Pitchfork Music Festival: Day Two
Slumped over a plate of hash and eggs at craft beer and sausage haus Bangers and Lace, I take a sharp pull from my Michelada, and realize it’s time to drop some cash on the table, zip up my rain coat, and take off to Union Park for day two. It’s deja-vu for this year’s doomed Pitchfork Music Festival goers. The sky divided almost perfectly into two torturous colors: a bright, cloudless blue, and a lingering “you suck” gray. If I want to catch any of Cloud Nothings’s set without getting supersoaked and mud-fucked right off the bat, I gotta go now.
We see you ...
As opposed to Friday, opening acts The Atlas Moth and The Psychic Paramount began the festival on a prompt note. I push through an impressive early-morning crowd towards the Red Stage; the baseball diamonds that were, just a few short hours ago, mini-lagoons, appear nearly baked and hardened from the morning’s relentless, stale heat. Shoulder-to-shoulder between an 11 year-old ginger kid and a ripped Mexican dude with a septum piercing, I hear “We’re Cloud Nothings from Cleveland, Ohio." Before I can even put my concealed flask of Sailor Jerry up to my lips, a near-mosh dance party erupts for as far as I can see, a rare occurrence at shows much anymore on this scale, let alone at a festival. (tear rolls down cheek)
I’m a native Clevelander and I can say firsthand that not a whole lotta “good” has come out of my hometown in recent years, especially not since Lebron took a crap on all of our faces and packed up shop for South Beach. Cloud Nothings produce a brand of blue-collar, straight-forward, skuzzy indie rock that my fellow C-town boys and girls should be proud of. Pitchfork even hailed their latest LP, Attack on Memory as the first “Best New Music” release of 2012. The youthful quartet led by, 20 year-old Dylan Baldi, went straight for the jugular, thrashing through a gratifying “Stay Useless” opener, hitting an impressive stride as they blew through cuts from their entire discography with angst and fury.
Pretty face, we see you.
It’s a shame that Mother Nature came back to pay us a visit midway through what could have been one of the best sets of the day, and she did so in a big, shitty way. Thick, hard rain swallowed the festival grounds for nearly the next hour. Cloud Nothings bravely played on, twisting dials and blasting scratchy reverb and feedback into the blinding fields, until the soundboard succumbed to the elements and finally gave out.
As the rain seemed to slowly wane off, Bradford Cox took the Green Stage solo under his Atlas Sound moniker. Clad in a short sleeve polka dot button-down, Orville Redenbacher-esque straw hat, and full white facepaint, Cox beautifully and hypnotically strummed through his set as attentive fans listened in an eerie, silent appreciation. The misty downpour and grey skies couldn’t have been more fitting as a backdrop to his Parallax heavy set, but his cover of Roscoe Holcombe’s “Moonshiner” was the clear standout. Disappointingly, Cox too was forced to cut his set short after he bummingly declared to the crowd, “I’m sorry, the rain has killed my shit”.
Happy to be alive.
More disappointment follows as Cults appears on the Red Stage for soundcheck. As the sun finally returns to the grounds of Union Park, guitarist Brian Oblivion charms the crowd with some pre-show banter. “Which one of you pushed the sun button? Was it you? Fuck the rain, fuck the rain, fuck the rain… and fuck that church over there that gave it to us!” When the second half of the noise pop duo, Madeline Follin, emerges from backstage and joins Oblivion and other band members, she is met with some pushback from front-of-house, as her vocals drift and crack intermittingly through the speakers during hits like “Go Outside” and “You Know What I Mean," until not at all. After three songs, her vocals are restored and the cheery, sunburnt and sweat-drenched cool kids are smiling, tripping face, and dancing in the mud again.
Following Cults, I make my way briefly to check out Nicolas Jaar, an artist I newly discovered prior to the festivities and high on my “must-see” list. The rain has pushed his set back nearly 30 minutes, and by the time the first sax note and bass beat are dropped, I am already biting my nails in an anxious fit. If I don’t fight through the mellow throng of dope-smoked, catatonic “minimal techno” heads now, I’d put myself in danger of missing Wild Flag. Two gorgeously laid down jams later, I sling my backback over my shoulder and journey through the madness to see Carrie Brownstein and crew. At least I got to hear some of “Space is Only Noise."
Somehow, this is my first Wild Flag show. Obviously, I am well-familiar with Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney and her recent Portlandia fame, and the Wild Flag debut album placed high on my year-end list for 2011. Above all of that, I just kept hearing that this four-piece all female supergroup were as fiery, ferocious, and “fuck yeah” as it gets live When they open with a scorching cover of Television’s “See No Evil," I lose my shit. From there, drummer Janet Weiss and multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Cole harmonize and jam through a feedback-heavy “Racehorse," leaving my face melted and jaw in the mud. I recognize at least one new song premiered early in the set. So much dancing. So much energy. 45 minutes later, I get it now. Please come back to Chicago soon.
Finding shade under a tree near a food stand that smells like a newly dead cow (I mean this in a delicious way), I gulp down some warm Heineken and await Alexis Krauss and Derek Edward Miller of Sleigh Bells to appear on the Green Stage. I always found Krauss’s vocals to be a bit monotone, which is why I never really gravitated to Sleigh Bells, but finally experiencing “Comeback Kid," “Infinity Guitars” and “Kids” blasted like a neon sonic boom to the brain, I gladly eat my words. Krauss thrusts at the crowd wearing a typical rhinestone-studded black leather coat, white ripped ass-shorts, and stockings, delivering the goods as MVP female performer of the day (Brownstein excluded, of course).
Half-deaf and danced-out, it’s time for another highly anticipated act a few short steps away. Hot Chip released In Our Heads just about a month ago, earning an impressive “8.0” on the Pitchfork scale. A worthy rating after their more somber and somewhat disappointing One Life Stand (still has its moments, fa sho). Another band I have never seen live, but this time I have no expectations, just hoping to get my second dance wind back. Alexis Taylor emerges in what appears to be a black Chanel T-shirt, hoop earrings, purple-hued shades, and a blinged-out watch, with the swagger and appearance of Noel Gallagher and P. Diddy. For an electronic band that’s been together for over a decade now, they sounded more crisp and together than ever as they grooved hard through expansive hits like “And I Was a Boy From School," “Over and Over," and “Ready For The Floor." By the set’s end I’ve jumproped in a mud pit, crowdsurfed, boogied with a 400 pound woman with dreads, and even heard my favorite song off the new album, “Motion Sickness." The most balanced, high-energy set of the day goes to Hot Chip. Cheers to you geezers for a job well done!
Bailing on the I-can’t-fucking-move Grimes crowd, I head into the final day of Pitchfork with hopes of catching: Ty Segall, Real Estate, Kendrick Lamar, AraabMuzik, Beach House, and Vampire Weekend.
Your dad was there.
Why is she so mad at her ice cream?
Look at that lady's face.
Previously: Pitchfork Music Festival day one.
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