A lot of times I compare live performances to how that band sounds on their album. At Pitchfork Festival, Saturday was really about how artists worked with the big crowd and the daytime heat (the latter was big factor yesterday as well). Delorean, for example, sounded great, but their early set could only get a few skinny fists in the air, while pastel pink balloons drifted over the crowds heads. It was too hot to even swat at them. Delorean even brought out the airhorn, the official sound of a party starting. Maybe it was too soon. Titus Androdicus got feet and hands in the air. The crowdsurfing audience eventually coaxed singer Patrick Stickles to jump in with them. “We got quite the Utopian society here” he told the audience. Though, with the hands in the air and the keyboards adding trumpets to their anthems, things felt more fascist than Utopian for a second, in the way they’re able to whip up big crowds.
I was hoping to see more of Dâm-Funk’s, er, funk, but the small, breezier Balance stage was running a little late. I’m glad I caught this moment: Damon Riddick asked, “Chicago, are you ready for this shit?” then pulled out an enormous, possibly 88-key keytar. Here is another place where setting mattered — I’m not sure he could fit such an instrument on a club stage.
Next was Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The last time I caught them Liars and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were their opening act. Two questions I had going into this show, “Could Jon Spencer still rock the leather pants?,” and “What was the name of his band again?” were answered quickly and many times over. Spencer’s pants struck a compromise with the weather — he wore rubberized dark jeans instead of black leather, and he didn’t hit the ground quite as many times as I remember. Finding heat metaphors in Jon Spencer Blues Explosion songs is like finding mentions of the band name in Jon Spencer Blues Explosion songs. Let’s just say, babies can do it. And let’s just say: “That’s the sweat of the Blues Explosion.”
The best of yesterday, for me, was Wolf Parade. They weren’t necessarily the best band of the night, but they worked the festival well. While Raekwon played to a sleepy audience, and while you could close your eyes and think you were possibly alone in the audience for Panda Bear’s set, Wolf Parade knew their setting. They eschewed the slow stuff. Even “I’ll Believe In Anything,” was brisk and tight, and I felt the fence shake while the audience pounded the gate and sang along. Not to say it’s related, but a breeze also came through just when Spencer Krug did “Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts.” It wasn’t all Krug, and wasn’t all Apologies To The Queen Mary. Expo 86’s “Little Golden Age” added some softer sentiments to the rather terse set. (So did Dan Boeckner’s dedication to his wife, Alexei Perry, who was watching the set via the live stream). “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)” is a Krug song from Expo 86, but Boeckner’s guitar line is the highlight.
You’d love to see LCD Soundsystem in a small venue, with dark lighting, and maybe a little baby powder on the floor to make it easier to dance. That’s not likely to happen any time soon, but dirt was a fine substitute, and LCD lowered a stadium-sized disco ball to create the needed atmosphere. The mix was weird, with James Murphy’s vocals occasionally overpowering the rest of the band. Maybe it’s because he holds his mic like a truck driver with a CB radio. But it’s also a testament to Murphy’s charm and wit that you never think “I want to hear less of this guy” while you’re also looking to dance. Also a testament to the band, is that after seeing and hearing “All My Friends,” a song, if you interpret it just a little wrong is about once-in-a-lifetime moments, can still make you feel like you’re having a once-in-a-lifetime moment when you hear it. Again.
Chicago’s noise laws mean that each night ends by 10 p.m. That left lots of time to walk over and see the reunited Cap’n Jazz play at Bottom Lounge, where Pitchfork holds their afterparties, though the two events were unrelated.
Check out the pics by Graeme Flegenheimer.