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Pitchfork Music Festival 2011: Day Three

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 18, 2011 7:20PM

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Photo by Jim Kopeny

Additional reporting by Kimberly Bellware and Lizz Kannenberg

One the greatest things about living in Chicago is our summer. We suffer through 11 1/2 months of bitter cold and ice for those handful of perfect days of sunshine, breeze and beers on the beach. And, of course, those two or three days of just oppressively, night unbearable heat that always seem to slam over us during either the Pitchfork Music Festival or Lollapalooza. Yesterday was that kind of day.

As perhaps the youngest act at the fest, members of Yuck were probably still in high chairs during the lo-fi and grunge-steeped ‘90s. You’d never know it from the way the
UK-based foursome blasts sonic valentines to the scuzzy sound of a decade past. Their early slot had a brisk crowd of festival goers who were already melting in the noon-day sun, but playful banter (“I love your accent!” said the English bassist Max Bloom to Anglophiles in the crowd) and melodic, crunchy rock that was full of wah-wah pedals and bright guitars buoyed the fans. “The Wall” had the lethargic crowd bopping along, while “Georgia” brought in the vocal harmonies from their ultra-cool lady bassist, as well as a great double bass driving beat. Yuck competed with a distracting soundcheck by Kurt Vile at the next stage, and at one point Bloom’s guitar went on the fritz. The band played through the confusion before coming to a slow, unresolved-feeling halt. After some tinkering and fiddling they started again with a slower-paced number, but had seemed to have lost some momentum. The hiccup may have slightly marred Yuck’s performance, but it was still strong enough to make us feel like it was too short--once Yuck got going, we only wanted more.

On the Blue stage, Twin Sister’s set was uneven in every way. There was the chill-edout, spacey groove that sometimes lost the oomph and threatened to lull the crowd to sleep, and there was the funky, disco-jam moments that reminded us why we had been so excited about the band and their green-haired chanteuse. Mid-set as Odd Future was setting up, a wave of fans packed in to catch the perkier half of Twin Sister’s set, which had begun to skew ‘80s heavy in a way that lacked freshness. Onstage, Twin Sister seemed to be having a great time, particularly with the fans up front. The enthusiasm and graciousness was great to see from the band and the fans up front, but whether it was that or something else, part of Twin Sister’s set felt like it was missing a key ingredient. - K.B.

Unless you've been in an entertainment coma for the last few months, you know that Los Angeles hip-hop collective Odd Future makes many, many people uncomfortable. Apparently all of them were tucked safely backstage for the group’s Sunday Pitchfork Music Festival performance, because the 18,000 people in front were all mashing themselves as close as possible to the five barely-drinking-age MCs, with feet pounding the ground and middle fingers at attention. For those with an open mind, it was a good reminder of what an event like the Pitchfork Music Festival originally stood for: Creating a venue where art that is typically marginalized by the mainstream can be heard, showcased and celebrated. For just under an hour (and under a merciless mid-afternoon sun) Tyler, the Creator lead his crew through a whirlwind of complicated beats and the kind of provocative, gnarly lyrics that curl other reviewers hair and attract the attention of overzealous protest groups. That oh-so-dangerous stew of sweat and teenage hormones percolating in the 96-degree heat finally hit its boiling point when the group launched into the minor hits “Sandwitches” and “Yonkers,” as all five members took turns launching themselves into the crowd. Despite being hampered by a broken right foot and mostly confined to a bar stool in the center of the stage, Tyler managed to create and hold a manic connection with his audience and even take his turn stage diving - the activity that landed him in a cast in the first place.

Yes, Odd Future raps about murder, rape, misogyny, and any number of other conversational taboos, that we'd all like to forget actually exist in the world, but d id anyone in that field believe in carrying out the acts described on stage? No, but plenty of those with fists and fingers in the air recognized that being "punk" - that is to say, challenging the cultural norm by identifying, facing and personifying what terrifies us - is, in the end, the most classic form of youth rebellion.

And you know what else is punk? Dropping off cupcakes for the protesters who are trying to shut down your performance. - L.K.

We caught what we thought was the tail end of Ariel Pink's set only to discover that we had actually arrived pretty much on time to witness his complete meltdown onstage and early closing of his set. We guess every year needs its own version of Wavves, eh.

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Superchunk photo by Jim Kopeny
It was at this point that we were faces with the cruelest decision the fest timetable forced us to make over the entire weekend: do we see Superchunk or Kylesa? We opted to run back and forth between both. Our legs ached but it was worth it. On the main stage Superchunk delivered an energetic set that nicely mixed new and old material without betraying the difference of nearly two decades between some songs. Their energetic power-punk kept the crowd happy and almost made us forget how freaking hot it was for a second.

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Kylesa photo by Jim Kopeny
Across the grounds at the Blue stage Kylesa dominated. They were loud. They were heavy. Theyu were awesome and they were the perfect example of what the P4K music fest could with more of: balls to the wall rock that isn't afraid to sound huge. Many of the acts this weekend are best experienced in clubs and there's a reason that confining the space your sound occupies serves your art well. But some bands are made to spray their music over as wide an expanse as possible and Kylesa's mix of punk, metal and general bad-assery was custom built to suit that scenario.

Back over on the Green stage Deerhunter began their set with a wall of noise before launching into one of the finer performances of the weekend. We've seen the band a number of times before and were never really impressed but for some reason since they released last year's Halcyon Digest we've turned a corner with them and the late afternoon set helped clarify why; they've embraced the big rock. Their 2007 P4K appearance was limp but their set yesterday was massive crashes of guitar and just the right mixture of the atonal and the weird thrown into what, at their core, are a bunch of solidly weird pop songs.

And then it was time for Cut Copy.

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Cut Copy photo by Jim Kopeny
There is nothing original about Cut Copy. They play a mix of '80s dance that is more aligned with ABC than Liquid Liquid; say, more Duran Duran than Adam Ant. But holy Jesus there is just something so honest and joyful and totally transparent in what they do that it's impossible -- at least for this writer -- to fall in love with them every time they play. And the field of Union Park was covered by dancers stretching between both the Red and Green stage that agreed with us. When the band launched into their older single "Lights & Music" the crowd erupted into a sea of pogoing bodies and clapping hands. As far as sheer good times go, Cut Copy owned this weekend. - Tankboy

The much anticipated set by festival closers TV On the Radio did what all good festival closers do: rock the joint so hard that people don’t want to leave. Coming into the festival, the band had gone through some lineup shuffling while also coming off the recent loss of bassist Gerard Smith who passed away from cancer in April. The emotions that ran through the set were translated into an electrifying performance full of energy and spirit. The band toured through tracks that ranged from their earliest work in “Young Liars” to the a few cuts from their newest, Nine Types of Light. The older material prove to be the most moving, with Tunde Adebimpe’s magnetic vocals filling the park with a raw-nerve version of “Staring at the Sun” and later again when joined by Shabazz Palaces for “A Method.” Fan favorite “Wolf Like Me” continued the upward charge, coming to a fever pitch of energy when the band ripped into a cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” at the end of the set. Sweat-soaked and as hot or hotter than the bodies packed into the audience, TV on the Radio combined power, emotion and surprisingly, a bit if discernable joy to blow away the crowd one last time for the 2011 Pitchfork Festival. - KB