Speedy Ortiz rides a wave of critical acclaim and buzz into MPMF
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Speedy Ortiz has gone from basement shows in the quartet's native Northampton, Mass., to massive festivals like Bonnarro in whiplash fashion. Yet the band has handled the transition deftly, delivering its slanted, guitar-driven ditties with the same offhanded grace no matter the setting.
by Ben Wittkugel
Three years ago on summer vacation, I heard about Pitchfork Music Festival from my older sister. She went to the festival with friends from her college radio station, and told me about spending the weekend in Chicago, crashing on a friend’s apartment floor and navigating the train system. It didn’t sound particularly comfortable, but I wanted to see for myself.The next year, I bought my ticket and found my way to the festival grounds, an ordinary public park with baseball diamonds and a conveniently located CTA train stop. During last year’s festival, which was filled with uninvited weather, I stood in the rain to watch Bjork, who was dressed like an extraterrestrial porcupine, and witnessed Lil B, “The BasedGod,” inspire thousands of his devoted supporters. I left exhausted, but figured I would come back next year.Heading into the festival this year, I was excited for the headliners and many smaller artists I’ve never seen. But as I walked into the park on Friday, there were two major surprises: a clear sky and free Twinkies. I arrived at the festival in the early afternoon and headed over to the Blue Stage in the corner of the park. I listened to the Haxan Cloak for a short time, before leaving to see Sharon Van Etten on the Red stage. As I waited, my anticipation grew waiting to hear her perform songs from her outstanding new album, Are We There. Once Neneh Cherry ended on the adjacent stage, Van Etten began with “Afraid of Nothing,” the album’s first song. She wasn’t afraid of anything, jumping right into the performance by displaying her honest songwriting, singing “You told me the day/That you show me your face/We’d be in trouble for a long time.” Near the end of her set, she humbly thanked her band and began the melancholy “Your Love is Killing Me." After focusing on Van Etten’s lyrics that revolved around the difficulties of love, I was ready for Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks to take the stage. The newly formed trio is led by Animal Collective member Dave Porter, who joined forces with former Dirty Projector member Angel Deradoorian and ex-Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman to create their first record, Enter the Slasher House. There’s more to Slasher Flicks besides Avey Tare as Deradoorian controlled the woozy synths and driving basslines behind a stack of keyboards and contributed another layer with echoing vocals.The second “Little Fang” began, the crowd bobbed their heads, moving to the beat of the punctuated bassline. The crowd later joined Avey Tare in singing the song’s chorus, “You’re something special/You’ve got to shout it out/If there are doubts then we will groove it out.” Nearly the entire crowd agreed with Avey’s lyrics and kept a high level of energy until the finale, “Strange Colores”.After getting back late from seeing Deafheaven at the Bottom Lounge, I would have loved to sleep in before starting Day 2, but after seeing Twin Peaks at the Northside Rock n’ Roll Carnival, I couldn’t miss seeing the band play in their hometown. Frontman Cadien James certainly wasn’t going to let his broken leg stop him as he rolled out on stage in a wheelchair. The young band played a mix of old songs, like “Baby Blue,” and tore through crowd favorites “Flavor” and “I Found a New Way” off their upcoming album Wild Onion. The entire band was elated to be kicking off the festival’s second day in front of many of their friends.Cloud Nothings performed later in the day on the red stage, following a great performance by British quartet Wild Beasts. I watched from afar as I grabbed a spot up front for Cloud Nothings. After seeing them at Midpoint Music Festival in 2012, they’ve become one of my favorite bands, and one I most anticipated seeing at Pitchfork.Lead singer Dylan Baldi walked on stage and counted off “Now Here In”, the first track on their sophomore album Here and Nowhere Else. The moshpit broke open during “Separation”, while the security guards constantly motioned towards each other every time they spotted a crowd surfer. Like most shows, Baldi ended with “Wasted Days,” but this time, he brought out two friends to add more power to the grueling, eight-minute track. Leading up to the festival, Sunday sold out the fastest, partly due to the Kendrick Lamar’s headlining spot, but most likely because the entire day was filled with exciting acts. I also wanted to check out some of this year’s upcoming Midpoint Music Festival performers (Speedy Ortiz, Mutual Benefit and Real Estate).After eating a much-needed breakfast in Logan Square Sunday morning, I was ready for the final day. But, without thinking, I boarded the wrong train on my way to the park, forcing me to backtrack to the loop. I got to the festival just in time to head over to the Blue Stage to see Speedy Ortiz, a band from Massachusetts who played a handful of songs from their awesome record Major Arcana. Then I went to the Green Stage to see Mutual Benefit, a Folk project created by Columbus native Jordan Lee. His stunning music was a great fit for the crowd that was spread out across the festival grounds.Throughout the entire day, the Red Stage was filled with amazing shows by the likes of DIIV, Earl Sweatshirt and Grimes. DIIV played a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” along with a handful of new songs. Real Estate started its set in the early evening with a cover of the Nerves’ “Paper Dolls” and worked in a few songs from previous records. The crowed responded the most to “Horizon” and “Crime” from the new album Atlas. Once Real Estate ended, I took a break to sit down with friends and eat some pizza. After resting up, I was ready to see Kendrick perform for the first time after missing him multiple times in Cincinnati. While Kendrick Lamar was still on his ascension to the top when he played Pitchfork two years ago, there’s no question he deserves the headlining spot. He’s considered the king of the West Coast after releasing his major label debut that detailed his life in Compton. Finally, the