“How about a cheer for all those bad girls/And all the boys that play that rock and roll/They love it like you love Jesus/It does the same thing to their souls” — Tom Petty
Music festivals can be compared to something of a religious exchange. Really. Just think about it. How much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice to your music gods in return for a blissful, out-of-this-world live spectacle? Would you fry yourself under the unforgiving midsummer sun for hours on end? Would you brave the untold terrors of the port-a-pottys (yikes), or the critical gazes of ever-so-ironic hipster brigade?
Of course you would! Especially when the musical gods in question are bands as beloved as Yo La Tengo, M83, Built To Spill, Blitzen Trapper, Vivian Girls or The Flaming Lips. Thankfully for those of us True Crew members who made the pilgrimage to Chicago’s Union Park in the name of great music, the experience at Pitchfork’s annual indie extravaganza felt like less of a penance and more of a blessing. Yes, the gods smiled on us that weekend. (Although those port-a-pottys were pretty rough…)
A memorable performance for me was Saturday night’s closing set from The Black Lips. It was truly special to see–not just for the onstage mid-song open-mouth kiss between band members and guitar smashing (both of which were indeed outrageously sexy)–but because theirs is a sound that is so expressive of exactly what makes rock and roll fun. Recorded, they sound OK, but seeing and hearing them live is to enter a whole other world of bacchanalian abandon that just doesn’t transfer to their albums.
The sounds coming off the stage that night were rough, loud, sloppy, dark, edgy, and perfect. Like those other great “bands of the people,” The Black Lips weren’t there to perform for us as much as they were there to make a connection, and connect they did. At the end of their set, bassist Jared Swilley approached the mic to incite a little good-natured mayhem.
“If just one or two of you do this, you’re gonna get kicked out,” he warned, “but if all of you join in together, no one’s gonna stop you.” With that, the band tore into “Bad Kids” and an army of rabid fans stormed the stage, more than a few getting airborne in the process. A perfect way to bring day 2 of the fest to a close.
Flaming Lips were amazing. I was standing right in front of the sound board and got some most likely decent photos and video.
Friday: Tortoise was decent, Yo La Tengo = amazing, and Built to Spill was also great (as always).
Other acts on Sunday: M83 blew my mind, DJ/Rupture was really good, Grizzly Bear was solid.
My entire experience was great though. My wife and I ate dinner for $4 Sunday courtesy of Whole Foods marking down all items to $1 each, I won a $25 Threadless.com gift card for spinning a wheel, and a free pair of Saucony Originals for naming off 45 P4k Fest bands in 30 seconds.
I must admit I procrastinated getting tickets to this years Pitchfork Festival because a) I had to work that weekend and b) I wasn’t sure how enjoyable it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of the bands on this year’s bill and a lot more bands are on my “To Check Out” list, but something about standing in a mostly shadeless field for the whole day under a radiating sun only to listen to some of my favorite bands sound like crap because of shoddy outdoor sound doesn’t really do it for me. That being said, the sun was especially nice to us the entire weekend and most of the bands sounded decent for an outdoor festival. I ended up having the time of my life.
-The Flaming Lips – Number 1 highlight of the whole weekend. One of the best shows I’ve seen in my entire life. A musical orgasm of confetti, balloons, lights, and sound. Do they bring a convoy of trailers soley for the massive amount of confetti? They were originally supposed to do a “Write the Night,” playing songs voted on by fans, but I can’t blame them for not doing it. They have a huge stage show that would be impractical to change to accommodate different songs. That being said, Wayne made sure to let us know where each song ranked on the list. “This song came in at number 66, but we like playing it.”
-The Jesus Lizard – taking control of the audience right away with “We’re the Jesus Lizard. Shut the fuck up!” then spending a mojority of the show in the crowd.
-The Black Lips – My first time in 10 years that I’ve ridden the waves of the crowd. I admit, I didn’t stay up long, but it was fun while it lasted.
-Plants & Animals – One of my favorite shows of the weekend. No stage show or theatrics, just three guys playing rock music. They sounded great as well.
-The Thermals – One of the bands I was looking forward to during the weekend. While most bands at the fest kept it pretty ordinary as far as set lists go, The Thermals threw in 4 covers (Sonic Youth, Breeders, Nirvana, and even Green Day) to their carefree and fun set.
-Everything’s $1 blow-out at Whole Foods / Realizing the lines for the bathrooms were pretty much non-existent if you walked another 50 yards further / Getting a kiss for “paying it forward” to a cute girl waiting in a massive bathroom line / The weather
- The sound during some of the sets. If I’m 20 feet from the stage and sing along to a song, I shouldn’t be able to hear myself signing.
-The Mae Shi – One of my favorite albums from a few years ago. We got there 15 mins into their set and I couldn’t even tell it was the Mae Shi playing. Hip-hop? Come to find out later that The Mae Shi kind of broke up and the one remaining member was trying out his new band, Signals.
-One downside to festivals in general is having to sometimes choose between two bands playing at the same time. If you want to get a decent spot up front for a favorite band you often have to entirely miss the other stages set.
-Almost peeing my pants. For some reason, everyone (myself included) sees the first group of port-a-pottys and just gets in line. The line is long, but all the others probably have the same wait, right? Wrong!
(Not pictured: Justin peeing his pants.)
All of the snazzy festival photos in this post are used with permission from Justin Kibbel. Thanks Justin!
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Filed under: Live Concert Photos, Music News & Reviews, Sounding Board Blog Tagged: | Bands, black lips, Chicago, festival reflections, festival review, flaming lips, hipster, IL, Indie, jesus lizard, live music photos, live photos, live review, live reviews, music fest, music festival, Pitchfork, Pitchfork Music Fest, plants & animals, plants and animals, reflections, review, signals, the mae shi, The Thermals