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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 recap

Published: Monday, July 22, 2013

Updated: Monday, July 22, 2013 18:07


Photo courtesy of Tonje Thilesen | Pitchfork

Pitchfork Friday headliner Bjork.

belle and sebastian

Photo courtesy of Pitchfork

Pitchfork Saturday headliner Belle and Sebastian.

r. kelly

Photo courtesy of Randee St. Nicholas

Pitchfork Sunday headliner R. Kelly.

Despite a very lopsided lineup this year, Pitchfork Music Festival went off with a bang and seemingly without a hitch. I say lopsided because of the somewhat unequal distribution of star power between the three days: Sunday was stacked with R. Kelly, TNGHT and M.I.A., while Friday and Saturday, besides respective headliners Bjork and Belle and Sebastian, were something of a hodgepodge of punk bands and DJ acts.

You don't come to Pitchfork to see the big stars, though.  You come to see the big stars a year before they reach that level ‒ at least that's what I assume. This was my first Pitchfork attendance ever, and I sought to make the most of it.  Of the 46 bands in the lineup, I saw 29, which by my elementary calculations is more than half. And when I say I saw them, I mean I bore witness to no less than 15 minutes of their set.

Here are some highlights of each of the days, based on notes that I took and my memory.

FRIDAY, July 19

The first day of the festival started later than the next two would, with the first act going on at 3:20 p.m.  I arrived shortly after 2:30, which is when press check-in was starting.  After receiving my credentials, I did what everyone else was doing and walked over to the media tent and milled about. They told us we couldn't go into the park itself until the gates opened at 3.  Turns out, they took this regulation very seriously and had to herd us back outside the gates until we could go in "for real this time."

Once that was figured out, it was off to the races.  Friday was not a day that was full of any big commitments for me; of course I would see Bjork, and I really wanted to catch Mac DeMarco, but otherwise I was content with just wandering and seeing as many bands as possible. The first two artists ‒ Frankie Rose and Daughn Gibson ‒ were somewhat opposite.  Frankie Rose was your prototypical Brooklyn band, with lots of surf rock guitar sounds and things you can easily sway to.  Daughn Gibson was something like alt-country, and it was kind of unnerving too.  The man who I assumed was Daughn Gibson sang in a low, throaty tone that sounded like a combination of Lou Reed and Johnny Cash, two men with esophagi the width of the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel). This made for slow songs that were a little uncomfortable, but Gibson's band was something else when they kicked the tempo up. Their guitarist alternated between a pink Fender Telecaster with a shiny silver Bigsby tailpiece and an electric steel guitar, from which he wrenched some killer solos. After a few minutes of their set, I ran back to Blue Stage to catch big-name hardcore act Trash Talk, which was everything I thought it would be.  There was something hilariously magical about the backdrop of their set, since the Blue Stage is situated in the shadow of an old church with a beautiful spire. Vocalist Lee Spielman was also quite the showman, and his dialogue between songs was great, with such lines as: "There's some sick old people here, cool." At one point he also implored the crowd to sit down.

I only stayed at Trash Talk for a good 15 minutes before making my way to Green Stage for Mac DeMarco. Based on what I had heard and seen of him on Pitchfork's website the last few months, I knew this would be a great show ‒ indeed it was. DeMarco is a natural entertainer who gives off a very sleazy, weirdo sort of vibe. It fits well with the music, which sounds like delightfully out-of-tune lounge rock. It's the kind of music your dad would probably enjoy at least marginally. I realize none of that sounds entertaining at all, and maybe it shouldn't be, but DeMarco and his band are simply hilarious. The guitarist and bassist both look like recent high school graduates, and the bassist in particular provided some great lines between songs. 

"We'd like to thank our manager Bruce Willis for making this happen," DeMarco said at one point. DeMarco himself would regularly alternate between his relatively normal voice and other silly, guttural, truck-driver-sounding timbres. They even covered Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" and Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business," among other classic rock songs, with DeMarco occasionally reverting to his Neanderthal voice and substituting random swear words for the real lyrics. DeMarco and his band aren't the musical talents of our generation or anything, but they put on a great show and I would love to see them again in a smaller venue.

After that set, I sojourned back to the media tent and struck up a conversation with a writer from Consequence of Sound, as well as enjoyed some free but admittedly sub-par pizza. I'm not about to complain about free pizza, but it's worth noting.

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