(Editor’s note: Our Pitchfork 2011 coverage was delayed by a lost phone and some unforeseen circumstances. Regardless, we hope you enjoy.)
DM – Dominick Mayer
JM – Jonathan Mondragon
Darkstar (Blue Stage, 1:00)
Dubstep has now hit its moment of market saturation. Even Pitchfork, a festival not usually all that kind to straight-up electronica, has boarded the train, with James Blake and now with Darkstar, an English trio whose sound incorporates dub, among a few other styles. At times their set moved closer to ambient, at others like drum and bass on a codeine drip. The common thread, though, was that the threesome had next to no stage presence; much like the bit of Gatekeeper I saw on Friday, it felt more like a basement jam session than a performance. It didn’t help that the Blue stage’s sound, which was hit and miss all weekend, was drowning out James Young’s already fuzzy, shoegaze-y vocals. DM
Yuck (Red Stage, 1:45)
A strong majority of the reviews for Australian alt-rockers Yuck’s debut LP have referred to it as a ’90s revival. That’s wholly true, in both good and bad ways. The positive perspective is that songs like “Get Away” recycle the harmonized choruses and 4/4 songs of top 40 radio 15 or so years back. When they’re firing on all cylinders, Max Bloom’s guitars recall some of James Iha’s early Pumpkins work and their songs as a whole occasionally get jangly enough to verge on Sonic Youth’s territory. The downside is that, really, this is all just pastiche; nothing about Yuck is particularly distinctive from any of the bands they’re clearly emulating. There’s just enough meter shifting and distortion to seem edgy while also remaining totally and utterly harmless. DM
Kurt Vile and the Violators (Green Stage, 2:30)
Though (like the vast majority of the weekend’s sets) some of the more hushed moments of Kurt Vile’s full-band set got lost amid a scorching day and a crowd eager to riot for OFWGKTA, Vile put on a remarkably solid set that occasionally but seldom erred on the side of overly mellow. At its best, Vile was throwing down the sort of “mid-fi” sound that’s become his trademark, and integrated acoustic guitar into a fuller electric sound that at time carried vague blues shades. At times it even held certain elements of a jam band set, but Vile, to his credit, kept things tight and rivaled Battles for the most controlled set of the weekend. DM
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (Red Stage, 3:20)
First of all, everybody at Pitchfork was seemingly at this set. As soon as group DJ Syd The Kid took the stage, a massive influx of people began from all sides. Kicking off with the playing of “One Love” followed by the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is The Love?” over the PA as group members profanely riffed on them, the set began with MellowHype, the side handle for Left Brain and Hodgy Beats throwing down on “64,” the single from their recently re-released BlackenedWhite. The beats, as with so much of Odd Future’s music, were dark and dirty, a seeming contrast to the beaming sun. It was a perfect setup, though, for Union Park to be turned into a sweaty punk venue for 45 minutes.
To a general roar, the full group came on, led by Tyler The Creator (on crutches, though this didn’t stop him from stage diving after only a few songs), and for the duration of the set, a set that has seemingly disappointed some expecting a full-on riot on the level of Rage Against The Machine’s collateral damage-heavy Lollapalooza set a couple years ago, they put on a tight, energetic and urgent set, bringing a kind of fury that has been lacking from so much of Pitchfork 2011.
Tyler, who was widely considered the wild card in the equation, was all smiles for a time, marvelling at the size of the crowd, but soon brought the fury, ripping into “French” and “Sandwiches” with a snarl and occasionally a full-on screaming fit. The group as a whole brought a passion that’s been desperately needed on many of the released mixtapes and LPs they’ve put out. Stage-diving and mostly leaving out the editorializing, Odd Future put on the set they needed to, if not the one that everyone wanted. Even the most offensive invectives were saved until the end, though Tyler and Hodgy busted out “Tron Cat,” arguably one of the group’s most offensive songs, and dedicated it to the domestic violence groups in the park.
