You Need To See Yves Tumor’s Live Show Immediately
Those were clouds of dust rising up during Yves Tumor’s set Sunday at Pitchfork Music Festival, but you could’ve been forgiven for assuming there was a smoke machine. Tumor’s performance at the Blue Stage had just about every other trapping of blown-out rock ‘n’ roll showmanship, played up for maximum visceral force and entertainment value. It was easily the best show I saw at this year’s festival.
From opener “Gospel For A New Century” onward, the band often locked into smooth rolling grooves, then sent them careening into distortion. Dressed like ’80s hair metal royalty, the guitarist majestically shredded from start to finish — preening, rolling around on stage, even picking up his pedalboard to wring out a squealing feedback solo at one point. The bass thumped commandingly. The drums smacked with untold swagger. The vocal harmonies popped. The waves of violent sound seemed to explode outward from the stage. “Jackie,” “Crushed Velvet,” “Medicine Burn,” a transcendently groovy “Kerosene!” — pretty much every song was an improvement over the already impressive studio recordings, taking on that elevated intensity you hope for at a rock show. At an event where tasteful and refined was the norm, this was rock at its most electrifying and feral.
Much of the sublime rock posturing came from Tumor themselves, a former shadowy experimental producer who went full-on underground glam superstar on last year’s Heaven To A Tortured Mind and this year’s surprise EP The Asymptotical World. Performing a set centered on those releases, Tumor stalked the stage like a much taller Black Mick Jagger, wearing knee-high heeled leather boots, a cutoff Slipknot T-shirt, and accessories covered in all manner of spikes, studs, and fur. They leaned back or hunched over when their blunt, hulking vocals morphed into impassioned howls. They swung the microphone like a lasso. They got up close and personal with a video camera. More than once they climbed down into the photo pit and sang while being mobbed by the audience, borrowing someone’s cowboy hat for a minute or two. They raised their hands above their head and led the crowd in clapping along. They cried out phrases like “Are y’all ready to jump?” and “Open up the pit!”
It would be tempting to call their performance some kind of groundbreaking new wave of rock music for a new generation. Maybe, but noise, pomp, and androgyny are as old as rock ‘n’ roll — just look at Little Richard. Pretty much everything Tumor and their band were doing has been done before, but rarely with this much style, charisma, musicality, or nuclear-blast impact. This was essentially a classic rock show: a masterful band performing incredible songs, fronted by a magnetic persona with a fearlessly transgressive fashion sense. It was proof that well-worn rock maneuvers can still be vital when performed by someone with talent and vision.
That Tumor’s show was confined to the side stage, tucked in the corner of Union Park, was both a glorious programming choice (for those of us who bore witness up close) and a goddamn tragedy (for everyone else). More understandable was the decision to cut Tumor off in the middle of the 12th song in the set, when they were already running over their time. Obviously, though, we were all happy to shout along when they incited a “FIVE MORE MINUTES!” chant. Everyone there seemed ready to keep rocking out to Yves Tumor all night, and Yves Tumor was nothing if not eager to perform. If there’s any justice, they’ll be headlining fests like this one soon.