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Pitchfork Music Festival 2014 Day Two: Rolling With It

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 20, 2014 7:00PM

Despite Saturday being sold out, Union Park seemed less crowded than usual throughout the day. This could have been due to the lovely weather, which meant folks were more spread out than usual instead of gathering en masse in any available shade. In its tenth year (if you count the original Intonation / Pitchfork team up in the park) the festival has successfully melded their indie origins with their ever increasing scale. Some bristle at the corporate sponsorship around the park, but we still appreciate that stage names haven’t been sold and that there is a huge swathe of real estate set aside for independent merchants and artists in the CHlRP Record Fair and Flatstock.

Friday we noted that the musical acts were mostly on the sleepy side, but Saturday definitely saw the energy get amped up. For the first time in years, the sweat worked up during the musical sets was borne of sheer dancing instead of a reaction to punishing heat. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Twin Peaks kicked off Saturday by breaking guitars, jumping into the crowd, and delivering an all-around raucous festival experience from a wheelchair. Cadien James didn’t let his broken ankle and cast hold him back, snarling from his seat as he traded vocals and played guitar. The crowd throbbed along to songs from their debut EP, Sunken, and previewed tracks from Wild Onion, out next month. The Rogers Park natives might have the most fun, commenting, “This is definitely the high point so far in our, whatever the fuck this is.” Whatever it is, it’s working. — Jessica Mlinaric

We were nervous that the dark, synth-fueled sounds of Wild Beasts wouldn’t translate well to an outdoor festival. Especially during an early afternoon set with the temperatures rising and many still entering Union Park. But we were pleasantly surprised to see the band take to the stage and command their growing audience of festival-goers like pros. The distinctively British indie-rock group stayed lively throughout their set as their duel leading vocals remained perfectly layered and never lost in the growing crowd. The group kept up a swagger and quickly made some new fans. After Friday’s, slow burn lineup, Wild Beasts gave the crowd a much needed kick of energy to start day two of the festival—and was the perfect lead-in to the crunchy, noise of Cloud Nothings’ set across the park. — Gina Provenzano

Cloud Nothings delivered a picture-perfect Pitchfork performance in redemption for their rainy early afternoon set a few years back. The Cleveland band played a blistering set with little interaction or interruption. Dylan Baldi defied the heat screaming vocals in long sleeves and a formidable beard and drummer Jason Gerycz’s seemingly pounded through the stage. The trio battled through favorites from their past two albums, ending with an audience chorus of “I thought I would be more than this.” — Jessica Mlinaric

In the realm of music festivals, timing is everything. If you are late, or your set goes over, you risk pushing back the entire day and never gaining enough momentum to really win over the crowd. Which, sadly, was the case for Pusha T, a likely candidate for a perfect chilled out afternoon party set that didn’t amount to much after he finally took the stage over 40 minutes late. Festival promoters informed Greg Kot that Pusha T wasn’t able to take the stage because his DJ was late, which left the crowd restless, chanting “Pusha T” only seven minutes after his scheduled 4:15 p.m. slot. A few minutes late is one thing, but after waiting more than 30 minutes, much of the crowd dwindled, off to grab a beer, buy some records or lounge in the shade. When Pusha T finally appeared, he opened with “King Push” off his debut solo album My Name Is My Name.

The set started off with a strong track but quickly spiraled into a slot full of shorter snippets of the work Pusha T has done for other artists. Pusha T possesses an impressive resume when it comes to guest verses, as evident when he trotted out his parts on Kanye West’s “Runaway” and “Mercy” ending the set with his flow on Future’s “Move That Dope.” But a series of verses does not make up a full act, and the choppy flow of things made the full solo tracks performed seem out of sync. Not to mention he didn’t do any Clipse songs, which usually aren’t ignored by Pusha T. The whole set felt rushed and lifeless, which wasn’t a surprise given the circumstance. Pusha T could have came out and salvaged a bit of something with the time he had left but the set was pretty much dead on arrival, never able to recover from the lack of time and the shortened snippets offered to the crowd. — Lisa White

The good news is you don’t have to get tUnE-yArDs to enjoy it. Merril Garbus’ quirky afro-beat outfit arrived onstage adorned in face paint sequins, yet underneath the cuteness are disarming lyrics. Garbus stretches the limits of indie-pop and Western music, incorporating shrieks, yowls, drum loops, and ukulele. The audience ranged from apprehensive to adoring, but the Red Stage became Garbus’ playground and, clenching a drum stick in the air, she was leader of the pack. — Jessica Mlinaric

The Blue Stage can be tricky for many bands. Tucked away from the main area of the festival, it can be a great spot to see a more intimate performance, or in the case of The Field, provide a space for a high-energy EDM dance party. Unfortunately the set was slow to win over the crowd, who largely migrated from over from tUnE-yArDs’ high-energy set. Live drums helped the performance and kept things interesting, but overall, especially with an intense light show, we couldn’t help but feel The Field would have been better suited for a later time slot. Those who stuck with the set were rewarded with more layered tracks. Overall, though, the minimalism was too little for a crowd who was just gearing up to see the evenings headliners. — Gina Provenzano

