Put A 'Fork In It: Pitchfork Music Fest, Day 2

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 18, 2010 4:40PM

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LCD Soundsystem brought Day 2 to a thrilling close that left other performances looking amateur by comparison; Photo by Jim Kopeny/Chicagoist

Previously: Day One

After the somewhat disjointed Day One, which had some highs (Robyn) and lows (Michael Showalter, Modest Mouse), we were hoping for a bit more consistency in Day Two of this year's incarnation of the Pitchfork Music Fest.

Free Energy took the stage to the sounds of Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On," and then kicked the day off with a few mid-tempo indie pop jams, getting toes tapping and heads bobbing. Songs like "Dream City" and the self-titled "Free Energy" were pleasant enough for the crowd in the heat. The band even kicked it up a notch with a rousing "Bang Pop." But a set that we've found rousing in a small club setting in the past just didn't quite translate as well to the outdoor stage, even as a healthy crowd enjoyed the day's opener. Still, when lead singer Paul Sprangers belted out the line "We're breaking out this time," a glance at the crowd showed that, no, this wasn't quite their break-out performance. Not yet, anyway. - M.G.

Still, Free Energy was more compelling than the standard, paint-by-numbers indie or New Jersey's Real Estate, who did nothing to set themselves apart from any number of straight-forward indie rock bands who clog up MP3 blogs or have visited the festival in the past. - M.G.

Over at the B Stage, it was time to take in something a little different.

Underneath a canopy of trees with the hot summer sun peeking through, Sonny and the Sunsets took the stage to a large crowd trying to recover from the extreme elements that took the other two stages. Wearing their influences like a badge of honor on their shoulder, Sonny and his Sunsets played songs that closely resembled The Velvet Underground and Johnathan Richmond’s Modern Lovers. Most of the time they were quirky enough to keep the crowd entertained, but long periods of down time between songs made most people restless and uninterested. Overall, their brand of low-fi, tambourine-laden fuzz pop was enough to add to the already lazy atmosphere amongst the crowd trying to escape the scorching sun rays of the two other stages. - M.L.

Back on the main stages, Delorean brought their brand of spaced-out trance pop to the stage, a cascading, pulsating trance wave that turned the crowd at the Aluminum Stage into something of a subdued rave. There was even a bit of crowd-surfing as the groove settled in, with tracks like "Seasun" wafting out over the festival grounds. - M.G.

Quipping he was "sweating like a pregnant nun talking to the Pope," Titus Andronicus front-man Patrick Stickles led the charge in a rousing, thundering set that supplanted anything we saw on Friday as the highlight of the fest thus far. Sounding like, as Tankboy noted, "A better sounding Connor Oberst fronting the E-Street Band," (and that's meant as a compliment of the highest order), Titus had the entire crowd hopping and fist-pumping as they galloped through "Four Score And Seven," putting on a performance full of energy and passion that, by comparison, made other acts look like they were sleep-walking through their own sets. This was a fest set as it was meant to be done, with a rousing urgency that gets the crowd fully involved and invested. In hindsight, even Robyn's set from Friday, that day's highlight for us, paled in comparison. - M.G.

Technical difficulties delayed the start of Raekwon's set and no matter how much we love the Wu-Tang Clan, our patience was spent after a 20-minute delay and we headed back over the B Stage. - M.G.

The youngest band to perform at the fest, Chicago-based Smith Westerns rocked out the largest festival they’ve played to date in their hometown with a power-packed set that felt all too brief. The teenage quartet’s sound is a rummage sale of ‘60s and ‘70s era garage rock, heavy on the fuzzy, bass-boosted fun, with bright and jangly notes that take their sound out of the garage and on to the surf—think catchy, throwback pop rock with a giant, scuzzy, lo-fi anchor. The slightly-off sound levels during the middle of the set muddied the bass and guitar, and singer/guitarist Cullen Omori’s vocals were too low to hear at times. Still, tracks like “Be My Girl,” “Girl In Love” and their standout, “Tonight” were waves of crashing, adolescent energy that had Bolan-esque boogie in all the right places and a smartly modern edge everywhere else. Smith Westerns definitely know the right music to mimic, but proved they also know how to make it their own. - K.B.

