Pitchfork Day 1: Stoners Love Broken Social Scene And Carly Rae Kills

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 16, 2016 3:09PM

The 2016 edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival got off to a sleepy, soggy start as rain greeted attendees Friday afternoon. We noticed that the grounds were still filling far earlier than usual, though, and we suspect the reason was Carly Rae Jepsen. People came eager to see the Canadian pop princess in person and see if the hype was worth it—and they were well rewarded.

Jepsen's style of music is universal, and as we surveyed the crowd during her set, we could see the mix of already-fans dancing and new wide-eyed Carly converts. Her music blends decades, with a heavy nod towards the '80s and '90s (including a new haircut that reminds us of Joan Jett), and she brings a confidence and maturity to the music that makes it irresistible. Late in the set she was joined by Blood Orange's Dev Hyne's on "All That," but other than that, Jepsen's Pitchfork set was all her show. Closing with the one-two punch of "Call Me Maybe" and "I Really Like You" left the crowd smiling and exhausted. Jepsen herself even took a moment at the side of the stage to take in her band as they closed out the set with a final instrumental coda.

Broken Social Scene was the biggest draw of the day though, packing the field tight with bodies. The band has a special Chicago connection, and leader Kevin Drew told the crowd they spent a year here recording 2010's Forgiveness Rock Record and hanging out at Damen and Division. The Canadian collective had just played their first show in the States in five years the night before, at Metro, and anticipation was high for their set. So was the crowd; choking clouds of weed smoke were everywhere. The band delivered a strong first half of their set, with members jumping from instrument to instrument, adding in horns when needed, and exercising their musical dexterity in an impressive fashion, particularly on early highlight "7/4 (Shoreline)." About halfway through, BSS, played a new song that obviously still needs a bit of work, and they never quite caught their footing again. Not that the zonked-out crowd minded.

And what a difference a proper main stage makes. In previous years Beach House has historically left us unimpressed at Pitchfork, their sound drifting away under the midday sun. But on Friday, under cover of night and with the benefit of the massive sound system of the Green Stage, their set was an appropriately epic close to the evening. Their sound can be so delicate it needs the proper setting and mood for them to be truly effective, and last night offered them the perfect tableau for that.

Of the fest's up-and-coming acts, Shamir gave the most explosive breakout performance, an extended dance party with roots in Minneapolis funk and club culture. When Shamir Bailey played the fest last year, he experienced some pacing problems, but he announced at the outset he was playing without a setlist, so everyone would be surprised to see where things went. This worked out well, and Shamir was a confident force onstage, with an impressively tight backing band. At one point he addressed the crowd, unafraid to bite the hand that feeds him, telling them the one thing he noticed at every festival he played is that "There's always more of you out here than there are in VIP so let's give it up to the REAL music consumers." He closed his set by leaping into the crowd. If Pitchfork books Shamir again, he's earned a right to one of the main stages.

Chicago's Twin Peaks delivered what could be considered the other breakout set of the day. Vocalist and guitarist Cadien James entered the stage on a wheelchair—a nod to when he played the fest with a broken ankle in 2014—and immediately jumped out, laughing and saying, "Just kidding!" Twin Peaks has grown immensely since that 2014 set, benefitting from years of touring and getting ever tighter. Their live sound is manic and raw—in contrast to their records, which have become more polished—and Friday afternoon's set was a wild rock-and-roll party everyone was invited to. One sign held high above the crowd said it all: "The whole world can fuck off because I'm listening to Twin Peaks."

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