This past weekend, we attended one of my favorite annual events, the Pitchfork Music Festival. It takes place in a park just west of the Loop in the city, and it's a family friendly event that we've even taken Bella to the last three years in a row.
From 2006 through 2008, it was a bit of a challenge, since almost every day in those years the temperatures chose to soar to 90 and 100 degrees and above. Thankfully this year, thanks to the very wonderfully cool summer we've had in Chicago, the high temperature the entire weekend was only about 78 degrees. It was already a perfect weekend based on that.
I went solo on Friday night, since there were only four bands playing, and I was only concerned with seeing one of them. The festival kicked off with the Chicago instrumental group Tortoise. Sadly, they weren't very interesting, even as background noise while waiting for the next group, which was the band I wanted to see, Yo La Tengo.
I've been a fan of Yo La Tengo for something like 15 years now, and they are a very frustrating live act, because they can be among the best live bands out there, but also among the most boring, depending on the night. The bands that played on Friday night all agreed to let the fans who bought tickets vote on their set lists for the night, so one way or another, this was going to be a unique and interesting set.
They opened their set slowly, with 3 piano based songs, but thankfully one was their classic "Autumn Sweater." Once the guitars were brought out, things were guaranteed to get lively. One of my highlights for the weekend happened around their fifth songs, when they played "Cherry Chapstick," a guitar blast that I've never had the chance to see them play live. The rest of the set had some interesting selections ("Mr. Tough," "Tom Courtnay"), but somehow they didn't have my favorite song in the set, "Blue Line Swinger," which I thought was always very popular live.
They did play a new song from their album which will be released in Septemeber as a break in the action, and closed with another guitar monster, "Sugarcube." Ira Kaplan, the band's guitarist, is one of my favorite players of all, and it was a thrill to be up against the stage to see him play up close again. I only wish they would add a YLT song to Guitar Hero or Rock Band, since they would need ot add an accelerometer to measure how much you are swinging the guitar around while it is off your neck while you are doing solos in the game. Wishful thinking.
Yo La Tengo was followed by what was hyped as the biggest set of the weekend by the critics, which was the return of Chicago punk legends the Jesus Lizard. I've heard a few of their songs in the past, which never did much for me, and have never seen an of their shows, which were supposed to be legendary. This is the first time they've played the city in nearly 10 years, so they anticiaption was high.
I hung toward the back, it probably would have been alot more interesting up front, but I didn't feel the need to be up there. I'm pretty much apparently the only person out of the approximate 17,000 or so who were supposed to be there who was unimpressed by the set though. It got pretty repetetive, and I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between any of the band's songs at all. Lead singer David Yow was amusing to watch at times, as he leapt in and out of the audience, but that can only go so far.
After the Jesus Lizard were the night's headliner's Built to Spill. I have liked some of their stuff, but their most recent album left me really cold. Since the food lines were pretty long (there was only one food vendor since it was the shortest day of the festival), and since I was beat from the work week, and lastly since it was actually getting near 60 and I had on shorts, I admit that I wussed out and decided to head home for the night before Built to Spill started. I knew I had two fantastic days of music ahead, so I didn't regret the decision too much.