Day Two of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago started off rainy, a light drizzle turning into a steady downpour, soaking the grassy park. Saturday’s crowd looked considerably younger than Friday’s. Gone were many of the crusty middle-aged men attracted by Mission of Burma and Sebadoh. In their place thousands of neon-clad, wayfarer wearing, American Spirit smoking hipsters congregated on the lawns of Union Park.
Titus Andronicus kicked off Saturday’s festival with their New Jersey bred sprawling garage punk. This six-piece band, whose stellar debut album The Airing of Grievances is in rotation at Moustache Salad, played an entertaining show, opening with Pulp’s “Common People” and hitting the sloppy, screaming anthems of Grievances and closing with the epic “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ.” Frontman Patrick Stickles was all over the stage, climbing the lights at one point and waving a big yellow Don’t Tread on Me flag, all while half-coherently singing along. The crowd seemed to be digging Titus Andronicus, fists pumping and heads nodding along with their anthems.
At about 2:45 in the afternoon, fifteen minutes before Fleet Foxes’ set on the Aluminum Stage, the sun pierced the clouds, and what had recently been a soppy and muddy crowd quickly became a hot, sweaty crowd. We were in good position to see Fleet Foxes, about eight rows back from the stage. As Fleet Foxes set up for their set, Caribou played on the Connector Stage. Caribou as viewed on the Jumbotron and with little prior knowledge of their music other than “Melody Day”, looked like a worthwhile band to see live."They've gone to plaid!!!"
The self-proclaimed “dirty men” of Fleet Foxes strode out onto the stage to considerable applause. Apropos the recent weather change, they opened with the mostly a cappella “Sun Giant.” Fleet Foxes sounded just as good at a large open-air festival as they had sounded in the much-smaller venue Mojo’s in Columbia, bringing their almost spiritual church-like atmosphere to a crowded park in the middle of Chicago. A new drummer had been acquired, along with a good deal of confidence (in a positive way) and stage presence, since we had last seen them in March. The new drummer, Josh Tillman, brought a heavier sound to some of their songs and also lent his excellent voice to the group’s harmonies. Robin Pecknold, lead singer and songwriter, after having just performed the first three songs from the Sun Giant EP, addressed the crowd and had a special message for Pitchfork. “We’d like to thank Pitchfork for basically enabling our existence,” quipped Pecknold, directly and humorously tackling an issue that many of the other new artists seemed to shy away from. Pecknold seemed stunned that such a large crowd would turn out to see his band. He joked around saying the crowd looked like a big pack of wolves. Tillman then cracked, “They’re all wearing sunglasses. Very cute wolves.” Fleet Foxes then launched into their most famous song, “White Winter Hymnal.” The opening harmonies washed over the crowd, with everyone mouthing or singing the words, “I was following the—I was following the…” Three quarters of the way into the set, the band left the stage leaving just Robin and his acoustic guitar. Robin played two of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard live, his voice soaring over Union Park, everyone dead silent in awe and admiration. Pecknold covered Judee Sill’s “Crayon Angels” and then played the great closer off of Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut LP, “Oliver James.” The band returned and played a couple songs, closing their transcendental set with “Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Dizee Rascal, over at the adjacent Connector stage, opened his set immediately after Fleet Foxes closed theirs, loudly proclaiming, “Fuck that folk shit! Fuck that folk shit!” However, Fleet Foxes proved themselves unfuckable today with a handle-bar performance (5 out of 5).
We can’t think of a more appropriate band for a summer festival than the next band we saw, Vampire Weekend. With their danceable afro-pop and lines such as “First the window, then it's to the wall/Lil' Jon, he always tells the truth,” Ezra Koenig and the rest of VW create a sound to which indie-kids across the world can get their groove on. Vampire Weekend’s performance at Pitchfork was not only a massive dance party, but also all around a great live show. The band sprayed the audience with energy and witticisms. Their live sound was extremely full and realized, despite the fact that strings are used in some songs on the studio version of their self-titled LP.
Although Vampire Weekend was really fun to see and experience, it was our least favorite of the four main bands we saw that day (Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, The Hold Steady, Animal Collective). We say that, however, only because the other three acts had such a heroic feel that we could not place this show in the same tier. The factor that kept this show below the rest is mostly the music. The music of Fleet Foxes, The Hold Steady, and Animal Collective is so superior and inventive (or in the case of The Hold Steady, a reinvention that brings us back to true rock, which has been lacking in music for too long).
