise get yourself some Panda Bear and try to force yourself to like it no matter how difficult it might be to penetrate. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pull the stunt Animal Collective does from time to time where he goes off the deep end and improvises his set rather than playing actual songs from his albums.

*LCD Soundsystem [8:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
The tragedy of LCD Soundsystem is that after three solid albums of great dance music, James Murphy claims he’s going to retire. The man has become something of a legend, fronting the great record label DFA and pushing tons of amazing music from other artists out there for the public to hear and love. But as LCD Soundsystem, he moves from label head to a guy who knows better than anyone how to move bodies. One could say that between the last LCD album “Sound of Silver” and the almost equally great “This Is Happening” that Murphy is as prolific as he’s ever been, reaching a creative apex both on record and in a live setting. Why he’d knowingly choose to quit at this point in time seems absurd, but if he’s going out, at least it’s on top. LCD Soundsystem is playing tons and tons of shows this year, including tons and tons of music festivals, but it can be argued that none of those festivals are more important than the Pitchfork Music Festival. The site played a gigantic role in spreading the LCD Soundsystem gospel on the path to worldwide popularity. This is looking like the very last time that Murphy and his band of misfits will ever play Chicago, so you’re probably not going to want to miss their set.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Day 1 Preview

As it is Pitchfork Music Festival Week here at Faronheit, I’ll be spending the next couple days writing up a preview guide that will hopefully help you out when making difficult choices in terms of what artists to see, what food to eat, and other various festival-related fodder. Today I’ll be tackling a preview of the music on Day 1 (Friday). You have the mp3s I posted yesterday, but in case you don’t want to go through the trouble of downloading to learn more about these artists, I’ve written up some profiles on each one of them for your reading pleasure. Friday is somewhat unique in that the Balance Stage isn’t really in use, though this year you will have the opportunity to see some comedians do stand-up over there should you not like what’s happening at the two main stages. But when talking about music only, there is never a time on Friday in which two artists will be performing at the same time. In other words, you will have no choice about what to see, but if you don’t like the music, both the comedy choices or simply just exploring the festival grounds are your only other options aside from leaving early. As there are no tough choices to make, what’s below is a simple detailing of what to expect musically from each artist. It should be an interesting first day of the festival, to say the least.

FRIDAY MUSIC GUIDE (Gates open at 3PM):

Sharon Van Etten [3:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
For a Friday afternoon, with temperatures currently forecast to be in the upper 80s, you may want to ease your way into this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Look no further than Sharon Van Etten, a lovely singer-songwriter who makes quietly beautiful folk music. Her voice is beautiful and combined with her extraordinary talents on a surprisingly large number of instruments, there’s magic in the way she crafts a song. She’s not overly showy with all she can do, but rather deliberately uses minmalist arragements to keep the focus on her lyrics and the emotion contained within them. This isn’t exactly the music you want to be standing against a barricade in the hot sun for, but given that the crowds should still be light when Sharon takes the stage, throwing down a blanket in the open field and having a seat is almost ideal.

The Tallest Man on Earth [4:00pm, Connector Stage]
The way I look at it, The Tallest Man on Earth is the new Bob Dylan. The man otherwise known as Kristian Matsson hails from Sweden, but his sound is American as apple pie. His nasal, well-worn voice is compelling at most turns, and there’s a certain power he wields with the sparse arrangements of his songs. Most of the time they simply consist of a lone acoustic guitar or piano. Yet despite this, many of the songs on his latest album “The Wild Hunt” are exciting and energized, brimming with life rather than sulking in the pain of someone like Elliott Smith. It’s these qualities that will give him an edge performing live at Pitchfork this year. For a set that has the potential to be too quiet or boring for an outdoor setting on a Friday afternoon, Matsson will hopefully rise above that fray and deliver something both powerful and fun.

