Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Day Two

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 15, 2012 7:00PM

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Sleigh Bells perform at Pitchfork. Photo credit: Jim Kopeny
Day two of Pitchfork 2012 was a wet one. Earlier storms drenched the grounds at Union Park forcing festival goers to feel for any available cover. This set up the grounds for a muddy, slippery experience in many places and temporary lakes in others. Some took advantage of the mud to help smooth out their dance move but most just took it in stride. It is a festival after all. We’re told by festival organizers that the conditions caused by the weather should be gone by today since crews worked overnight to pump standing water out of the fields and lay down both wood mulch and a natural clay blend to soak up the mud and prevent slippage. Luckily today’s forecast doesn’t hold rain (so far) so we’re looking forward to sweat being the only hazard in today’s weather. So enough about the rain, what about the music yesterday? - Tankboy

Atlas Sound

Some bands we’d brave a hurricane to see, but an act like Atlas Sound requires a bit of a calmer climate. Calm wasn’t exactly what Atlas Sound’s Bradford Cox got during his set: while he seemed visibly disappointed when the heavy rain kicked in, the crowd just grew cranky and distracted. An audience member with heat exhaustion prompted Cox to dispense a few heat-related safety tips to the crowd. “Don’t give her cold water, give her warm water,” Cox said. “Otherwise, she’ll go into shock. It’s a little tip I picked up in Boy Scouts before they kicked me out for being a queer.”

“Walkabout” from 2009’s Logos and a splendid cover of the country classic, “Moonshiner” were Cox’s highlights. Elsewhere, songs like “My Angel Is Broken” meandered too much and drew little investment from the audience. Performers who play solo and rely on pre-recorded loops tend to be either fascinating or impossibly boring--but squarely one or the other. The crowd just didn’t seem to have the patience for Cox’s intricacies, and occassionally, indulgences. By the end of the set, the audio connections were starting to pop and crackle. “The rain killed my shit!” Cox said after a crunchy closing song. Disappointing, because Atlas Sound is great in the right time and place; unfortunately, a Saturday afternoon on a dreary Pitchfork stage wasn’t it. - Kim Bellware

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Hot Chip performs at Pitchfork. Photo credit: Jim Kopeny
Hot ChipTook notes for Hot Chip. All we managed to scribble was “RELENTLESS DANCE BEATS!!!” Sorry--we got too busy rocking out. - Kim Bellware

Cults

A live festival slot is a great test of a young band’s mettle, and a chance for fans to hear if their talent holds up outside the studio. Sadly, the charming girl group elements and “Shadow” Morton-like production qualities from Cults’ debut album were far less apparent during their day two set. The handclap intro to “Abducted” was the frisky kind of song that draws a crowd in fast, and while the crowd (now happily covered by a shining sun overhead) seemed in the groove, Madeline Follin stood out as a far less impressive vocalist than we had expected; now we could hear what all those echo effects were hiding on the album. During the third song, Follin’s mic cut out completely, the first of several sound glitches for the band.

Follin and guitarist Brian Oblivion are the core of Cults, though the band comprises more members. After we noticed the other musicians, we wondered why, with all those bodies on stage, Cults couldn’t produce a better beat than something that sounded like a pre-programmed option from a kid’s Casio keyboard. Though Follin doesn’t shoulder all of the blame, her shortcomings as a vocalist were the biggest deficiency in Cults’ live show. She struggled to hit the high sustained notes on “You Know What I Mean” and instead resorted to shout-speaking her lyrics (it’s the same weakness Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells seems to have when singing live). During “Bumper,” Follin couldn’t seem to figure out the dynamics of being a breathy singer or a growling vocalist within the same song. Less little-girl vocal range wouldn’t necessarily have made Cults a more formidable act; after all, Tennis’ Alaina Moore does just fine with her breathy, baby-voice vocals. We don’t want to diss the band too hard by saying they weren’t great, but at least they weren’t awful--Cults does show loads of potential on their record. Now they just have to shore up their live show to prove the magic from their album wasn’t all engineering smoke and mirrors. - Kim Bellware