If anyone could wake up a somewhat sleepy afternoon crowd, count on Danny Brown to do the job right. Brown’s tales of sex, drugs and partying deftly delivered over thumping frantic beats had the crowd bouncing up and down, not fazed at all by the afternoon sun. Before Brown even took the stage, his DJ, one of the most energetic people onstage all weekend, got the crowd primed and ready with club bangers from Waka Flocka, Katie Got Bandz, and Chief Keef, mixing in snippets of digital life (the classic AOL chat notification noise, an iPhone ringtone) as a massive cloud of weed smoke built and hung over the field. Brown bounded on stage and quickly jumped into his party persona. “Smokin & Drinkin” and “Dope Song” were obvious highlights for the crowd fist bumping and jumping in tandem with Brown’s DJ full of endless energy. Brown brought up rapper Zelooperz to spit out his portion of “Kush Coma” before asking the crowd “where’s the motherfucking Molly at in this bitch” as he wrapped up his set with his ode to MDMA, “Dip.” If you were wondering where the party was at in Union Park, just follow Danny Brown. — Lisa White

It is always a privilege as a fan to watch an artist grow over the years, coming into their own as they find their footing to become an assured and powerful performer. Annie Clark, better known as St Vincent, has transformed over the years, rising up from a demure figure who could bend the noise of any guitar to a forceful presence that commands not only a stage and her instrument, but that captivates an audience in the process as well.

With a cool and polished aesthetic that is both minimal and high fashion, the most recent incarnation of St. Vincent still retains the haunting vocals of Clark’s previous work but possesses a harder edge live. The set opened with the jarring staccato of “Rattlesnake”, also the opening track off her most recent self-titled album. Clark immediately crawled down closer to the audience to walk along the edge of the stage as she sent out a wailing series of yelps, a ferocious guitar solo setting the pace for the evening. The heavier tone stuck around during “Digital Witness” a song full of bleak words backed by music that walks a thin line between catchy and unnerving—a signature style in the St. Vincent body of work.

The set showcased her most recent work but fans were treated to some older material, including “Cruel,” “Marrow” and an extended guitar solo on “Surgeon”, as Clark, perched on a set of stark stairs bathed in an eerie green and blue light, bent her body and sound in time with the song. It was nice to see Clark take some liberty with her own work and get creative, as evident with Saturday’s rendition of “Your Lips Are Red” that closed out the night. With the track slowed down it took on an even more cinematic quality with a somewhat industrial flourish to it, reaching an apex in a clamor of guitar before dying down into an almost siren drone tone just before Clark sung out the last lines, soft and clear. St. Vincent has found the sweet spot in her sound, bringing to the stage both a manic energy and vulnerability that captured a very satisfied audience Saturday night. — Lisa White

St. Vincent’s performance at Pitchfork was also my highlight for Saturday, as I suspected it would be. Her already-powerful compositions were intensely energized by her command of the crowd and the stage while she slithered about as if electrified by her guitar and ended her set by banging her head on a bass drum. She rocked and rollicked, delivering deeply to her fans while making new ones in her incredible ability to walk the line between introspective artwork and rock anthem as in songs “Birth in Reverse” and “Digital Witness.” She demonstrated the breadth of her vocal range throughout her set, showing again that she is one of the most prolific musicians playing today.

St. Vincent seemed to be a bridge at the festival, bringing together all ages and musical tastes within the crowd. This was no small feat, since most of Saturday the festival seemed divided by age and tastes. This is compelling and shows her dominion of the climate of the 21st century with her music and lyrics pondering technology and experimentation while also remaining true to straight-up songwriting with an avantt-garde edge. She absolutely rocked Saturday, telling us once again she is one to watch closely so not one moment of her burgeoning career will be missed.

Saturday at Pitchfork ended with a long-awaited reunion of the 1990s go-to indie band, Neutral Milk Hotel who played a variety of songs from On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The mood and atmosphere with Neutral Milk Hotel was, much like their music, a quiet distortion that undoubtedly sent many in the crowd to wax poetic with songs like “Two-Headed Boy” and “Someone Is Waiting.”

Jeff Mangum and his band are not only still kicking, but sound better than ever. Their music and vocals have developed even further, deepening their emotional resonance. The crowd was divided by their set though, with many entirely focused on the band while others milled about and chatted unaware of the group on stage. This is the nature of festivals, of course, but the difference among the crowd was fascinating to me because it illustrated how their music divides. In the days leading up to the festival, I found that people either love or hate Neutral Milk Hotel—so seeing this division within the crowd was especially poignant to me.

Their music is comprised of complex lyrics, melodies, tone, and sound that go between the surreal and cerebral to raucous and simple and this came through in their performance at Pitchfork. Memories of my college days came to mind for me, and no doubt many others, while they solidly played the albums that became the personal soundtracks of many in the ‘90s. — Carrie McGath

So, as Pitchfork closed out Saturday night, people left the park either riding high on a wave of nostalgia or scratching their heads trying to figure out what the big deal was with Neutral Milk Hotel in the first place. And to be fair, this general reaction nicely encapsulated the day as a whole. Some sets surprised, some electrified, and some flat let us down. Luckily for us, our experience was more on the positive side of the scale leaving us feeling good about the day as a whole. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy