Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2009 Pitchfork Festival: Friday

The last time there was a post on NQL, Michael Jackson was alive and the Cubs’ season seemed to be dead. Well, things have changed, and if morticians can dig up old bones in a graveyard, certainly I’m entitled to exhume NQL. It is especially appropriate since last weekend was the annual Pitchfork Festival. For the most part, I like Pitchfork. They commit some sins, but the festival is not one of them. It is far and away the best music festival I have been to, it is where this site was born, and therefore, it is time for a post.

I hate flying, but my flight to my old Chicago home was surprisingly pretty painless. Any disaster from last year was avoided. I hit Union Park at what I thought was a decent time, but Tortoise was long gone and Yo La Tengo was already playing. Not a huge deal, I have seen Tortoise plenty of times, and since two very long days of music were waiting for me, I could handle not seeing every single note played on Friday. Friday also featured a scenario where ticket holders were allowed to vote for what they wished to be the set list from each band. I am not wild about this scenario. I would rather hear what Yo La Tengo wants to play, and not what the guy standing on my right wants Yo La Tengo to play. But nevertheless, it is an interesting idea, and certainly would not detract much from the weekend. For those unaware, the Friday lineup was Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, the Jesus Lizard, and Built to Spill. It was like watching an old-timers’ game, except interesting and worthwhile.

As mentioned, I showed up during Yo La Tengo, and they happened to be playing “Autumn Sweater” from I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Good omen, I like that song. I looked around for my friends (my cellular phone was not working at the moment) before realizing I was in the wrong spot. I needed to go to the Jesus Lizard stage. My old friend Jim from Louisville is the biggest Jesus Lizard fan I know, and as much as we all love Yo La Tengo, it was important to be front and center for what was about to happen on the other stage. Knowing lead singer and resident maniac, David Yow, has to be nearing 50, I was curious if he still had the antics in him that has made him somewhat legendary. (Speaking of which, I think David Yow has looked 50 for the past 20 years. Has he ever looked young?) It was kind of like watching an old athlete come out of retirement, but instead of wondering whether he could still throw a 50-yard spiral, I was curious if he still had the drive to leap off the stage, and crowd surf naked. It is a subtle difference. Convinced the Jesus Lizard’s first set in their hometown in some time could range anywhere from awesome to a complete debacle, I wanted to be close enough to make the call. It was pretty much both.

The noisy rockers came onstage, Yow said a few things into the microphone about some upcoming shows that they are set to play at the Metro in November, the band started into their first song “Puss” from Liar and within seconds Yow flung himself into the crowd. It was great, and there are plenty of Youtube clips that captured the scene if you want to check it out. The twenty foot radius of rabid fans that formed around him was pretty much mayhem. I was being pushed, shoved, elbowed, stomped on, you name it, and I pretty much fine with it. And Yow kept his pants on for the entire show. Let’s call that a win-win. After about five songs, I had had enough and retreated just beyond the pit of grease balls who seemed to be enjoying their opportunity to anonymously try and hurt someone. As I watched the rest of the Jesus Lizard’s set, I noticed Jim near the front of the stage, for whatever reason, holding his shoes up in the air, but refusing to budge from his prime (or terrible, pending on your point of view) spot. As we found out later, during the roughhousing, Jim’s shoes somehow came off. So did his socks. The shoes were found. The socks were not. I cannot think of many other bands who could inspire those last two sentences. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…the Jesus Lizard.

I had never seen indie rock heroes Built to Spill before this night. Well, shame on me. We somehow managed to get a decent spot near the right of the stage, although we were without Jim, who was still missing in action from the Jesus Lizard’s set. Luckily, a girl in front of us was inexplicably holding a crutch up in the air. I got Jim on the phone and told him to head for the crutch. About five minutes later and still no Jim, the girl put the crutch down. Me, along with several other people, reacted with a simultaneous “Noooo,” as apparently I was not the only one using it as a point of reference. She reluctantly agreed to put the crutch back up in the air. A guy in my group assured her it would only take him about an hour to find us. She sort of found that funny. (He never found us, and the crutch was lowered about ten minutes later.)

Built to Spill was fantastic and it may have been my favorite set of the weekend. They opened with “Liar” from You in Reverse, and kept pretty strong momentum throughout the set. Great beards, too. As mentioned before, since it was a “fans write the set list” night, they hit a lot of what would be expected: “You Were Right,” “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” “Strange,” etc. Very conspicuously absent was “Car.” Really? No “Car?” Are you telling me the masses of people did not vote “Car” as one of the top ten songs that would have liked to have heard Built to Spill play? Someone jumpstart those riots in Iran, we have some more voter fraud on our hands!

(Saturday rundown coming tomorrow...maybe.)



Anthony Berbiglia said...

I remember some genius on this site had Blitzen Trapper in his top albums last year. That guy must be awesome!

Mike said...

Yo La Tengo did play my favorite song song of theirs, "Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind." If I didn't have the song saved on my computer, I would never remember the title, but I love all 10+ minutes of it.

The Jesus Lizard were the best performance of the weekend for me, and I'm glad that David Yow only played at pulling his penis out.

samantha said...

The Jesus Lizard were the best performance of the weekend for me...

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