mtvU rounded up blogger Taylor Johnston to report back from the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, which took place the weekend of July 17th. Here’s what Taylor had to say about Saturday’s acts. Check back in tomorrow for the Sunday reviews and follow both Taylor and mtvU on Twitter.
You can also check out Taylor’s photos from the show.
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Cymbals Eat Guitars have been a favorite of mine since I heard their debut album early this year. My anticipations were set very high for their live show but they still managed to blow me away. For being a such a new band, there was a surprisingly large crowd gathered, something that Joseph sheepishly commented on while expressing how excited they were to play the festival. If they were nervous though, it was impossible to tell after they started playing. They were loose, energetic, and very fun to watch. The band also proved to be formidable musicians, especially for a group of guys barely out of their teens. There’s no doubt that they made a ton of new fans among the crowd and they set the bar extremely high for the rest of the festival.
Dutchess and the Duke
Based on reading some recommendations online, I decided to check out a few songs from The Dutchess and the Duke. I was pleasantly surprised by the band’s American Gothic brand of folk rock which sounded both raw and soulful. The duo expanded to a six-piece for this show bringing some local friends on stage to fill out the percussion, keys, and harmonies. I’ll definitely be checking out more of this band.
If there is ever an example of a band’s live show living up to there name, it is F**ked Up. Musically,their hardcore punk is really not my thing, but you have to appreciate the insane antics of bald, beer-bellied frontman, Pink Eyes. Near the beginning of the set he used his teeth to rip open a beach ball which he then wore over his head. Later on he tore apart a baby doll that was thrown on stage, all while thrusting himself into the crowd and growling into the mic. Perfect example of a band that I would never listen to on record but couldn’t take my eyes off live.
I was overjoyed when The Antlers were added at the last-minute to this festival. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying their album Hospice, and have been anticipating seeing the live reproduction of the well-crafted songs. The band’s music is melodic and haunting with occasional bursts of shoegazey guitar led by Peter Silberman’s captivating vocals. They were able to produce a very full-bodied sound for a three-piece and I was entranced by the impassioned performances of truly gorgeous songs like “Bear” and “Two”. The combination of melody and the heartbreaking lyrics sent shivers down my spine on a couple different occasions.
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart got a huge boost when Pitchfork gave them BNM this year and the band played in front of a sizable crowd anxious to hear their fuzzy twee pop anthems. For being as young as they are, the band certainly have some impressive live chops. It seemed, at times, they may have little ways to go before being completely comfortable on stage, but arguments could be made (and won), though, that the shy glances and the sometimes awkward stage movements all add to their charm. And really though, with enormously catchy source material like “Stay Alive” and “Young Adult Friction”, it’s hard to go wrong.
Owen Pallet a.k.a. Final Fantasy may seem at first like an odd choice for the Pitchfork main stage, except for an brief appearance by Beirut trumpeter, Kelly Pratt, Owen stood alone on stage depending solely on looping violins and keyboards for instrumental accompaniment. Pallett seemed to be up to the difficult task captivating the audience with his complex musical arrangements and delicate melodies. His ethereal songs like “He Poos Clouds” and “The Lamb Sells Condos” are wonderful pieces of experimental pop and he performed them beautifully.
It was pretty amazing to see how far Yeasayer has come since I saw them two years ago on a small stage with just over a dozen people watching. The band have now added another member on percussion and keys (the ever-talented Sinkane) which helps to highlight their danceable rhythms. They’ve also improved their stage prescence overwhelmingly with dynamic lead singer Chris Keating leading the charge. The band’s sound is an organic rush of electronica-based psychedelic jams. It’s only fitting that their mystical grooves brought the only two instances of rain in the afternoon.
Doom was one of the only rappers to play on the main stage this year and while seemingly his creative rhymes and mysterious persona would have played well to the crowd, Doom felt like he was sleep-walking through his set. Also, with his Kanye-like late-arrival on stage and continuous accusations of lip-synching, if there’s one artist sure to not get another invite, it’s this one.
It’s hard to believe after watching the seasoned professionals of Beirut that just a couple years back the band was nothing more than a 20-year old with a ukelele and some home recordings. Zach Condon and his crew of mult-instrumentalists have now become one of the premiere indie folk bands and now seem to thrive on stage utilizing everything from accordian to trombone. The band swooned the crowd with his now-classic Eastern European chamber folk like “Postcards from Italy” and “Elephant Gun”.
Although many were surprised that The National took the headlining spot on Saturday, a band who just three years prior were in an early afternoon slot, I think everyone would agree after their breathtaking set in front of the biggest audience of the day, that the position was a much-deserved. After years of seemingly endless touring, the band’s live performance is elegant and vibrant. Whether it was fist-pumping rockers like “Abel” and “Mr. November” or glistening ballads like “Fake Empire” and “All The Wine,” the band shone, providing a performance that every rock band should aspire to, indie or otherwise.