Day one of Pitchfork is done, and boy was it a lot of fun. Apologies for that rhyming introduction – I immediately regretted it after I had typed it, but still liked it enough to not delete it. But yes, on the whole it was a delightful day and a great start to another year of the festival. The primary lesson that I learned – well, rather had reinforced on me – was that the best performances always had genuine passion and respect behind them from both the artists and the crowds. There are some examples of the good, the bad, and the middling peppered throughout this recap, so join me on the other side of the jump for a chronicling of all that went down from a musical perspective on the first day of the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival.
Tag: thurston moore
Slap on some sunscreen and hose yourself down with bug spray, because Pitchfork Music Festival is starting early this year! Well, a couple of hours earlier than usual. In past years, the opening Friday has always been a shortened day, typically kicking off around 3PM. I’m not exactly sure what the point of that was, beyond letting some people take a half day of work and still make it in time, or perhaps working a full day and not missing too much. Maybe it was also a budgetary concern, as the cost of booking another 3 or 4 artists to fill out the lineup might have been just a touch more than they wanted to spend. Whatever their logic, it seems like the organizers have stopped kidding themselves and are finally ready to extend the overall festival experience by a couple of hours. Gates on Friday open at Noon, and the first artist takes the stage at 1PM.
Of course just because we’re getting a full day on Friday doesn’t mean there are more names on the lineup to help fill that extra time out. Instead, a number of artists at the start of each day will perform unopposed, meaning you’ll have the choice to either watch one specific performance, wander around Union Park and explore other areas of the festival (/drink more/hang with friends), or simply show up late. The choice is yours, but I would strongly recommend arriving early all three days. You’re likely to discover something truly great as a result. There is at least one set starting before 2PM each day that has the potential to be among the best of the entire weekend, and it’d be a shame for you to miss out! Then again at Pitchfork, just about every set is a must-see. Navigating the weekend filled with such great music can be a little challenging, which is why this day-by-day preview guide is here to help! Join me after the jump for a breakdown of Friday’s lineup and schedule, where I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of exciting, fun, and amazing things to do, see, and hear.
Welcome to the beginning of Pitchfork Music Festival Week 2017! It’s become tradition here on Faronheit in the last few years to spend a full seven days celebrating the three day blissful orgy of music that descends upon Chicago every July in the form of the Pitchfork Music Festival. In my opinion, you won’t find a better curated or more diverse festival lineup anywhere other than Pitchfork. They put their brand and reputation on the line to celebrate great and innovative artists across backgrounds and genres. If you’re unaware or ignorant of the festival, perhaps a glance at some past coverage will provide an accurate impression of how things go each year. We couldn’t be more excited to bring you a complete festival guide all week long on Faronheit, which includes day-by-day previews, day-by-day recaps, plus a whole bunch of photos and other media along the way. Whether you’re headed to Union Park this weekend and are unsure about what bands to see, or are interested in the lineup and are looking to vicariously experience the festival without actually going, the hope is you’ll make this site one of your stops for key information and on-the-ground reporting. It’s a pleasure to put this guide together every year, and I hope it’s reflected in the content posted.
Let’s get started by providing a proper introduction to all of the artists set to perform at Pitchfork Music Festival 2017. After the jump you’ll find a Spotify playlist featuring two songs from every single artist on the linup, along with individual links to websites, music videos and more. The Spotify playlist is ordered by day and set time, while everything else is sorted alphabetically. There are plenty of ways to get to know these artists, but obviously listening to their music is the most important of all. So click some links, stream some songs, and begin your education!
Ugh. It has been a long day for yours truly. Didn’t anticipate my day/evening going so late, so this initial recap of Day 1 of the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival is going to be a little shorter and more to the point than much of everything else I plan on writing about over the course of the weekend. But fun was the name of the game today, and to call it a great day would not be an incorrect statement. Let me tell you a brief bit about the music I bore witness to, as well as maybe a couple other quick notes about things that went down on Day 1.
Due to an unfortunate vehicular mishap, in which my car broke down and refused to start, I wound up arriving at the Pitchfork Music Festival about 45 minutes later than I had originally planned. Still, it left me just enough time to see the last couple songs from EMA. Erika M. Anderson is her full name when not being referenced in acronym format, and she had a couple friends backing her up to handle much of the instrumental work. The two songs I saw her perform were solid renditions, in particular her single “California”, in which she did a lot of the same hand gestures that can be found in the video for said song. Fun isn’t the best word to describe what I saw, but very capable and strong are probably two solid descriptors. A few hours after her set, I was being taken on a brief tour of the backstage area and stumbled upon EMA. She was sitting in the grass by herself with a guitar and was making notes on some pieces of paper. In all likelihood she was writing a song, and hopefully something at the festival inspired her to do so.
