The View from Lazytown: Pitchfork 2008
by Tyler Coates
Every July, my friends and I gather up blankets (and, in the case of this year’s rain forecast, tarps), shove bottles of vodka in hidden regions of our backpacks, and congregate under the shade in Chicago’s Union Park for the Pitchfork Music Festival.
When I attended the festival’s inaugural weekend in 2006, I made the mistake of standing in the crowds, trying to push my way to the stages to check out my favorite bands of the year (anybody remember Art Brut?). In the two years since I realized that all-day outdoor music festivals are much more fun when you’re laying on a blanket and eating contraband Triscuits.
What follows is one man’s recap of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival.
I missed the Friday night shows (Mission of Burma, Sebadoh, and Public Enemy playing their seminal albums for the All Tomorrow’s Parties: Don’t Look Back showcase) because of general lack of interest. A similar go-with-the-flow attitude (and shitty weather) meant that I didn’t make it down to the park until 3:30ish on Saturday, in the middle of the Fleet Foxes‘ set.
“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes (mp3)
“Blue Ridge Mountains” – Fleet Foxes (mp3)
I just started listening to Fleet Foxes about two weeks ago (I downloaded albums by several bands on the lineup to prepare myself for the weekend), and they sounded pretty excellent live, even from the opposite end of the park. In what became a typical practice for the rest of the weekend, I did not feel the need to venture over to the stage; instead, I plopped down with friends in the northwest corner of the park, which we called Lazytown.
The view from Lazytown, as seen through BeerCam.
During the Dizzee Rascal show, I headed over to the beer tents (libations were provided by Goose Island Brewery, a Chicago favorite) and the Flatstock 17 poster convention (where I bought two beautiful Magnolia Electric Co. screen prints).
Courtesy of a very hot man at the Doublenaut booth.
I passed by the Balance stage on the way back to Lazytown and caught about two minutes of Elf Power, who sounded very good but ultimately not enough to inspire me to wade through a throng of muddy people in the back corner of the park.
Vampire Weekend performed, which was the best time to get food because the strip of pavement was completely empty, enabling me to jump right up and order corn on the cob without waiting in line. The band was very much in its element; it was sunny and generally warm – the perfect atmosphere for Vampire Weekend’s pleasant Afro-pop. I did wonder, however, if those guys felt rather weird that there were actual African bands on the Pitchfork lineup.
After their set I ran into a friend who appropriately described their show: “Well, at least they didn’t play their all of their songs in album-order…”
The Hold Steady played, and my friend Mindy agreed that we just don’t get it. I mean, we get it – we understand the shtick, but I’d much rather listen to a Bachman Turner Overdrive cover band instead of a Pitchfork-approved group of sweaty drunk guys who listen to a lot of Bachman Turner Overdrive. I mean, they sound fine at an outdoor festival, but I feel like they belong at a chili cookoff instead of Pitchfork.
The Hold Steady
The two musical standouts I did actually sit and listen to were Jarvis Cocker and Animal Collective. The Pulp front man was quite the charmer; between selections from his recent self-titled album, delivered in an absolutely fun and unpretentious style, he educated the audience with facts about our fair city, which he pulled from Wikipedia (where everything is fact).
“Black Magic” – Jarvis Cocker (mp3)
“Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” – Jarvis Cocker (mp3)
“Common People” – Pulp (mp3) (Sadly, Jarvis did not play the Pulp standard at P4K.)
Animal Collective, the headliner of the evening, put on a fantastic show of blaring lights and sound (there’s a reason why I never write about music). They’ve always been band I’ve wanted to see live, even though I only have one of their albums and have never considered myself a big fan. They did not disappoint, even from across the field in Lazytown.
“Grass” – Animal Collective (mp3)
“Did You See The Words” – Animal Collective (mp3)
A group of us left about thirty five minutes into Animal Collective to beat the crowd (because, honestly, beating the crowd is my mantra of any outdoor music festival). We walked a few blocks north to Sonotheque for a Venus Zine afterparty, sponsored by Sparks (who else?!). Sonotheque is the type of place where people put a lot of effort into their appearance, apparently do a little blow in the bathroom (and occasionally sell “beats”), and stare at the sad sacks like my friends and me who arrived wearing shorts and carrying backpacks full of flyers and blankets. But isn’t the spirit of Pitchfork all about ridiculing what other people are wearing?
