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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 Day 3

Pavement, St. Vincent, Beach House and more at Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangGiven the unrelenting heat that defined the first two days of Pitchfork 2010, a forecast of rain for Sunday wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world and indeed, we got an impressive flash thunderstorm around noon – perfectly timed as I was still holed up in the hotel room. Unfortunately, said mini-monsoon didn’t actually wash away any of the heat, it just made it more humid. Awesome.

I don’t imagine the heat was bothering Best Coast, hailing as they do from the sunny climes of southern California. Their early afternoon slot on the B stage was pretty good proof that the festival schedule had been set some time ago, because if it had been put together in the last few weeks, the buzz around them and their forthcoming debut Crazy For You – out next week – would have warranted either a larger stage or later set time or both. As it was, the trio packed the field in front of the Balance Stage and delivered a set whose delivery wasn’t especially remarkable, but stripped of the lo-fi, garage-friendly production that has been one of their main talking points, it was evident that their songwriting smarts were for real. Great, hooky throwback pop however it’s marketed. They play Lee’s Palace on September 25.

Photos: Best Coast @ Balance Stage – July 18, 2010
MP3: Best Coast – “Boyfriend”
MP3: Best Coast – “Something In The Way”
Video: Best Coast – “When I’m With You”
MySpace: Best Coast

Over at the Aluminum main stage, Girls were late getting started as girls often are, with frontman Christopher Owens looking dazed and maybe confused. Though their debut Album was one of 2009’s biggest records, their live show got only middling reviews, which was approximately what I thought when I saw them at SxSW last year. You couldn’t go so far as to say that heavy touring had turned them into a lean rock machine, but they did sound fuller and more assured than they once did, if still kind of sloppy. Like their fellow Californians in Best Coast, their jangly pop gleamed in the sunlight where it couldn’t hide behind the fuzz but rather than dispense with the noise and static entirely, the just saved it up for an epic and unexpected shoegaze-worthy guitar squall in the coda of “Hellhole Ratrace”. Wakey wakey.

Photos: Girls @ Aluminum Stage – July 18, 2010
MP3: Girls – “End Of The World”
MP3: Girls – “Laura”
MP3: Girls – “Lust For Life”
Vide: Girls – “Hellhole Ratrace”
Video: Girls – “Laura”
Video: Girls – “Lust For Life”

If it had been the pre-Teen Dream Beach House coming up next on the Connector Stage, then the Girls wake-up call might have gone to waste. But the band circa 2010 is quite a different beast, having given their hazy dream pop enough energy and substance to not only keep an audience awake but enthralled. Their music may have originally been built for dark rooms in the wee hours of the night, but their ever-growing popularity seems to keep forcing them out onto outdoor stages – the last two times I saw them was in front of huge audiences lolling about in broad daylight. And such will again be the case on September 7 when they play the Molson Amphitheatre.

Photos: Beach House @ Connector Stage – July 18, 2010
MP3: Beach House – “Zebra”
MP3: Beach House – “Norway”
MP3: Beach House – “Gila”
MP3: Beach House – “Heart Of Chamber”
MP3: Beach House – “Master Of None”
Video: Beach House – “Walk In The Park”
Video: Beach House – “Silver Soul”
Video: Beach House – “Used To Be”
Video: Beach House – “You Came To Me”
Video: Beach House – “Heart Of Chambers”
MySpace: Beach House

Over at the Balance Stage, I managed to finally rectify a four month-old wrong in catching Local Natives, whom I’d missed at SxSW something like eight times. And the Los Angeles quintet was as impressive a live beast as I’d been told, with them reproducing the complex harmonies and rhythms of Gorilla Manor with even more energy than on record. It almost felt as though they themselves were being propelled by the music and while they lost control early on, with the drums clearly falling out of step with the rest of the arrangements, they quickly got hold of the reins again and didn’t misstep again. I’m looking forward to seeing them again when they play the Mod Club on October 19. Baeble Music is streaming a complete live Local Natives show recorded at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.

