|photo by jason frank rothenberg|
Perhaps the most unfortunate incidence of this condition occurred at Pitchfork Music Festival last summer when I missed the Dirty Projectors headlining the red stage on Pitchfork’s opening night.
After a barrage of ridicule from disbelieving friends over the following days, claiming the Dirty Projectors put on one of the best performances of the entire weekend, I decided to give their most recent album, Swing Lo Magellan, a try.
Upon first listen, I knew I’d fallen victim to my tragic tendency yet again. The Dirty Projectors’ vocal section, featuring a female choir behind frontman David Longstreth’s intelligently written, often crooned-out lyrics, along with atypical song structures--which consistently disregard any notion of verse-chorus-verse--and instrumentation composed of sounds representing a range of time periods and musical genres, fascinated me.
In February, the Dirty Projectors announced a number of upcoming tour dates, including a June appearance in Chicago, a chance for me to redeem myself for poor Pitchfork decisions.
The characteristics that I found so intriguing after first listening to the Dirty Projectors were emphasized as they opened their set at Lincoln Hall on Thursday night with Swing Lo Magellan’s first single, “Gun Has No Trigger.” Multi-instrumentalists Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle, and Olga Bell provided harmonies that complimented Longstreth’s vocals in a manner foreign to a rock show and yet somehow entirely appropriate among a set of songs driven by guitar riffs and synth lines.
Midway through the set, a fan shouted a request for the band to cover R. Kelly’s “Climax,” a song they’d performed live on an Australian radio show. Because this particular concert was the Dirty Projector’s first of two sold out Lincoln Hall appearances on Thursday night, rather than one show at a higher-capacity venue like the Riviera Theater or Aragon Ballroom, a more intimate environment allowed Longstreth to reply to the concertgoer, “This whole set is climax.”
Although intended for humor, the frontman had a point. Throughout the entire fifteen song set, Michael Johnson’s drumming, accompanied by Haley Dekle’s electronic percussion, created an eagerness amongst the crowd to groove to each song’s beat, but the band’s signature polyrhythms, coming and going at intervals incomprehensible to those of us lacking years of musical training, resulted in a packed Lincoln Hall moving in blissful asynchrony.
By the end of the show I found myself wondering how I had let this experience pass by a year ago. As I came to understand the harassment I’d received from friends after Pitchfork, I was able to recognize a lesson: do your research before going to music festivals, and never pass up an opportunity to see the Dirty Projectors.
1. Gun Has No Trigger
2. About to Die
3. Cannibal Resource
4. Wittenberg IV
5. Dance For You
6. The Socialites
7. Fucked for Life
8. See What She Seeing
9. Temecula Sunrise
10. Just from Chevron
11. Stillness is the Move
12. Rise Above
13. Swing Lo Magellan
14. Useful Chamber
15. Impregnable Question