Monday, July 19th, 2010

Pitchfork 2010 Day 1

Robyn, Broken Social Scene, Liars and more at Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe Pitchfork Music Festival occupies an interesting niche in the festival landscape. It’s too small to fairly compare with the national destination-type events, even though people such as myself do travel from afar to attend, but too high-profile to be considered properly boutique. The lineup is generally solid from top to bottom, but in a mid-level club sense. Almost all of the acts, at least for the 2010 edition, are touring relentlessly and aren’t hard to catch at some point in most urban centres, and for many this is probably their first experience with a festival setting and such large stages and audiences.

So despite the fact that I had already seen or could see in the coming weeks/months many of the acts on the bill, I decided to attend this year because a) plans to hit last year’s fest were scuppered by real life, b) I skipped out on the Toronto edition of the Pavement reunion tour in favour of Iggy & The Stooges at NxNE and c) the total dearth of outdoor festivals in Toronto this year meant that to get my heat stroke in the photo pit action on, I’d have to leave town. Also, I hadn’t been to Chicago in years.

Pitchfork Fridays past tended to feature a single evening feature event like a “Don’t Look Back” full album performance, but this year they opted for a half-day of regular programming and squeezing in a couple more headliners. I arrived at Union Park, just a little outside of The Loop, just in time to hear Sharon Van Etten kick the day and the festival off on the main stage, dubbed Aluminum, previewing songs from her forthcoming album Epic. The bright – nay, blazing – afternoon sun wasn’t the most natural setting for her dark and vulnerable songs, but it’s remarkable that even massively amplified in the outdoors, her gorgeous voice was able to sound so intimate. She may not have had the same name recognition as some of the others in the lineup but hopefully for the festival early birds, she’ll have been a welcome discovery.

Photos: Sharon Van Etten @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “I Couldn’t Save You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MySpace: Sharon Van Etten

The two main stages at Pitchfork were set up in close proximity and at 90 degrees to one another, and Friday’s staggered set times made it easy to dash from one to the other – or just turn your butt, for the seated – and catch the next act. Inaugurating the Connector stage was The Tallest Man On Earth, and though also performing solo he clearly didn’t suffer from any lack of audience familiarity – folks were stoked for Kristian Matsson and his set didn’t disappoint them. The charisma on display the one time I’d seen him at an in-store scaled quite well to the bigger venue and as he lurched and lunged around the stage whilst showcasing the upbeat folk from The Wild Hunt, the crowd collectively swooned. Though that may have also been from the heat. The Tallest Man On Earth plays Lee’s Palace on September 24.

Photos: The Tallest Man On Earth @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “King Of Spain”
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden Of Tomorrow”

Liars and I had never been properly introduced, with the one time I tried giving them a listen apparently coming when they were at their most abrasive and I quickly moved on with my life. This first encounter started out rockily, with my camera seemingly self-destructing as soon as the band took the stage. It turned out that my camera grip was actually overheating just from the ambient temperature and was shorting everything out, so once removed and with things working again, the panic began to abate I was able to turn my attention back to the Brooklynites. I didn’t know any material and they were hardly what you’d call an immediately accessible pop, but their first dose of proper rock energy for the day and festival was welcome. Frontman Angus Andrew was a compelling frontman and stage presence, aggressively prowling around the stage during songs and cracking off-colour jokes between, including an invitation to use the water station in his pants. Entertaining, but the lack of familiarity kept me from getting too engaged. Liars play Lee’s Palace on September 29.

Photos: Liars @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Liars – “Scissor”
MP3: Liars – “Plaster Casts Of Everything”
MP3: Liars – “Loose Nuts On The Veladrome”
Video: Liars – “Scissors””
Video: Liars – “The Overachievers”
Video: Liars – “Houseclouds”
Video: Liars – “Plaster Casts Of Everything”
Video: Liars – “The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack”
MySpace: Liars

The aforementioned lack of familiarity didn’t affect enjoyment of Swedish dance-pop diva Robyn’s set because, well, it was Swedish dance-pop and that stuff is made to cross all lines, borders and bring world peace. Big hooks were the order of the day as she, backed by two drummers and two keyboardists all clad in white, got the Pitchfork crowd – pretty sizeable by point in the day – dancing at best, bobbing up and down at worst. I’d never quite understood the massive acclaim that Robyn got, I mean I thought her stuff was perfectly enjoyable but not commensurate with the level of hosannas laid at her feet. On stage, however, she did a great job of earning the hype, dancing, strutting and posing like a pro and just working the crowd perfectly; good times abounded. Someone is due for some reevaluation by me. That someone being Robyn. In case that wasn’t clear. She plays the Molson Amphitheatre on July 30.

