Pitchfork: A few thoughts

Survived another Pitchfork. Three days of indie rock and a few assorted other things under the hot sun in Union Park. Running back and forth between photo pits, darting through throngs of sweaty music fans sprawled out on blankets or bouncing up and down. Trying to hear a little bit of everything and missing a little bit of almost every show.

I’m writing a full review of Pitchfork for the fall issue of Signal to Noise magazine — imagine that, a review you have to wait to see in print. So I’m not going to post everything I have to say about the festival here. But here are a few thoughts. Make that: dashed-off thoughts.

Overall, it was a pretty good festival with several strong sets, but also a number of tepid musical performances. For me the high points included the Saturday headlining set by LCD Soundsystem and Sunday’s festival-closing greatest-hits reunion show by Pavement. The latter was a pure nostalgia trip, but a new generation of Pavement fans deserved a chance to see the band playing these songs, and the group delivered.

Lightning Bolt was an amazing jolt of energy in the middle of the afternoon Sunday, an almost nonstop assault. The rhythms were so strong that it seemed to win over even people who might not normally go in for such noisy music.

St. Vincent was as brilliant as ever. Broken Social Scene once again proved why I like them better in concert than I do on record. Cave played a terrific set of its Krautrock-influenced tunes, showing they’re one local band that definitely deserved a spot in this festival.

Titus Andronicus was another one of my favorite parts of the weekend, with a raging sense of passion. I also enjoyed: Wolf Parade, the Tallest Man on Earth, Sharon Van Etten, Liars, Netherfriends, Sonny & the Sunsets, Kurt Vile, Smith Westerns, Alla, Girls and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Sleigh Bells were highly entertaining for the two songs that I was able to see before rushing over to the Pavement photo-pit line. (And getting pictures of Sleigh Bells and Pavement was why I barely saw any of Big Boi’s show, though other photogs managed to pull off that hat trick.)

Real Estate was so-so, showing the most potential in its instrumental passages. Best Coast sounded good for a couple of songs, but needed to vary its sound. Local Natives showed good energy, but that didn’t elevate their somewhat bland songs. Beach House’s songs were pretty but lethargic.

I like Here We Go Magic’s records, but didn’t get a chance to hear much of their live set. The same goes for Cass McCombs.

Panda Bear seemed to bore and/or annoy just about everyone. I’m sure some Panda Bear fans would disagree, but they were in the small minority inside Union Park. He was also boring to watch. The photographers had permission to stay in the pit for three songs, but some started leaving before the first song was over, when it became clear Panda Bear was barely animated.

Another bore was Modest Mouse, Friday’s headliner. I’ve never been a big fan, and the band once again failed to win me over, sticking with the same tired sound for song after song.

As I’ve confessed in the past, I’m not the best judge of hip-hop, so it’s hard for me to say how true fans would rate the sets by El-P, Raekwon and Big Boi.

The same goes for a lot of electronic dance and pop. Major Lazer certainly got the park dancing with its antics and that insistent beat, so that seems like something of an accomplishment.

Robyn was entertaining to watch, and her pop songs were a pleasant enough way to pass an hour. Other dance bands at the festival, Delorean and Neon Indian, excited a lot of folks but didn’t strike me as all that inventive. LCD Soundsystem trumped them all with songs that were both smart and fun.

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