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JSBX rawked; Photo by Jim Kopeny/Chicagoist
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion took the stage to create a rumbling and rhythmic thunder created with nothing more than two guitars, a bludgeoned drum kit and Spencer's heat-defying leather pants. Given the weather conditions it seemed apropos that every time Spencer spat out the word "sweat" in a lyric he would trigger a small deluge of droplets flying off his own forehead. If you took the swagger of vintage Stax records and ran them through a New York-based meat grinder you'd have a good idea where JSBX is coming from. The crowd around the stage was driven in to a frenzy and as we strolled to the back of the field we noticed even those to whom Spencer was new seemed entranced by the show. We realize the band is primarily promoting their excellent new reissue series so we're not hoping for any new material, but we do hope to get the chance to see them in a smaller room one more time. - Tankboy

Following the howling boogie of JSBX, Wolf Parade's spastic art rock kept up the frantic pace. The synth-heavy beats of songs like "Kissing the Beehive" and "Palm Road" pounded the crowd as Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug exchanged singing duties but never lost the rolling momentum of the band's set. Of course, all that energy and momentum came to a screeching halt with the next performer. - M.G.

As the sun began to make its exit from the cloudless sky Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, took to the stage armed with his brand of psychedelic experimental fair that his made him a favorite of Pitchfork writers. He started out the set with his new single off the Tomboy seven-inch record, "Slow Motion." The irony of the song title only begins to describe what ensued. A very long, droning set with little to keep the crowd engaged took had most festival-goers complaining about his selections instead of enjoying them. The first moment of the day when Pitchforkers could probably move around and start to shake off the days extreme temps and they were saddled with long periods of experimental music better suited for an art gallery than an outdoor festival. We heard one festival-goer remark that it would be more entertaining to have an actual panda bear just hanging out doing panda bear stuff than Lennox wailing into a microphone amongst sythns and loops. - M.L.

Panda Bore. - M.G.

Temps had been in the energy-sapping 90s all day with no real breakout performances since mid-day’s Titus Andronicus until LCD Soundsystem rallied the sweaty masses for an absolute blowout of a Day 2 finale. Clumps of the audience started to form in front of their stage a good two hours before start time, so the band had little trouble getting excitement off the ground as they ripped into their first song, “Us v Them.” “Drunk Girls,” “Pow Pow” and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” threw folks straight into party mode, with the dancing, clapping and glo-stick waving rippling all the way back to the baseball diamond where everyone usually stays lock-kneed and mellow. James Murphy’s spikes of falsetto “whoos” over snappy, break beat drums steadily built the crowd’s energy as the festival became one heaving, disco ball dappled party.

The band kept steadily churning the sound through an amazing performance of “All My Friends,” and the handclap-heavy “I Can Change,” keeping the intensity consistently at full force. With slow-build intros, walls of synth-washed sound, Murphy’s tight, choked guitar notes and mixes of dance floor beats meet disco-punk, LCD Soundsystem had the pure power and dynamics that had been missing for most of the second day. We had hoped to hear the thrashing “North American Scum” come encore time, but the band predictably pulled out their “New York, I Love You/Empire State of Mind” medley that they’ve been working this tour. Still, there wasn’t a trace of disappointment in the set that delivered everything we had hoped for, and the masses that soaked it in felt the same (and what an amazing, endless sea of happy people it was). We just wish other bands had put forth the same effort as LCD Soundsystem, their crushing, consuming energy proving far more infectious to the audience than any band to play this year's fest so far. - K.B.

The bar has now been set very high; Sunday will need to deliver in the wake of two of the strongest performances we've seen from all the years of annual music fest. Your move, Big Boi & Pavement.