Posts Tagged ‘Pitchfork Music Festival’

Pitchfork Music Festival 2014 – Day 2 Review by Eric Berman


Pitchfork Music Festival 2014 – Day 2 Review by Eric Berman

The second day of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival was all about the ladies with stunning performances by St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) whose theatrical set leaned heavily on her latest self-titled album that came out late last year and is better than any other record that I’ve heard this year. Vincent played guitar throughout while she and her band synchronized their movements to vibrant versions of “Digital Witness,” “Prince Johnny,” ”Birth In Reverse, “Bring Me Your Love” and “Rattlesnake” which opened her set.

tUnEyArDs also killed with their set today. The group, who returned to Pitchfork for a second time, is the brainchild of Merrill Garbus who plays ukulele and creates vocal and drum loops on the fly, and synthesizer/bassist Nate Brenner. This year’s version of the group jettisoned the two saxophone players they’ve toured with in the past in favor of two additional vocalists and a drummer who also sang. While the group’s latest album, Nikki Nack takes some getting used to, the songs heard tonight came off much stronger than in their studio incarnations, and the additional live vocals added another dimension to Garbus’ daisy-flavored Afro-pop.

Other highlights of the day included Ohio based indie punk rock trio Cloud Nothings who have also played the festival before, the ‘80s influenced British band Wild Beasts whose danceable sound was often reminiscent of Echo And The Bunnymen, and the psychedelic garage rock of Circulatory System featuring Will Cullen Hart of Olivia Tremor Control.

I also heard plenty of hip-hop today including sets by Kanye West’s homeboy Pusha T who made up for starting twenty minutes late with a short likable show featuring a couple of tracks from the GOOD Music compilation, and Danny Brown who for was afforded an ear-splitting 75 minute slot that began to wear out its welcome much before it actually ended. (That said, I watched the show from a distance while those who were right up close were completely enthralled.)

The night was capped off by the reunion of Neutral Milk Hotel who released two well-received albums over twenty years ago and then went on an extended hiatus. During their absence, their music began to grow in stature as the group’s influence could be heard in the recordings of a new generation of artists including groups like Bright Eyes, Bon Iver and Arcade Fire. It was great to see the adulation the band received all this adulation at this late date, although I find the somewhat whiny voice of Jeff Mangum an acquired taste…one which I never acquired the first time around.

Until tomorrow…

Edited: July 19th, 2014

Pitchfork Music Festival – Day 1 by Eric Berman


Pitchfork Music Festival – Day 1 by Eric Berman

It was an exceptional first day at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.

Every year I go to this festival and come away with all kinds of new bands I would never otherwise have heard that become new favorites. Day one was no different with a great chill soul singer named SZA (Solana Rowe) who is part of Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment crew. Her debut album entitled Z” came out this past April and I’m listening to it on Spotify as I type this.

Also amazing was Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks an Animal Collective offshoot project that was as wiggy and psychedelic as the mothership but with added guitar crunch.

Other highlights of the day included Beck who opened with “Devil’s Haircut” and performed no less than three tracks from the “Midnight Vultures” album which, judging by crowd reaction has surely grown in stature over the years. Giorgio Morodor’s DJ set touched on almost all phases of his career as images of his protégé’s including Donna Summer drifted on and off the screen.

There was also the welcome return of Neneh Cherry (daughter of Jazz trumpeter Don Cherry) who performed much of her new album and, of course also performed her 1989 hit “Buffalo Stance.” Another early highlight of the day was Factory Floor, an industrial dance band from London, England.

Edited: July 19th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/16/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Careers In Combat” by Parquet Courts

I love the Pitchfork Music Festival. It’s my one opportunity per year to feel a little ahead of the curve when it comes to discovering new music. Attending the festival gives me bragging rights about getting the chance to see bands before they make it big.

Pitchfork is also the most user friendly of all the music festivals. Its 30,000 capacity per day is much smaller than Lollapalooza, which maxes out at 100,000 each day. There are only two stages with music going at any given time, and since you don’t have to walk miles to get between them, you can easily sample six to ten bands each day.

My modus operandi toward Pitchfork is to listen to the many bands on the bill that I’ve never heard of on Spotify well in advance, so by the time the festival rolls around, I’ll have a pretty good idea of who I want to see. With the lineup announced and the festival several months away, I’ve already found one must see band.

Parquet Courts formed in Brooklyn in 2010, around Andrew Savage (guitar, vocals) and Austin Brown (guitar) who were members of the band Fergus And Geronimo. After recording several F&G records, they relocated from Texas to Brooklyn and recruited Sean Yeaton on bass and Max Savage (Andrew’s brother) on drums. Their first record, American Specialties was self-released on cassette in 2010. It was followed last year by their first full length album, Light Up Gold.

With 15 songs in just a little over 35 minutes, Parquet Courts create tightly wound jangly post punk song bursts that cover such topics as stonerism, joblessness, munchies, stonerism, girlfriends and even more munchies. Like Guided By Voices and They Might Be Giants before them, many of the songs on Light Up Gold clock in at just over a minute, yet they are very well written and fully formed.

On today’s Song Of The Day, vocalist Andrew Savage, who sounds like a cross between Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement) and Jonathan Richman (of The Modern Lovers), details the prospects for job security in this day and age, and quickly comes to the conclusion that the military is his only choice. While the song is born of the punk esthetic, it manages to make its point on a bed of rolling drums in just 67 seconds without histrionics.

But Parquet Courts’ sound is not all short bursts of adrenalin either. The band  proudly wears their sixties influences on their sleeve, particularly on the album’s centerpiece, “Stoned And Starving,” which clocks in at a little over five minutes and features a rambling guitar solo courtesy of Andrew Savage. Elsewhere, the pseudo-psychedelia of “Caster Of Worthless Spells” sounds like a long lost Mothers Of Invention outtake.

