Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pitchfork Music Festival 2007 - Sunday

After overdoing things a bit on Saturday, I was determined to have enough gas to make it through Sunday with energy at the finish. Once again, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, though there was less of a breeze today so keeping cool was crucial to maintaining a full tank.

Things began about ten minutes late as Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox took the stage looking like he stepped out of a Madonna video. Adorned with a silky dress, and a cross around his neck, he also wore a glove that suspended a mobile. The glove was quickly discarded and the group set about pumping out thick sounds for their half-hour set. While most of the bands seemed to build up the quality as their sets went along, Deerhunter started out hot. Their goal is as much about noise as it is sound. The consistent flow of noise from the stage enveloped the crowd, and people were clearly drawn in. I expected something more like Stereolab where the band would just get up there and play, so they impressed me.

We hustled over to the front of the stage for The Ponys’ set. Once again, major sound problems arose throughout their first three songs. Melissa Elias’ bass was not coming through the main speakers, and the vocals kept cutting in and out. We were close enough that we could hear everything because the monitors were still working. Unfortunately, the band didn’t realize they weren’t being amplified so they just kept playing. Finally, they got the bass going again and Elias played a few notes, as musicians often do when they get their amps back. Frontman Jared Gummere quickly said, “OK, stop playing so we can play!” Once the technical issues were behind them, they managed to rock out. And I must give Gummere a big thumbs up for wearing Nigel Tufnel’s t-shirt, even if it was the wrong color.
The multi-tasking musicians of Menomena had a large audience awaiting their set. As soon as they took the stage, they received a nice welcome from the crowd. Or maybe everyone was just excited to see a baritone sax at the ready. On their record, their layered vocals serve as the featured instrument, but live they came off as shy. Or perhaps they were simply too quiet. All three members sing, and all of them seemed a little shaky today. In general, their set was a bit loose. But their songs are great and they have a ton of potential. I’d love to see them at their own show. They probably need to go for vocal training if they want to put on a more compelling show.
We took a respite near the Balance stage and sat in the shade leaning against a fence. However, we were in a good position to take in NOMO, an Ann Arbor funk/jazz/rock/whateveryouwannacallthem outfit. We couldn’t see the stage, but from where we sat, the group was clearly and played some really good stuff. I could see them coming to Martyr’s one day. This set was the end of their tour, so we may have to wait awhile. From where I sat, I definitely dug them.

Jamie Lidell came across as a passionate and unique performer. I was interested to see just how he pulls off his one-man band act. He basically has two types of songs. On some, he beatboxes and does all kinds of electronic mixing and theremin playing behind a table. On others, he gets out in front and sings Motown-fashioned whiteboy soul with a backing track. Wearing a bathrobe (perhaps a kimono?) and bits of silver and gold-colored foil on his head, he could easily be performing the exact same routine in his bedroom. His music is not actually anything in particular, but it’s a whole lot of not anything. Despite being soul music, I can’t fathom there’s much meaning or importance to any of his songs. I liked his soul tracks a lot better than the busy electro-mixing routine. He definitely gives it all in his performance. I imagine a non-festival setting would work better for him.
What to say about Stephen Malkmus? I’ve never been a fan of him or Pavement. In fact, I always figured that Pavement was a band that critics adored, but had very few actual fans. Those in attendance on Sunday proved me wrong as many were quite enthused about Malkmus’ set. I sat on a blanket with friends far away from the action. He was fine I guess.

Reputed to have an extravagant live stageshow, Of Montreal did not disappoint. Here’s a list of all the random theatrics presented onstage: a guitarist with gigantic pink wings, much banner waving, a man dressed in a tight, black jumpsuit (who reminded me of the Domino’s Pizza Noid) who ran around the stage doing all kinds of random tasks, a golden Darth Vader and another man dressed in black hoisting up the Noid guy (who was now wearing an Eyes Wide Shut mask) on their shoulders so he could let his gigantic lobster-claw arm survey the audience… I’ll stop there, even though it’s only about halfway through the list. I think you get the idea. It was an impressive array of what I would call a whole lot of nonsense. I’m not steeped in Of Montreal’s music, so perhaps each of the acts on stage related to the song being played. I have to give them credit to put that much together. I wonder if they pull out all the stops when they play their own shows. Either way, this will get you asked back to a lot of festivals. It was really fun. The band played pretty well, but all the theatrics distracted from anything they were playing. That’s the drawback I suppose. It was definitely an enjoyable and memorable performance. Of Montreal Setlist:
Suffer for Fashion
Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider
We Can Do It Softcore If You Want
She’s a Rejecter
The Past is a Grotesque Animal
Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
Chrissy Kiss the Corpse
“New Song”
The Party’s Crashing Us
All Day and All Of the Night (Kinks cover)

