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  • Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

    Jul 23 2010, 1h32

    Another year, another Pitchfork Music Festival. There have been five of these events, and I have been to every single one of them. The festival has changed a lot over the years, but the general concept has remained the same: to have 18,000+ people converge into Union Park for a weekend of great music. Here are my thoughts on 2010:

    GOOD: Due to the insanely high temperatures over the weekend, Pitchfork decided to cut the price of bottled water in half from $2 to $1, and they handed out free bottles periodically. I thought it was ridiculous of them to charge $2 in the first place, especially since in years past they only charged $1 for a huge bottle of Smartwater. I have a sneaking suspicion that they planned the price cut before the festival even began in order to make themselves look good, but at least they changed it.

    BAD: Goose Island was no longer the beer of choice. This year’s options: Heineken, Heineken Light, and Newcastle (although that was sold out by Friday evening). I understand their reasoning ($$$$), but couldn’t they have chosen something better? At least Lollapalooza has a micro-brew section for those who don’t want the usual Bud/Bud Light.

    GOOD: Big Boi’s set was probably my favorite from the festival. I have been a huge fan of Outkast for years now, and to see one half of the group was truly amazing. Big Boi played a LOT of old OutKast jams, everything from “ATLiens” and “Elevators” to “Rosa Parks” and “B.O.B.” He played a handful of songs from his incredible new album as well, all of which sounded just as good live.

    BAD: The only lowlight from Big Boi’s set was his failed attempt to start a “show your racks” chant. That didn’t really go over well with the hipster crowd.

    GOOD: Hip-hop reigned supreme this year. Besides Big Boi’s stellar set, Freddie Gibbs and Raekwon also put on great shows. Raekwon busted out a bunch of old Wu-Tang cuts, and brought out the kids from Chi-Town’s Finest Breakers to breakdance on stage. Freddie Gibbs headlined the B-stage on Saturday night, and was quite good despite the fact that most of the festival-goers were on the other side of the park trying to get a good spot for LCD Soundsystem at the main stage.

    BAD: Unfortunately, El-P’s Friday set was unsatisfactory. I like his studio work, but for whatever reason his live show was lacking. I don’t know if it was the heat, early start time, or what, but I just wasn’t feeling his performance.

    MEH: This year’s headliners were somewhat disappointing. I was ecstatic that I FINALLY got to see Modest Mouse, but I just couldn’t get into their performance like I was hoping. They opened with an extended version of my favorite song, Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, which was amazing, but things slowly tapered off from there. I hate to be one of those guys that only wants to hear a band’s old material, but with Modest Mouse that was what made me a fan of theirs. Namely The Moon & Antarctica, This Is A Long Drive.., and The Lonesome Crowded West. For the most part, the band stuck to new material. I like what I have heard from their last full-length album and new EP, but it seemed to drag a bit live. Their encore was also a bit schizophrenic since they played “Gravity Rides Everything” (awesome) and then followed it up with “Black Cadillacs.” Totally different vibes there. I thought that it was pretty amusing that they didn’t play “Float On,” and I think that pissed off a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong – Modest Mouse were good – they just weren’t as great as I was hoping they would be.

    Saturday’s headliners, LCD Soundsystem, are one of those bands that are hit-and-miss for me. I really don’t understand all of the love for them. Sometimes they are truly great, but for every good song they have at least one downright terrible song. “Drunk Girls” is one of the worst songs I have heard recently, and “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” still annoys me for some reason. Having said that, LCD’s live show was a non-stop dance party. When they were playing “All My Friends” and “Tribulations”, for example, they were on fire. It was still an entertaining show, but I wasn’t as impressed as most.

    The festival was closed out by Pavementon Sunday. Pavement is one of those bands that I think you had to grow up listening to really enjoy. I like them, and own a couple of their albums, but they are hardly one of my favorite bands. Regardless, I felt like I was seeing something special since this is allegedly going to be their last tour, and I was surrounded by 20,000 fans (many who have been waiting 10+ years for that moment). They put on a good show, but without me truly “getting it” I didn’t appreciate them as much as those a bit older than me did. They were still an appropriate way to close out the weekend.

