Culture

Pitchfork 2011: Day 2

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(Editor’s note: Our Pitchfork 2011 coverage was delayed by a lost phone and some unforeseen circumstances. Regardless, we hope you enjoy.)

For the weekend, your contributors are:

DM – Dominick Mayer
JM – Jonathan Mondragon

Saturday:

Cold Cave (Green Stage, 2:30)

It’s hard not to compare Cold Cave to their immediate kindred spirits in danceable goth rock; namely, Depeche Mode, right down to frontman Wesley Eisold’s melancholic, subdued vocals that treble with an anguished timbre over every song. These guys have the ’80s mod-goth aesthetic down to a T, from the rising, lovelorn synths striking a contrast with Alex Garcia-Rivera’s thudding electric drums. There’s also the matter of the leather jackets, which they donned despite upper-90 degree temperatures, and which keyboardist Dominick Fernow rocked as he flailed around the stage delivering what can only be described as the most anguished rendition of the running man ever performed. Though their sound doesn’t exactly differ from their ancestors, or strike any particularly new ground save for an extra splash of noise melody, Cold Cave have mastered their medium to such a point where such concerns are mostly irrelevant. If the sun wouldn’t subside during their set, and felt a bit atonal with the sort of darkness taking place onstage, then they certainly did a hell of a job dragging it down for a short while. DM

No Age (Red Stage, 3:20)

Every time I have seen No Age, there is always the guarantee of loud, loud, loud. A duo consisting of Randy Randall on guitar and Dean Spunt on drums, they managed to fill an entire field with distortion, noise, and pure punk spirit. The sound was surprisingly clear and enjoyable on the Red stage and they played with loads of energy. Their set consisted of new tracks off of their newest album, Everything In Between, as well as favorites from their past two albums. A pleasant surprise was a spot-on cover of the classic “Hybrid Moments” by The Misfits. If there was one complaint to be made, it’s that the vocals were sort of weak, but this was to be expected when Spunt was playing drums with all his might at the same time. All in all, an enjoyable set from a band that definitely knows how to get a crowd going. JM

OFF! (Blue Stage, 4:45)

“We are going to bring a different flavor to the party today.” So Keith Morris began OFF!’s set, and so they did. The former member of Black Flag and Circle Jerks was distinctly the star of the show here, despite bandmates with notable legacy status of their own. He was also the most memorable part of a set that was, for the most part, a fairly standard punk show that wouldn’t have stuck out as part of Riot Fest but was all the more notable for its status as a Pitchfork set. OFF!’s First Four EPs, an overrated but nevertheless formidable album, formed the backbone of the set for this relatively new collective. Despite some technical issues throughout, including a bass malfunction that killed the set’s momentum, OFF! were solid, if not really all that memorable. If anything, crowds will remember Keith Morris, eccentric even at 55, spouting off pearls of wisdom like “Oh, that breeze is so nice. We got the best spot in the park for that breeze. Now…ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!” DM

Destroyer (Red Stage, 5:15)

Besides being Dan Bejar’s (The New Pornographers) main project, I did not know much about Destroyer. Backed by a 6-piece band of multi-instrumentalists, this was more than a solo acoustic set (which I was expecting). Mostly mellow and funky, though at times driving and loud, the set was a pleasure to listen to. Their usage of horns and keys processed through effects was interesting and quite unique. Dan Bejar displayed a great talent as a frontman that could actually put on a good show. Between the killer vocals, horns, funky bass, and overall wonderful backing band, Destroyer was a set I was glad I caught. JM

The Dismemberment Plan (Green Stage, 6:15)

The 2011 reunion of Dismemberment Plan was one of the biggest wins of the year. The fact that they played Pitchfork this year was the icing on the cake. With a reputation of being one of the most consistently talented, fun, and overall awe-inspiring bands out there, they definitely did not disappoint the sizable crowd there to see them at the Green stage.The band played a set containing a few surprises, with as deep cuts from their last album “Change” such as “Following Through” and non-album tracks such as “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich”. Most of their hits were played, as well.

If I were to say one thing that made this set absolutely awesome was frontman Travis Morrison’s wacky and wonderful stage presence.From bashing his head on the keyboard for the entire bridge to “Girl O’Clock”, to the hyper-stutter he used to sing the rest of the song, or the faster-than-Twista rapping on “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich”, or even his comedically inaccurate Ukrainian man impression, he was easily the best part of the set and got everyone talking after their set finished. If you have yet to catch Dismemberment Plan on their reunion tour, cross your fingers and pray to Dio that they book more dates! JM

DJ Shadow (Red Stage, 7:25)

If there was one artist I was surprised was playing Pitchfork, it was DJ Shadow. Primarily a composer of sample-based music and electronic DJ-centric live shows, I was wondering how well a main stage set would fare. Luckily, it was a success. Josh Davis is truly an expert in manipulating samples and sound to form a stunning live show. Besides the futuristic set he had behind him, it was basically just Davis and turntables, among other pieces of equipment. One thing’s for sure. He had the crowd going. A solid set that surprised many and showed the massive crowd how incredibly talented DJ Shadow is. JM

Zola Jesus (Blue Stage, 7:40)

Wow. That’s the first and most accurate thing to say about Zola Jesus’ late-evening set. Raised equally on bubblegum pop and opera, Nika Danilova combines those and adds to the mix industrial-tinged drum machines and synth to conjure harmonies that are at once lyrically haunting and dark. (Take, for instance, “Sea Talk,” which crosses trashcan drum distortion with a pure pop melody.) Those smart enough to stay around for her set and not go running off to Fleet Foxes witnessed something absolutely stunning, as her voice soared beyond the Blue stage and out into the rapidly encroaching night sky. Though ’80s revival has been the taste of the weekend so far, Zola Jesus and her band have done it the best by far, and in return she attained a kind of soaring beauty that left the crowd transfixed. And for her part, the shock kept seeping out; it was a beautiful contradiction to see this tiny woman with the powerful voice come down long enough to excitedly shout “Wow! What’re you all doing here?” And at the set’s end: “There are no words.” No, there were not. DM

Fleet Foxes (Green Stage, 8:30)

Robin Pecknold and co. put on a fantastic show. The vocals and instrumentation were more flawless than most live videos I have seen. Their set was full of a good balance of new and old songs, with a few Pecknold solo tracks thrown in. Highlights and personal favorite from the set were “The Shrine/An Argument” (with the sweet noisy saxophone solo and all), “Blue Spotted Tail” (which may be one of the most breathtaking acoustic performances I have ever witnessed), and the old favorite “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” (rewritten for the full band). Though I would love to say there were no complaints with this breathtaking set, the problem was the same as most of the sets of the weekend: bad sound.

There were times where, only 20 or so rows back, mind you, I could not hear the band over the crowd. My friends slightly to the right of the stage were having a hard time discerning if the band was playing or not because of the faint projection of sound and the bad sound mix. Forgiving this, though, and maybe even the mellowness of their set, I was pretty stunned to see Fleet Foxes pull off a headlining slot at a major summer festival, and I recommend you check them out to witness a band in fine form. JM