Photos: Robyn @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
Video: Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”
Video: Robyn – “Dream On”
Video: Robyn – “Konichiwa Bitches”
Video: Robyn – “Handle Me”
Video: Robyn – “Do You Know (What It Takes)”
Video: Robyn – “My Only Reason”
Video: Robyn – “With Every Heartbeat”

Oh Broken Social Scene. I’ve covered my own history with the band, but that in-store appearance aside it had still been almost four years since I’d seen a proper Broken show. And while that full-lineup throwdown was as good a last show as you could imagine, I was interested to see how they sounded with their slimmed-down lineup and fully awake. The deliberately lean aesthetic carried over to their live show, which despite supplementing the now core seven members with Forgiveness Rock Record producer John McEntire as second drummer and some locally-recruited string and brass players, sounded much less grandiose than the old days where they’d trot out six or seven guitarists all doing god knows what simultaneously. Their new approach was certainly more focused, but I can’t say I didn’t miss some of the old grandiosity, some of which – okay, a lot of which – was captured in their finale of “Meet Me In The Basement”, which sounded fantastic and proved that even when you think you’re done with them, Broken Social Scene are still capable of stop and marvel. NPR has a World Cafe session with the band and Asia One an interview.

Photos: Broken Social Scene @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Fire Eye’d Boy”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Hotel”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Meet Me In The Basement”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “7/4 (Shoreline)”
Video: Broken Social Scene -“Fire Eye’d Boy”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Her Disappearing Scene”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Major Label Debut”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Cause = Time”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Lover’s Spit”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “I’m Still Your Fag”
MySpace: Broken Social Scene

My interest in seeing Modest Mouse was pretty close to nil, but considering they were the headliners, I figured I should at least sample their set and get some pics. As it turned out, the process for rotating photographers in and out of the pit didn’t have the kinks worked out and as a result, I got to shoot maybe a minute of one song before getting the boot. I wasn’t especially disappointed and seeing as how nothing they were playing was either familiar or especially interesting, I took it as a sign to call it a night and go get some dinner.

Photos: Modest Mouse @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Modest Mouse – “Worms Vs. Birds”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Dashboard”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Float On”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Ocean Breathes Salty”
Video: Modest Mouse – “The Whale Song”
Video: Modest Mouse – “King Rat”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Satellite Skin”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Missed The Boat”
MySpace: Modest Mouse

By : Frank Yang at 10:27 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post7 Responses.
  1. lustandfury says:

    I agree, Modest Mouse is a band I just can’t get in to…try as I might. Sounds like a good fest so far!

  2. shaniqua says:

    robyn ain’t on the bill for that weird disco lemonade thing at the amph no more. which hopefully means a show at a smaller venue without keane in the near future :)

  3. Karl says:

    I hadn’t seen BSS in years either. My impression was that the leaner lineup has them trading that grandiosity for a bit more rockstar swagger (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing). Thought that “Forced to love” and “Super-connected” also killed.

    I also share your general disinterest in Modest Mouse. I respect what they do, but their set didn’t move the needle for me.

  4. Bob says:

    And Chromewaves continues to be the warm place where the few of us who don’t get Modest Mouse can be kindly reminded that there are others who feel the same way :)

    Sounds like a successful first day and I’ve decided that I’ve really got to stop procrastinating and get around to seeing The Tallest Man on Earth one of these days.

  5. Kirstiecat says:

    I really enjoyed looking through your photo galleries and hanging out this weekend! You’re an amazing overachiever but I still say I beat you running to the Pavement line. ;)

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