There and back again; a hipster’s tale
In a field in a park in Chicago in Illinois, there gathered a many thousand people: mostly young, some very young and some very old. They had exited their workplaces early, traveled by car and plane to see other people play instruments on a stage. Sean, Matt and newly minted contributor who hasn’t contributed anything yet- Shiloh were among these people. This is the story of what they saw and heard.
There was much excitement to be had on that joyous Friday. While Sean was a seasoned pro and had attended many music festivals, Matt was a virgin in this and possibly other things and did not know what to expect. What greeted them first were lines. Lines for the train. Lines to get out of the train. Lines to get the tickets you had ordered many months ago. Lines to get your bags checked for nefarious items. And then lines to get in. Matt, being innocent and pure of heart, was shocked to see some of the outfits other folks in line were wearing. Cheeks of butt spilled out of too-tight over-britches and long-sleeved flannel shirts complete with undershirt abounded in the 90 degree weather. These were his people.
Matt was anxious though. He was missing the very first act of the day while waiting in a forever line and being hounded by scalpers. Sharon Van Etten (who apparently sounds a bit like Thom Yorke when a distance away) was a relatively unknown quantity to us youngsters, but a few songs had slipped Matt’s way, and he had liked the high sweetness of her voice and the tenderness she sang it with. The group slipped (sans Shiloh, she decided to show up on Day 3) in and headed directly to her mid-performance to hear her perform entirely new material from her upcoming album in an entirely new hairstyle. She was shy and clearly astounded that people had shown up for her, which only added to the intimacy between the crowd and her. She played alone with a guitar, hitting some power chords occasionally but mostly sticking to rhythm and letting her voice do the leg work.
Hers isn’t a perfect voice. It has its weak spots, but it’s through those cracks that the emotion comes. If you haven’t investigated this up and comer, do so. She’s touring with Marissa Nadler this Fall.
A quick hop, turn and a weave brought us to the next performer: The Tallest Man on Earth. The Swede hadn’t slept in two days and was self-confessedly jet-lagged. The Sun decided to be his all-too hot spotlight as he sweated through his black jeans. With a couple of hiccups in the beginning that seemed more like eccentricities, he followed Van Etten’s lead by flying solo with a guitar and indeed knocked our socks off. There’s a quality to his voice that reincarnates early Dylan while sandpapering your normally critical mind to a smooth smooth stupor. Pitchfork kept the early sets to a meek 30 minutes, and by the end of his we were unsatisfied. He was one of those rare acts that captured the attention from the passerby and then kept it. We were sad to see him go.
Next up was EL-P and his scribbles and beats. For the record, Matt cringes when he hears of a white rapper. Sadly, he is most often disappointed and then embarrassed for his people and runs quickly from the room with fingers in ears. So Sean and he decided to take his set’s opportunity to explore the festival grounds and the multitudes of merchandise for sale. We hope this doesn’t disappoint you, reader, too much. But we just weren’t in the mind to get angrily preached at while we basted in our shorts and flops. Matt found a douchey hat to wear (whilst only in the park) and they both discovered the Vegan smoothie stand during this time, so in a way, they are very very grateful to EL-P and the time he gave them. Vegan smoothies are the BEST!!!!!!!! They were sent there by angels and made by a very beautiful redhead that Matt had three days to flirt with. She mixed flavors for him and only him.
The Liars treated us after that. We knew we were off to the wrong start when singer Angus Andrew came out in some fairly randy running shorts and proceeded to ask if we were thirsty, which of course everyone was, only to direct us to his penis. It was “open for business”. Gutteral echoes and microphone-sucking techniques ensued. Instead of giving us some of the great songs featured on their Sisterworld collection, we witnessed the reactions to whatever unknown substances they had ingested beforehand. Falsetto was the word of the day, and they insisted on spreading it. A lot. To be fair, Andrew has some amazing charisma, and he kept our attention for a good while. But in the end, Sean and Matt had to walk away to find something less logically conflicting to observe.
Day 1 of Pitchfork was unique in that one of the far off stages featured comedic acts throughout the evening instead of musical. The two amigos got to see a bit of Hannibal Buress and then the Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac. A lot of their material was race and sex driven, but Cenac had some clever insights into television and the woes (female) it can bring. On their way past the Porter Potties, the dynamic duo were fortunate to see Michael Showalter without a stage underneath him, walking amongst the people, wearing a checkered backpack. They giggled and pointed even more than little schoolgirls would. Sadly, no autograph attempts were made, because they were on their way to see Broken Social Scene.
It was there that Sean and Matt (Seatt?) began to really experience the festival feeling, the moment when being part of the crowd was as much fun as listening to the music. Swaying two inches from the sweaty face of a stranger was more of a bonding process than a hindrance. It was at Broken Social Scene’s set that Matt really began to have fun. No Leslie, no Amy and No Emily were anywhere in sight, but all the classic dudes were in attendance and splayed in row at front. Six+ mics with guitar/saxophone wielding Canadians behind them is a heavy force to contend with, and we had no argument. They kicked things off with “Stars and Sons” leading into “7/4 (Shoreline)” and continued to butter us up with “Fire Eye’d Boy” before launching into some of their newer material. Matt didn’t enjoy the wild shrieking on “Texico Bitches” but then the lone-lady-voice brought her considerable chops on the great “All to All” with some local string talent backing her up.
Kevin Drew and company ended with their “anthem” coincidently known as “Meet Me in the Basement” from their newest Forgiveness Rock Record. The energy level was fantastic throughout the performance and Matt was blown away by how wonderfully a whole stage full of individuals could contribute to a musical performance. Brendan Canning’s high kicks punctuated the air like exclamation points on a musical score of a day. It was his first time seeing BSS and he has learnt his lesson from the masters.
It should be mentioned that Robyn was performing across the way while half of TWJ fought for a spot near the BSS stage. From what they could see and hear, she was dressed to impress and sang beautifully; giving a fantastic effort to her crowd. Sean was a little sad he didn’t get to see her up close, he had a crush on her back when he was a pubescent boy, and it seemed little had changed. Gazing upon her from afar with her midriff exposed while giving the air dramatic punches in time with the synthesizers got Sean nice and randy. Matt was right there with him. Robyn gives an accurate live performance and sounds exactly like she does on her newest record: Body Talk Pt.1. And that’s a nice thing to hear, whatever world you live in.
The headliner for the night was Modest Mouse, a band that Seatt both appreciate, but don’t delve too deep into. So when MM mounted the stage at 8:30 that night, they were far in the back, more concerned with their newly-reunited college friends than they were with what type of guitar Isaac Brock was using. However, it was the crowd of thousands, the night sky and the glow sticks that drew them in, causing them to sway their heads to some of the more ambiguous songs and shout out loud to “Float On”. Much of the performance seemed to draw from Modest Mouse’s earlier catalog and as such it left Sean and Matt scratching their heads figuratively but tapping their feet in actuality.
Day 1 was a wonderful experience for the two intrepid friends. They had survived their travels and wanderings in the fine city of Chicago, and made it through the festival experience intact, if a little foot-sore and sun-toasted. If only they knew what Day 2 would bring them…………
–Matt and Sean