Light Up Gold is a riveting record full of hazy disenfranchised lyrics brought into sharp focus by the band’s succinct indie guitar laden tunes. It is also a record well worth checking out.

Edited: April 15th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/10/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Bicycle” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Every year after the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, I come home with a list of artists that I hadn’t heard before who were great to listen to on stage. After further investigation some of them have released great records that had fallen under my radar, others, not so much. Some of the acts I first heard at Pitchfork include Fleet Foxes, Dodos, tUnE-yArDs and Battles, all of whom I’m still listening to today. This year’s finds included New York City band Cults and Portland Oregon based (by way of New Zealand), Unknown Mortal Orchestra. UMO is the brain child of Ruban Nielson, formally of the band Mint Chicks, who counts artists as diverse as Captain Beefheart and Sly Stone as major influences. Their sound is an amalgam of gauzy sounding neo-psychedelic acts like MGMT, Ween, Apples In Stereo and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Their self-titled debut album casually ingratiated itself with me over several plays until I found I couldn’t live without hearing it incessantly. The otherworldly building featured on the album cover is a monument in Yugoslavia built in the 1960s called Spomeniks.

Edited: August 9th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/16/12 – Pitchfork Recap Day 3

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “It’s Real” by Real Estate

Day three of the Pitchfork Music Festival was one for musical grazing – going from stage to stage to happen upon whomever is performing. If the music is good, you stay…if it isn’t; it’s on to the next stage. Since Union Park is rather smallish and the body count of 20,000 people per day is miniscule, particularly in comparison to Lollapalooza’s 90,000 per day, Pitchfork is the place to get your grazing on. Today’s real find was some Real Estate from New Jersey! Real Estate’s melodic pop blend was a breath of fresh air that rose above the din of tuneless noise and so-called rapping. That’s not to say that tuneless noise and so-called rapping can’t be enjoyable…it was! I’m going to have to check out Real Estate’s latest record called “Days.” Garage rock seemed to be the flavor of the day with strong sets from San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees and Ty Seagall, plus A Lull from Chicago and The Men whom “Time Out New York” called “Thurston Moore and The E Street Band.” Also from New York was the reincarnated Chavez who featured a blend of anthemic rock and noise. We also got a close-up look at Hip-Hop culture during Compton’s Kendrick Lamar’s set. Lots of “blunt” force happening in the super packed audience as Lamar laid down some rapid fire lyrical flow. Finally, another cool find in the set provided by Unknown Mortal Orchestra who played some great three-piece rock. The band is the brainchild of New Zealand native Ruban Nielson who writes some really good songs. We blew off the headliners today in order to get home since work is beckoning tomorrow. So there you have it, in the words of the immortal Max Yasgur, “three days of fun and music…and nothing but fun and music.”

Edited: July 15th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 7/14/12 – Pitchfork Day 1 Recap

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Nights Of Wine And Roses” by Japandroids

Well, the first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago is now in the rearview mirror, and it was full of outstanding new music mostly performed by artists I’ve never heard of. Clearly, that is what makes Pitchfork one of the coolest festivals on the planet. The standout today was Canada’s Japandroids, a Husker Du-ish duo consisting of Brian King on guitar and David Prowse on drums who steamrollered all over the crowd with their brand of celebratory rock. Their latest record is, in fact, called “Celebration Rock” and it is most definitely one of the best records to come out so far this year. Other highlights from today included another Canadian duo known as Purity Ring who sounded like a chilled out Bjork surrounded by electronic dubstep beats, New Jersey’s Clams Casino, a producer of hip-hop mixtapes who’s hypnotic beats made for some knotty instrumentals and the psychedelic pop of Olivia Tremor Control who released several records in the early 1990s only to reunite a decade later. They are said to be releasing some new music in the future. The day started with Outer Minds whose sound reminded me of 1966 era organ-swirled Grateful Dead. Stay tuned for day-two highlights tomorrow.

Edited: July 13th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 7/19/11

Song Of The Day – “Crossed Wires” by Superchunk

Another highlight of last weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival was the return of North Carolina’s Superchunk. Fiercely independent, the Chunk began in 1989 by releasing records on their own Merge label. Not only does Superchunk still prevail on their latest album, “Majesty Shredding,” but the label has thrived over the years giving us some amazing music by other artists.

Edited: July 19th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 7/18/11

Song Of The Day – “Take Me Over” by Cut Copy

I’ve got to admit that I came late to the Cut Copy party seeing them for the first time last night at Pitchfork. What I saw was a band tapping into a deep well of ’80s dance music…and we, the audience, ate it up! Even though Duran Duran is still together, the spirit of classic Duran Duran live in Cut Copy on this track from their latest album “Zonoscope.”

Edited: July 18th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 7/17/11

Song Of The Day – “Montezuma” by Fleet Foxes

Classic Rock is alive and well in the form of Fleet Foxes an amalgam of CSN, Simon & Garfunkel, America and The Beach Boys. Saw them tonight for the third time since 2008 at Pitchfork Music Festival where they have now achieved headliner status…and still sound as good as ever. One of the few hipster bands today that actually write songs with melodies.

Edited: July 17th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 7/16/11

Song Of The Day – “Echos Myron” by Guided By Voices

It was great to see the reunited GBV together again on stage at the Pitchfork Music Festival this evening.  They opened their set with this track from the classic 1994 album “Bee Thousand” where Robert Pollard and company tap into their inner British Invasion. Pollard was his usual loose-limbed inebriated self…and we wouldn’t want it any other way!

Edited: July 15th, 2011