Friday, July 25, 2008

2008 Pitchfork Festival--Union Park, Chicago, Illinois (Sunday)

By the last day of a music festival, it’s hard enough to drag oneself out of bed at a decent hour, let alone to arrive for the very first band of the day. Plus, when a no-namer like Mahjongg and a grating, lo-fi monstrosity like Times New Viking are your early morning options, it’s best to stay in bed for an extra hour. This was the very reason that I chose to arrive at Union Park a little before 2 p.m. on Sunday for the last day of Pitchfork Music Festival.

Hoping to secure a good spot for Los Angeles noise-rockers, HEALTH, and their 2:20 slot, I walked over to the Balance stage. Instead of seeing the stage being set-up for HEALTH, I got there just in time to see High Places start their set, which was originally slated to begin at 1:25. Confused, I overheard from someone next to me that the church on the other side of the fence from the stage had pushed every band back thirty minutes because Pitchfork had to wait until the service was over to start. Damnit. I decided to stay and watch High Places for a little bit, even though I’d never listened to them before. BIG MISTAKE. Between the barely-there vocals and bland, boppy keys and tropical rhythms, I was half-asleep by the time they were onto their second song.

Thankfully, Japanese metal titans, Boris, had been playing on the Connector stage since 2 p.m., so I made my way over to the main part of the park to watch them instead. A huge gong and a see-through pink drum kit was all I needed to see to confirm my belief that Boris would be much more entertaining live than High Places. I watched a few songs from behind the sound-board, chatted with some friends, and scored some free Ice Cream Man treats from said friends that had VIP area access. Sweet deal, literally.

One ice cream sandwich later, I wandered back over to the Balance stage to see if HEALTH were ready to play. They were, and within minutes, their squalls of guitar feedback and screaming vocals were attacking the crowd of hundreds gathered around the stage. Sticking to songs from their self-titled debut album, they worked the crowd into a frenzy, with fist-pumps and head-banging winning out over the hot-as-hell early afternoon sun.

HEALTH playing at the Balance Stage.

With HEALTH’s noise fading into the background, it was now time to get a spot for the band I’d been waiting all weekend to see: Les Savy Fav. Back over at the Connector stage, a small group of fans had gathered, craning their necks for any possible Tim Harrington sightings. Elephant 6 indie-pop favorites, Apples In Stereo, were already playing on the Aluminum stage nearby, so I watched them while waiting ten feet from the barricade for Les Savy Fav’s 4 p.m. set.

Tim Harrington, before the stripping and the mud.

Right on time, my hero and yours, Tim Harrington, strode onto stage with his band-mates. It only took about thirty seconds into their first song for the stripping to begin. Harrington’s original bright-yellow jumpsuit was soon reduced to shiny red leggings that hugged him in all the wrong places, and an oversized tie-dyed t-shirt. Wardrobe changes and stripping weren’t about to slow Harrington down though. From crowd-surfing in a trash can, to running through the crowd and rubbing mud on his body, to blowing up latex gloves, Harrington was unstoppable and by far the best frontman of any band performing in the festival.

Fun with acronyms with Les Savy Fav.

Sticking mostly to tracks from their great 2007 album, Let’s Stay Friends, as well as a few classic older songs, Harrington somehow managed to sing each song without missing a beat, while his fellow band-mates barely seemed to acknowledge his crazy antics. I’m assuming they’re probably used to it by now. “Why we can’t do this every day? Why can’t we buy this park? Why can’t we buy this equipment?” asked Harrington as he changed into a Sherlock Holmes costume right before the band launched into “We’ll Make A Lover Out Of You.” Funny, I was wondering the same thing all throughout Les Savy Fav’s stellar performance.

Tim Harrington gets up close and personal with fans.

I had originally planned on watching The Dodos set at 5 p.m., but after moving every single part of my body to Les Savy Fav’s terrific show, I needed a break. I listened to The Dodos from afar, got some food from the Chicago Diner booth, and decided to see Ghostface Killah and Raekwon at the Balance stage at 6 p.m. I know; I’m a 5’2’’, indie-rock-loving, white girl, why would I rather see two Wu-Tang Clan members over indie troubadour, M. Ward (who was playing at the same time)? I just figured that since I’ve seen M. Ward before and am about to see him play with She & Him in a few weeks, why not see someone that I would be less likely to watch perform again?

Ghostface and Raekwon totally coordinated their outfits together, omgz.

It was a good decision on my part, because Ghostface and Raekwon were great. With the smell of weed hitting my nose from every direction, I watched as the crowd waved their hands in the air and rapped along excitedly to a mix of Wu-Tang Clan classics, solo album cuts, and a tribute to Ol’ Dirty Bastard aka Dirt McGirt aka Big Baby Jesus. I’m not going to lie and say this is the kind of music I listen to on a regular basis, but sometimes there’s nothing better at a giant summer festival than watching a couple of rappers hype the fuck out of a crowd that’s been standing in the sun all day.

Raekwon wakes up the crowd at Pitchfork.

As Ghostface and Raekwon were winding down, I too had had just about enough of the festival. My feet hurt, I was tired, and it didn’t take much for me to be convinced to head back to my apartment and miss the few remaining bands. I’ve never been one to leave a festival early, but I don’t think I really missed much by taking off at 7:30. Bon Iver will be back to Chicago in the fall, I missed the respective Spiritualized and Dinosaur Jr. boats by about ten years, I had just seen Cut Copy in May at the Abbey Pub, and it’s safe to say that Spoon, while they’re good live, they also basically put on the same show every single time.

Enough excuses though. I had arrived at Union Park on Saturday thinking that the Pitchfork Music Festival was going to be 100% obnoxious hipsters and a dozen or so average performances. But while walking back to the Green Line on Sunday night, all I could hear in my head was Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington and his now-famous quote: “Why can’t we do this every day?” Although he appeared to be rambling, I think Harrington aptly summed up the festival with that one line, because every music fan knows that it never truly feels like summer until you’re drinking overpriced beers and sweating next to strangers at a giant outdoor music festival.

--Anna Deem


Alex said...

Take it easy, Seattle.

Anonymous said...

well, am I right, or am I right?

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