    GOOD: This year Pitchfork tried out a comedy stage on Friday as an alternative to the main area. I only got to see one performance, which was from Hannibal Buress, an SNL writer from Chicago. He was hilarious, and a definite highlight on Friday for me. I loved his bit about the hipsters in NYC: "You can have a handlebar mustache, but don't talk to me like you don't have a handlebar mustache."

    BAD: The balance stage was terribly crowded on Saturday. We had found a good area in the shade to camp out and catch the afternoon’s bands, but beginning with Local Natives’ set the area began filling up rapidly. By the time Surfer Blood came on, it was well beyond capacity and we had no choice but to head out and find a spot to breathe. I think there was a mass influx due to people not being interested in Lightning Bolt’s LOUD noise rock. Definite poor scheduling on Sunday.

    GOOD: The artist that I enjoyed more than I thought was Robyn. She has changed A LOT since her 90’s teeny-bopper days. Now she is all about the electro pop, and her new material is actually quite good.

    GOOD: I really, really enjoyed Major Lazer’s set. Diplo, Skerrit Bwoy and the girl dancers made for an interesting spectacle, to say the least. A lot of people didn’t know what to make of their show, which included daggering and more daggering. At one point, Skerrit Bwoy jumped from a 10 foot ladder onto one of the dancers waiting on the ground. He also jumped from the ladder onto the crowd and surfed his way back to the stage. Dude is crazy. My favorite quote from Skerrit Bwoy: “People gonna get drunk... people gonna get high... Somebody's gonna have sex and get pregnant.”

    GOOD: Wolf Parade put on the best performance on Saturday. I was truly surprised at how great they sounded at a festival setting. They played a few of my favorite songs by them, and closed with a blistering rendition of “Kissing The Beehive.”

    GOOD: Broken Social Scene were just as good as when I saw them at Lollapalooza two years ago, and it was a real treat to hear their new material live. The epic closer of “Meet Me In The Basement” was particularly good. It was cool to see John McEntire play drums that evening as well.

    GOOD: Dâm-Funk was so different than anything else at the festival, and I loved the retro-funk music he brought on Saturday. His show was a lot of fun, especially when he brought out his keytar and started rocking out on stage.

    BAD: Dâm-Funk started 15-20 minutes late, so his set was cut short. It felt like his show ended just when he was really starting to hit his stride.

    Overall, the festival was a lot of fun despite some a handful of problems. I would consider this to be the weakest year so far, but that is more of a testament to how good previous years were than anything else. It was definitely still worth braving the 90+ degree weather on all three days. It will be interesting to see what Pitchfork comes up with next year. My main wish is to bring back Goose Island!
  • Top 25 Albums of 2009

    Jan 24 2010, 2h15

    25) Mos Def - The Ecstatic
    24) Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself
    23) Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship
    22) Alec Ounsworth - Mo' Beauty
    21) Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do
    20) Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free
    19) Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms
    18) Doom - Born Like This
    17) Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
    16) The Dodos - Time To Die
    15) Shpongle - Ineffable Mysteries From Shpongleland
    14) A Place to Bury Strangers - Exploding Head
    13) The Field - Yesterday & Today
    12) Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us
    11) Extra Golden - Thank You Very Quickly
    10) Dan Auerbach - Keep It Hid
    09) The xx - xx
    08) The Antlers - Hospice
    07) Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be
    06) Nomo - Invisible Cities
    05) Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx PT II
    04) The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
    03) Fever Ray- S/T
    02) Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
    01) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

    Honorable Mentions:

    Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
    The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns
    Sonic Youth - The Eternal
    White Denim - Fits
    Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
    Röyksopp - Junior
    Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
    Clark - Totems Flare