Even though Vampire Weekend, who pulled in a lot of alt-bros (as Hipster Runoff would describe them), was a major draw on Saturday, Sunday was almost universally hailed as The Day to attend Pitchfork because of the presence of Cut Copy, Dinosaur Jr., and Spoon on the lineup. The weather was much prettier, so it seemed like the park was overflowing with people who seemed to let Saturday’s chances of rain scare them away.
I got to the park right before Les Savy Fav took the stage; I had never seen them before but remember them playing the annual music conference my college radio station hosted in the Spring, and I had heard good things about their live shows. I was immediately unimpressed and this is why:
I just want to take this opportunity, if I may (and I feel like Alex would love this), to start an online feud with Tim Harrington. I think I could listen to Les Savy Fav if I didn’t have to see him prancing around in spandex and spitting into the audience (which made me think of Lindsay and Sam Weir’s father’s immortal words: “Elvis never expectorated on his fans!”), but it was difficult to get the image of him out of my head.
And how do I know that Tim Harrington will accept my feud? Because he also did this at Pitchfork:
I call you out, Tim Harrington!
Also, I saw this happening:
In case you can’t tell, that guy is reading Stuff White People Like: The Novelization AT Pitchfork. I can’t even provide a punchline because the image alone hurts my brain.
The absolute highlight of Sunday’s festivities was – surprise! – not the music, but this lady:
And for me, a deer eating a slice of pepperoni pizza (New York style, obvs.):
My friends and I really lost our shit over this idea. Other pictures included a dragon eating Cheetos, a schnauzer eating coleslaw, an owl eating an ice cream sandwich, and a manatee eating nachos. But Leah had the best one:
I suppose I should talk a little bit about the music highlights of the day as well.
She and Him. Just him.
“Poison Cup” – M. Ward (mp3)
“Chinese Translation” – M. Ward (mp3)
“Eyes on the Prize” – M. Ward (mp3)
After a lovely set by Spiritualized (I had forgotten that I liked Spiritualized in college and haven’t really listened to them lately), I headed to the Balance stage in the back of the park in hopes to see Cut Copy. I actually was looking forward to Cut Copy, which explains why they are the only band I made the effort to stand up and see. We weaved through the crowd listening to Bon Iver, who was lulling everyone into a generally sedate mood in preparation for the more upbeat Cut Copy. (Granted, they did play a Talk Talk cover.)
“Lump Sum” – Bon Iver (mp3)
“The Wolves (Act I and II)” – Bon Iver (mp3)
Bon Iver wasn’t bad, but they definitely didn’t seem appropriately placed before a band like Cut Copy. That’s the biggest problem with Pitchfork: the diverse lineup is great, but it makes for very awkward transitions between acts. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon did get on my nerves a bit, though, demanding the couple hundred people standing below him to sing along in the second half of an “epic song.”
Cut Copy was to take the stage five minutes after Bon Iver’s last song, and considering the festival’s adherence to the schedule, I was surprised when we had to stand there for up to thirty minutes. After finally getting tired and saying, “Okay, Cut Copy plays three songs and we get out of here,” I see a creepily skinny guy take the stage. Thinking it’s a member of the band, I got pretty excited; then I realized it was just Bradford Cox of Atlas Sound / Deerhunter, who announced that Cut Copy was “stuck at the airport” and he and his buddies were going to make some shit up for entertainment.
Cut Copy: Epic Fail
“Lights and Music” – Cut Copy (mp3)
“Hearts on Fire” – Cut Copy (mp3)
I was very tired and hot, and did not want to listen to a collection of indie rockers make up music just in case Cut Copy showed up (which they eventually did). I returned to Lazytown feeling fairly dejected, and the sounds of Spoon carried across the field, barely lifting my spirits.
“The Ghost of You Lingers” – Spoon (mp3)
“I Turn My Camera On” – Spoon (mp3)
“Jonathon Fisk” – Spoon (mp3)
It was a fun weekend, all and all, but one that was muggy, hot, crowded, and exhausting. I think it’s safe to say that I don’t really want to listen to music right now – maybe I’ll wait until next July.
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
We were sort of concerned you’d be drowned within our sea.
We went to see Emily Haines.
We saluted Camille Paglia.