Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pitchfork Fesrtival Day 2

Day 2 was our first complete day at the Festival. Again, the weather was pretty cooperative, but rain was very possible that day, so we packed up plenty of gear, hopped Bella on the train, and headed into the city for a full day of music.

We got there nearly right at 1:00 for the start, and things already started off much better than last year. We nearly walked right in to the gate this time around, when last year we were stuck in a line half a block long just trying to get in while the opening bands were playing. Since we knew the sun wasn't going to be beating down on us all day thanks to the cloud cover, we found a good spot near the soundbooths for the two main stages and set up our chairs and blanket and settled in.

One of the biggest complaints around about the weekend was that the sound level wasn't loud enough on the lawn, but that really worked to our advantage. Since we had Bella there, we obviously didn't want to have her anywhere where it was too loud, but we were there very close to both soundbooths, and the sound was mostly very clear and tolerable, and pretty much never got dangerously loud. I guess everyone's loss was our gain.

We started off listening to two new bands that were getting some hype, Cymbals Eat Guitars and Plants and Animals. Both were fine for an early afternoon festival set, can't really remember much from either, but they were enjoyable as early background music. One of the highlights of the weekend followed them immediately, the Canadian art punk band F-cked Up.

The lead singer of F-cked Up is a big 300 pound bald dude who calls himself Pink Eye, and who we came to see has probably the hairiest back in all of rock. I say this because after about one song, he took his shirt off and spent the rest of the sent leaping into the crowd. When he wasn't actually in the crowd, he was right up on the barricades, and pretty much never set foot on stage the rest of their time.

What he lacked in vocal ability (aside from screaming and yelling), he more than made up for in energy and charisma. The band capably plowed through the tracks, while Pink Eye was the whirlwind center of attention, making himself one with the audience while leading his band through a rampaging set. It was a classic set of punk energy, a perfect festival midday set to get things going.

Next up was another band I was very interested in seeing, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. They came into the festival heavily hyped, and their swirling guitar sound was being compared favorably to My Bloody Valentine. They were pretty enjoyable, playing to one of the biggest crowds they had ever played to. The band seemed a bit mellow out in the big open field, and I would guess they would come off completely different in a smaller venue. Definitely one to watch.

From that point on the, the quality dipped for a few hours on the main stages. Final Fantasy was a "band" that consisted only of one main member, a guy who played almost every note on only a violin or keyboard, and used effects pedals to loop his music and accompany himself. It wasn't bad, but belonged more on the smaller side stage instead of one of the more interesting bands there.

Yeasayer followed him, again another very heavily hyped band. This was unfortunately the point of the day at which the clouds finally decided to let loose and give us the only real rain shower of the day. I didn't really care for Yeasayer, nothing really grabbed my attention during the set. I did try heading over to the small side stage to see if the band Wavves would actually perform, as their previous live show ended in a complete onstage meltdown, and the main guitarist/singer had broken his arm in a skateboarding accident earlier in the week as well. I waited for a few minutes, but as their set time passed, I figured it wasn't worth the effort and headed back to our chairs. From what I could hear from their stage, it sounded like the right decisions.

After a dull set by rapper Doom, the penultimate band on the main stages was by yet another heavily hyped band, Beirut. I will say for one or two songs, their sound could have been interesting, as they used a pretty wide array of instruments. However, their sound got very repetetive and dull, and never rose beyond that. Michele and Bella took the time to go over to the side stage to try to catch the set by the most giddy band on the Earth, Matt and Kim, and I texted and told her I was extremely jealous of them.

Matt and Kim's manic piano/drum duo make for great power pop/punk songs, and their set at Lollapalooza a few years ago by far made them the band that was the happiest I have ever seen playing EVER. Unfortunately, the side stage was jam packed for their set, so Michele and Bella weren't able to see much. Bella really wanted to see them though, mostly because they had a woman playing the drums. They stuck it out as long as they could and loved what the heard, but headed back to wrap up the night.

Last up on the main stages was one of my current favorite bands, the National. Their last album, "Boxer," was one of my favorites of this decade, and their set at Lollapalooza last year was my favorite of that weekend, despite other heavy hitters on the bill like Radiohead, Wilco and Nine Inch Nails. The National have been extremely busy over the last year, mostly handling various side projects (most noteably the benefit compilation Dark Was the Night), but thankfully they must have been working on new band material as well.

The band did debut a few new songs in their closing set, while still of course hitting their previous great material like "Fake Empire," "Ada," and "Apartment Story." Lead singer Matt Berninger was again the MVP, cooly and calmly crooning out the majority of the set, but exploding when called for on "Abel" and "Mr. November." There was some doubt if they could handle closing out the fest, but there was little doubt left after the end of their night.

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