    Pretty solid year for music overall. I discovered a lot of great new bands. I have a feeling 2010 is going to blow this year away, however. New albums from the National, Spoon, Yeasayer, Arcade Fire, maybe Radiohead.... I cannot wait to see what this year brings.
  • Top 25 Albums of 2008

    Jan 17 2009, 22h31

    25) Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling
    24) Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
    23) Girl Talk - Feed The Animals
    22) The Roots - Rising Down
    21) Q-Tip - The Renaissance
    20) Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali
    19) High Places - S/T
    18) The Notwist - The Devil, You + Me
    17) Megapuss - S/T
    16) Dosh - Wolves and Wishes
    15) The Cool Kids - The Bake Sale
    14) Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
    13) Sébastien Tellier - Sexuality
    12) Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
    11) Flying Lotus - Los Angeles
    10) The Black Keys - Attack & Release
    09) Tobacco - Fucked Up Friends
    08) Man Man - Rabbit Habits
    07) Nomo - Ghost Rock
    06) Booka Shade - The Sun & The Neon Light
    05) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
    04) The Dodos - Visiter
    03) Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
    02) Portishead - Third
    01) TV on the Radio - Dear Science

    Honorable mentions (stuff that is good and just missed the list, or stuff that would probably make the list with a few more listens on my part):

    The Accidental - There Were Wolves
    Alias - Resurgam
    Beck - Modern Guilt
    Blue Sky Black Death - Late Night Cinema
    Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
    Cloudland Canyon - Lie In Light
    David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
    Flogging Molly - Float
    No Age - Nouns
    Paavoharju - Laulu Laakson Kukista
    Pit Er Pat - High Time
    The Sea and Cake - Car Alarm
    Wale - Mixtape About Nothing
    The Walkmen - You & Me

    2008 was a solid year for music, but I think it was considerably weaker than 2007. There were definitely some excellent releases this year and some pleasant surprises (Portishead), but there were quite a few disappointments, too (I'm looking at you, Skeletal Lamping). Still, overall, there were plenty of quality albums that will remain on my iPod for quite some time...
  • Artists I Have Seen Live

