by Jack Diablo
The final day of a three-day music festival can be hit or miss. It can either be a wonderful wrap up to a fantastic weekend or you can be so exhausted, tired of the heat and cranky that by the afternoon, you’re over it altogether. Pitchfork took a huge chance in stacking the roster on the festival’s last day. When I got the schedule of who was playing when and where, I took my highlighter and planned out which bands I needed to see. No day was more yellow than Sunday.
Apparently I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm for the bands that day. Best Coast was playing early and there was no way I was going to miss them. After two buses passed us by because they were already full I took desperate measures and started hoofing it in the direction of the park. It was a solid walk but if I hurried I could make it just in time to catch the second half of their set. As I power-walked, looking back every few steps to flag a cab, two other people sensed my urgency and offered to split a cab if we could find one. Eventually one did stop for us and drove us what ended up being the last five blocks to the park.
Fortunately I made it in time for more than half of the Best Coast set. It seemed that just about everyone else had the same plan as I did and the smallest was packed. The lead singer looked and sang just like she oughtta. Her voice is like a stoned Jenny Lewis and sounds just as good live as it does on their records. The guitarist looked so out of place with his metal hair and outfit but it worked nevertheless. Best Coast excel at simplicity. Their songs are simple, honest and fun and they’re practically impossible not to like. There are people I know who are into some of the heaviest music there is who are stoked on Best Coast. Maybe it’s because we all wish we could find us a cute little stoner-girl with a voice like Bethany Cosentino’s.
I stuck around the small stage to check out Washed Out, another Mexican Summer band. Even though his music is completely electronic and there really isn’t much to watch, the chill vibes and fuzzy beats are the perfect complement to a lazy Sunday morning. It’s music you can dance to without a whole lot of effort, just sway around and nod your head kind of stuff.
For the longest time I used to confuse Best Cast and Beach House. They don’t sound anything alike but for some reason their names threw me off. If Bethany Cosentino has a Jenny Lewis voice then Christiane Legrand has Chan Marshall’s pipes. In that way one could call them a synthy Cat Power. Some friends of mine had recently toured with them in Europe and a few weeks later my band stored our equipment in their Baltimore practice space. The day was still young but I was already beginning to fade. I decided to take it easy and just chill for a while. Perhaps I was still feeling the effects of Washed Out but as soon as I stopped trying to see everything up close and found a spot with a decent vantage point of multiple stages I ended up enjoying myself a lot more. A breeze began to blow and the grass was soft. My friend showed up with a blanket and it couldn’t have gotten much better. Just as I was starting to get comfortable I realized that Lightning Bolt was up next.
Several friends of mine had either caught them in Orlando or Tallahassee a few weeks before and had rave reviews of the show. Theses were dudes into heavy music so I made a point to check them out and see what the fuss was about. The two-piece consists of a drummer who wears a Slipknot/Leatherface-looking mask and a bass player in regular clothes. My friend and I had only both heard of them but were not familiar with their music. When they started playing we both looked at each other and our jaws dropped. The thundering bass was effected by all kinds of synth pedals and roared at us while the drums issued forth punishing blast beats and speed fills the likes of which you might find in a grindcore band not something at Pitchfork! It was by far the loudest show yet and the audience erupted into complete chaos. I’ve since listened to some recorded songs and watched some videos but none of it could compare to that first encounter.
I felt almost obligated to check out Surfer Blood as they were one of only a few Florida bands at the event. It was my third time to see them this year so we only hung out for a bit but long enough to finally hear a new song that had a definite Beach Boys vibe, which is appropriate considering the Beach Boys cover they released not that long ago.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of DJ-music, I had a feeling that Major Lazer would be worth checking out. St. Vincent wrapped up her set as we waited for Diplo to take the stage. It wasn’t what I was expecting but I was still impressed. As Diplo DJed from on high, bootdancers wobbled and made it clap from everything to dubstep to Ace of Bass. Chinese dragons joined the show. It was pretty radical especially for someone like me who HATES house music.
After my disappointment with Raekwon I almost skipped out on Big Boi’s set. His new album hasn’t made an impression on me yet and I assumed his Outkast covers would be just as lacking and pathetic as Raekwon’s. What actually happened was I was reminded how much I love Outkast. Being only a two-piece it’s a lot easier to just your part from a song and it was all mixed together in a medley of perfection. I found myself singing along to old songs I forgot I knew. The white boy hype men that joined Sir Lucious Leftfoot on stage threw me off. They looked like fratboys, not the typical Dungeon Family sort. I left s soon as the new stuff started playing because I had promised myself I would watch Sleigh Bells.
Unfortunately some severe technical difficulties pretty much ruined the show. Sleigh Bells depend on bass and it just wasn’t happening. First everything was too low, then the bass started working and eventually the vocals worked okay for a bit but the guitar never got there. I was pretty bummed about it because I skipped the show in Jacksonville knowing I would get to see them in Chicago and then had to listen to everyone tell me how radical it was.
Then it became the time that everyone was waiting for. The excitement was like a virus. Enough people were stoked on the opportunity to see Pavement that everyone else who may or may not have even heard them got stoked too. They are admittedly a little before my time but I knew their work well enough to be pretty excited myself. Id’ describe it but it went pretty much just as you would expect it too. Nothing outrageous or spectacular just consistent, solid, good old-fashioned indie rock. We all got a checkmark on our bucket lists that’s for sure.
Summer festivals are great, no doubt about it but the heat can really spoil your mood if you let it. That’s why most festivals go down in the Spring and Fall. While few can boast of lineups as good as Picthfork’s there are plenty of options that come pretty darn close. Head to Asheville to check out MoogFest, a celebration of the synthesizer and featuring several bands that appeared at Pitchfork. I’ll be heading to Austin for Fun Fun Fest in November. I strongly suggest finding yourself a festival where you can see some old favorites and discover something new. Harvest of Hope Fest has been cancelled so you’ll have to get out of town for it but you’ll find that a change of location will do you some good and if that doesn’t do it, the music certainly will.