Pitchfork Music Festival Union Park, Chicago IL July 13 to 15


Bigger and better were the best two words to sum up Pitchfork’s third annual summer festival. With very few changes made to the popular website’s spectator-friendly parameters (still cheap drinks, food and admission), it was quite simply the magnitude of artists invited that made all the difference. Collaborating with All Tomorrow’s Parties’ Don’t Look Back series, Slint opened Friday’s proceedings with their seminal Spiderland, which despite its haunting assertion ignited an awestruck crowd’s goose bumps. While GZA brought along Cappadonna and Killah Priest to relive Liquid Swords, the execution didn’t exactly feel as sharp, though he had the crowd going, especially when adding ODB tribute "Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” Sonic Youth started a "middle-age riot” playing the immaculate Daydream Nation with the hypnotic bustle of 20 years ago. Saturday brought out a mix of Pitchfork faves on three stages with mixed results. On the larger Aluminum and Connector stages moodier acts like the Twilight Sad, Grizzly Bear and a hairier Iron & Wine lightened up the day, while the bullish sounds of Voxtrot turned miserable, thanks to a heavy emphasis on their pedestrian full-length. The listless Beach House couldn’t over come the Balance Stage’s sound problems, but Professor Murder did with their rhythmic bomb dropping. Both Battles and Mastodon put on technical clinics, showing why they’re both masters of dynamic precision and excitement. Clipse brought their "rock” rap in full, dropping arguably the fest’s anthem, "Wamp Wamp,” with Slim Thug by their side. Closing out the night, Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues did their best with a number of classic covers, but the night needed some exhilaration to go out on. Dan Deaconand Girl Talk delivered, causing riots on Balance with their twitchy pulsations — the fact that it got dangerous made it all the more legendary. Yoko Ono, a legend in her own write, perplexed with her Onochord experiment, which despite a lengthy cameo by Thurston Moore, didn’t connect with everybody — largely due to a trying instructional video. The mesmeric psychedelic perversions of Deerhunter proved they’re the real deal on all fronts; unfortunately, the Ponys, Brightblack Morning Light and Menomena proved they’re suited more for the studio. Junior Boys brought the party putting the crowd into a frenzy with "In the Morning,” which Jamie Lidell kept alive with his one-man glitched out soul wizardry. Cool Kids warmed up the crowd with their old school anthems, but it was a stage-diving Cadence Weapon and his DJ Weasel who wowed, breaking out new material that left me speechless. A rumoured Pavement reunion didn’t occur with a lonesome Stephen Malkmus, but old buddy Bob Nastanovich saved his friend, joining him for some oldies like "Trigger Cut” and "We Dance.” Of Montreal got their freak on, literally, with an array of costumes that overshadowed their jumbled psych circus. The Field’s shoegazing trance may have felt out of place, but Axel Willner got the feet of hungry onlookers moving. New Pornographers were sans Chicagoan Neko Case, which was as disappointing as hearing their new uninspiring album. But the weekend ended on a rush of energy: Klaxons got their riot on in front of the packed Balance stage, substituting that "rave” energy with vitriolic punk and a Cadence Weapon guest appearance; and De La Soul provoked a sea of pogoing bodies that waved all hands in the air with their good vibration hip-hop. In the end, it was another triumphant event that didn’t go off without a few hitches, but nothing that stopped it from being once again, the best fest money can buy.