lights were lowered and the screen lit up, showing the beginning of the short film that accompanied Kendrick throughout his set. The large video screen later projected scenes of empty liquor bottles rattling on the floor during “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and Kendrick driving his mom’s purple Dodge Caravan down Compton’s Rosecrans Avenue in the late hours of the night. As his backing band began playing “Money Trees”, Kendrick came out to a roaring crowd. The energy continued as Kendrick began “Backseat Freestyle” and later performed “m.A.A.d city.” Every minute of the show Kendrick had the audience’s full attention, whether they were rapping along or listening to him speak. After performing every song fromgood kid, m.A.A.d. city, Kendrick left the stage, only to come back to perform “A.D.H.D” from Section .80. The 27-year-old rapper proved that with his skillful vocal delivery and interactive showmanship, he possesses the ability to connect with his fans and capture the attention of a crowd any size. After finding my way out of the park, I realized that the Pitchfork Music Festival might be the only time where Shoegaze pioneers Slowdive, the widely recognizable Earl Sweatshirt and Disco legend Giorgio Moroder all played on the same stages in one weekend.Pitchfork, the website, may be criticized for their decimal rating scale, or removing poor reviews of albums (i.e. deleting their 0.8 rating/review of Belle & Sebastian’s mid 2000’s comeback album The Boy with the Arab Strap), but each summer music-fans leave its festival satisfied. The bottom line is that Pitchfork creates a music festival featuring an eccentric lineup, consistent ticket prices and much smaller grounds than most major music festivals. If you go to Pitchfork next year, expect a balanced dose of Indie Rock, Hip Hop, Folk and much more for $140 in Union Park with 18,000 people standing in the outfield of a baseball diamond.
by Mike Breen
Real Estate, Tycho, Panda Bear and more set for September fest
A new batch of over 20 artists has been announced for this year’s MidPoint Music Festival, which returns to the clubs and venues of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Sept. 25-27. The following acts join The Afghan Whigs, who were announced last week as the Washington Park headliners on Sept. 26, at 2014’s MPMF.
New Jersey Indie rockers Real Estate enhanced the buzz they’ve been building on in March when Domino Records issued the group’s latest album, Atlas. The tough critics at Pitchfork, supporters of the band since its 2009 debut, gave Atlas an 8.8 (out of 10) and said it’s “at once their most forlorn album and their most beautiful.” “It is rare, and special, for a band to be this effortlessly and completely themselves,” Pitchfork added.
Noah Lennox is a founding member of Animal Collective but also a successful solo artist under his stage name, Panda Bear. His experimental, psychedelic style will be on glorious display at MPMF as he promotes his latest solo effort, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, due sometime this year on Domino Records. (Fun fact: Panda Bear was a guest artist on Daft Punk’s Album of the Year Grammy-winning Random Access Memories.)Tycho
Ambient Electronic artist Tycho (born Scott Hansen) makes critically acclaimed music for the esteemed Ghostly International label. His latest album, Awake, came out in March and reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart (and No. 23 on the general Billboard album chart). In a review of the new album, Consequence of Sound said, “Listening to Tycho is the aural equivalent of exploring a new art museum. The overall effect is one of remarkable beauty and you still have the option of how you’ll take it in.”Deafheaven
Uniquely adventurous San Francisco metallers Deafheaven take a unique approach to Black Metal, which has led to wider acclaim and a more diverse audience than most other Black Metal bands … and, of course, has led to some of the genre’s fans to decry them as “not Black Metal.” Whatever. The group’s fantastic Sunbather was one of the more compelling albums of 2013 (and, subsequently, one of the best reviewed albums of last year, as well). Here’s CityBeat’s interview with the band from earlier this year. Gardens & Villa
After spending a couple of years touring the world and becoming a tighter, better band in the process, Californian Indie Electro Pop band Gardens & Villa released its second album, Dunes, on the Secretly Canadian imprint earlier this year. The Raveonettes
Danish Indie Rock duo The Raveonettes have been buzzing around since 2001, when Rolling Stone editor David Fricke saw the band at a music festival and publicly raved about them. The twosome’s fuzzy Pop sound was an instant hit upon the release of Chain Gang of Love on Columbia in 2003. Over a decade later, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are prepping their seventh full-length and continue to tour the globe. Sun Kil Moon
Mark Kozelek first brought his emotive, slo-mo Indie Rock to the masses with the great Red House Painters. When that band dissolved around the turn of the century, the singer/songwriter and actor (he was in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky) continued the vibe with Sun Kil Moon, which released its sixth album, Benji (featuring Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and Will Oldham, among other guests), in February of this year. In July, Kozelek will release a live Sun Kil Moon album. Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
The Afghan Whigs aren’t the only MPMF band with international acclaim and Cincinnati ties. Vintage R&B/Rock & Roll outfit Barrence Whitfield & the Savages was formed in the ’80s by Soul shouter Whitfield and Peter Greenberg, guitarist for the pioneering Cincy Garage Rock band The Customs (and, later in Boston, DMZ and The Lyres). The twosome reformed the band (with some local musicians in the fold) and released the locally-recorded Savage Kings album in 2010. Building a bigger audience with every tour, the band’s Dig Thy Savage Soul album last year was its best received yet, leading to successful shows across Europe (and a spot of Later … with Jools Holland in the U.K.). Read CityBeat’s feature story on the band from last year when they played a two-night stand at MPMF venue MOTR Pub. Barrence Whitfield & The Savages The Corner Man Later with Jools Holland from TKA on Vimeo.