Holistically, the experience was truly pleasurable, and for that we give Vampire Weekend a Fu Manchu (4 out of 5).
A mass of people started pushing towards the stage after Vampire Weekend made their quick exit, rockers ready to see some of The Hold Steady. This was one of our most anticipated acts at the festival. After a whole year of falling in love with The Hold Steady’s studio albums, we were ready to witness the party that Craig Finn and company bring wherever they strap on their guitars. They lived up to their legacy as a great live band. Craig Finn is manic on stage, wildly gesturing, fiddling with his largely unplayed guitar, and mouthing lyrics even when he’s not singing (or yelling). The crowd loved Craig. Craig loved the crowd even more, feeding off the energy from the fans. The area in front of the stage literally turned into a gigantic party pit, everyone connected, sweaty, and swaying and lurching as one to the music hands outstretched punctuating the lyrics with gestures similar to Craig’s. The Hold Steady’s music is meant to be played live, and the new songs off of Stay Positive didn’t disappoint. “Sequestered in Memphis”, “Lord I’m Discouraged”, and “Slapped Actress” all shined in their live incarnations. The band’s entire discography was well represented, with even Almost Killed Me getting some love with “The Swish” and surprise encore “Killer Parties.” After “Killer Parties” Craig Finn showed his appreciation for the audience, reminding the audience that “We’re all The Hold Steady.” As if to allude to the Salad, Franz Nicolay’s facial accessory proved we all got handlebars that day (5 out of 5).
After being plowed to the front row by the crazy Hold Steady fans, we were positioned for a mind (and eardum) blowing show as the Pitchfork Pet, Animal Collective prepared to take stage. On the Jumbotron we watched Jarvis Cocker perform. During our wait, we felt no feelings of regret for not seeing him, but soon following, that mindset was even more prominent. Avey Tare, Geologist, and Panda Bear all scurried about the stage, setting up gear while the former Pulp front man played a set of songs that we maybe should care about, but in reality do not. After what seemed like decades, Mr. Cocker left the stage to a tidal wave of cymbals and distortion, and all eyes turned to the Aluminum Stage. The epic finale to the odyssey of music began with an Animal Collective signature remake of an AC song, “Chocolate Girl.” Following this was an omnipotent remix of Panda Bear’s “Comfy in Nautica.” The white light pulse that coincided with the thunderous bass, which rivaled Public Enemy the previous night, reverberated inside my chest, soaking its way into my bones. Following “Comfy in Nautica” were three new AC songs, “House,” “BearHug,” and “Lion in a Coma.” “House,” an amazing new piece, which AC have been breaking in lately, is a great dance song that should definitely be on LP9. Minutes later, we heard that nonsensical static that could only mean one thing: “Peacebone.” When the beat became regular, the crowd went insane. We were pressed up against the people in front of us, and would have fell if the crowd was not packed so close that is was impossible to even budge. During the song, it was almost like the fans were a breathing, cohesive being, undulating to the sounds of one of the most adored bands by kids that spend way too much time on blogs (like you). The set wrapped up quickly, for a 10 o’clock curfew had been set on the festival. With “Lablakley Dress/Fireworks/Essplode/Fireworks,” the band could not have closed with a better suite. This mashing of songs signaled the audience to mash into a mass of flesh, dancing, and Avey Tare imitation “do-doo-do-doo-do-dos” that make the song “Fireworks” unmistakable and legendary. Which also are the words we would use to describe that day.
Animal Collective gets a Fu Manchu with a soul patch (4.25 out of 5).
This is Animal Collective playing one of their new songs, "House".
Here are some set lists for the obsessive fans.
Drops in the River
White Winter Hymnal
He Doesn’t Know Why
Crayon Angels (Robin Solo)
Oliver James (Robin Solo)
Blue Ridge Mountains
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
I Stand Corrected
The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance
The Hold Steady
Hot Soft Light
Sequestered in Memphis
Lord, I’m Discouraged
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Encore- Killer Parties
Animal Collective- Get the audio over at You Ain't No Picasso.
Comfy in Nautica
Lion in a Coma (New)
Daily Routine (New)