A Hipster’s Tale: Part 2
The heat was even more intense on Day 2, but it didn’t seem to deter anyone from making their way to Union Park to sweat it out. The crowds were much larger for the Saturday bands, and perhaps even more enthusiastic. Shockingly, the best remedy — after shade and organic smoothies — was to dance your ass off. And that was what people did. All day. We knew that LCD Soundsystem’s set had the potential to finish the day off in miraculous fashion, but there was a path of entertaining shows to enjoy on the way to James Murphy.
Speaking of dancing, that was the best thing to do to the indie-synth grooves of Delorean. And I enjoyed it, even though I wasn’t especially familiar with their catalog. The song “Real Love” from the band’s latest LP Subiza was the highlight of the show for me, but I was somewhat distracted due to the fact I was putting on sunscreen while trying to pay attention to vocalist Ekhi Lopetegi sing about the struggles of attraction and romance. Matt, meanwhile was taking in Kurt Vile on the stage formerly known as the comedy stage. I was slightly jealous not because I am enamored with Vile, but because the stage he was playing on provided the most shade (really the only shade) to fans watching performances. Hence me taking a long break after Delorean’s set to regroup and take in the shade by a Pitchfork merchandise tent.
Matt’s observations while taking in Kurt Vile and then, in the blazing heat, Titus Andronicus (Oh, he insists on writing this in the third person, despite my repeated objections):
Lord knows Matt loves him some Delorean, but instead of running to them with arms wide, he took a right turn away from Sean to snuggle with Kurt Vile and his long hair. See on day two the comedy stage had turned into a smaller performance stage that ran concurrently with one of the bigger. So entered the choices. You couldn’t see everything anymore, you had to choose between some amazing acts. It seems subconsciously Matt doesn’t trust the Bleeps and the Bloops to translate well on live stage, so he didn’t think at that moment, he ran to Kurt. Sean was heartbroken, but carried on somehow.
And he was there, massaging his electric guitar, hair enveloping the microphone. He was just beginning “Freak Train”, which is a seven minute opus of rhythmic churning and wafty celebrations of oddness. Kurt’s lyrics get a bit hard to decipher when he’s in the groove (or under the influence, which he seemed to be) but the beautiful, beautiful riffs he creates are his bread and butter. And man did they really sound like butter. His crowd of a few hundred were swaying and bobbing before the song hit the 1 minute mark. He went on with other fantastic songs like “Heart Attack”, “Freeway” and “Blackberry Song” all the while backed by harp. A *#&%(@# harp!!!! The combination of “Blackberry Song’s” double loops with the harp’s cloud lining made for a very very silver experience. If you ever have the chance to see him live, TWJ recommends you do.
After Matt climbed back down from heaven, he decided to take a friend’s declaration to heart, and see Titus Andronicus up close and beardy. When their music played through his computer speakers, Matt found it loud, long and sometimes too harsh. He didn’t “get it”. But that’s the wonder of music. There are times when you just HAVE to hear it performed in person. Titus Andronicus quickly became one of the most energetic and passionate acts Matt saw that day. They are a young crew, the female guitarist/violinist seemed to be a really happy 15-year old and everyone else might have just walked out of their high school dance. Because it was lame, and they’re not. Rancorously and ferociously and with trumpet blaring, they proved they were there to do their darndest and every fan in the front with me was either jumping or pounding the air at any given point. Not wanting to upset anyone, I did the same. They loved their fans and their fans loved them. Matt didn’t rush out and buy their album, but if anyone ever says Titus Andronicus is playing down the street and offers him a ride, he’d be there in a instant.
And Matt was wrong. Delorean’s sound translated fantastically. But we all still love him, right?
