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  • Pavement @ Pitchfork Music Festival 2010
Tags: , / Credit: Graeme Flegenheimer

The final day of 2010′s Pitchfork Festival was just as hot as Saturday, with stages that needed quick shots of energy to pull the audience out of its languor. Girls were pretty but wispy — though they sounded stronger as I walked over to Washed Out, who had the audience clapping along to his set. It also helped that Ernest Greene plays to the audience, not his instruments. Beach House played with several glittering, large diamonds behind them for their second Pitchfork Festival show (they played two years ago). Victoria Legrand stayed half hidden by layers of wavy hair, but Alex Scally paused to warn us: “If anyone has dry underwear by the end of this song, you have to leave the festival,” he said, before playing “Silver Soul.” Local Natives’ harmonies sounded impressively tight, despite some sound problems.

Lightning Bolt played the main stage at 4:15, and they were exactly what Sunday needed to wake up. They usually play on the floor and not on stage, but that wasn’t feasible at this show, so the band inched as close to the front of the stage as possible. It wasn’t close enough — our photographer Graeme Flegenheimer was kicked out of the photo pit as the audience threatened to jump the barrier. Maybe you couldn’t have seen this from the other end of the festival, or from the live feed, but you could hear it everywhere on the grounds, a sort of gut rumble that begged you to move closer. It was a weird transition to St. Vincent, but not as weird as you’d think: She played with new arrangements to keep things fresh, and her live saxophone player had something going on — hardware or software — that made every note sound like a car horn.

Major Lazer picked up the energy again, though, there’s no way they couldn’t have. Diplo only took breaks to ask the audience to applaud the Major Lazer crew (minus Switch), and to yell at people at dance. He even threatened to fire his publicist if she didn’t dance on stage (she did), and jumped on his table with enough force to shut down the music for a second. And that was Diplo. Major Lazer has Skerrit Bwoy and two backup dancers also made of pure muscle (Skirrit is probably 50% muscle, 50% Hennessy). There were people doing lion dances on either side of Diplo. “Let me see some crazy ballerina shit,” Skerrit Bwoy instructed two ballerinas, who showed up on stage as well. If this sounds chaotic, it was. If it sounds awesome, it was that too. There was only time for some water and shade, and a quick wander over to Big Boi before heading back to the main stage to get ready for Pavement (luckily I was still able to hear “Ms. Jackson” and “Bombs Over Bagdad” mixed in with Sir Lucious Left Foot. Unluckily, the performance wasn’t shown over the screens inside the festival.)

Waiting for Pavement was mostly talking about Pavement. We wondered if the same people who had been at this stage for Lightning Bolt and Major Lazer, especially younger people, would be disappointed by Pavement if they’d never seen them live before (Surprise! they can be really sloppy.) But both predictions were totally wrong. Of course kids sang along to opener “Cut Your Hair,” but they sang along with everything else too. And “Range Life,” “Stereo,” “Silence Kit” sounded locked in, though “Spit On A Stranger” was kind of a mess. Stephen Malkmus fidgeted throughout the set, once hoisting his guitar behind his head for some mock-showmanship. All of the familiar gestures were there: shrugs between bandmates when a song threatened to go awry, Malkmus mugging it up while singing a particularly sarcastic line, and moments that reminded us that, despite the occasional shambling performance, Pavement is also a guitar nerd’s band. Before they appeared, Q101′s Ryan Murphy came out to give us a speech on the importance and beauty of Pavement, a speech that bombed badly with the audience. We didn’t need it.

Sleigh Bells pics by Tyler Trykowski, with the remainder by Graeme Flegenheimer who also caught Local Natives at their Lincoln Hall after-festival show.

Comments (16)
  1. If you missed Sleigh Bells, consider yourself lucky. Neon Indian wasn’t too bad, but Sleigh Bells kinda sucked. I really love their album, but whether it was the band themselves, or just problems at the sound board, they were WAY too quiet. They really ought to be eardrum-shattering loud, but my friend and I were able to converse at a fairly normal level of volume, which really ought not happen at any show, but that’s especially true for Sleigh Bells.

    Overall I thought Sunday was pretty underwhelming. Girls were OK, but too slow for a festival set. Even their up tempo songs were slower than on the record, except maybe Morning Light. Local Natives and Surfer Blood were fine, but both were better at Schuba’s earlier in the year. Unfortunately, because we stayed for the whole Surfer Blood set, we were pretty far away for St. Vincent, and while Annie sounded great, her guitar work kind of got lost in the wind at our distance, which is too bad.

    On Saturday, TA was as great as expected, and LCD Soundsystem were really excellent considering I’ve never had much time for them before. But Sunday, which I thought had a better lineup on paper, just didn’t really deliver.

  2. Maybe you know this already, but ‘Ryan Murphy’ was actually Rian Murphy from Drag City. The joke was doomed from the start; after all that waiting in the heat for Pavement to get started, we didn’t need a jokey, ironic preamble that also ate into Pavement’s playing time. Fortunately, it was still a good set…

  3. I don’t think sleigh bells’ set was their bad. the sound on the Balance Stage was off all day (in almost shit the bed on Local Natives a few times too)… I think their set was great but I agree it was almost totally ruined by how quiet it was…. you should of been able to hear it in wrigleyville. Which sucks because I was looking forward to them more than anyone – and am now pissed I didn’t check their show here in Louisville last week.

    I think Pitchfork way underestimated the local natives hype as well… I know they tend to put bands with less experience and less material (and shorter sets) on the balance stage but the crowd was ridiculous, which highlighted what an awful spot that beer tent next to the small stage is in – I’m surprised they kept it there after last year. Maybe they have it there to block out noise from A and C stages?

    Overall, still one of my favorite annual festivals, though… in case anyone was wondering.

  4. what WAS that intro??? seriously, i have been waiting for someone somewhere to properly address this. was he wasted? between calling pitchfork lolla and then dissing pitchfork then applauding q101/himself then basically dissing pavement, i couldn’t tell what (if any of it) was supposed to be funny. it sucked hardcore.

    i see cpom23 says he’s from drag city, which actually only confuses me more.

    • He is from Drag City, and someone told me he’s been doing this before Pavement’s sets. I think it was supposed to be funny. Maybe he’s the one that signed Neil Hamburger?

    • We were way, way in the back by the first aid tent while he was talking, and, I kid you not, for the first 30 seconds my girlfriend and I seriously tried to figure out if he was Michael Moore or not. We just saw overweight late-middle aged man with scrappy hair and a hat on, and we couldn’t really hear what he was saying but could tell it was obnoxious, the crowd was angry, and he was flopping. Honest mistake?

    • his shtick worked a little better back in the day:

  5. Rian Murphy, not a current or old Q101 employee. He does indeed work for Drag City. It was supposed to be funny. Unfortunately, the level of cool one can exude by preambling for Pavement and owning Drag City doesn’t translate to good sarcasm. Even if he was trying to make some kind of passive statement he really wasn’t in any position to do so. So, put us in our place captain condescending. We’re young and apathetic to your lifestyle. We get it.

  6. Someone ran onto the stage during “Two States” to sing backup vocals, was that Thurston Moore?

  7. as much as i thought the set was good for the most part, did anybody else think the bass was WAY too loud and that Stephen’s vocals should have been much louder? it borderlined ruined about half of the show for me, maybe it was just where i was standing (right of center stage, pretty close up). sounded much better at sasquatch…

  8. Hi, Pitchfork fans! Check out exclusive backstage interviews with the bands here:

  9. I severely underestimated Beach House. My friend convinced me to wait up front for their set instead of seeing Girls, and I’m so happy I did, they killed. However, Major Lazer was the biggest surprise for me this weekend. I heard about their set at SXSW, but I never thought a hype man and his dancers could keep a crowd occupied (<-understatement) for a whole hour.

    Pavement was fantastic, but when I walked away from the set, I didn't feel nearly as blown away as when I walked away from LCD Soundsystem. Although that probably has more to do with the fact that the second half of Pavement's set was pretty mellow.

    I also have to say, I think a lot of people underestimate how well we "young people" know pavement. I mean, yeah, we weren't there when it all happened, but with between the reissues and the B-sides and EPs that came with them, Pavement have done an excellent job of accidentally grooming a new generation of fans. Pretty much everyone up at the front with me was my age (20ish to 20-something) and we all sang along with almost every song. It also probably helped that they weren't as sloppy as they were back in the day (I've seen Slow Century, and yeah, I was a little worried).

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