By Amrit Singh & Brandon Stosuy
On Friday we shook off the early-morning cobwebs and made a beeline to the Pitchfork/Windish Bash in time to catch the last couple tracks by psychedelic post-Vanishing Voice Brooklynites Woods on the outside stage (as far as labels go, this was undeniably the year of the Woodsist) and School Of Seven Bells on the inside. And, speaking again of Woodsist, we saw Wavves for the third time. Interesting to see how divisive he’s been down here — everyone has a strong opinion (e.g. when a friend realized who was about to play, he actually walked out in “mock” disgust). But all of this was just a lead-up to the set of the day: Dirty Projectors.
So, first of all stop what you’re doing and listen to “Stillness Is The Move.” This week Dirty Projectors stormed Austin with sets of all-new material from the highly anticipated Bitte Orca LP, but based on crowd response you’d think these tunes were long-time classics. Forget applauding at the end of a song — some of the DPs’ radical new vocal arrangements inspired giddy on-the-spot cheers. Rise Above‘s jaw-droppers were just a tease; these don’t even seem human. With the addition of Haley Dekle (vocals), the return of Nat Baldwin (bass), Angel Deradoorian shifting to keys, and Amber Coffman’s star-turn on the art-damaged R&B of “Stillness,” Dave Longstreth’s assembled a murderer’s row to flesh out this extension of his post-Rise vision. After some surprised smiles and sheepishly plugging their ears at the extended, delirious hollers at set’s end, Dave said simply: “Those are all new songs, from a new album we have called Bitte Orca. We’re pretty excited about it.” Hey, so are we.
Really, we don’t envy the folks who had to play after that, but people had to play after that. If anyone’s up to the task of letting it all hang out live, it’s King Khan (& his Shrines). Department Of Eagles didn’t strip down to their underwear, but they were joined by Beach House‘s Victoria Legrand for a cover of the Grateful Dead‘s “Fire On The Mountain,” which paired nicely with her appearance to do “Two Weeks” live for the first time with Grizzly Bear at the Cedar Street Courtyard later that night.
In addition to that pretty Grizz moment, and a from the ever vital Dinosaur Jr, the Cedar Street set offered our favorite quote of the day, courtesy of Lou Barlow: “We are Dinosaur Jr from Massachusetts! And you are Grizzly Bear fans trapped up front.” Moments later Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew joined for a song, bringing an additional surge of energy to an already blistering performance. Dudes still bring it.
In the surprise move of the festival, Brandon spent Friday night watching lots and lots of metal. As far as the heavy stuff goes, longstanding San Fransisco Hardworlder‘s Slough Feg‘s 9PM WFMU/Aquarius Records set at Spiro’s Amphitheater was an (and this word is used correctly here) epic power metal blast, even before vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi — the only musician of the week to address the current economic plight, at least to our ears — removed his shirt and donned a vest. They played a mix of old favorites (“Tiger! Tiger!”!, etc.) and material from the forthcoming Ape Uprising. Goddamn do they write good riffs. They also inspired some of the best drunken dancing of the weekend.
The happy riffs and triumphant Iron Maiden-isms of Slough Feg were the perfect setup and foil to Absu‘s suffocatingly intense performance: It’s already been mentioned that their new self-titled album — the legendary Dallas-based USBM crew’s first in almost eight years — is a juggernaut. Live, after dealing with sound issues and a broken snare (!!), the band (and the smell of grass) reached a crest with “Four Crossed Wands (Spell 181)” (from 2001’s fan favorite Tara) and before that — the eventual title of Amrit’s biography — “Swords and Leather.” The band’s leader and songwriter — drumming vocalist Proscriptor McGovern — is a hoot to watch, switching between tongue-in-cheek and menacing within the course of a single between-song tidbit. New tracks, a la “13 Globes” — progressive, atmospheric, unrelenting — sound super live.
From there, it was a quick walk to the Southern Lord showcase at Emo’s Annex to catch a portion of Wino‘s acoustic solo set and an awesome candlelit Wolves In The Throne Room coming out party (complete with encore). It’s unclear how far the Olympia group’s Black Cascade will take them, but what is clear is that as with Nachtmystium, they’re the next USBM act that’ll crossover to a much larger audience. Heck, at this point their a swirly post-rock crew with black metal vocals. But regardless of nerdy genre designations, this one of the week’s best sets.
Exhaustion set in before Skeletonwitch, and WITR were too compelling to skip out on, so sadly Kylesa were also missed — both recently played great sets in Brooklyn, though, so no major heart pangs.
The day also offered up lots of people walking around in DEVO hats, our first live looks at the James Iha/Adam Schlesinger/Hanson headscratcher Tinted Windows, a PB&J set that started on time (and was rather awesome), and tons more.