Monday, July 19, 2010

Festival review: Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 Day 3

Posted by Susan Schomburg

St. Vincent plays Pitchfork Sunday
Wow, what a day! The people at Pitchfork really packed a lot of acts into the last day's schedule--I wasn't the only person constantly walking between stages to see a bit of everything.

Early in the day, Cass McCombs delivered mellow ballads and classic-rock-tinged songs that had a bit of bite. Best Coast had a surfy sound and songwriting that drew heavily on 60s girl-group style. They drew a very big crowd for early in the day and for being placed on the Balance stage, and did not disappoint.
Girls continued the mellow retro West Coast feel to the afternoon with old-school ballads and poppier, harder-rocking beats. The singer's voice has a slightly nasal sound to it that reminds me a bit of Elvis Costello and Bright Eyes, only not really either of those. It was kind of sweet when the lead singer took a photo of the crowd telling everyone to "say hi to Mom."

A live DJ set on the Balance stage came next courtesy of Washed Out, who had good beats and got the crowd going in spite of the heat. He sang over the electronic mixes, and seemed to put some combination of reverb and choir effect on his vox--the result was an ethereal quality that didn't quite feel real standing in the shade with a welcome breeze blowing on Sunday afternoon.

Baltimore duo Beach House came next, adding a drummer with mallets to their live set this afternoon. The combination of organ and guitar was a refreshing change, and the singer's voice, delicate and powerful at the same time, gave the band's set a dreamy sound.

With emphasis on beautiful vocal harmonies, Local Natives also managed to rock pretty hard while singing them, which gave their voices a present, urgent sound. With sweetly nostalgic songs played with beauty and intensity, I found their set to be one of the outstanding performances of the festival, both musically and in terms of stage presence.

Noise rock outfit Lightning Bolt is a bit too violent and intense for me, and I'd probably never listen to their recordings, but their set on Aluminum stage during the afternoon was compelling and exciting to watch (from a safe distance). Their drummer, sporting a weird multicolored mask, was excellent, and the duo's frenzied playing really got the audience going. Their sound is very dark, mildly disturbing, and it was heavier music for those who enjoy moshing and crowd surfing.

Surfer Blood had a bit of 80s mainstream rock sound in their mix. I felt like the singer's vocals were a bit raw--in a good way--and it was a strong set overall. They have a fun sound, and know how to put on a good show for their fans.

St Vincent has been getting a lot of buzz since her album came out, and if her set today was typical of her live show, she definitely deserves it. Her music is lovely, with floating melodies that were enhanced by a sax and violin at the show, as well as a drummer who really gets into the songs, and of course, her beautiful reedy voice wafting over everything else. It is music that can very easily take your breath away, which you don't really mind as you let it sink in to your skin.

Here We Go Magic had a decent live show. Their live sound is catchy, they worked really hard, and obviously enjoy what they're doing onstage. The sound was a bit sleepy with some electro thrown in. Overall, it was just a good time.

With a set that relied way too heavily on sampling and not seeming to do much of anything himself but get the crowd excited, Major Lazer is definitely not my kind of music. That being said, his show was pretty exciting. Visual spectacle was a big part of it--he brought out all kinds of crazy things, including Chinese dragons, ballerinas, and dirty dancing.

Following a tip from a friend of mine, I checked out Neon Indian's live electronic set, which was really fun. They got people dancing, and their frontman, who is also their DJ, plays theremin really well. I had a lot of fun dancing with the crowd, and was impressed with the amount of attention a guy who spent much of his time onstage messing with levers and buttons managed to draw. The whole group danced and sang with a surprising amount of energy for early in the evening on a long hot day, and they were worth waiting around to hear.

Sleigh Bells' live show of somewhat violent noise pop was exciting, but the crowd got a bit rougher than they probably should have (I met one person who got a lens knocked out of their glasses during the set!). Nevertheless, the duo put on an intense and entertaining show--the singer was particularly good at getting people moving, and it was a good performance.

Sunday night headliners Pavement lived up to the hype surrounding their music. Their live show was outstanding, although it primarily took a mellower tone than I was expecting. But it was exactly what the crowd needed at the end of a long, hot weekend. I have to admit, I've never been a particular fan of the band, but their set was very exciting, held people's attention (even from the back of the park), and was, at times, downright beautiful. They kicked things up for the second half of their set, rocking harder than the first, and I have to say, they really know how to put on a great live show.

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

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