Pitchfork Music Festival Union Park, Chicago, IL - July 29 to 30, 2006

On the hottest weekend of the summer, influential online music publication Pitchfork curated the best-organised music festival I’ve ever attended. Their grassroots approach meant no corporate sponsors, tickets were inexpensive ($30 for two days) and bottled water was a buck! On Saturday, the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle used his verbose, lo-fi pop as a brainwashing mechanism; when he said "pogo,” the crowd bounced without hesitation. Dan Bejar and Destroyer chose simply to exhibit their dynamic band interplay, which served as a testament to the music’s richness. Heroes for many, Art Brut dazzled with their enthusiasm, as front-man Eddie Argos made a beeline to the pit to ensure they’d be a sure-fire festival highlight. With immediate love from the crowd, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists came out blazing with a rousing bag of new and old songs that took the tempo up a notch, while the Walkmen fell flat and failed to ignite the fire that often rages when they’re on stage. Thankfully, the Futureheads picked up the slack and gave the eager fans the best performance of the day with an electrifying set that finally allowed fans to dance around the main stage. Silver Jews delivered the exact opposite with their rare appearance, which as lovely as it sounded, was too much of a dozer to close the night. Sunday had the stronger roster and it didn’t disappoint, with the National proving that just because they brood doesn’t mean they can’t deliver a stirring set. Liars brought weirdness to the masses with stupefying noise bursts that fried brains much like the hot stage fried front-man Angus Andrews’ feet. Mission of Burma represented the more senior populace with piss and vinegar, demonstrating that grey hair doesn’t always slow you down. As expected, Devendra Banhart’s hairy love-in killed the momentum. Despite an amusing cover of Lauryn Hill’s "Doo Wop (That Thing),” my dead-tired, sun-stroked body wasn’t in the mood for hippies looking to jam incessantly. Yo La Tengo gave an anticipated sneak preview of their unreleased album, unfortunately ignoring the songs people actually knew. Spoon gave it their best but even with a tight set the worshipped indie rockers were flattened by the promise of headliners Os Mutantes. The legendary Brazilians brought the festival to a rapturous close with a rare and awe-inspiring performance that incited a welcome communal vibe and turned everyone into hotsteppers. Not only has Pitchfork put a stranglehold on music journalism, now they own the festival circuit. Damn, they’re good.