    Nov 15 2008, 16h43

    !!! (x3)
    13 & God
    Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
    ADA
    Aesop Rock
    Air
    Amadou & Mariam
    Amanda Blank
    Andrew Bird
    Animal Collective
    Antibalas
    Arcade Fire
    Ari Ari
    Art Brut
    Au
    Band of Horses (x2)
    Bat for Lashes
    Battles
    Beach House
    Bear in Heaven
    Bear the Bell
    Bear Vs. Shark
    Beep Beep
    Benny Benassi (x2)
    Big Boi
    Blane Fonda
    Blitzen Trapper (x2)
    Bloc Party
    Blues Traveler
    Bonde do Role
    Booka Shade
    Boris
    Bowerbirds
    Boy in Static
    Broken Social Scene (x2)
    Built to Spill
    Cage the Elephant
    Calla
    Caribou (x2)
    Cass McCombs
    Caustic
    Clipse
    Combichrist
    Company Of Thieves
    Critical System Error
    CSS
    Cut Copy (x2)
    Dâm-Funk
    Dan Auerbach
    Dawes
    De La Soul
    Deerhunter
    Delorean
    Devendra Banhart
    DeVotchKa
    Dinosaur Jr.
    Diplo
    Dirty Projectors
    Dizzee Rascal
    DJ /rupture
    DJ STV SLV
    DJ Swamp
    Dominik Eulberg
    Dosh
    El Perro del Mar
    Elf Power
    El-P
    Extra Golden
    Faun Fables
    Final Fantasy
    Fleet Foxes
    Flogging Molly
    Flosstradamus
    Flying Lotus
    Freddie Gibbs
    Freelance Whales
    Frightened Rabbit (x2)
    Fuck Buttons
    Ghislain Poirier
    Ghostface
    Girl Talk (x2)
    Girls
    Gnarls Barkley
    Gogol Bordello
    Grand Duchy
    Grizzly Bear (x3)
    GZA/Genius
    Handsome Furs
    Harlem
    Hella
    Hocico
    Hollywood Holt
    Holy Fuck (x3)
    Icy Demons
    Infected Mushroom
    Interpol (x3)
    Iron & Wine
    Jamie Lidell
    Jane's Addiction
    Junior Boys
    Kanye West
    Kate Havnevik
    King Khan & The Shrines
    KMFDM
    LCD Soundsystem
    Liars (x3)
    Lindstrøm
    Local Natives
    Lou Reed
    M83
    Major Lazer
    Man Man (x2)
    Maps & Atlases
    Matt & Kim (x2)
    Matthew Dear
    Menomena (x2)
    Metric
    MGMT
    Michael Columbia
    Mission of Burma
    Modest Mouse
    Mr. Lif
    Muse
    Neko Case
    Nels Cline
    Nine Inch Nails
    No Age
    Nomo
    of Montreal (x2)
    On Fillmore
    Os Mutantes
    Panda Riot
    Pavement
    Paul van Dyk
    Pete Yorn
    Peter Bjorn and John
    Pharoahe Monch
    Phoenix (x2)
    Post Honeymoon
    Professor Murder
    Ra Ra Riot
    Radiohead (x3)
    Raekwon (x2)
    Rage Against the Machine
    Red Red Meat
    Robyn
    Roommate
    Rush
    Russian Circles
    Secret Machines
    Silver Jews
    Simian Mobile Disco
    Sinkane
    Slint
    Sonic Youth (x2)
    Spank Rock (x2)
    Spoon (x4)
    St. Vincent
    Stars
    Surfer Blood
    System of a Down
    Tapes 'n Tapes
    Tarantula A.D.
    Terrorfakt
    The Antarcticans
    The Antlers
    The Apples In Stereo
    The Besnard Lakes
    The Black Keys
    The Budos Band
    The Cool Kids
    The Cure
    The Dead
    The Dodos (x3)
    The Dresden Dolls
    The Faint
    The Flaming Lips (x4)
    The Go! Team
    The Hood Internet (x2)
    The Ike Reilly Assassination
    The Jesus Lizard
    The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
    The Kills
    The Mars Volta (x2)
    The Mountain Goats
    The National (x4)
    The New Pornographers
    The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
    The Poison Arrows
    The Ponys
    The Rural Alberta Advantage
    The Surrogate Band
    The Tallest Man on Earth
    The Thermals
    The Very Best
    The Walkmen (x2)
    The xx
    Thom Yorke
    Tim Fite
    Times New Viking
    Titus Andronicus
    Toadies
    Tobacco
    Tonikom
    Tool
    Tortoise
    Tricky
    TV on the Radio (x3)
    Vampire Weekend
    VNV Nation
    Washed Out
    White Hinterland
    White Rabbits
    Why?
    Wolf Parade
    X JAPAN
    Yeasayer (x2)
    Yo La Tengo (x2)
    Yoko Ono

    all from 2004-present
  • Pitchfork Music Festival 2008 Write-Up

    Jul 23 2008, 23h28

    Fri 18 Jul – Pitchfork Music Festival 2008

    DAY ONE (07/19/2008)

    This past weekend I went to the Pitchfork Music Festival for the third year in a row. I almost didn’t go this year because I thought the lineup was a bit underwhelming, but I am really glad that I made it after all. The artists I wanted to see were excellent, and many of the artists I saw who I did not know beforehand were quite good as well.

    This year I went with Carlene, my girlfriend who has never been to a music festival or a concert, for that matter, and my good friend Roy, who went for the second year in a row.

    On Saturday we arrived around 1pm. Titus Andronicus were playing some loud rock music but we wandered around to get a feel for the festival rather than check them out. It was raining off and on early in the afternoon, which made for some interesting sights. The ground was muddy as fuck in some places and there were even groups of people who were spreading the mud all over themselves and dancing around.

