Pitchfork's Solid Second Day

By Marcus Gilmer in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 19, 2009 4:00PM

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The kids enjoyed Matt & Kim's set. Photo by Jim Kopeny

If Day 1 was all about politeness, then Day 2 of the 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival was about shifting gears. The day dawned sunny and bright but clouds rolled in by the time we made it to Union Park, just in time to see some of the Plants & Animals action, rollicking around under the overcast sky and grooving on songs like "Good Friend." We thought it would be a standard Saturday: throw down a blanket and enjoy some mellower music and relax. Fucked Up had other ideas. Indeed, the band kicked off their set with the jolting, "Son the Father," the opening track from their most recent LP, The Chemistry of Common Life, and didn't relent for the rest of the set. Within the first two songs, lead singer Damian Abraham had already torn apart a beachball with his teeth and placed it on his head. Good, rocking times.

The music down-shifted from there, but not too much, with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. We had prepared ourselves for a bit of slower, shoegaze but instead got a peppy set of fuzzy, buzzy pop. The crowd responded in kind, bobbing along to cuts like "Young Adult Friction." The music downshifted a bit again with Final Fantasy aka multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett (Arcade Fire, Hidden Cameras). While we dig Pallett's unique way of looping violin riffs and percussive beats to create a one-many symphony, the slowed down pick seemed a bit odd for a mid-afternoon slot. The crowd respectfully applauded and politely enjoyed Pallett's set, many sitting and taking a breather before the big evening push.

Across the park Ponytail shredded itself onstage, singer Molly Siegel channeling some cheerily demonic spirit complete with rolled back eyes and electrocution shudders. The band's songs aren't so much musical as they are rhythmic allowing Ponytail to turn the entire band into a percussion instrument and craft punk rock dance music that is sharp rather than cute.

The day's push continued up with the throbbing pulse of Yeasayer, who had the onlookers again bobbing heads and back on their feet. Some rain passed over the park but as the Yeasayer continued rocking, the skies overhead eventually cleared.

While it wasn't a downshift, there was definitely a shift to the next act, DOOM, this year's token Saturday hip hop act (See: 2008 - Dizzee Rascal or 2007 - Clipse). The masked MC came out a bit late - rumor has it he demanded to get paid first - and never quite gets the set ratcheted up in full swing. His throaty delivery seems on the mark on songs like "Fazers" (perhaps too on the mark as some have suggested he lip-synced his way through the set) but while those down front get into the set, those of us towards the back were left a bit disappointed. Next up was a different act altogether - and one we were really looking forward to even if we hadn't heard a lot of hype about it - Beirut. Zach Condon and his band don't make of the stereotypical evening set at a large music fest, but they owned the stage from the first song on, enthralling the crowd through numbers like "Mimizan," "Nantes," and "Elephant Gun." Crooning to crowd with confidence, Condon welcomed a few guests to the stage, such as the previously mentioned Pallett, for the closing numbers which included a rousing rendition of "Sunday Smile."

From one crooner to another, following Beirut were headliners The National, who are no stranger to Pitchfork, having played the fest three years ago. While just as beautiful as we had remembered and hoped, The National eased into their set rather than lept in and as a result, for those of us caught towards the back, the opening pair of songs was almost over-powered by a delayed and incredibly buoyant and jubilant Matt & Kim on the B stage across the park. Matt and the gang kicked it up after the subtle start, though, with a thrilling version of "Mistaken For Strangers," and we knew things were going to be alright. The band's songs can be sleepy on album, but yesterday the band was powered by some deep, dark elemental drive that imbued their set with a slowly surging power that stunned the crowd and closed out the evening with an elegant flourish.

Additional reporting by Jim Kopeny Tankboy