My most hotly anticipated act of the day (and essentially the weekend) was tUnE-yArDs. After the massive number of raves I heard about Merrill Garbus and her intense performances, there was a little chill that went down my spine on the quite hot day when she began to belt her vocals into the microphone. Creating all sorts of vocal and instrumental loops, watching her put together songs like “Gangsta” and “Powa” was thrilling enough even if you threw away the actual songs. She didn’t do much to actually improve upon the recorded versions of the stuff on “w h o k i l l”, but then again she didn’t need to. That record is still amazing, and just seeing the songs come together live was the treat. Hopefully many were won over by her stellar performance. While I skipped seeing Battles in favor of tUnE-yArDs, all my friends chose to abandon me, claiming I made the wrong choice. They came away with nothing but raves for Battles’ set, and given to how they are dynamite live, the reaction felt sensible.
Thurston Moore was next, as I was intrigued to see what he would do. His backing band consisted of one guitar, one drummer, one violinist and one harpist. Yep, he had a harp with him and its lilting melodies were built into a lot of the songs. Moore also had a music stand with plenty of sheet music on it, which begged the question of how well he knew the songs he was playing. And virtually the entire thing wound up being a flop. Standing out in the hot sun and watching Thurston play slow acoustic numbers was not a good time. Early on in his set, he jokingly asked if everyone was ready to hear some songs about rape and other dark things, clearly trying to make light of the fact that OFWGKTA would be performing on that very stage in a couple days. There will be protesters for that, and come to think of it, people should have protested Moore’s set as well for being rather pedestrian and boring. Everything was capably performed, and much of the material came via his latest solo effort “Demolished Thoughts”. No Sonic Youth was played, but to close out his set, Moore told the crowd, “my band is saying that we should play a rock song”, a statement that was met with applause. The spark that ignited within the last few minutes of that set was what the entire thing should have been made out of. There’s always next time. If you went and saw Curren$y, consider yourself lucky.
The great news is that Guided By Voices were up next, and the very first thing that Robert Pollard asked the crowd was whether or not they were ready to see a real professional rock show. Hell yes, the crowd was ready. And GBV gave everyone exactly what they were looking for. Chain smoking on stage, wielding a bottle of alcohol, windmill guitar work, Neko Case on tambourine, jumping around like a madman, salutes, the hoisting of guitars high into the sky, the pointing of the necks of the guitars out at the crowd in a threatening and stabbing motions – all these things happened during that set. To call it awesome would be putting it lightly. These guys are all music veterans, and instead of slowing down their set was filled with visceral energy – the sort of which is missing in so many rock bands these days. Not only that, but they did all this while running through “hit” after “hit” (the quotation marks are used because despite a long career the band never achieved massive success to justify anything of theirs being a hit according to today’s standards). They hit up “Hot Freaks” “Tractor Rape Chain”, “Kicker of Elves” and “I Am A Scientist” (among many others) from their seminal album “Bee Thousand”. Their other big record was “Alien Lanes”, and tracks like “Game of Pricks” and “They’re Not Witches” sounded even better now than they did back in the day. So to recap: Guided By Voices put on one hell of a great show. And in that same way it’s sad, because there’s only a couple shows left with their “classic” lineup in place. They’re probably never going to do this again, so if you saw them at Pitchfork consider yourself lucky.
Neko Case is such an effortless charmer of a woman. There’s a certain sweetness to her, and maybe the down-home alt-country bits of her music are big contributors to that. One of the more interesting things about her is the backing band she surrounds herself with. The guys in the band were all older gentlemen complete with beards and a few extra pounds, and that alone was enough to make you think they belonged in a country band you’d stumble in and catch one night at some random bar. Who knows, maybe that’s where she met them. In spite of their appearances, they’re also excellent musicians, which is likely the reason why Case picked them in the first place. But that syrupy sweet voice of hers is in as good of shape as ever these days, and the set list mixing old songs, newer songs, and the newest of the new gave it plenty of workout. Case is currently hard at work on new material, so she did play a couple new ones during her set which were on par with everything else she’s done to date, if not better. The biggest crowd responses were for “Hold On, Hold On” and “People Got A Lotta Nerve”, and given their radio single status it’s no wonder why. There was no real reason for me to leave Neko Case, but after awhile I chose to wander over and at least check out James Blake‘s set for a few minutes. My concern initially was that his very quiet and minimalist self-titled debut would not translate well in an outdoor park. Outside of some seriously heavy bass, I’m pretty sure I was correct on that one.