    The first artist we made an effort to see during the day was Caribou at 2pm. He played with a backing band and they ran through a lot of tunes from last year’s wonderful album Andorra while sprinkling in some older favorites as well. Using two drummers made things interesting and livened up what was otherwise a subdued set.

    From this point we wandered over to the second stage to see some of Icy Demons. I was very happy to see that the second stage was much bigger this year and there was much more room for people surrounding it. Thankfully, this prevented any acts getting shut down by the fire marshal this year (a la Girl Talk last year). Anyway, we only got to see about 15 minutes of Icy Demons, although the little bit we heard was enjoyable.

    By the time 3pm rolled in, the sun was starting to come out and the rain had ceased. We saw a bit of Fleet Foxes at the main stage. Their laid-back pop songs sounded good, but we were a bit curious to see Fuck Buttons on the second stage so we headed that way. Fuck Buttons were what I expected – noise-driven music with underlying melodies that did not translate well into an outdoor setting.

    We got hooked into Dizzee Rascal’s set at 4pm. Dizzee went through a dizzying (sorry) array of songs from his back catalog and did his best to get the crowd going. What resulted was an energetic performance that got everyone ready for the rest of the day.

    It appeared that a lot of people at the festival came that day to see Vampire Weekend. None of us really had any interest in them, so we went to the second stage to see Elephant 6 darlings Elf Power. We watched them play for 15-20 minutes then worked our way to the main stage to try to get as close as possible for !!! at 6pm.

    This was my third time seeing !!!, but the first time in an outdoor setting. It was a bit strange seeing them play during the day, but the lack of darkness did not hinder their performance at all. Nic Offer was as amusing as always, dancing his ass off on stage and getting the crowd into a frenzy. I was happy to see Shannon was still with the band and she led everyone into a stirring rendition of “Yadnus” to open their set. The band played songs from Myth Takes and a couple of new unreleased songs that sounded amazing. I can’t wait for their new material. !!! played for 50 minutes and by the time they were done we were all craving more. It was going to be hard for any band to top their performance that day, or all weekend for that matter.

    After !!!, we rushed over to the second stage to see Extra Golden, who were the last band on Saturday that we really cared to see. These guys really seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage and played a wonderful assortment of Kenyan benga and American rock music. Side note: one of their guitarists looked eerily similar to Dexter, from Showtime TV fame. I ended up buying their newest CD from the record tent, my only musical purchase at the festival this year.

    We took time after Extra Golden’s performance to get some food and rest for a bit. We missed out on The Hold Steady and Atlas Sound, both of who apparently played great sets. Jarvis Cocker didn’t really appeal to us, so we ventured over to check out the headliners of the second stage, No Age. Their noise-pop sound entranced us for a bit but we wanted to see Animal Collective so we were only there for about half of their set.

    Despite considering their studio albums massively overrated, I thought Animal Collective were actually pretty decent live. They had a fascinating light show and their music was surprisingly enjoyable. Even still, we left after about 20 minutes so we could beat everyone else out and get a taxi back to the hotel. We were rather sore and tired, but we still had another big day ahead of us…

    DAY TWO (07/20/2008)

    We arrived right at 12:30pm on Sunday. I had an annoyance right away, as the guy taking our tickets at the entrance was just throwing the tickets in the garbage. Normally they rip off part of it so you can keep the stub, but this guy didn’t care. I tried to get my stub, even offering to reach in the trash to grab it, but the guy would have nothing of it. I don’t understand people sometimes…

    Times New Viking were playing the main stage and they were really fucking loud. Their boy-girl pop songs entertained us for a while, but we got bored after a while. Still, we stuck around in that area because we wanted to get a good spot for the Japanese metal band Boris at 2pm. While we were waiting, The Dirty Projectors were playing on the other stage and I can safely say that they were the worst band of the festival. There was absolutely nothing appealing about them. And they seemed to play forever, well over their 30 minutes allotted time.