EMA is Erika M. Anderson, a South Dakota native who honed her chops in the California experimental music scene. With EMA, Anderson makes slinky Indie Pop Rock so infectious it caught the attention of indie label giants Matador Records. The label released EMA’s latest album, The Future’s Void, in April to widespread praise. Ex Hex
Ex Hex is the new band from Mary Timony, leader of Helium, member of Wild Flag and also a solo artist (the band name comes from the title of her 2005 Lookout! Records album). The band’s first release, the 7-inch single “Hot and Cold,” came out on Merge Records in March.Landlady
Formed by Man Man’s Adam Schatz, Brooklyn’s Landlady became a hometown favorite thanks to consistently great live shows and a 2011 self-released album. In July, the band releases its new album, Upright Behavior, on Hometapes, home to artists like Matthew E. White and Megafaun. Speedy Ortiz
When Massachusetts Indie Rock band Speedy Ortiz had its first official full-length, Major Arcana, released on Carpark Records last year, the band instantly became an audience and critical favorite, landing on many scribes’ “Best of 2013” lists. The A.V. Club called the album “a markedly assured debut, one that makes Speedy Ortiz an act to watch. Like its songs, the band’s detonation is inevitable.” Earlier this year, the band released the Real Hair EP.Low Cut Connie
After building a strong following in Cincinnati thanks to repeated visits (including a great set at last year’s MPMF), Piano Rock crew Low Cut Connie return for another rollicking show in the Queen City. Read CityBeat’s interview with LCC from March here.The Tontons
Houston Indie rockers The Tontons hit the touring circuit hard over the past seven years and now, with the release of their second album, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love, earlier this year, the hard work is paying off for the band. The self-released LP received high praise from the likes of The New York Times, Paste and Rolling Stone. Ex-Cult
Psych/Proto Punk band Ex-Cult hails from Memphis and recently released its second album, Midnight Passenger, on Goner Records. CMJ says, “This second full-length breathes with a more expansive volume and guitar churn, without resorting to every other current garage band’s habit of just dumping reverb on everything. In fact as this rec moves along, its snaky sprawl sees the band crawling out of its genre garage, like spilled oil and gas seeping into the weeds and cracks in the driveway, making everything a bit more slippery as you approach.”Milagres
Brooklyn’s Milagres make Indie Synth Rock for the Kill Rock Stars label. After the success of their 2011 album, Glowing Mouth, the band released Violent Light in early 2014. Rubblebucket
Formed by two former members of Reggae group John Brown’s Body, trippy Dance Rock band Rubblebucket self-released its debut, Rose’s Dream, in 2008. Since then, the band has had its cover of The Beatles’ “Michelle” declared on the 50 greatest Fab Four covers of all time by Paste, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and recorded with LCD Soundsystem’s Eric Broucek. The band’s most recent release is the EP Save Charlie.Mutual Benefit
NYC-based Mutual Benefit is the dreamy project of singer/songwriter Jordan Lee, who grew up in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Last year’s debut full-length, Love’s Crushing Diamond, drew comparisons to the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Grizzly Bear. The Cave Singers
Seattle Indie Folk group The Cave Singers formed in 2007 out of the ashes of the great Pretty Girls Make Graves. The band’s latest album, Naomi, came out last year on Jagjaguwar.July Talk
Canadian Indie rockers July Talk formed just a couple of years ago, but already they have an international profile, touring with artists like Billy Talent and Besnard Lakes and catching audiences attention with a great live show. The group recently premiered a new music video for “Summer Dress,” a song slated for a forthcoming EP. St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Alabama Soul ensemble St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ great sound and live show have made them a favorite on the international touring circuit. The band’s debut album, Half the City, came out earlier this year, leading to the group’s appearance on CBS’s The Late Late Show and, more recently, a nomination for Emerging Act of the Year from the Americana Music Association.Three-day tickets (and VIP tickets) are on sale now at mpmf.cincyticket.com. Today at noon, single-show tickets for The Afghan Whigs’ all-ages (kids under 10 can get in free with a paying adult) concert in Washington Park on Sept. 26 go on sale at the same site. For the latest MidPoint updates, be sure to visit mpmf.com. You can also follow MPMF on Twitter here and Facebook here.