Photos: LCD Soundsystem Throw A Helluva Non-Retirement Party At Pitchfork Day 1
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 15, 2017 3:00PM
The 2017 edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival opened on an unusually mild day. The weather was throwing off a vibe more fall than summer. It seemed to have a mellowing effect on the crowd, which was unusually full for the fest's opening day. Organizers usually slot mellower arcs on Friday, but this year saw a slight change-up as seasoned indie-rock iconoclasts rubbed shoulders with some of the more fiery new names in music. The overall vibe seemed a bit different this year too: fewer goofy outfits and stuffed animals on sticks, replaced by more relaxed fashion choices, mixed with attendees carrying signs making statements, like “Consent Matters.” And, we did spot at least one Don’t Fret piece making its way over the crowd, so hopefully we’ll get more local art sightings throughout the weekend as well. The one thing that never seems to change at Pitchfork? The lines. Despite efforts to relocate the will call area and open up the gates, people were still stretched around the block waiting to get in. And inside the most popular place to wait was the line for tickets to purchase alcohol. We’ll see how that plays out over the weekend— Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
When headliners LCD Soundsystem last played Pitchfork, in 2010, it was meant to be a farewell. Say what you will, but we're happy that retirement didn’t stick. Structurally the band's set was almost the same as their Chicago appearance at Lollapalooza last year, with a few deletions to make room for new songs “Call The Police” and “American Dream.” But it’s clear that Murphy has put together what he thinks is the perfectly paced dance party, with well-timed peaks and comedowns—and damned if he isn’t right. “Yr City’s A Sucker” opened the set to get the crowd moving, and “Daft Punk Is Playing In My House” got 'em grooving. The first truly magnificent moment was when the the field opened up as the beat of “Trials And Tribulations” elicited whoops of joy, hands in the air, and a sea of smiling faces.
The new material that had left me a little on the fence when I first heard it sounds amazing in a live setting, underscoring that, for all Murphy’s studio prowess, and the fact LCD began as a band on singles and albums only, the Soundsystem is truly a live beast now.
Despite Murphy noting early that "We got 52 minutes and 56 seconds left" in the set (in retrospect a sly aside directed at the countdown clock on festival stages) the group closed out the evening with 20 minutes to spare. Of course, when your last four songs are “Home,” “New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down,” “Dance Yrself Clean,” and “All My Friends,” we're not sure where you could go for an encore. We've seen LCD Soundsystem play “All My Friends” a LOT of times, and the pure release that washed over the crowd never fails to deliver chills. Call us suckers, tell us we're losing out edge, but at any given moment on an LCD set, we're together and everything is beautiful, if even only for a few minutes. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Across the field was Venezuelan avant-electronic producer Arca, whose latest, self-titled record is a harrowing display of emotional gravity. But his Friday set was intense in a different way. Stepping out in high heels, a leather jacket, skin-tight short shorts, and passing around a bottle of champagne, he delivered a pageant of spectacular gaudiness and mile-a-minute deconstruction. Madonna, South American club tracks, Le Tigre, a dollop of metal—it’s all mangled to fit the Kanye and Bjork collaborator’s visionary dance aesthetic. Ever the transgressive, Arca at one point paired the world’s most spastic voguing with graphic video of a kitten’s ear surgery (visuals by longtime collaborator Jesse Kanda). Unlike anything else.—Stephen Gossett
An early highlight was Thurston Moore’s late afternoon set. The ex-Sonic Youth frontman towered over the stage and created a controlled squall that had the field packed with a swaying crowd, eagerly losing themselves in the band's constantly shifting dynamics. “Cusp,” from Moore’s latest album, Rock N Roll Consciousness, was a good example of his strengths, as a relentless beat ratcheted up the tension before suddenly giving way to throttling guitars and cresting walls of noise. (Watching him work the pick over those six strings often had us worried he would either sprain his wrist or be crippled by a sudden onset of carpal tunnel syndrome.) And on songs like “Aphrodite,” Moore trotted out the neat trick perfected in his Sonic Youth days of making dueling discordant guitar lines sound abrasively pleasing.— Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
When Danny Brown's DJ started playing Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” it served as a warning of what to expect: things were gonna get loud. When Brown took the stage I was 100 feet behind the soundboard and the rolling bass still rattled my ribs and threatened to cave in my chest. Brown’s vocals were buried at first, but the sound crew remedied that before even the first song was even through. On his releases, Brown has always left me a bit cold, but in a live setting his music makes a lot more sense. He stalks the stage with a swagger and attitude that feels less like a front and more like a genuine propulsion of over-worldly charisma his wiry frame can barely contain. His delivery and flow turn somersault and create a magnetic pull that doesn’t allow you to take in his music passively. The set felt like a turning point for Brown, where he turned previous buzz into a MainStage payoff that has me excited to see where he goes next.— Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Dirty Projectors is basically a David Longstreth solo project now, underscored by his centerstage positioning, while most of his band was situated near the wings. At the start, the set felt sparse and focused, leaning on his mesmerizing vocals, lulling the crowd into expecting a mellow mood. But halfway through “Impregnable Question,” Longstreth’s repeated vocal of “we don’t see eye to eye” was captured, looped and relentlessly manipulated by his keyboardist as the drummer switched to an electric kit that sliced and diced the beat into something out of a Twin Peaks dance party. The remainder of the set followed suit, as songs veered from dark confessionals to weird, spasming workouts‚—with vocals that at times floated naked over the audience and at others were treated to within an inch of their life.— Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Ascendant Oakland rapper Kamaiyah's set was frustratingly short, but it was an infectious highlight from the smaller, progressive-bent Blue Stage. The 2017 XXL Freshman Class member mines G-funk and the Too Short-style Bay Area classic sound, but it plays more like inspirational regional birthright than retro throwback. Set opener and brand-new cut “Build You Up” set the template for the good-times-and-open-arms inclusivity that we need in our festival life—and life in general.—Stephen Gossett