El-P [4:35pm, Aluminum Stage]
Not enough people have heard about El-P (or at least given him half a chance), and that’s a shame. The guy has been quietly reinventing hip hop for close to 20 years now. Company Flow was his first hip hop group at age 17, and their first single “Juvenile Techniques” attracted all sorts of label attention. After taking their sweet time and settling for the most favorable contract they could find, Company Flow put out two albums and an EP before they parted ways with their label and El-P decided to start his own label known as Definitive Jux. Def Jux is regarded as a brilliant indie hip hop label thanks largely to strong releases by up-and-coming rappers Aesop Rock and Cannibal Ox, among others. After Company Flow broke up in 2001, El-P started to make solo albums. They’ve all been very well received, thanks to his smart production and crafty lyrics. Unfortunately due to the economics of record labels these days, El-P was forced to shut down the production side of Def Jux recently. He says he wants to focus more on his music anyways. Reports say he’s been working on a new album since last fall, so look for him to premiere some new material at Pitchfork this year. It should also be a pretty entertaining and energetic set, and if you like hip hop, you don’t get a whole lot better than El-P these days.

Liars [5:30pm, Connector Stage]
To put it as simply and as plainly as possible, Liars are weird. But as it so happens, weird is also pretty brilliant in this case. These guys are doing things that a lot of other bands wouldn’t dare to, and it turns some people off because their music can come off as harsh and grating. On their album “Drum’s Not Dead”, they experimented with percussion to the point where the other instruments in each song became practically unnecessary. Sometimes Liars will work an overly spaced out and sparse arrangement for two minutes and then slap you in the face by suddenly blowing everything apart with electric guitars turned up to 11. And despite these oddities, part of the fun in listening to this band is calmly waiting to find out what they’re going to do next. They’ve never released two albums that sound similar to one another, yet they maintain a distinctive sound. Liars’ latest album “Sisterworld” is just another notch in their remarkably strong catalogue, pushing and pulling between extremes of quiet and loud but typically not in between the two. What their Pitchfork performance will be like is relatively up in the air too, because in a dark club environment they can effectively work the mood and atmosphere to their sonic advantage. On a sunny late afternoon in the middle of a park it doesn’t work as well. Also, will we see louder, more energized side of the band, or will they work a slow and steady build? Energy would certainly benefit them the most for the setting, but it’s doubtful that Liars give a fuck where they are or what sort of crowd they’re performing in front of. More than any other band on Friday, Liars should have both the most captivating and off-putting set. Watch it if you dare, or just go over to the comedy stage and see Hannibal Buress (5:45).

Robyn [6:25pm, Aluminum Stage]
Robyn is known around most of the world as a pop star. Her songs are played like crazy in clubs around Europe and Asia, and her native country of Sweden has showered her wtih awards. She’s played a number of dates opening for Madonna in Europe and is touring the U.S. opening for Kelis for the next couple months. The reason why an artist like Robyn would be playing Pitchfork has mostly to do with her indie status in America. Her songs “Show Me Love” and “Do You Know (What It Takes)” were chart-topping hits in the U.S., but that was back in 1997 before she had to take some time off due to extreme exhaustion. Subsequently, a couple of her albums didn’t get U.S. distribution while in the meantime the pop music scene changed in America. After breaking with her record label in 2004, Robyn started her own label, Konichiwa Records, where she released her self-titled album in 2005 to massive critical acclaim. It would take 3 years and the signing of a distribution deal with Cherrytree Records to get that album released in the U.S., where reportedly songs like “Cobrastyle” and “With Every Heartbeat” were “huge” club and dance radio hits (not listening to dance radio or going to clubs often, I wouldn’t officially know). Still, I’ve yet to hear Robyn mentioned outside of indie circles here in America, and given the enthusiasm for both her self-titled album and her brand new one “Body Talk, Pt. 1” by so many critics and fans in the know, her presence at the Pitchfork Music Festival makes sense. Don’t expect a crazy performance a la Lady Gaga or even Britney Spears, because Robyn is less about showmanship and more about song quality. She doesn’t lip sync nor does she have a choreographed dance troupe or costume changes. She’s true class, and if you like a good pop song, Robyn’s set should be a whole lot of fun. Your other option is to go see “Daily Show” correspondent Wyatt Cenac do his standup at the comedy stage (6:30).