Photos: Local Natives @ Balance Stage – July 18, 2010
MP3: Local Natives – “Sun Hands”
Video: Local Natives – “World News”
Video: Local Natives – “Airplanes”
MySpace: Local Natives

After a brief break from the day’s programme to hydrate and cool down in the media tent, it was back to the Connector Stage where St. Vincent was patiently waiting for the sturm und drang of Lightning Bolt over on the main stage to dissipate. And you couldn’t ask for greater polar opposites than Lightning Bolt and St. Vincent; the change over from their set to hers was like having a post-apocalyptic landscape morph into an animated fairy tale forest. It doesn’t seem like a year since I saw St. Vincent last, but indeed its been and while this show felt very similar to that one, I’m tempted to say that they sound and feel more like a cohesive band than just Annie Clark and some backing players. And while most of the set showcased the more delicate/pretty side of St. Vincent, their set-closing “Your Lips Are Red” indulged her noisier inclinations, building into an instrumental cacophony that those Lightning Bolt fans across the field would have appreciated.

Photos: St. Vincent @ Connector Stage – July 18, 2010
MP3: St. Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”
MP3: St. Vincent – “The Strangers”
MP3: St. Vincent – “Now Now”
Video: St. Vincent – “Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood”
Video: St. Vincent – “Actor Out Of Work”
Video: St. Vincent – “Jesus Saves I Spend”
MySpace: St. Vincent

I have to confess my tweet prior to Major Lazer’s set was a bit disingenuous as I wasn’t completely ignorant of what Major Lazer was about. That’s because when their debut Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do came out last year, it was accompanied by one of the most annoying and incessant PR campaigns in recent memory. So while I couldn’t help know that it was a faux-cartoon hip-hop/dancehall project by DJs Diplo and Switch, I pretty much refused to pay it any more attention than that. Not that that knowledge would have prepared me for their live show, which was pretty much all party and spectacle. With Diplo on hand to lay down beats, live MC Skerrit Bwoy and two dancers led a ridiculous assault on the senses with faux sex, crowd surfing, dragon dancers and I don’t even know what else. It was something to see if not comprehend.

Photos: Major Lazer @ Aluminum Stage – July 18, 2010
Video: Major Lazer – “Pon De Floor”
Video: Major Lazer – “Hold The Line”
Video: Major Lazer – “Keep It Goin’ Louder”
Video: Major Lazer – “Zumbie”
MySpace: Major Lazer

Choosing between Sleigh Bells and Big Boi was a tough one, and while I’m sure some are shaking their heads at the decision, I opted to go for Sleigh Bells over at the Balance Stage. Their debut Treats has been a bit of a guilty pleasure, with its ridiculously loud production and unrelentingly chipper vocals, and I was curious to see how the Brooklyn duo pulled it off live. And the answer was a qualified “pretty well”. On the downside, they seemed to be taking full advantage of their moment in the hype spotlight, starting a good 15 minutes late, setting up the stage with prop guitar amps and using a lot of prerecorded tracks. The only live elements were Derek Miller’s guitar, though good luck distinguishing what he was actually playing from what was on tape, and Alexis Krauss’ vocals, which largely made the previous points irrelevant. Though the diva persona she affected on stage was at odds with her sugar buzz cheerleader vocals, their set was delivered with so much energy and volume that you probably couldn’t form a coherent enough thought to care. I was only able to stick around for a couple songs as the crush of media was being rotated through the photo bit in waves, and anyways I didn’t want to be late for an appointment with a certain legendary band. The Detroit News, NOW, The Weekly Dig and Prefix have Sleigh Bells interviews.