Besides LCD Sounsystem, the band I was most excited to see live on Saturday was New York indie rock hip-hop hybrid Why? I had seen them once nearly 5 years ago in New York City at the College Music Journal Music Marathon, but didn’t really savor it. Now that I’m a big fan of the band, and of Yoni Wolf’s nasally whining croon — sometimes rapping and sometimes singing — I was super-pumped to take them in on the aforementioned shady stage. They did not disappoint, blowing through some of my favorites after taking an odd amount of time completing their sound check. “Gemini (Birthday Song)” was the tune I was waiting to hear, with its depressed ode to powerful love that is destined to go down in flames. The tales Wolf weaves in his lyrical ramblings are often cringe-worthy, but he delivers them with such power and uniqueness that Why?’s live performance, at least on this day, resonated with everyone there. I was shocked at how many people sang along with every word to even the most convoluted lyrics (Confession: I was one of them). Why? played some of the best material from Alopecia and Elephant Eyelash, and it all went off without a hitch. Songs like “Good Friday,” “Fatalist Palmistry,” and “Rubber Traits” sounded flawlessly brilliant. So much so that I neglected to leave early for to catch all of…
And even though I really loved Why?, I must say I was blown away by how much Wolf Parade rocked everyone’s faces. The band stomped and jammed through material from all ends of their repertoire, including the song “Ghost Pressure,” which is where I entered. Spencer Krug, Dan Boeckner, Arlen Thompson and Dante DeCaro bumped and thumped along with such energy that the crowd was putty in their hands. Matt and I made our way closer and closer to the front to stake out spots for LCD Soundsystem (nearly two hours early) and were penetrated by rock goodness. I must say that Wolf Parade shocked me more than any other act at Pitchfork — they were spot on and killed it from start to finish. Respect.
What took place after Wolf Parade’s set was mass crowd bonding. Thousands who had little interest in seeing Panda Bear live lay claim to their spots for James Murphy’s sure-to-be-awesome performance. And having watched and heard Panda Bear’s set from afar (not that far, the two main stages were very close to one another), I can say I’d do the exact same thing in a heartbeat if given the chance. Particularly because of what comes next.
After 90 solid minutes of waiting for LCDS and watching stagehands set up gigantic lighting rigs and a ridiculously oversized disco ball, the anticipation was palpable in the seemingly endless sea of people that was the crowd. The first thing Murphy said on stage was “Hey…,” and everyone understood that — Yes, he is about as neurotic as his songs would lead you to believe, and yes, he is immediately likable. Matt and I were stage right, two rows back, with a clear view of all the awesomeness that would follow that initial awkward moment.
An LCD Soundsystem show, we learned, is to be experienced rather than watched. The epic-length songs — such as the rousing early-set rendition of “Pow Pow” in which Murphy inserted the line “and we have these 12-minute long songs that are really fucking repetitive…” — leave one with no choice but to shake it and sing along, and it was a sort of communal feeling as everyone looked at one another and smiled broadly while igniting Chicago’s largest dance party. And then there was the water.
I think it began with “Tribulations,” but I could be wrong. Stage security began handing open water bottles to people at the front of the crowd and telling them “take a sip and then fling the rest around.” And the spreading and spraying of water, both chilled and warm, continued for the rest of the show. Had there been soap, we all could’ve gotten a shower in and left clean as a whistle. And you know what? It was fucking awesome. There, I said it. I’m not a dancer, per se, but I danced my ass off in true awkward white-guy fashion.
The sheer force of the bass emanating from the speakers on either side of the stage was enough to make one feel like there could never be another show like this. It reverberated in our chests, it became our heartbeat. It was delightful. The band played my two favorite tracks from Sound of Silver, “All My Friends” and “Someone Great” and like everything else that night, they were beautiful. I almost didn’t care that waves of people began pushing to make it close to the front. Almost.
Songs also heard/experienced: “I Can Change,” “Drunk Girls,” “Us v Them,” “Losing My Edge (shoving increased on this song),” “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.”
Murphy finished with “New York I Love You” after a 85-minute set, and everyone in the first 20 rows was drenched with sweat or water or a mixture of the two. And it seemed everyone was deliriously happy.
And that was only Day 2…
–Sean, then Matt, then Sean some more