PAPERMAG correspondent Justin Goncalves packed a toothbrush and a dream and headed Midwest-ward to check out the indie rock wet dream that is the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival. Here’s his report from the front lines.
Going into the weekend, Sunday seemed the least promising of the three days at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Sure I was excited about Of Montreal (I've seen them four times already!), but I hadn't bought into the Deerhunter hype and De La Soul headlining sounded like a cop-out more than anything. I'm happy to report that I was very wrong.
Unlike Saturday's crowd, which trickled in bit by bit over the course of the day, Deerhunter's early set rought attendees en masse. Everyone's heard a lot about this Atlanta group after their debut album Cryptograms, and if they haven't, they at least know about Bradford Cox's Marfan Syndrome, usually assumed to be anorexia or drug addiction (this is what happens when you assume). But it his hasn't stopped him before (check out the band's MySpace page and you'll see what I'm talking about), and it certainly didn't Sunday afternoon. Cox strutted out onto the stage like a thirteen-year-old playing dress up in his grandmother's closet, wearing a hideous beige dress and a rosary around his neck.
Deerhunter's Bradford Cox
Costumes aside, Deerhunter's set was a festival highlight, the perfect way to kick off Sunday. They created a veritable wall of sound with mounds of echoes and layers of delay and reverb not unlike Saturday's standout, Grizzly Bear. Almost too perfectly, Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen and Chris Bear brought some additional umph to the set's closer, providing another great collaborative moment and proving once again that Grizzly Bear owned this festival.
Next up was the Ponys, a straightforward guitar rock band reminiscent, at times, of Arcade Fire minus the anachronistic instrumentation.
Their set was fun, though it was plagued by some of the worst sound problems of the day. For an entire song, the only music coming from the stage was coming out of the band's monitors. That was a bummer. Here's a picture of the band's bassist, definitely the most photogenic Pony.
Post-Ponys, I marched my way over to Menomena, who were setting up their arsenal of instruments. With only three band members, I knew I was in for something a little strange, and strange it was. As great as it might seem to combine a baritone sax line with some rock drums and ethereal keyboards, something just didn't work. It might've been the vocals -- they weren't really on the mark today -- but the band's set sounded sparse, as if the decisions they had made musically were done so for the sake of sounding odd.
Rocking out with Menomena
Junior Boys were up next and, though I hadn't really listened to their So This Is Goodbye, the few tracks I did give some time to didn't catch my ear. But with nothing better to do, I put on my sunglasses, tied back my bandana, and enjoyed the dance party. While there were some sound issues (yes, again), the set was thoroughly enjoyable. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Greenspan effortlessly maintained the crowd's attention, doing little more than swaying back and forth throughout the set.
Back in June, I came across a track by a Chicago based rap duo The Cool Kids. The self-proclaimed "Black Beastie Boys" are a hometown favorite and it showed, as the crowd filled the side stage. Everybody was moving; everybody's hands were in the air swaying on command. It was the way a hip-hop show should be (we'd see this again later with De La Soul). By going back to old-school hip-hop, the Cool Kids avoided any overwritten, self-indulgent verses. Neither Mikey Reed nor Chuck Inglish were there to outdo the other. Instead, it was time for a party, and a party it was. Mikey at one point even said, "People say people don't rap about nothin' anymore. This song's about nothin', but it sure sounds good to us."
"Black Beastie Boys" The Cool Kids
I made the decision to skip out a bit early on the Cool Kids set in order to get a good spot for Of Montreal. After all, what better stage would there ever be for Kevin Barnes' notorious theatrics? Throughout the crowd, there were talks of whether or not he would get naked -- not out of the ordinary -- or, if not, how ostentatious his costume would be. The music was great and the crowd (myself included) danced with approval. As for Kevin Barnes, this about sums it up:
Of Montreal, looking kinky
Though I couldn't get a photo, he came out in a g-string for the encore, an arousing cover of the Kinks' classic "All Day and All of the Night."
By this time, it was nearing sundown and indie rock superstars the New
Pornographers were set to hit the stage. Their set was fine, with the high points coming during "The Bleeding Heart Show" and "Slow Descent into Alcoholism." However, without the combined star power of Destroyer's Dan Bejar and the ever-lovely Neko Case, A.C. Newman and company had a bit of a hard time maintaining the crowd's energy.
Closing out the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival was old-school hip-hop group De La Soul. Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove and Pasemaster Mase formed the group in 1989 on Long Island, and, like the Cool Kids, these guys knew how to bring the party and had the crowd moving. While there were a few hardcore fans, though one got the sense that many people (myself included) had little more than a cursory knowledge of the group. No matter, cause these guys should be teaching a class on audience participation, getting even those waiting on line for the bathrooms to do "the Walrus" -- a simple dance maneuver in which your upper body, from your waist upward, back and forth, like, well, a walrus. But believe you me, people were doing much more than the Walrus, with the rare but always enjoyable hip-hop crowd-surf even making its way into the set. De La Soul brought the party and closed the weekend with a bang.
Overall, the 2007 Pitchfork Festival was great. Did it have its flaws? Sure. Am I going backhttp://paper5.client.logicworks.net/mt-static/images/formatting-icons/email.gif next year? You bet.