Day two of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival saw all the rain the crowd could stomach, and then a bit more, as well as some serious genre-hopping no matter where you went. Heave brings you their observations and notes from a day that started in the rain and ended (for at least one writer) with lovely and ominous tones. Your contributors are:
DM – Dominick Mayer, features editor
MM – Marissa Morales, staff writer
Cloud Nothings (Red Stage, 1:45)
After catching a tiny bit of The Atlas Moth (more on that in the “other observations” section), it was time for Cleveland hi-fi lo-fi act Cloud Nothings, whose 2012 album Attack on Memory has been the recipient of deafening critical buzz, including our own. Frontman/guitarist Dylan Baldi, if not so vociferously wounded as on record, led the band through five tracks of strongly played, punk-tinged alt-rock. If a bit less energetic than the similar Japandroids set on Friday (which is saying something given how that one eventually ran out of steam prematurely), a small but extremely active contingent of the crowd distinguished Cloud Nothings’ performance. This rang especially true when the first downpour of the afternoon arrived midway through “Wasted Days” and its towering feedback breakdown, first shutting down Baldi’s amps and eventually the whole stage. Band and crowd alike were undeterred, though, hollering along to the song’s climactic refrain of “I thought I would be more than this!” until they were ready for it to be over. DM
Atlas Sound (Green Stage, 2:30)
The first act that I got to see to kick off my Pitchfork experience was Atlas Sound. It was a lovely set and involved a lot of swaying, and sighs of contentment. If you’re into a more atmospheric sound, I highly suggest checking him out. I heard as far as banter with the audience went, he made many similar jokes last year, but hey, he still puts on a lovely show seeing as it was pretty much just him and his guitar. I didn’t get a chance to see the very end of his set as the second wave of monsoon occurred then and I took shelter. MM
Liturgy (Blue Stage, 2:50)
“Transcendental black metal” purveyors Liturgy took the Blue Stage in truncated form on Saturday, as they were without both a bassist and a drummer (former skinsman Greg Fox recently left the band). This actually proved beneficial for their set, though, one that was far better than it had any real right to be, given the circumstances. By “circumstances,” I mean that vocalist/guitarist Hunter Hunt Hendrix and guitarist Bernard Gann played alongside a drum machine, one that created an oppressive wall of distorted, Garage Band-quality kick drumming that sounded closer to feedback-filtered buzzsaws. That, combined with Hendrix’s wounded-cougar growls and a brutal wall of guitars, turned Liturgy’s self-proclaimed “white metal” into a surprisingly effective dose of heavy-as-hell industrial rock. The weather cooperated in approaching the transcendence that Liturgy expect to bestow upon audiences; as Hendrix’s looped, monk-like chants began the set, a downpour began. The rain grew ever more furious, until the chants began again at set’s end, and the sun came out. Liturgy couldn’t have hoped for a better confluence of events. DM
Cults (Red Stage, 3:20)
I just love Cults. I’m a sucker for any type of throwback sound, especially if it comes from an adorable woman. And bless them for pushing through their set yesterday; if there was one thing I noticed, the Red Stage seemed to be having sound problems throughout the day. Madeleine Follin danced on the stage and seemed to genuinely be having fun, and lucky them, they helped usher in the nice weather.MM
Flying Lotus (Green Stage, 4:15)
Despite being the mastermind behind some of recent electronic music’s most beguiling, bizarre and wholly mind-blowing jams (his Cosmogramma is brilliant, even if prolonged exposure may in fact induce schizophrenia), Steven Ellison had the wherewithal to play to Pitchfork’s specific crowd, which on Saturday predominantly seemed to be a large group of people clearly there to party with him, Sleigh Bells and Danny Brown. To split the difference between his skittering personal output and a crowd-friendly DJ set, he delivered one of the odder Top 40 sets I’ve heard recently, sprinkled with a few tracks from his upcoming record Until The Quiet Comes. With tricks like placing a dose of heavy atmosphere over Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli,” or slowing “Pursuit of Happiness” down to codeine-drip levels (to say nothing of the crowd-popping appearance of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic”), FlyLo commanded the stage, stepping out from his kit to keep people moving and eventually laughing in both the face of Wild Flag’s overly loud soundcheck on the adjacent stage and the scheduled end of his set. Just when you thought he was done, FlyLo dropped a dirty dubstep remix of “Hard In Da Paint” and left like a rock star. DM
Wild Flag (Red Stage, 5:15)
The level of 90s revivalism has been surprisingly subdued at this year’s Pitchfork, especially in comparison to last year’s incarnation. (The positive tradeoff is there’s nothing quite so derivative as, say, Yuck.) However, that decade returned in fine form for 45 minutes midway through the day courtesy of grrl supergroup Wild Flag, whose sometimes jagged, often clean indie rock offered up an enjoyable, if slightly unremarkable, throwback set. Carrie Brownstein’s vocals resonated on tracks like “Future Crimes” to such great effect that, with no offense meant to capable fellow frontwoman Mary Timony, you wouldn’t be faulted for wishing she was singing all the songs. Or that Sleater-Kinney was onstage, but I digress. Wild Flag shook things up occasionally, with heavy feedback here and some 60s girl-group harmonizing there, but in general this was just a solid set, and not really anything more. DM
Sleigh Bells (Green Stage, 6:15)
