Pitchfork Fest 2008

A few of my Pitchfork Music Festival 2008 highlights:

King Khan and the Shrines played a lively, jumping set of soulful garage rock – think Nuggets tunes performed by James Brown. The big band includes a hard-swinging horn section, and there’s even a cheerleader. Khan wore a glittering net over his hair and a shiny cape, living up to his “King” title. This guy has great charisma, and the music sounded top-notch.

The thing that struck me about the Dodos’ album Visiter is a sort of quirky XTC pop sensibility. So I was a bit surprised when the band took the stage and sounded more rootsy and acoustic than I expected. Singer/guitarist Meric Long got so involved with his playing that he fell out of his chair at one point, continuing to play on his back. The two percussionists raised a ruckus, one of them pounding on an actual trash can. I liked the Dodos’ live show better than the record. Maybe I need to listen to that more.

As I’ve said before, M. Ward is one of my favorite singers, songwriters and guitarists, so it’s probably needless to say that his Pitchfork set was a personal highlight for me. He opened with a couple of acoustic songs before his band took the stage. Ward sang with a sly smile and looked completely at ease playing the guitar. The set included several of my favorite songs, among them “Lullaby & Exile,” “Right in the Head,” “Vincent O’Brien” and “Big Boat.”

Spoon nailed the tight rhythms that made me like this band in the first place, sounding better than I’ve ever heard them live.

The last time I saw Times New Viking (an opening-act slot at Metro), it sounded just like noise. When they played Sunday at Pitchfork and I walked across Union Park late in their set, their voices rang out with unusual clarity and the songs sounded downright catchy.

It was a completely different kind of harmony, but Fleet Foxes sounded beautiful when they went a cappella.

In addition to King Khan, several performers showed off manic stage antics, including the members of !!!, Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav (who got into a garbage can where I was standing in the crowd), and of course, Craig Finn of the Hold Steady. All of these guys whipped their fans into arm-waving frenzies.

Jarvis Cocker somehow managed to be gawky, geeky, suave and elegant all at the same time. How is that possible?

Titus Andronicus and Jay Reatard raised unholy rackets. They gave incredibly energetic performances that make me want to check out their records.

Vampire Weekend… I still don’t get the hype.

Animal Collective… Nice trance vibe, though I wish it had taken off into higher realms.

Boris was loud and powerful, making a magnificent sort of noise. The only problem was the short length of the set, which ended after 30 minutes when the band apparently experienced some sort of technical problem. Drummer Atsuo explained, “Not much energy power” as the band departed. The crowd chanted “Boris! Boris!” to no avail.

See my last post for links to photos.

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