Broken Social Scene [7:20pm, Connector Stage]
The challenging thing about Broken Social Scene is that you’re never entirely sure what band is going to show up each night. That’s less of a question mark than it was in the past, when people like Leslie Feist and Emily Haines were “officially” part of the band. Now Feist has a lucrative solo career, Emily Haines is completely on board with Metric, and Amy Millan has her band Stars and a solo thing going as well. Basically the women of Broken Social Scene, at least the era of the band that brought us the legendary “You Forgot It In People” and their self-titled 2006 album, is over. After taking a hiatus and releasing a pair of “Broken Social Scene Presents…” albums the last couple years, the announcement was made that Broken Social Scene would return in full with a new album and a revamped lineup. That included new token female member Lisa Lobsinger, who is taking the place of all the missing ladies. The good news is that the new album “Forgiveness Rock Record” pretty much lives up to the strong track record Broken Social Scene have going for themselves, and even when they’re down a handful of people, the band is still immensely great live. Their stadium-sized songs will be perfect for the Union Park setting, though without every band member past and present it’s unlikely they’ll be able to top their jaw-dropping, heart-stopping performance at Lollapalooza 2006. That remains one of my favorite live sets of all time, made all the more special because there were literally 20 people on stage at once all contributing to an experience that was both electric and cathartic beyond belief. Nobody wanted that set to end, and it’d be nice if many of the hipsters would put their uncaring attitudes to the side for 45 minutes and just let loose with the unbridled enthusiasm this band so richly deserves for their performances. If that’s not your sort of thing, trek to the comedy stage for Michael Showalter (7:15) and Eugene Mirman (8:00) for two sets of standup sure to have you laughing up a storm.

Modest Mouse [8:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
There’s surprisingly little to say here in regards to Modest Mouse. Surely you’ve heard of them, they’re now internationally successful thanks to songs like “Float On” and “Dashboard”. Headlining the Pitchfork Music Festival on Friday night is probably going to be something a bit different for them compared to their last couple years of playing huge venues with younger kids wanting to hear songs from their newest albums. One gets the feeling that there’s going to be a slightly different vibe when the band plays Pitchfork, and I hope the band realizes that going into their set. If they play to their stronger, earlier material around “The Moon and Antarctica” era, the level of crowd satisfaction will be higher, and hopefully the band is more willing to break that stuff out given they’re likely tired of playing the same old hits these past few years. Of course who really knows what will happen – Isaac Brock is a crafty guy who likes to subvert expectations, and given some of the things he’s done on stage in the last couple years, including cutting himself, some might argue he’s got a screw or two loose. Whatever state of mind he’s in, provided that Modest Mouse does a halfway decent job of playing a mixture of old and new stuff, everybody should have a reasonably good time. We no longer have the spectacle of former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to tear it up on stage, but he was just a minor element of a band that’s internationally respected for so many more right reasons than wrong ones.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: The Songs

Welcome to Faronheit’s unofficial “Gude to the Pitchfork Music Festival: 2010 Edition”! All week long I’ll be spending time giving you the lowdown on all things Pitchfork Music Festival-related, so if you’re going, I hope this will help you out in one way or another. From now until this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival wraps up on Sunday night, I’ll be posting daily with tips to navigating the festival, which artists to see, and recaps of each individual day as it happens. For anybody looking for the normal content of daily album reviews, I promise those will be back next week.

Today we get the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival coverage started right with the most comprehensive collection of free downloads from artists playing this year. Whether or not you’ll be at Union Park this weekend, at the very least this is a great opportunity to get exposed to a number of artists you may not have heard of before, but might like quite a bit. As many have put it, you go to the Pitchfork Music Festival to find out what up-and-coming artists are going to be playing all the big music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza next year. If there’s ever a time to learn about what you’re getting yourselves into, now would be it. The chances that even the biggest music fans have heard of every artist playing Pitchfork on any given year are slim to none, so hopefully there’s something for everyone to try out. That said, I’ll have a day-by-day preview of things, including daily artist recommendations, starting tomorrow. For now though, download these mp3s to your heart’s content and expand your horizons.

Note: A couple of the comedians performing Friday night don’t have any professionally recorded albums, so if you want to learn more about their comedic works, I’ve included a video link or two where you can stream some standup or other things.

Also: Everything is compartmentalized by day and timeslot at this year’s festival, just in case you get confused as to the layout of mp3s.