The true highlight, though, was set closer “Radicals,” on record a comically ludicrous rant that took on the color of a genuine primal scream live. Is “Kill people! Burn shit! Fuck school!” one of the dumbest hooks since the birth of hip-hop? Quite possibly. It’s also one of the best anthems of disaffected youth since the zenith of punk rock. And in their own way, through good and bad, misogynistic and homophobic, morally right or wrong, that’s just what Odd Future are. DM
Kylesa (Blue Stage, 5:45)
Though Georgia natives Kylesa are often lumped into the sludge metal scene, this does a grave disservice to just how wonderfully bizarre their singular take on metal sounds, particularly in person. One of their hallmarks, the double-drumming attack from Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez, was stunning to behold for the perfect unison in which the two beat out increasingly complex rhythms throughout their set. Incorporating elements of psychadelia and some orchestral melodies, Kylesa both mess around with the general constructs of metal and play right into them, with singer Laura Pleasants delivering throat-shredding howls throughout. Though there’s a certain degree of forcible eclecticism that plays into a band like this playing Pitchfork, it was a sharp call on the festival’s part, and a fine set indeed. DM
Deerhunter (Green Stage, 6:15)
On tour for their most recent album, “Halcyon Digest”, Deerhunter has played a few shows in Chicago in the past year or so, and even now, they’re getting better. Sunday’s Green stage show was the absolute best time I have seen Deerhunter yet. Expertly mixed between ambient/noise interludes and actual songs, both the atmosphere and the energy added a great deal to their performance. Highlights like turning “Nothing Ever Happened” into a 10-minute jam and frontman Bradford Cox improvising some impressive vocal parts to go along with it truly made the set one of the best of the day. It’s good to see Deerhunter is still an awesomely tight and entertaining live band. JM
Toro Y Moi (Blue Stage, 6:45)
I checked out Toro y Moi’s set at the Blue stage while waiting for HEALTH’s set, and though it was not my kind of music, necessarily, I was impressed at how tight Chazwick Bundick’s live band was. Originally a solo project, Toro y Moi has grown to be a lot of fun live, considering it’s not just one guy onstage anymore. They played a good set, most of which was off their new album “Underneath the Pine”. Samples, keys, and guitars added atmosphere to the set, along with the funky bass and rhythmic drums. The sound was consistently great at the Blue stage, and Toro y Moi actually sounded really good. The only problem I could say I had with their set were the vocals. Inconsistent, wavering, and frequently off-pitch, I was disappointed that the vocals did not balance out the talent of the live band. Still, Toro y Moi live nowadays is a pretty good time and probably one of the best dancey sets of the weekend. JM
HEALTH (Blue Stage, 7:40)
I saw HEALTH the last day of Lollapalooza 2010 at 11am in the pouring rain. They played with towels all over their gear and were getting soaked as the set went on. Despite this, they still killed it and impressed everyone in attendance. Frankly, I didn’t think they could top that show. Even still, they did. With one of the best drummers in music today, a daunting number of effects, and more noise than the Blue stage’s speakers could handle, I can easily say HEALTH was my favorite act of Day 3. John Famiglietti’s long hair whipping around everywhere during their set was one of the most entertaining things of the whole weekend. Playing everything from their noisy and chaotic debut album songs, to their dancier, spacey new songs, there was literally not a mediocre moment in their entire set. The band’s energy as a whole was unparallelled and really got the crowd pumped. HIGHLY recommended. JM
TV on the Radio (Green Stage, 8:30)
I hate to say it, but the nameless sound guy at the Green stage struck again. Bad sound plagued TV on the Radio’s Sunday headlining slot, closing out the festival. I could hardly hear the band onstage from about 200 feet away. Regardless, TVOTR consists of some of the most phenomenally talented musicians alive. Playing an almost-flawless set of new and old favorites, they definitely did what they came to do: rock. An eye-opening surprise was their spectacular cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room,” which may have been my favorite cover of that song. The culmination of their entire set, however, was when they played “Wolf Like Me” and every single person around me just lost their mind for 4 minutes. You know for a fact that when a band is capable of doing that, they truly are something. It’s a shame the bad sound ruined it for a lot of people, because I was highly impressed and overjoyed with TV on the Radio’s performance! If you get the chance to check them out in your hometown, you will definitely not be disappointed. JM