Last but certainly not least, Animal Collective closed out the night in the headliner slot. It seems they got the love note I left them criticizing the very fluid and ever-changing dynamic of their live shows. The last time I saw the boys, they spent their festival time slot noodling around with psychedelic textures rather than playing most of the songs that appear on their albums. Think of it like one long acid trip in which many songs are teased but little to none are actually performed. They were on their best behavior at Pitchfork 2011 though, actually playing songs all the way through and even adding a few brief moments of silence from when one song ends and another begins. Call it common courtesy, and it made the set very bearable and remarkably fun. There was plenty of dancing going on, not to mention the glowsticks and an inflatable Spider-Man that became a part of the party. There were a handful of new songs sprinkled into the set as well, all of which sounded more than fine but with fewer harmonies than their last album “Merriweather Post Pavilion”. Between those elements and the neat stage setup complete with light-up rock-like structures and hanging shapes attached overhead by strings of lights. Animal Collective took their headlining job seriously and left the crowd in a better place compared to how they found them.
In case you couldn’t gather already, the entire day was nothing short of great. I’m very much looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow, but at this very moment sleep beckons. I’ll have photos for you as soon as I’m able. Check back for my Day 2 Recap overnight tomorrow night.
Feel free to call Thurston Moore an old man. He may only be in his early 50s, but in rock star years, he’s closer to 70. Sure, you’ve still got your classics out and about still making music, your Paul Simons, your Bob Dylans and your Paul McCartneys, but they come so few and far between these days. It’s better to think of aging rock stars when they’re in a band, because the collective whole provides you with a stark legacy and a lack of focus on a particular individual. The last Sonic Youth record, for example, 2009’s “The Eternal”, did not seem like it came from a band that’s now officially 30 years old in and of itself without taking into account how old everyone was by the time they started. And while you have to essentially weigh any new stuff based on what came before it, we really only think of career highlights rather than the entire catalogue, particularly when dealing with 10+ records. In the case of Thurston Moore it’s even more, thinking about his already numerous solo efforts along with the Sonic Youth stuff. Perhaps the biggest and most pertinent question to be asking is how somebody like Moore can keep creating new music without surrendering to complacency or repeating the same old tricks. His new record “Demolished Thoughts” seeks to provide something close to an answer to that question.
One of the more interesting tidbits about “Demolished Thoughts” is that it was produced by Beck Hansen, otherwise known as simply Beck. He and Moore have never worked together before, and it’s a strange wonder as to why that is. It’s clear from this record that the combination of the two is an inspired pairing, and you can hear both of their influences present even if it is Moore doing all of the heavy lifting. The easiest and most favorable comparison you can make given the circumstances is to Beck’s “Sea Change”, a largely acoustic effort with small flourishes of orchestral beauty. There are even brief brushes of harp mixed in, and it is surprisingly graceful and oddly cohesive. And while most of the songs bear a quiet, almost folk-driven psychedelia (track lengths range from 4 minutes to nearly 7), there are moments of vigorous energy and sharp electric guitar. “Circulation” is naturally one of those tracks that gets your blood flowing, and it calls to mind a handful of old Sonic Youth cuts in the process. The same could be said for “Orchard Street”, though that’s more like a subdued acoustic rendition of an unreleased Sonic Youth song. Of course both those make perfect sense, as Moore also tends to save up tracks that are either rejected by or simply won’t quite work in his main band’s canon.
Just because a track isn’t moving along at a moderate pace doesn’t mean it lacks energy though. A song like “Blood Never Lies” glistens in the sunlight akin to a dew-covered flower at the start of a new day. The harps and strings on “Illuminine” create glowing pinpricks of light in an otherwise pitch black night. It’s the lush warmth that pulls that and many other songs on “Demolished Thoughts” out from the proverbial gutter of depression. An Elliott Smith album this is not, even if the topics of growing older and struggling to find happiness seem to permeate the highly poetic lyrics. What separates it out from your otherwise standard folk-indebted fare are the intelligent ways each song comes together to both acknowledge and destroy what we might otherwise expect from these genre tropes. Like how “Orchard Street” takes an extended instrumental detour for the entire last half of the song. Or maybe the way a light echo is applied to Moore’s voice on “In Silver Rain With A Paper Key” to better illustrate the loneliness and isolation the lyrics speak of. You’ve got to hand it to Beck, who most assuredly had something to do with these little extra touches that help turn very good songs into excellent ones.
It’s worth noting that most of Thurston Moore’s solo career has been of mixed to poor quality. He seems to use the time away from Sonic Youth as a testing ground or an idea dump, which has had a tendency to leave him seeming scatterbrained or incoherent. 2007’s “Trees Outside the Academy” was a lot like that, with a few solid songs smashed between a horde of attempts. There was no real theme or connection between the tracks, just sketch after sketch appearing to resemble something whole. That’s not to say it was a terrible record – in fact it was far from it. Compared with “Demolished Thoughts” though, it’s night and day. These new songs feel well thought out and purposeful, and though they may not be the most upbeat things, they never dwell too long in one darkened corner. It is actually one of the rare times a Moore solo record works on all pistons, giving a clear legitimacy to the venture and providing another outlet through which die hard Sonic Youth fans can get something of a fix. He may be getting up there in rock star years, but from the sound of it this “old guy” clearly has plenty of fight left in him.