Flying Lotus

Give credit to Steven Ellison for finally bringing the party to Pitchfork’s second day. In what could have been a head-bobbing set full beats dropping everywhere and of remix after remix of hot dance numbers, Flying Lotus built a steady hour of music that was varied and patient, which kept things interesting rather than mind-numbing. But--there were also tons of beats dropping everywhere and some great remixes but FlyLo seemed to be choosy as to how they were doled out. Flying Lotus often performs sans hype man, but MC Rage stepped in with vocals, bringing a welcome mix to whirring, fun mixes Ellison cooked up. Fans grooved to samples of Drake and Kanye, while a the evil-sounding “Dah nah nah nah” sample of Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says” made more than a few heads explode (ours included). Elsewhere, blips of New Order, Kanye and even Portishead could be heard while Ellison flashed huge grins from onstage. When Ellison turned on The Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic,” the crowd went predictably bonkers. There was no remixing here--Ellison played the song just to play it (or as a tribute to the late MCA)--while we spotted our first mud-covered crowd surfer of the day. Sweating, dancing, and furiously twisting knobs, Ellison grabbed the mic at one point and said, “It just occured to me that I’m drunk as fuck,” before adding, “Alright, now I’ll play some normal shit.” - Kim Bellware

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Wild Flag performs at Pitchfork. Photo credit: Jim Kopeny
Wild Flag

There was nothing we haven’t seen before from Wild Flag’s Day 2 set--a cover of Television’s “See No Evil,” Carrie’s high kicks, Mary Timony displaying her guitar chops with cool detachment. And still, with a set that was low on surprises, Wild Flag didn’t disappoint, notching a spot as one of the best performers of the festival so far. The band has so many years of experience among them, there was little chance things would go off the rails. An unexpected cover would’ve been welcome, but we were more than pleased with fiery cuts like “Boom,” and “Racehorse.”

One reason Wild Flag never stops being a great band to watch is because they do all the things you wish more rockers did--all the things the best rockers used to do to show extra vibrance onstange: striking rock goddess poses, the jumping, the smashing, the playing guitar behind/over the head, and yes, those wicked leg kicks. The set, however, wasn’t flawless this time, with the one hitch to the show coming at the worst moment: the closer. During perhaps the band’s best song, “Romance,” the sound got fritzy and Carrie Brownstein’s vocals were off-key. During the callout bit of “Hey you’ve got me crawling/You’ve got me spinning/Shake, shimmy shake” the echo effect couldn’t have sounded more offensive. It hurts our heart to say it, but it was the one (if only) part of Wild Flag’s set that we didn’t love - Kim Bellware

Sleigh Bells

When Sleigh Bells took the stage at this very festival two years ago, we were amped. We were ready for some chest thumping, blow your hair back bass to dance our asses off to--at a volume that we couldn't achieve at home. The set though seemed troubled from the start and we were disappointed that they simply weren’t loud enough, making that distorted sound feel even more disingenuous. Yesterday though, Derek Edward Miller and Alexis Krauss brought the noise (and a new guitarist). Their opening song had us a little worried as her vocals, among everything else, were too low, but as soon as the bass dropped on “Crown on the Ground,” we felt it. We're not going to deny that their show is purely show, with requisite Marshall stacks serving as the background and a backing track making up the majority of the music, but a hell of a show it is. Krauss never stops, clad in leather and ripped fishnets with jet black bangs and bold red lips. Her thrashing and yelling keep all eyes on her. In the end, Sleigh Bells gave us a show that entertained and made us dance. At high volume. We got exactly what we wanted. - Michelle Meywes

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Pitchfork 2012 was marked by a whole lot of mud. Photo credit: Jim Kopeny

As the evening came to a close we split our time between the two “headliners.” On the Blue stage, Grimes’ odd and fractured dance music didn’t translate particularly well, and despite the best efforts of her back-up dancers what we saw seemed canned and a bit by-the-numbers. And while Godspeed You! Black Emporer’s music reaches for the epic in its scale, the subdued volume and unexpectedly restrained stage show sucked a lot of the power out of their set. As we exited the grounds we wondered why organizers didn’t put Hot Chip in the closing spot to send everyone out on an energetic high note. - Tankboy