    Finally, when Boris came on, the crowd went crazy. I did not know what to expect, but I knew they would be loud. Sure enough, they were, and they rocked the fuck out. Blistering guitar riffs and a charismatic drummer made their set very entertaining. Unfortunately, this got cut short due to technical problems, so they only played for 20-25 minutes overall.

    We watched the Apples in Stereo for a bit while waiting for King Khan & The Shrines to come on. I have always enjoyed the Apples poppy sound and they were a fun diversion for the 10-15 minutes we saw. Plus we got to see them play “Energy”, which was nice.

    King Khan & the Shrines were on the second stage and there was a massive group of people there to see them. It was hard to find a spot to see the stage. But wow, do they know how to put on a show! King Khan was fucking nuts, stripping down to his underwear, wearing crazy masks, throwing trash around, and even flashing the crowd a couple times. Khan oozed charisma and had the crowd in the palm of his hand during their ridiculously fun set. I think he was the only artist to have a cheerleader in his band all weekend, too. They were a very pleasant surprise. Apparently Les Savy Fav were doing the same thing on the main stage, with frontman Tim Harrington doing all sorts of crazy things, but we unfortunately missed their performance.

    After King Khan, we took a break for food and whatnot. While sitting down, The Dodos lured us over to them on the main stage when they started playing “Jodi”. Once we got there, I was hooked and fell in love with the band. Just a two-piece band, their mix of blues-oriented guitar playing and loud drumming made me an instant fan. I tried like mad to find their CD in the record tent afterward, but to no avail. If I hear of them coming around my area, I would definitely go and see them again.

    Ghostface and Raekwon were next, and due to El Guincho cancelling from the festival, they were playing at the second stage. This made things absolutely insane as the second stage area was packed with people. It was a bitch trying to leave the area after they were done. Ghost and Rae whipped through a lot of old classics from their respective solo albums, threw in some old-school Wu-Tang jams and even led the crowd in a sing-along of ODB’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”. These guys were a lot of fun, and I am grateful that they flew in nine hours from Europe to do this show.

    After Ghostface and Raekwon, we hung out a bit and got rested for Spoon. We headed into the massive crowd gathering at the main stage to see Spoon and got up close. While waiting, we checked out Dinosaur Jr. on the big screen. It was a treat seeing these indie rock legends play, aside from having to witness their shirtless drummer rocking out.

    Finally, as 9pm rolled around, Spoon came on. It was ridiculously packed – it was hard to even move my arms up to clap my hands. Some little guy came on stage and danced to “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg and then got the crowd ready for Spoon. They opened with “Small Stakes” then played a mix of songs from the entire catalog, with Gimme Fiction and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga getting the most plays. I was quite surprised by their performance – they have gained a much better stage presence since the last time I saw them. My only disappointment was that they didn’t play a few songs I wanted to hear, namely “Don’t You Evah”, “Finer Feelings” and “The Way We Get By”. Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox coming out for the encore and playing guitar during “Mountain of Sound” was an interesting surprise. I wish they could have played more, but I was thoroughly satisfied with their show.

    Overall, I was quite happy with this year’s festival. Increasing the size and improving the sound of the second stage was a great idea. There were more food options this year, including an astounding selection of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. The record tent was as nice as usual, and I was happy to see that I could purchase last year’s festival poster. I was upset last year because they sold out during the first day. I didn’t have to worry about that this time. My only complaint in regards to the festival itself was the increase in price of bottled water and Fuze beverages. The last two years you could buy a Fuze drink or a large bottle of Smartwater for $1. This year they were $2. And the beer selection was reduced. Instead of offering Goose Island Summertime Ale, they sold Sparks drinks for $2 more. At least they sold bottles of NOS to give you a quick energy boost.

    And finally, here are my top 10 performances from the festival:

    01) Spoon
    02) !!!
    03) King Khan And The Shrines
    04) The Dodos
    05) Dizzee Rascal
    06) Ghostface & Raekwon
    07) Extra Golden
    08) Caribou
    09) Boris
    10) Dinosaur Jr.