by Ben Wittkugel
123 days ago
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.
Damien Jurado’s dynamic new LP is his most expectations-busting yet
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The story of Damien Jurado’s relationship with Punk Rock seems too symmetrical, too fortuitous and too rare to possibly be true. Somehow, though, all the pieces match.
Now 39 and based out of Seattle, Jurado was once a 14-year-old
growing infatuated with Punk.
Nov. 8 • Ballroom at the Taft Theatre
0 Comments · Monday, November 5, 2012
Sharon Van Etten’s first two albums revealed an emotionally visceral songwriter and performer who wasn’t afraid to explore love gone sour via a voice that’s as moving and expressive as any on the current landscape
by Mike Breen
Indie songstress plays Mayday and Messerly & Ewing pay respects to R.E.M.'s 'Green'
At Mayday in Northside, widely acclaimed singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten comes to town on her tour supporting her latest album, Tramp, which features contributions from members of The National (local boy-done-good Aaron Dessner produced the album), The Walkmen and Beirut. Van Etten spoke with Jason Gargano for this week's CityBeat about how the new album was her first attempt at serious collaboration, as well as what working with Dessner brought to the project and why she's been getting "dolled up" a little more lately ("A friend of mine once said, 'When I’m not feeling very confident I put on lipstick' and she just feels better. I kind of like that idea," she told CityBeat). Read the entire interview here. Doors open at 8 p.m. tonight and, unlike most Mayday shows, there is an admission fee ($12). Opening the show is Flock of Dimes, the solo guise of Jenn Wasner of acclaimed group Wye Oak.Here's a video from earlier this year of Van Etten performing songs from Tramp in NYC. • Local rockers Messerly & Ewing present a really cool after-party for Building Value's annual fundraiser/design competition ReUse-apalooza in Northside (click here for details). Following the event, the M&E band will head to Northside Tavern to perform a special tribute to R.E.M.'s 1988 album, Green. The band has some really unique swag to auction off for the cause (get a look at some examples here) and R.E.M.'s official website even gave the event some attention. To help M&E perform the album, they'll be joined by a slew of special guests: Mike Fair (Adventure Seekers), John Erhardt (Wussy, Ass Ponys), Chris Comer (Chris Comer Trio), Pete Janidlo (Clifford Nevernew, Seven Speed Vortex), Tricia Suit (Seven Speed Vortex) and poet Nick Barrows (Eagle to Squirrel). Wussy and Shiny and the Spoon will also do what's being called "R.E.M. album inspired performances."Showtime is 10 p.m. and it's free to attend. Here's the whole album to get you in the mood.Click here for even more live music events going on around town tonight.
With Tramp, evolving singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten opens up to collaboration
0 Comments · Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Sharon Van Etten began winning admirers with a pair of intimate, soul-bearing albums — 2009’s Because I Was In Love and 2010’s Epic
— that explored love gone bad via a voice that was so big and
expressive and sad-sounding that one feared for the woman from which it