Pitchfork Strikes Its Opening Chords

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 18, 2009 4:10PM

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David Yow of The Jesus Lizard, Photo by Jim Kopeny

Maybe we're off a bit, but the word that best described the start to the Pitchfork's big weekend was "polite." Not only was the cool, overcast weather ultimately accommodating - save for a few passing sprinkles - but so was the crowd, clapping politely after songs from openers Tortoise. A late day at the office coupled with an early 5 p.m start time means we missed most of the opening set of the Write The Night event, leaving us a little disappointed we didn't get to see more (please share your thoughts in the comments!).

Thankfully, we were ready by the time Yo La Tengo took the stage. Of course, on a night when the bands were to perform a setlist of audience-selected songs, Yo La Tengo admittedly deviated from the program, playing a new one. But there were definitely some older favorites in there - "Let's Save Tony Orlando's House" - and "Tom Courtenay" from 1995's Electr-O-Pura began the best stretch of the set, leading next to "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," and concluding with "Sugarcube." In spite of a few lulls - the pairing of new song with "Periodically Double Or Triple" with "Mr. Tough" made for a nice segue way but ultimately felt a little limp - and some sound issues - the brisk winds caused some sound undulations - Georiga, Ira, and James seemed comfortable on stage playing for the, well, polite masses. While Georgia and James grooved their way through the set, Ira was happy to show a little movement on a guitar spazzes. Overall, it was nothing mind-blowing, just a solid set from a solid band who know there way around after 25 years.

If "polite" was the word to describe the first half of the bill, that went out the window all of two seconds into the Jesus Lizard's set when lead singer David Yow, proudly wearing a Hot Doug's t-shirt, lept right into the crowd. Launching immediately into fan favorite "Puss," Yow wasted no time dispelling any worries that a ten year hiatus might have mellowed him out. Yow projected a genuine sense of danger and abandon, utilizing his frame as a conduit for the music, constantly throwing himself against human breakers and showing no fear. Yow reminded us of the difference between a theatrical frontman and one that is genuinely held in the thrall of his music.

The closing set by Built To Spill redirected the crowd's energy along a more polite path again. Doug Martsch reconfirmed his place in the indie guitar god pantheon and languidly stretched most of the songs past the 5 or 7 minute mark. It's a testament to his talents that these long workouts not only kept the crowd's attention, but as song would crescendo, folks around us would pump their arms, jump up and down, and dance wildly.

Other wild dancing was witnessed in the bathroom lines. It appeared as if the number of facilities available to the public has dwindled this year causing immense lines for attendees seeking relief. However that, along with some wobbly sound issues, seem to always plague the first day of Pitchfork so we're hoping that adjustments will be made today so nothing detracts from the primary reason everyone's there, the stellar line-up.

Additional reporting by Marcus Gilmer