When I woke up on Sunday, there was a feeling of excitement and a little bit of dream within me. Excited because I was going to interview The Vivian Girls; dreading because the festival was almost over. “Was it really almost over? It can’t be.” I said out loud, as I left the house for Union Park. Upon arriving to the press tent for the third day in a row, I had to fight back my emotions. Had I grown too attached to Pitchfork? Probably, but at that point, I was simply in a daze.
The first show I covered was Michael Columbia. Let me just say right now, that Michael Columbia is my new favorite band. Not only did it exceed my expectations as one of the not-so-known bands of the festival, but it was one of the most psychedelic moments (for me at least) of the festival. Born and bred here out of Chicago, the trio made more than your average indie music. It was layer music. Each song had a certain level, a certain emotion that could turn your brain into mush or inject with with high amounts of dopamine, depending on your taste in music. It was also one of the most personal of shows of the festival: only about 100 people turned out to see them. Michael Columbia was surely one of the hidden gems of Pitchfork Music Festival. So be sure to keep an eye on them, because they’re sure to blow up fast.
Then came Frightened Rabbit. I know a good Scottish band when I hear one. Take Big Country, the 80s rock band that electrified the world with their self-titled hit “In a Big Country.” In my view, Frightened Rabbit does not disappoint even the most picky UK band followers who followed Big Country 20 some off years ago. The voice of lead singer Scott Hutchinson simply grips you. It challenges your emotions. I think it’s just the way he executes it: an exotic emotion that no one can fathom except him. Hutchinson, before the show, said to the crowd, “I think we’ve played in Chicago more times than we have Glasgow.” A Freudian slip, perhaps, to his love for the good ol’ U.S. of A. And in a sense, that’s a good thing, because we love him and the band right back.
Ever since hearing The Thermal’s hit single “A pillar of salt,” have I been curious to see what else they had under their sleeves. Well, it’s a lot. Lead singer Hutch Harris sings like he’s yelling at you to come over to his fun party from afar. I think without such a characteristic, The Thermals would simply be “just another indie band.” It’s not only Harris’ yelling that makes for such a fun experience; watching guitarist Kathy Foster’s vibrant hair being throttled by her moves also adds to the enjoyment.
“Father my children!” a women yelled behind me upon entering the photo pit. This was directed to lead singer Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen, who by this point is probably used to hearing such remarks. I honestly don’t know how The Walkmen do it. I think a lot people will admit that they have become rather popular in the music world, yet you simply do not see the effects of it in their music. Leithauser still tosses his voice around here and there and the other four members quietly play under his shadow. They (he) do not disappoint.
What an awesome name. I’ll admit when I first heard the band name “Japandroids,” I imagined a fictional robotic army from the 1970s (don’t ask me why). How wrong was I! With the help of Polyvinyl Records, Japandroids have become a nationwide indie sensation. With their garage-like tone, yet sophisticated melodies, Japandroids produce the kind of music that should be played late at night when you feel like going to bed, but don’t want to. Listen to their song “Heart Sweats” and you’ll understand what I mean.
M83 only confirms my suspicions that France is in a love affair with electronic music. Seriously, this French duo can really put on a show, even if they are just playing keyboard and toying away on their macs. Anthony Gonzales, the man behind it all, does a fantastic job in proving that it really is possible to mix electronic and alternative together. The band came on right as the sun was coming out, which made hearing the delightful tune “We Own the Sky” extremely breathtaking while viewing the reflective city skyline behind them. French pop must be my thing.
Given that I interviewed the wonderful Katy, I just had to see her rock out with her two chick friends in The Vivian Girls. I know this band has sparked some controversy due to their low-fi sound; some have said they are only mimicking the more “authentic” low-fi bands, whatever that means. I first heard the Brooklyn-bred trio on some blog last fall. I can safely say that I am not the only one who heard about them from a blog. They are the first band to my memory that have become well known in the indie world due solely to the web. Their songs are short and sweet, yet saturated with anecdotes of what I guess are their experiences in Brooklyn. Thank you, Vivian Girls, for making me want to move there even more.
Grizzly Bear. Yeah, I think the entire crowd knew what was coming. They were brilliant. Hearing the song “southern point” off of their new album, Vecktamist, made the surrounding city hauntingly beautiful. It turned the concrete jungle that is Chicago into a cinematic masterpiece. Despite some sound issues, Edward Droste and his gang gave a great performance. They went on to play more song off their new album, and a couple old ones to please those who have been disenchanted by their new vocally-based direction.
While the festival began under threatening clouds that rolled over into Saturday, Sunday was when the weather started to clear up — resulting in a beautiful, clear sunset back dropping arguably the most anticipated band at Pitchfork Festival: The Flaming Lips. They put on the best show I have ever seen. Period.
I waited in line for the press pit with teletubbies, aliens, drunks, stoners, trippers, hipsters, parents, children, and the like. If that wasn’t an eye opening experience by itself, then seeing lead singer Wayne Coyne enter the crowd in a huge hamster-like ball certainly topped it off. The pictures below pretty much depict what I and countless others witnessed. There simply are no words to convey the stimuli all of us faced.
It had to end at some point. After three long days of running around, raising my camera over the crowds, and talking to bands, I can’t decide if I’m glad or disappointed that it’s over.
In truth, I will remember the past three days for the rest of my life. If not for the outstanding bands that I saw, then for the sheer environment I was in. There were people in full-body Teletubby suits smoking pot, someone with what appeared to be a real cone head, crowd riots at almost every band I saw, black and magenta leopard suits, and of course, kegs upon kegs of cheap beer.
One aspect I found sobering was working with other, more professional journalists. I shared tables with photographers from the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times, as well as with smaller, more local publications such as The Deli Chicago and Gaper’s Block.
Despite my busy schedule, I did have some time to relax with some Urbana locals: