Monday, July 20, 2009

Pitchfork Music Festival 2009: Stray Thoughts

By Evan Rytlewski
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My wrap-up of this weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival is posted here, but here are some extra assorted thoughts and observations:

* Time Out Chicago cashed in on the Pitchfork crowd with a ridiculous cover asking: "Indie Culture: Does It Still Have Indie Cred?"

* Everyone over drinking age has a "Man, I feel old moment" at Pitchfork. Mine came when The Thermals covered Nirvana's "Sappy" and nobody seemed to notice; Sonic Youth and Breeders covers also flew under the radar. Thankfully, toward the end of their set the band covered Green Day's "Basket Case" to widespread recognition, which made me feel a little bit better. It's good to know the 1990s weren't just some elaborate dream that exists only in my head.

* MF Doom fans might not have known that their favorite masked supervillain was even playing Pitchfork, since the rapper is now billing himself simply as Doom. With his static, monotone flow, though, he's not a particularly compelling live performer. Finding out MF Doom was on the bill was one of the weekend's most exciting moments; actually seeing MF Doom, not so much.

* Pharoahe Monch, on the other hand, was pure energy during his Sunday set. Backed by X-ecutioner DJ Boogie Blind and a pair of big-voiced backing singers instead of the requisite hype man, the ornery, Afroed Monch hit pretty much ever highlight in his discography, from the soulful cuts on Desire to his city-crushing breakthrough single, "Simon Says." Monch's female singer crossed her arms and feigned offense at the song's most notorious lyric.

* The sound at the festival ranged from flawless to completely muddled, depending on where you were standing. That meant that MF Doom was actually out-bassed by the Norweigan electro savant Lindstrom, whose DJ set was unexpectedly (and welcomingly) uptempo. If space allows, Pitchfork really should consider getting a small DJ tent next year.

* Unsurprising: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's Saturday afternoon-pop sounds particularly great on a Saturday afternoon. I'd seen the band at a crowded club gig at South by Southwest and was underwhelmed; outdoors, though, their charm came across.

* There was no epic meltdown during Wavves' set, just a 25-minute delay and an unspectacular performance from an artist that doesnt yet have the songwriting chops to match his stylish, throwback sound.

* If Ponytail singer Molly Siegel had stopped rolling her pupils behind her eyelids, I might have been able to stay for the band's entire set.

* I'd say that nobody goes to these music festivals for the shopping, but it appears that at least some people do. I met a few people who spent the better part of Saturday shopping at boutique stands for clothes and jewelry. The record shopping, too, was surprisingly good. I picked up a copy of Nirvana's ultra-rare, Australian-tour-only, green-vinyl Hormoaning EP for $13.

* The singer for Cymbals Eat Guitars looks like a Cory Matthews from "Boy Meets World." Except he screams a lot. The band's debut album has been one of 2009's most overlooked pleasures; I expect even bigger, better things from them in the future.

* Tortoise should really release a live record. Some of their studio albums have a mechanical quality, but live the band was utterly gorgeous.

* Built to Spill surprised the unacquainted with their jamminess —almost every song in their set was well over the five-minute mark. With their epic, resounding guitar solos, they're one of the few acts that can make jaded indie-rockers want to twirl like hippies, but the most Bonnaroo-friendly set I heard this weekend actually belonged to Blitzen Trapper, who as I heard a couple people in the crowd mention, sounded an awful lot like the Grateful Dead.

* Favorite Tweet of the weekend: @Sharpless: "I'd like to live inside Doug Martsch's beard."

* Fucked Up's Pink Eyes spent his set ripping apart beach balls with his teeth. It's probably a good thing, then, that he played the day before The Flaming Lips' usual inflatable spectacle. He might have gnawed through their whole stage show.
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