Pitchfork Day 3: Bringing It to a Close
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 16, 2007 5:40PM
Day three of the Pitchfork Music Festival got off to a slow start, with a smaller crowd, but we chalk that up to stronger headliners and more folks electing to arrive later in the day. Since one of our other writers was already covering the earlier bands, we elected to begin our coverage with Stephen Malkmus' main stage appearance.
Malkmus' set was one of the ones with the most buzz, since it could be argued that Malkmus' original band Pavement is the patron saint of post-'90s indie rock. He took the stage with a single acoustic guitar, and a minimal yet unoccupied drum set sitting to his right. We guessed that since Bob Nastanovich, Pavement's percussionist, was standing backstage, it was a good bet that he would be manning that mini-kit at some point.
Malkmus opened the show saying, "Two-thirds of my solo shows have been in the Chicago area, so I feel right at home here. He then played "Heaven Is A Truck" off the classic Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and it was obvious by the return roar that he was performing to a crowd of the converted. His set-list contained a fair amount of Pavement gems, with a number of tracks from his solo discs, and near the end Nastanovich did indeed join him on stage to play shambling half-formed drums to the Pavement classics "Trigger Cut" and "In The Mouth A Desert."
As a whole, the set was entertaining, but we feel Malkmus is best served with a full backing band. Armed with just his voice and his guitar, we saw that the folks who were not already fans quickly lost attention.
Of Montreal followed Malkmus, and they took exactly the opposite approach.
The Athens-based group threw in piles of sounds, and overloaded visuals, to ensure the crowd paid attention to them. And for the most part it worked. The band's cabaret disco rock is heavily tinged with glam, and it's from all those founts that the group builds its stage show. Singer Kevin Barnes took the stage dressed in something right out of an episode of Masterpiece Theatre, and ended the show in fishnets in a g-string, taking a detour into the land of football shoulder pads perched atop his shirtless frame. From close up the whole spectacle was electrifying, but we noticed that as you drew farther from the stage, the crowd was largely unresponsive since, from a distance, the whole thing came off as more indie Rocky Horror Picture Show than the provocative dance party it was meant to be.
The New Pornographers were next, and it was fairly obvious from their first notes that this was a group accustomed to playing outdoors. The volume was way up — causing us to wonder if the weekend's weak volumes from most of the bands were in fact the fault of faulty mixing, and not the sound system itself — and the energy was palpable. Singer Carl Newman propelled the band along, and their bouncy power pop was just the sort of wake-up call the crowd was looking for. Of all the acts we'd seen this weekend, their set was by far the most natural fit for an outdoor festival, since their sound didn't get lost in the haze.
Then De La Soul took the stage to close the weekend out, and immediately stole the award of day's best set. Posdnuos, Trugoy, and DJ Maseo tore it the fuck up. The sound levels were massive, even from the back of the festival grounds, and the trio's energy had a large majority of the crowd — as far back as the rear of the site — dancing like mad and "doing the walrus." A surprise appearance by Prince Paul only served to amp up the wattage and drive multiple generations of De La Soul fans to bounce around in each other's arms and wave their hands in the air so much that we began to worry about some folks' circulation. Near the end of the set we personally felt the band began to depend a tad too much on call-and-response gags, but considering the brilliant first 50 minutes of their set, we were willing to go along with some games for the last 20.
De La Soul did prove to be the perfect closing act for the weekend. As their music faded out with the Chicago sound curfew, everyone seemed to be wandering off the grounds in a happy daze, big-ass smiles plastered across their faces, lost in the positive glow of the De La Soul.