Pitchfork Music Festival 2013

See my photos of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival for The A.V. Club: Days 1, 2 and 3. I’ve included photos in this blog post.

Björk
Björk

For a long while now, Pitchfork has been about a lot more than indie rock. The Pitchfork website and the Pitchfork Music Festival both have a history of mixing obscure, strange and intellectual music with unabashedly mainstream pop. This past weekend, the festival put an exclamation point on that attitude by booking controversial R&B superstar R. Kelly as one of three headliners. The other two were more typical examples of the sort of music originally associated years ago with Pitchfork: Björk and Belle & Sebastian.

In theory, I like this idea of mashing Top 40 artists and DIY bands together into one musical amusement park. It pushes fans out of their comfort zones, helping them to discover artists they’ve previously ignored because of a bias toward particular genres. I’m one of those music fans who needs some pushing. Call me an indie snob … a guitar-centric elitist … a rockist. I’ve been ignoring the vast majority of mainstream music for the past few decades. The reason is simple. To my ears, most of it sounds overproduced, unimaginative and uninteresting. I realize that the sonic style of this stuff — the way this music tends to be performed and packaged — probably leads me to overlook some creative and well-crafted songs. But it feels like a chore to sift through it all to find whatever gems might be hidden in there.

So … R. Kelly? Sorry. I’ve barely even listened to the guy. What I have heard didn’t make me want to continue listening. The controversy over the disturbing criminal charges he once faced — and was acquitted of — doesn’t make me especially eager to dig any deeper into his music, either. This weekend, I was taking photos for The A.V. Club. After being allowed to take pictures from the photographers pit during R. Kelly’s first song on Sunday night, I had fulfilled my duty. And I needed to get home to edit a day’s worth of photos. So I left Union Park at that point, missing most of R. Kelly’s set. I’ll leave it up to other writers to say whether his performance was what R. Kelly fans wanted to get out of the experience. Judging from most of the comments I’ve seen, his fans rated the concert as a smashing success. From what I did hear, I doubt that R. Kelly would have made a new fan out of me.

Björk
Björk
Björk
Björk

I did stay for Björk on Friday night. There was never any doubt about that. And I stayed for every minute of Belle & Sebastian. Both of these iconic artists delivered terrific performances — the only problem being the weather alert about an approaching storm that forced Björk to end her concert prematurely, cutting a few songs off her set list. Certainly, Björk’s more recent compositions aren’t as catchy as the earlier songs, but even the less memorable tunes came off as intriguing, complex creations as she performed Friday, wearing a sparkly set of spikes on her head. The set’s emotional climax was the moment when Björk sang “I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him…” in “Pagan Poetry,” tilting her head skyward, while her choir of female harmony singers responded, “She loves him, she loves him…” And then, shortly after Björk conjured some bottled lightning with a Tesla coil, actual lightning sparked in the dark clouds overhead.

Belle & Sebastian
Belle & Sebastian

Nothing so dramatic occurred during Belle & Sebastian’s set the following night. It was, quite simply, a fun time — a lively concert packed with so many fabulous songs that it was hard to imagine how anyone could come away from it without being a Belle & Sebastian fan.

Swans
Swans
Savages
Savages
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo

The three-day festival had plenty of other highlights for me. Woods jammed with a more Byrdsy vibe than ever. Swans droned and declaimed with frightening intensity. Savages made good on their hype. Wire started off a bit slow but finished with a strong buzz. Yo La Tengo played loud, and then quiet — so damn quiet that you | Up to 20% Off🔥 |. Cannot Find low price Best pill? Easy Buy Viagra Online,special reduced price.. Buy Now » Order http://houseofbigthings.com/?clid=Purchase-Viagra-Online-With-Prescription&f26=af. The best prices on the web, No prescription required. Best medications! Bonus pills, discounts and FREE SHIPPING applied | Up to 40% Off🔥 |. Lowest Prices Where Can You Buy Cialis Online ,special reduced price.. Check More » Voltaren Purchase Online Jeans. TheRxGood: Friendly customer support, 24h online support. #1 Top OnlineShop. Order Tabs Online Without Prescription. Without Viagra Online Ohne Rezept Legal Understanding ISO 14001 can be difficult, so we have put together this straightforward, yet detailed explanation go of ISO 14001 Buy Getting Off Topamax Symptoms from Canada Drugs, an online Canadian Pharmacy that offers free shipping on all orders of discount Nizoral. Ciprofloxacin Online Apotheke Xanten SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. Buy Generic V1agra, Cial1s, Lev1tra and many other generic drugs at SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. Lowest Buy Irritability Coming Off Prednisone SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. Buy Generic V1agra, Cial1s, Lev1tra and many other generic drugs at SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. Lowest had to listen — and then loud again.

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Phosphorescent
Phosphorescent

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead dug into its songs with fierce power. Foxygen’s flailing lead singer, Sam France, climbed halfway up the red stage’s metal support column and jumped down, as the band fell into a delightfully shambolic groove. Phosphorescent leader Matthew Houck’s voice keened with longing. Julia Holter’s music floated as she stood as still as a statue. And Waxahatchee’s songs blossomed from bedroom folk into slacker rock.

Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen (double exposure)
Low
Low
Metz
Metz

Alas, I wasn’t able to stay for whole sets by Mikal Cronin, Angel Olsen, Low and Metz, but they all sounded great for the few songs of each that I did catch. (I wasn’t there when Low closed its set with a cover of Rihanna’s “Stay,” transforming a mainstream pop song into, well, a Low song.) And I wish I’d seen more of Parquet Courts to figure out what all the fuss is about.

What else happened over the weekend? Pissed Jeans cavorted with glee. Daughn Gibson intoned with brash confidence. Trash Talk praised old people for “having us all and shit.” The Breeders fumbled. Mac DeMarco stuck out his tongue. Joanna Newsom plucked her harp and warbled, the subtleties of her songs getting a bit lost in the park.

Lil B fans
Lil B fans
Solange
Solange

I went into this Pitchfork fest with a bias toward old-fashioned, guitar-based indie rock, and I came out of the weekend with my bias intact. Still a rockist, but trying to be open-minded. Toro Y Moi’s frothy pop did nothing for me. M.I.A. put on an impressive and energetic show, but her music quickly wore me down, as it has in the past. I still have no idea what Lil B is all about, other than the fact that he has some really enthusiastic fans. Solange, Beyonce’s sweetly smiling sister, seemed to charm much of the audience. Hearing her music for the first time, it struck me as unremarkable. Maybe just not my cup of tea.

And so, when New York Times critic Jon Caramanica writes that the Pitchfork fest’s second half “served as a reminder of how dance music has become the most exciting emergent narrative in pop,” I have to wonder: What was I missing? I much preferred the weekend’s indie rock, which included, according to Caramanica, “bands in various stages of delusion and defensiveness.”

Killer Mike won me over, though. Of all the hip-hop artists I watched at Pitchfork, he was the one who had the most to say, even if his rap denouncing Ronald Reagan’s lies in the Iran-contra affair seemed oddly dated. “I want to encourage Chicago to take care of each other,” he said in one of his mini-sermons in between his raps, apparently alluding to the city’s violence. “I’d like to encourage the people of Chicago to look out for one another.” Later in his set, looking out on a Pitchfork audience that was more racially diverse than it had been on previous days, Killer Mike declared, “This is what church is supposed to look like.”

Frankie Rose
Frankie Rose
Blood Orange
Blood Orange

See my photos of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival for The A.V. Club: Days 12 and 3.

Björk at the Auditorium

Looking over my list of the year’s best concerts, I realized that a few of the shows I reviewed for The Daily Southtown are no longer online. Here then, are a few reviews from months back, which I post here in the interest of completeness…

BJÖRK, MAY 12 AT THE AUDITORIUM THEATRE

Whatever you think of Björk — whether you mock her for wearing swans or worship her oddball genius — it’s undeniable that she has a great instinct for showmanship.

The Icelandic star played her first song Saturday night completely hidden behind the Auditorium Theatre’s stage curtains. As that singular voice of hers emerged and fans anxiously waited for the curtains to part, the sense of anticipation was palpable.

And then finally, as she finished a quiet version of an old song, “Cover Me,” the stage was quickly unveiled. Bursts of flames, so bright that they almost hurt the eyes, cast a hellish red glow as Björk and her band broke into the herky-jerky rhythms of “Earth Invaders,” the opening track off her new record, “Volta.”

Wearing a crinkly gold dress, Björk stomped and swayed in front of a strange tableau — colorful banners with images of fish, flags, Icelandic women playing horns and dressed in pastel outfits. After those flames made their brief appearance, the stage seemed less ominous and more like the setting for an international peace conference.

The theatrical flourishes prompted applause but the loudest bursts of clapping came whenever Björk released the full force of her remarkable voice, holding the microphone away from her mouth as she belted out notes from deep in her throat.

Surprisingly, Björk played only four songs from her new album. Instead of focusing on “Volta,” she treated the concert more like chance to offer a sample of music from throughout her career. Though she left out a few of her most popular songs (no “Human Behavior”), it was almost a greatest-hits show.

These weren’t note-for-note simulations of the studio recordings, though. Backed by a drummer, three musicians on keyboards and computers, and 10 women doubling as brass players and backup vocalists, Björk deconstructed some of her tunes, turning them into brass chamber music or harpsichord ballads.

The brass arrangements were beautiful, taking the place of the orchestral strings on songs such as “Bachelorette” or adding grandeur to the more techno tunes. They were a perfect complement to Björk’s voice, which is something of a brass instrument itself.

On some of the more upbeat dance numbers, such as “Hyper-Ballad,” lasers flashed, Björk wheeled around in her regal outfit, and the music hewed fairly close to the spirit of the original recordings.

Comments overheard in the audience made it clear that many fans liked Björk’s selections for the night’s set list. As the crowd filed out, one young woman remarked, “Now I can die happy.”

SET LIST
Cover Me
Earth Intruders
Venus As A Boy
Aurora
Unison
All Is Full Of Love
Immature
Pleasure Is All Mine
It’s Not Up To You
Pagan Poetry
Army of Me
Innocence
Bachelorette
Wanderlust
Hyper-Ballad
Pluto

ENCORE:
Oceania
Declare Independence