The New Pornographers are nothing if not bright and cheery. When their set began I was immediately impressed by how tight they play, and how crisp their sound is. Heck, even their fans in the audience sing along in tune. How many bands can say that? They know what they’re doing onstage. When they played a new, unreleased track, they got the audience to clap along to ensure they wouldn’t lose interest. However, I have trouble getting too into this band because I wish they rocked harder. I’m not an indie-pop guy, and I feel like if this band would throw a little more edge into their music, the result would be more than what they have now. My original plan was to check out Klaxons at the Balance stage, but after last night’s sound and crowd problems, I instead chose to set myself up for De La Soul.
I was able to place myself about twenty yards from the stage, right in the middle. As soon as the set began I realized I had made a grave error. I was positioned directly behind my nemesis, Stringbean. For those who don’t know, Stringbean is the guy who’s really tall (minimum 6’3”) and doesn’t headbang, dance, or even twitch during a show. I don’t mind someone being tall, but you’ve gotta get moving during a concert so I can at least find a rhythm where we all get to see. Well, even though De La Soul immediately got everyone up and grooving, Stringbean stood pat. I couldn’t believe my mistake. Halfway through the set, a crowd-surfer came by and I was able to slip in front of my nemesis and all was right in the world. Oh, was it ever right. I really was completely out of gas after two days standing in the sun. But as soon as the music started, I found my second wind.
These guys are professionals. They know how to work an audience and got everyone going crazy. By the end of the set, even Stringbean was waving his hand over his head. He had his thumb tucked behind his index knuckle like a politician giving a speech, but he was doing his best. De La played a perfect mix of old and new, making sure they incorporated all the hits. The highlight had to be when Prince Paul came out and DJed for a couple songs and then just hung out on stage. But the peak as far as crowd energy and vibe was how they got the whole crowd to participate in the “Ahh, Ahh! Ahh, Ahh! Ahh AHHH!” at the start of Ego Trippin (Pt 2). It was an undeniable experience. Anyone who left early missed the most fun set of the entire festival.
Final thoughts. There really was no way for this year’s festival to top last year’s. There were too many stellar bands who gave top-notch performances. But I don’t think anyone came away disappointed. 35 bucks for two days? That’s unbeatable. Tim Tuten did a super job introducing the acts, so here’s his picture: There was so much second-hand smoke, I thought I was at the Empty Bottle. I wish they could set up a smoking pen, but I realize that would be impossible to enforce. Actually, there was even more second-hand ganja. It didn’t matter who was performing – weed was all around us. However, there was a surprising dearth of hippies. I didn’t even see one hippie dance the entire weekend. I did see one young man wielding a hacky sack, but apparently there was no one willing to join him. The weather was fantastic, food varied and plentiful, and water and beer reasonably priced. People complained about the bathroom lines, but the one time I went, I waited for all of ten seconds. The option to sit in between the stages on a blanket or lawn chairs is great. I saw some people complaining about it, but at long as it’s not near the front I say enjoy yourself. I did see one person camped out ten feet from a mainstage – that’s ridiculous. In sum, Pitchfork 2007 was a ton of fun. Maybe even too much fun. I know this guy had too much fun:
See you next year!


colin said...

Dude, the New Pornos rocked. How can you not dig their style? They play uptempo fun rock and roll! You're killing me. I loved their set and it seemed like everybody already knew the choruses to the new songs, which don't even come out for another month. Carl is definitely my hero and I had a ton of fun.

Of Montreal was pretty sweet too, but on a purely musical level, TNP are maximum win.

Reed said...

Colin, I think you're overreacting a bit. I thought I was pretty complementary, wasn't I? They played great, and are an impressive band. But I've tried for years to get into them and their music just isn't intense enough for me. The same could be said for a lot of poppier indie rawk bands (like Fountains of Wayne, Frisbie, etc. - that's not to say these bands are all the same - I just happen to have the same issues with all of them). It doesn't mean I don't like them conceptually. Do I have to like everything?

I never meant to kill anyone. Well, it'd be nice if Brian DePalma went away, but I have little control over that...

GXKaushik said...

great review. nice pics. i happened to love malkmus' set, being a longtime pavement fan. you're right though, pavement fans seem to be few and far between and roughly in their mid to late 20's. unlike pearl jam or nirvana, they're one band from that era who the young ones don't really dig.