If the rain and subsequent heavy sunshine sapped a bit of energy out of the crowd, Sleigh Bells forced everybody in their part of the park to get their shit together and go harder. The divisive bubblegum-gone-crunk-gone-metal act returned to Pitchfork, on the big stage this time, and with two albums under their collective belt so as to avoid the 30-minute sets that gave them the reputation of an underwhelming live act in some circles. For whatever one might have thought of their Saturday set, “underwhelming” feels like an inappropriate term. Everything was cranked up to excessive maximum, from the guitars (two massive stacks of Marshall amps flanked the stage) to Alexis Krauss’ post-apocalyptic cheerleader routine. That’s to say nothing of the bass-heavy mix, which caused the set to verge on oppressively loud at points, but then that’s the point of Sleigh Bells: attitude on attitude on attitude, with Krauss throwing herself around the stage, breathing through the majority of the band’s existing discography (“Rill Rill” being an island of respite amidst the endless attack). By the time they closed with a deafening rendition of “A/B Machines,” Sleigh Bells divided the ranks even further. Those who see them as nothing more than vapid pop, and those who see them as the torch carriers for all the most excessive phases of music over the past quarter century or so, are probably more convinced now than ever before. DM
Chromatics (Blue Stage, 6:45)
I’m assuming, due to weather, that something happened at the Blue Stage, since I was there for the remainder of the evening and most of the sets started a solid fifteen minutes (or more) later than they were supposed to. Chromatics was a lovely show, and though they’re not going to give you a ton of energy, they make you dance around and feel at peace with the world. I probably should have been on drugs for that set. I think if I were on mushrooms watching that set, I would have found all the answers to all the problems. MM
Danny Brown (Blue Stage, 7:40)
Full disclosure: this was the second time I have seen Danny Brown in the course of a few months. I enjoyed him the last time I saw him, and enjoyed him again. Say what you will, that man knows how to work a crowd. He had everyone over by the Blue Stage dancing and having a genuinely good time. He puts on a great live show, and I always recommend checking him out when he’s in town. Oh and that hair. So swoonworthy. MM
Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Green Stage, 8:30)
A few minutes into Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s headlining set, I commented half-jokingly on Twitter that I was shocked to see a group of people on a stage playing instrument, and not a chimera bursting forth from the ground to deliver harmonious tones. Such is the mystique of GY!BE, who’ve been mistaken for terrorists, politicized, shrouded in mystery by critics and by their own design, and generally turned into the kind of band that music aficionados and post-rock geeks love to drop into casual conversation. To see them allow photographers was equally surprising, given their elusive nature, but then playing Pitchfork in general seemed like a bit of a departure.
The set, in the simplest possible terms, was intimate in a way that so much of Saturday was not. Since much of the park seemed to either collapse back (partly due to the huge mud pit behind the sound tent) or head over to Grimes, GY!BE’s crowd was held in rapt attention; judging by the sight of the entire front row of the audience, drugs of varying powers likely played a part in this. After beginning with “Hope Drone,” GY!BE dug right into the feverish, seemingly neverending “Albanian.” In 90 minutes they only played five songs (“World Police and Friendly Fires” and “Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven/Gathering Storm” also appeared, as did a new track, novel given that the band have not released any new music in a decade now), but their subdued presence (none of the theatrical lighting of many a post-rock show here) and total control made for an experience unlike anything else at Pitchfork this year. DM
Grimes (Blue Stage, 8:40)
Ah, Grimes. I know she was a stage closer, but I’ve always felt like she’s this lovely secret not many people know about. WRONG. This was definitely the most insanely packed set I saw the entire day. It felt like everyone and their dealer was there to see Grimes. Her set didn’t disappoint. She’s tiny, but she was going crazy on that stage. Her voice is just as beautiful live as it is through my speakers. The one bizarre thing I will say is that I saw a couple of fights break out during her set, and seriously, you guys, who fights to Grimes? MM
-I caught the tail end of The Atlas Moth‘s day-opening set, and really wish I hadn’t screwed the pooch and arrived so late. All I heard was colossal, sludgy metal with trumpet and saxophone, and it was pretty damn great.
-Major shoutout to Black Dog Gelato, whose $3 cones got me through much of the afternoon. Those of you heading out for day three shortly: Check out the blueberry french toast gelato, and thank me later.
-Saturday was as packed as Friday wasn’t, but yet Godspeed You! Black Emperor still had a pretty moderately sized crowd. I don’t think the low mainstage turnout for headliners is a reflection on GY!BE (or Feist, for that matter), so much as a comment on the change in Pitchfork’s crowd. If not so much in terms of artists, Pitchfork is turning a bit into a mini-Lollapalooza just in terms of the crowd it’s pulling in.
-My start to the day on day two of Pitchfork had put me in, to put it mildly, a mood. But walking around and getting to see a bunch of sets with one of my best friends completely helped the situation. While the weather was a bit un-cooperative for a portion of the day, by the time the clouds had cleared everyone was itching to have a good time.
– Music parents are dedicated parents, I can’t even tell you how many children I saw under the age of six. All of them getting secondhand highs.
– Apparently a press pass means you know where the good after parties are.
– I am absolutely in love with Alexis Krauss. She definitely had the most energy I had seen all day, and she’s beautiful and she’s perfect and sigh.
– Bacon jam is a thing. Stop by the Goose Island tent and grab the grilled chicken sandwich. YUM.
– Carrie Brownstein does not care if you have a set going, she will do her soundcheck whenever she damn well pleases.
– Note to self: Just because you remembered sunblock this time around doesn’t mean you probably won’t need an umbrella.
Coming tomorrow: We wrap up our coverage of this year’s festival with Vampire Weekend, Beach House and a gaggle of awesome rock music inexplicably in the same 90-minute space in the early afternoon.