Pitchfork Day One

It was perfect weather last night (July 13) for the first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival. This was the extra day, presented with help from the All Tomorrow’s Parties folks in the UK, with three artists playing albums in their entirety. I like that concept – it runs so counter to the iPod shuffle mentality of today. As you might guess, I’m one of those people who still spends a lot of time listening to albums in their entirety. (Not that I don’t like a good shuffle.)

Slint got things started with a performance of Spiderland. I missed this band entirely when they were around the first time, and now they’ve viewed as influential in retrospect. It’s a good record, and the performance was decent – lots of precise and, yes, spidery guitar lines. The band is pretty staid, though, just standing there (or sitting there) as they play, and the crowd was just standing in place, too. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not every band has to jump around. But it does subtract a little from the potential for an exciting concert. The songs did build to louder peaks, and at some moments, all that mannered playing did build into something majestic. See my photos of Slint.

Next, GZA (aka Genius) performed Liquid Swords. The concept of playing an old album from beginning to end is especially novel when it comes to hip-hop artists. GZA noted that he made a trip from Europe just to do this concert and was missing a Wu Tang show in Amsterdam as a result. He and his co-rappers frequently exhorted the crowd to clap louder – “You’d better represent!” – and there were plentiful “Wu Tang!” chants and casual uses of the M.F. word… It was a pretty energentic and lively set. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m not a huge hip-hop fan, so this set was less meaningful to me than the other two shows on Friday, but it was an enjoyable showcase for a noteworthy hip-hop record. See my photos of GZA.

The highlight for me, of course, was seeing Sonic Youth do Daydream Nation. What can I say? It’s a great double album that has become a classic, and I’ve liked it for a long time. I’ve seen Sonic Youth several times over the years, so I imagine I’ve heard some of the key tracks from Daydream Nation performed live a few times, but nothing like this. Sonic Youth did what they do best, making great noise but also great songs, all in that singular musical vocabulary they’ve developed. For a bunch of middle-aged rockers, they still show a high level of intensity and energy onstage. As they came back for an encore, Thurston Moore said, “Welcome back to the 21st century,” and Sonic Youth proceeded to play three tracks off the 2006 record Rather Ripped (“Incinerate,” “Reena” and “Jams Run Free”), which is one of the best records they’ve done in recent years. The record shows Sonic Youth sounding tighter than ever, and that came across in concert, with Kim Gordon setting down the bass and pogoing with abandon on the last two songs. See my photos of Sonic Youth.

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