Thursday, July 23, 2009

reflections on Pitchfork 09

I was not expecting to be in Chicago last week until.. well, last week. The lovely surprise that was Pitchfork 2009 was just that, a lovely (charming? deserved? no, lovely) surprise. I went with my cousin Jacob and scads of cool people I've met over the years. Since there was total overlap of lineup and such, I'll include the awesome Friday show at the terrace in this.

Friday brought Yeasayer, Ponytail, Cymbals Eat Guitars, The Dutchess and the Duke, and The Antlers to the beautiful and windy Memorial Union Terrace. Before this show I'd really only listened to each band's most recent cd once or twice (except the fantastic yeasayer, who i've been following for a while). I enjoyed all of the performances (missed out on a good chunk of D&D, but I wasn't that captivated by what I saw from them) and enjoyed the weather that'd follow through for the rest of the weekend--cloudy with moments of sun (esp sunday) and minimal amounts of drizzle (none on friday, some on saturday). Nothing like the scalding lollapalooza 08 sun.

Saturday morning, Jacob and I woke up at 6 AM, showered, and hit the road for beautiful Chicago. My Saturday epitomized the awesome festival experience-I enjoyed shows I did expect to see and some I didn't, I spent time basking in the atmosphere, I hit a pretty respectable position in relation to stage : time spent waiting ratio. I won a threadless shirt and ate chicken satay. Despite enjoying the National to a fair degree, I totally enjoyed spending my last 45 minutes sitting on dirty grass far away, talking about high school gym classes with claire, danielle, and john.

After a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon and a train ride, the logical next step was to go to pitchfork and descend the staircase of decency to the level of 'awful mullet wearers'. I am an official world record holder for 'fastest mullet cut'. Since the last time I had my haircut was directly preceding a solitary trip to see the Thermals, I figured it was about time to pack my bags and head for the A stage. If one thing is sure, it is this: One thousand mullets could not have prepared me for the amazingness that is the Flaming Lips live. I know I'm late to the club, but I will travel to see them every chance I get. A week later, my brain is still buzzing with their songs.

Some highlights of the weekend, in chronological order:

The Antlers (Terrace)

I have never seen a performer handle on-stage equipment problems so gracefully. The front guy tried to fix his guitar tuning and it got out of wack. He proceeded to calmly and quickly retune his guitar in seconds, never stopping singing or showing his confusion. I know this is hardly the best reason to like the band, but it was very impressive.

Ponytail (Terrace/B stage)

Ponytail is up there with Flaming Lips for best show(s) of the weekend. I was not a huge fan before seeing them--interested, but not involved. After seeing them twice, I enjoy the cd much much more. As far as fun shows, this shoots to the top of my list, right next to Dan Deacon and Matt/Uncle Kimbo. Being feet away from the band(/fence, at p4k) certainly did not hurt.

Wavves (B stage)

Awesome. First I feel it's my civic duty to say, as someone in the front row, that Wavves did not go on late on their own accord--the fence was broken and the security bros did an awesomely inefficient job 'fixing it' (Congrats, guys!). Late starts aside, the show was great. Nathan seemed a ton more responsive and 'into' the crowd than at the Project Lodge this spring. They played a ton of new stuff. Very very interested to hear new recordings from them, especially after the ridiculously Panda Bear-y 'Mickey Mouse'. True, no 'Weed Demon', but enough 'wavvves' songs were played to sate my appetite.

Matt and Kim (B stage)


M83 (A stage)

M83 has a huge sound. Anthony Gonzalez slapped me in the face with his Fronch accent and soaring grooves. M83's drumming is sometimes comically epic, but it definitely fits with the rest of the band's feel. I still haven't purchased Saturdays = Youth but after their stellar live show I hope to acquire it soon.

The Flaming Lips (A stage)

Last week, I asked R Vergeront how he liked the Flaming Lips show. His response was along the lines of 'To say I really enjoyed it doesn't necessarily mean it was good'. I think this probably sums up a lot of people's feelings of the show. Wayne talked a LOT and due to it being a festival set, they could only play for about an hour and a half. This being said, they could have thrown dirt and rocks into the audience and only played 3 songs and it still would have been more awe-inspiring and incredible than almost any other show I've ever seen.

I've thought about it a lot, and I think several major factors played into how much I loved their show. First off, I was surrounded by people I knew. Somewhat inadvertently, I ended up being not only nearby Danielle and Claire but also Jeff, Todd, Jake, John, and so on. The feeling that all these people were experiencing the same overwhelming display that I was was pretty powerful.

Secondly, I was already riding a stressful-week-followed-by-near-perfect-weekend high that had me happily enduring the uncomfortable and cramped aspects of the show.

Thirdly, the Flaming Lips' visual display is, of course, infinitely more entertaining than most other bands'. My tendency to get sucked into overwhelming sensory stimulation was in full effect last Sunday night (no, I was not on drugs).

Fourthly, and probably most importantly, The Flaming Lips are a band that I have loved for years. So many concerts I've been to over the years have been of bands I've been listening to for a year, maybe two. Especially after moving to Madison, a large amount of the shows I've been going to have been of bands I've listened to for less than six months. On a whim, I purchased 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' in the summer after my twelfth birthday. That Christmas, I received 'The Soft Bulletin'. After growing with those two albums for seven critical years of my life, it's no wonder the emotional explosion I had during that concert was as profound as it was. From the drum riff that opens 'Race for the Prize' to the final reprise of 'Do You Realize??' my mouth was open in awe. It was a pretty incredible moment.

So yes, the weekend was a huge success. Virtually perfect, you might say. I got a free haircut. I made a world record. Will won 200 shirts. I got to see people that I love. I got to see Wavves and Ponytail and M83 and the Thermals and the Flaming Lips. I took the train, ate pancakes, pondered mysterious massage techniques. Great Great Great Times.

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