Posts Tagged ‘pitchfork music festival’
Deerhunter won Pitchfork Music Festival. Blue ribbons all around. If you were there, chances are Deerhunter done fucked you up. You might still be reeling. I am.
The Atlanta-based spirit warriors came out guns blazing Sunday evening sporting a variety of their latest bangers (“Helicopter,” “Revival”) and a classic, not often played gem from Cryptograms (“Hazel St.”). However, the vast majority of Deerhunter’s set consisted of their most hypnotic material - songs like “Desire Lines,” “Little Kids,” et al. While limited to less than an hour on stage, the band still triumphantly rode those aforementioned grooves to the end of the astral plane. “Nothing Ever Happened” clocked in over 15 drugged-out (but upbeat) minutes. And between the impromptu noise freak-outs and the song’s soaring coda, Bradford summoned his inner Alan Vega to deliver an urgent, frantic cover of Patti Smith’s “Horses”, as well as his inner Thurston Moore to utilize the stage fan as an instrument. “Nothing Ever Happened” ranks as one of my favorite concert moments in recent memory. But surprisingly, this was not their grand exit. The band opted to end on a more emotionally powerful note, as they did on Halcyon Digest, with the vivid “He Would Have Laughed,” Bradford’s tribute to his late friend Jay Reatard.
Deerhunter put their dynamic live approach on full display, ensuring the Pitchfork audience understood how easily and acrobatically the band can toggle between concise pop and monolithic bliss-outs. The improvement between when I saw them in 2009 (which was a great show) and at Pitchfork (which was a next level show) is remarkable, but not unexpected. Last year’s Halcyon Digest showcased Deerhunter at their most confident and relaxed, compared to the visceral tension rife within their previous full-lengths. The Deerhunter who played the same festival in 2007 was a nascent act, with a vocalist whom endured incessant and insensitive jabs about his physical appearance in the press. His response: provocation – cross dressing, chain smoking, bizarre puppeteering, and talking shit on stage (not to mention in subsequent interviews too). Newton’s third law manifests in human behavior as well. Thankfully, Deerhunter no longer have to prove themselves to anyone anymore – they’ve written and released three practically flawless and important albums in the interim. For their 2011 return, the audience in front of the Green Stage witnessed a band in total control of their sound, comfortable in their own skin. The guys visibly had a blast beguiling the crowd with brightly tinted melodies while grabbing everyone by the collar and dragging us down the rabbit hole.
Beyond just the maturation, Deerhunter’s intra-band dynamic is so pronounced and effective, it’s second to none. Gone is the sonic anarchy that brought them initial attention, replaced with an extremely well-oiled machine concocted from separate parts efficiently working in tandem with total vigor. Moses’ vicious, metronomic timekeeping and Josh’s bouncing, fluid low-end anchors in a solid foundation for Bradford and Lockett to bend sounds, propel celestial loops, break sound barriers, and launch the songs into orbit. The cadence of Deerhunter’s live sound lies somewhere between whimsical interstellar improv and classic dream pop sensibility.
It’s worth mentioning that during “Little Kids,” I witnessed a gaggle of blond-haired, henna-saturated, tanned beyond fluorescence hippie chicks engaging in the dress-twirl dance common within the festival-going demographic. This is just outstanding. That Deerhunter – a band whose catalog bolsters a significant output of noise and ambient explorations, a band who has described themselves in the past as “not terribly photogenic” (something that doesn’t bother me obviously), a band who released a debut titled Turn It Up Faggot, a band with a frontman more than happy to push the envelope – is able to appeal to such a wide base, against all logic, demonstrates that these alchemists have tapped into something. What is Deerhunter? A psych band? Garage act? Indie rock mainstay? A steadfast festival darling? Does it matter? I maintain, as I have for a quite some time, that Deerhunter is simply the finest contemporary American rock and roll band, mesmerizing in every facet. Deerhunter is simply unfuckwithable. (Photos by Jerry Risner for The Decibel Tolls)
Enthusiasts for tympanic destruction and curators of bizarre tweets HEALTH closed down shop at Pitchfork’s Blue Stage on the final night in the most proper fashion – pure unbridled brutality. If you thought Odd Future and/or their audience offered the festival’s most rowdy contingent, your ass profoundly miscalculated. For those who are disinclined to enjoy music of the noisier persuasion, artists like HEALTH provide some insight as to its appeal. Like much of abstract fine art, the magic lies within the process more than the product. The primordial energy and gusto it takes an artist like HEALTH to recreate suffocating and salient tension on stage is nothing short of astounding. That the stage was still standing under the weight of HEALTH’s crushing sonic heaviness is equally astounding. The quartet pounded through the hits – “Nice Girls” “Zoothorns” “Crime Wave,” and left nothing but rubble and scored earth in their wake. And on the other side of the barricade – fist pumping, crowd surfing, beach balls, costumes, and general skulduggery from the audience summoned the sinister mayhem of sweaty basement shows to Union Park on a larger scale. Aurally annihilating, yet fun and refined; HEALTH was gnarly.
Saving my favorite performances for last, all which took place on the blockbuster bill that was Sunday. Despite his presence as a man outside his time, Kurt Vile has enjoyed a pretty heavy 2011, keeping busy by dropping rad joints like Smoke Ring For My Halo, musically canoodling with the mighty Woods for a forthcoming split, and flattening the hills of central Texas with earth pummeling primordial electricity during this year’s South By Southwest. Add a triumphant showing at Pitchfork to the list.
While some of the artists at Pitchfork suffered from a poor transition between small club environs and a massive outdoor stage, The Violators styled their shit out with an expansive and explosive sound that enveloped the festival grounds like a sweltering fog. Of course, Kurt Vile’s sonically unencumbered, go-big-or-go home philosophy borrows heavily from his arena rock brethren (hair included), and that’s exactly why we need him now more than ever. Synths and artistic detachment become totally stale in the sunlight, and that approach is more or less played out anyway. Kurt Vile is all about solid songs recreated with craftsmanship and gusto. This is colossal rock and roll, relishing in stripped down classic grit with a swirling ethereal center (since as well all know, Spring Hall reverb augments enlightenment). Put some space age delay on that harmonica and let’s roll.
Also appreciated is The Violators’ unabashedly working class take on psychedelic music. I come from a blue collar Middle American background, and to wit, I don’t fucks with nor care to understand fake ass trust fund core poppycock like The Strokes or whomever. Gimmie the raw shit. You know the populist aesthetic rife within their music is sincere, because look at these greasy guys! They perfectly fit the archetype of your neighborhood friendly noodler who summons Deep Purple riffs at the guitar shop when testing out a new Orange amp after a hard day on the job. It’s something I, and Bruce Springsteen, totally appreciate. Value added.
While Kurt Vile and The Violators’ droney form of athemic electric folk might have deserved a dusk set time, for both mood and comfort, the almost-free-jazz crescendo of “Freak Train” transcended time, space, and temperature. Seeing Kurt Vile live is always the right choice.
Competing with DJ Shadow Saturday night can be a real tough proposition, but Zola Jesus put on her game face and brought the motherfucking pain. Her sultry, cavernous, pitch black electronic pop suggests some theatricality, but my expectations were obliterated by Nika Danilova’s dazzling presence. The girl hustles! Not common in the paradigm of detached art pop, Zola Jesus gives the audience a tried and true stage performance, inviting the crowd at every turn to join in on the ritual. Zola Jesus easily belongs in the same conversation as Fever Ray and Goldfrapp in this regard. And her backing band (featuring a mix of rotating and permanent players) is equally solid. These photos provide some insight, but look… if Zola Jesus rolls to your neck of the woods, don’t be a dipshit; grip some tickets.
Needless to say, the Blue Stage closed out with a bang Saturday night. Obviously the dress was a hit too.
If there was one point over the entire Pitchfork weekend that was totally lost on me, it was the appeal of watching Baths in a festival setting. In a small club or art space, Will Wiesenfeld’s glitch electro set might’ve been fantastic. But under the later afternoon sun with oppressive heat, it was a tall order to ask someone to stand amongst the sweaty masses and watch a guy dance behind his Macbook (which I do at home just fine whenever I hear a blazin’ joint). Although I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t express some respect for his choice of basketball garb. That’s tight. But yeah, I just couldn’t do it. Sorry to be a fuddy duddy. Seems like a good dude, though. Like the chops. Baths definitely provided the most poignant “hang out on the blanket” portion of the day.
We spent the remainder of Baths’ set at the Heineken Tent, billed as the festival’s sole air conditioned structure. The Heineken Tent presented a fantastic cost-benefit thought experiment. Is the benefit of slightly relieving AC worth the cost of tolerating Sublime? On Sunday, I’m afraid the resounding conclusion was yes. Cool air… is what I got (I said remember that). While we didn’t find the Heineken Tent’s other export, Heineken, the most refreshing of beers on such a gnarly day, much like the end of Babe, “that’ll do.” Still love that flick.