Saturday, July 17, 2010

Festival review: Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 Day 1

Posted by Susan Schomburg

Liars performing at Pitchfork Friday
The first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival went pretty well this year. Although the July weather was sticky and hot, the festival itself had a nice blend of high-energy acts to get fans on their feet in spite of the heat and mellow performances that kept everyone cool and relaxed.

Festival opener Sharon van Etten set an intimate mood to the start of the festival with a strong voice and confessional songs, a mood that was continued into the Tallest Man on Earth's set. Although his time slot was only half an hour long and although the sun was hot, many of the people in the audience would have stood in the sun for much longer to hear more of his lovely voice and words and guitar.

Liars kicked up the energy of the afternoon with a set of exciting, slightly nihilistic electric garage punk (although that description doesn't quite do justice to the band's stage presence: the frontman's slinky motions, light dance, head shakes and hand motions meant there was always something to look at).

Robyn's music has never been my cup of tea, but her energetic live electronic set was much more entertaining than I was expecting. The same goes for Broken Social Scene; they really put on a good show, and after hearing their songs played live with so much conviction, I intend to go over their recordings again and figure out why I never really got into them.

One interesting variation on past years' festivals was the addition of a stand-up comedy stage on Friday's lineup of performing artists. Gathered peacefully around the Balance stage was a surprisingly large group of festival-goers, sitting on the ground and listening attentively to the comedians in spite of a substantial amount of sound bleed from the Aluminum and Connector stage's acts (which was remarked on by more than one comic) and ambient noise from the busy streets. For me, the stand-out performance was from comedy stage headliner Eugene Mirman (probably best known from his role as Eugene the landlord in "Flight of the Conchords"), whose absurdist set included jokes on a number of controversial topics told in a delightfully disarming manner. The set ended with him coming down into the audience to hand out "fake business cards" to fans in the audience.

Day One headliners Modest Mouse struck the audience at a visceral level, keeping people going at the end of a long, hot day. Their live show, like their records, have a biting quality with a groove you can get into, and it was interesting to see how some of their effects are done (like singing into an old-timey microphone to get that effect--obvious, but it really never occurred to me that it was just that simple) and enjoying their live instrumentation (which included a banjo and a horn).

This article also appears on the Chicago Indie Rock Examiner website.

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