Photos: Sleigh Bells @ Balance Stage – July 18, 2010
MP3: Sleigh Bells: “Infinity Guitars”
MP3: Sleigh Bells: “Crown On The Ground”
MP3: Sleigh Bells: “A_B Machines”
MySpace: Sleigh Bells

And finally, at the end of it all, there was Pavement. Following a bizarre introduction where Drag City’s Rian Murphy pretended to be a washed up radio shock jock (I only found out for certain it was a gag after the fact, but it was fun to have an excuse to yell profanities at a stranger), the reunited indie rock forebears took the stage to a riotous response and promptly messed up their first song. Okay, it was barely a false start but it definitely set the tone for a show that would be less about big rock moves or a barnburning festival finale than just playing the songs everyone wanted to hear and having a good time. And they started with “Cut Your Hair”, possibly so that anyone who just wanted to hear the hit could go home early, and continued through their entire catalog front to back, one classic track after another, like an amble down a shady memory lane. And while it would have been impossible to play everyone’s favourites in the 90 minutes allotted, they did make the most of the available time by forgoing the ceremony of an encore to squeeze in as much as possible, personal highlights including “Shady Lane”, “Stereo” and “Spit On A Stranger” (I like the s-songs?). And while the reasons for their reunion were more financial than personal or artistic, it really looked as though they were having fun, Stephen Malkmus sporting a subtle but genuine smile (and no handcuffs), Mark Ibold on bass happily bobbing up and down, a (presumably) ironic “Fuck Pavement” t-shirt hung over Steve West’s kick drum and Bob Nostanovich doing what Bob Nostanovich does, which was a lot more than I thought – many of the vocal parts I thought were Scott Kannberg were in fact their invaluable utility player.

There’s been a lot of talk about whether Pavement will or even should continue after their reunion tour is over and the cheques are cashed, and as great as it was to see them and finally hear these songs live, I find myself falling in the “walk away” camp. They and their sound is so intrinsically tied to the ’90s college/alternative rock boom that they sound out of time and place when compared to the bigger, more aggressive sounds of contemporary acts. And I don’t think I’d want to hear them try to keep up or catch up… Pavement had a nearly perfect artistic arc from Slanted & Enchanted through Terror Twilight and this victory lap has introduced their legacy to a new fans and reaffirmed it to old. I think it should be left at that.

Photos: Pavement @ Aluminum Stage – July 18, 2010
MP3: Pavement – “Gold Soundz”
MP3: Pavement – “Rattled By The Rush”
MP3: Pavement – “Heckler Spray/In THe Mouth Of A Desert” (live)
MP3: Pavement – “All My Friends”
MP3: Pavement – “Greenlander”
Video: Pavement – “Major Leagues”
Video: Pavement – “Carrot Rope”
Video: Pavement – “Shady Lane”
Video: Pavement – “Father To A Sister Of Thought”
Video: Pavement – “Stereo”
Video: Pavement – “Painted Soldiers”
Video: Pavement – “Cut Your Hair”
Video: Pavement – “Gold Soundz”
Video: Pavement – “Range Life”
Video: Pavement – “Here”
MySpace: Pavement

Pitchfork – of course – has lots of coverage of their own party including interviews with many of the performers.

So that was my first Pitchfork Festival, and I would recommend it for anyone looking to do a festival without drowning in a sea of humanity. Yeah, there’s not really anyone on the lineup that you couldn’t see touring any other time during the year but seeing these acts test their mettle in front of much bigger crowds than their accustomed to is a different experience. On top of that, it’s quite a well-run fest, not too big and not too small (approximately 18,000 people), well-priced and located and with there’s a good selection of food and vendors and a poster and record fair that I wish I was able to spend more time at. In short, I had a great time. I’m not prepared to commit myself to attending next year – or any festival, for that matter – but if I get the itch to hang out in dusty photo pits while sweating my ass off for a weekend again, it could do the trick.

Check out my Flickr set from the fest for audience shots in addition to artists, though there’s not a lot of LATFH action – people looked disappointingly normal. And my best discovery of the festival? The Arnold Palmer – that is some tasty stuff. Thanks, Matt Picasso!

A return to non-‘Forky stuff tomorrow.

By : Frank Yang at 8:30 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post5 Responses.
  1. Colin says:

    You didn’t know about the Arnold Palmer??? It’s like, the most refreshing drink!!!

  2. Frank Yang says:

    well I know that NOW!

  3. Greg says:

    I could not agree with you more re: Pavement- walk away and be done with it. This coming from a big fan as well.

  4. Matt says:

    Haha. I’m here to help!

  5. Karl says:

    During the flash storm, I was driving to target to get a rain poncho, so convinced was I that one would be needed.