Sharon Van Etten [3:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
For You
Love More
I Couldn’t Save You

The Tallest Man on Earth [4:00pm, Connector Stage]
King of Spain
Pistol Dreams

El-P [4:35pm, Aluminum Stage]
Flyentology (Cassettes Won’t Listen Remix)
Jukie Skate Rock

Liars [5:30pm, Connector Stage]
Plaster Casts of Everything
Loose Nuts on the Veladrome

Hannibal Buress [5:45pm, Balance Stage]
[VIDEO] Standup on “Lopez Tonight”

Robyn [6:25pm, Aluminum Stage]
Be Mine

Wyatt Cenac [6:30pm. Balance Stage]
[VIDEO] “The Daily Show” report on discrimination against open gun carriers

Michael Showalter [7:15pm, Balance Stage]
[VIDEO] The Michael Showalter Showalter with Zach Galifinakis

Broken Social Scene [7:20pm, Connector Stage]
World Sick

Eugene Mirman [8:00pm, Balance Stage]
Vancouver, Detroit, and Bears!

Modest Mouse [8:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
Worms Vs. Birds


Free Energy [1:00pm, Aluminum Stage]
Dream City

Netherfriends [1:00pm, Balance Stage]
Friends With Lofts

Real Estate [1:45pm, Connector Stage]
Suburban Beverage
Beach Comber

Sonny & the Sunsets [1:55pm, Balance Stage]
Too Young to Burn

Delorean [2:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
Stay Close

Kurt Vile [2:50pm, Balance Stage]
Overnite Religion
Invisibility: Nonexistent

Titus Andronicus [3:20pm, Connector Stage]
A More Perfect Union
Four Score and Seven, Pt. 1
Four Score and Seven, Pt. 2
Titus Andronicus

Dâm-Funk [3:45pm, Balance Stage]

Raekwon [4:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
Dangerous (with Method Man and Ghostface)
Criminology (with Method Man and Ghostface)
House of Flying Daggers (ft. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface and Method Man)
10 Bricks (ft. Cappadonna and Ghostface)
Dreams (with Method Man and Ghostface)

The Smith Westerns [4:45pm, Balance Stage]
Be My Girl
Imagine, Pt. 3

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion [5:15pm, Connector Stage]
Do You Wanna Get It?
Not Yet

WHY? [5:45pm, Balance Stage]
The Blackest Purse
The Hollows
Close to Me (The Cure cover)

Wolf Parade [6:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)
Ghost Pressure
Language City
Call It A Ritual
Shine A Light
Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts

Bear in Heaven [6:45pm, Balance Stage]
Werewolf (Edit)

Panda Bear [7:25pm, Connector Stage]
Comfy In Nautica
Track One
A Musican And A Filmmaker
On the Farm

Freddie Gibbs [7:40pm, Balance Stage]
Personal OG
Fuck the World

LCD Soundsystem [8:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
Daft Punk Is Playing at My House (Soulwax Shibuya Remix)
Tribulations (Tiga Remix)


Allá [1:00pm, Aluminum Stage]
New Hymn (Residents cover)
Love Lockdown (Kanye West cover)

Cave [1:00, Balance Stage]
Gamm (Sample(
Made In Malaysia (Sample)
Encino Man (Sample)
High, I Am (Sample)
Requiem for John Sex (Sample)

Cass McCombs [1:45pm, Connector Stage]
Sacred Heart
I Went to the Hospital

Best Coast [1:55pm, Balance Stage]
This Is Real

Girls [2:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
Lust for Life

Washed Out [2:50pm, Balance Stage]
Feel It All Around

Beach House [3:20pm, Connector Stage]
Master of None

Local Natives [3:45pm, Balance Stage]
Sun Hands

Lightning Bolt [4:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
Dracula Mountain
Thirteen Monsters

Surfer Blood [4:45pm, Balance Stage]
Floating Vibes

St. Vincent [5:15pm, Connector Stage]
Actor Out of Work
The Strangers
Now Now

Here We Go Magic [5:45pm, Balance Stage]

Major Lazer [6:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
Hold the Line

Neon Indian [6:45pm, Balance Stage]
Terminally Chill
Should Have Taken Acid With You

Big Boi [7:25pm, Connector Stage]
Shine Blockas (ft. Gucci Mane)

Sleigh Bells [7:40pm, Balance Stage]
Tell ‘Em
Crown on the Ground

Pavement [8:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
Gold Soundz
Rattled By the Rush
Heckler Spray/In the Mouth of a Desert (Live)
All My Friends

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