Posted by Susan Schomburg
|Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Pitchfork|
This year's Saturday schedule was particularly packed with slightly overlapping acts--there was generally just enough time to see some of each set, but not enough for all of either.
Kurt Vile's name always throws me for a loop; I'm always expecting something more punk and less psychedelic than I get from his music, but in spite of expectations, I'm never disappointed. His reverb-heavy vocals and mix of electric and acoustic instruments made for a great set on Saturday afternoon. His music has a trippy-but-intense quality that reminds me of the Velvet Underground, a sound reinforced by the foundation laid down by the drummer, who used mallets (not drumsticks) on his kit live, giving the drums a muted, heavy quality that anchored the amplified acoustic and Vile's vocals well.
Titus Andronicus was fantastic. They played their shoegazey punk songs with intensity and conviction, making it worthwhile for the fans who stood in the sun in 90-degree heat to watch them play. And they were entertaining to watch as well as hear; frontman Patrick Stickles, in particular, really drew the eye, jumping and shouting and gesturing, and even hopping down into the crowd to sing for one song.
Chicago's own Smith Westerns more than held their own on the Balance Stage Saturday afternoon with a set of energetic glam rock that locals have come to expect from their shows. Meanwhile, on the Aluminum Stage, Raekwon performed a very entertaining rap set that included a bunch of extremely talented kids breakdancing--leading to more than one audience member saying "Holy sh*t!" as they spun on their heads and did other crazy things I probably will never learn how to do.
Twenty years into their career, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is still putting on outstanding shows. Their set was, as their name suggests, explosive, with thick bluesy guitar riffs interlacing and pounding drums pulsing through the whole mix. Jon Spencer in person is even more hypnotic to watch than I was expecting, and he even played some theremin before smashing his mic on the stage at the end of the set.
As hard as I thought it would be for whoever had to follow JSBX in the main festival stage grounds, Wolf Parade managed to hit hard with an opener bombastic enough to not be boring in comparison. Their sound during the set ranged from straightforward indie rock to dancey disco-feeling songs, and overall, it was very easy to dance and move to Wolf Parade live.
Bear in Heaven's live sound was very heavy, with virtuosic drumming, weird 80s-riffic synth and just a hint of psych guitar. They put on a solid set and there were few heads in the audience that weren't bobbing along to their music.
Day Two headliners LCD Soundsystem lived up to their reputation and position in the lineup. Their set was very high-energy, and they got a massive crowd, many of whom were too far to even see the stage, on their feet and dancing for over an hour. The electro-influenced dance punk translated well to an outdoor festival setting, and frontman James Murphy got everybody dancing and clapping and singing along to his songs. The evening could not have ended better.
This article also appears on the Chicago Indie Rock Examiner website.