The Pitchfork Music Festival is in its fifth year, and I’ve been to four of them, so you could say that I’m pretty into it. I don’t actually read the main Pitchfork site all that much, since I can’t seem to get into the writing style of most of their critics, but every time I do head over there, I’m greeted with about 150 artists I’ve never heard of, about 40 of whom I’m likely to really enjoy. Those are some good numbers right there! Pitchfork is at the forefront of making music groups of all sizes and levels of fame more available to the Internet masses, and that’s a great service. These efforts culminate in the annual music fest, which takes place at Union Park in Chicago, IL over the course of three hot summer days.
I worked all day Friday and went straight to the park, just in time to hear the energizing opening chords of Robyn‘s set. This woman is fantastic! She writes or co-writes all her songs, and what songs! Upbeat, perfectly danceable love songs. I put one up yesterday (sorry, I didn’t realize the sound was so bad). Here’s another:
I chose these videos in particular because they’re from Friday’s performance; you can see how much joy she finds in dancing and singing and inviting everyone else to do the same. When she started those wide-flung arm movements, it looked like she took the dancing we do in front of the mirror and put it on stage, as if to say, “Look, just move your body any way you want!” I followed that suggestion so well that a photographer started snapping pictures of me, I suppose because I looked so into the music. But really, when you’re dancing and singing along wholeheartedly, you don’t exactly look photogenic; you look goofy. So if you see a photo out there of me looking like this…
…just move along.
After watching Michael Showalter‘s painful on-stage breakdown, I thought about going back to Broken Social Scene, but then Eugene Mirman came on and killed. I think my favorite part was that he was making pro-choice jokes that were actually funny. That’s exactly what we need, is someone reminding people that abortion is something you can talk about and even make jokes about, because hey, it’s a real thing in this world and not just a political flashpoint. (Does my choice of the word “killed” earlier ring a little untasteful in this context? Oops. Oh well, I’m keeping it. Oops, there, I did it again!)
I wandered in late on Saturday, but I was in time to see Wolf Parade rock out most wonderfully. I like on-stage banter if it’s done well, but sometimes I just want to hear the music. Spencer Krug seems to feel the same way; after their first song or two, he said, “We’re not going to talk much, we’re just going to play as much music as we can in the hour they gave us.” Worked for me. Similarly, LCD Soundsystem barely paused between songs but just played one driving beat after another, while James Murphy wailed melodically on top. I didn’t stop moving for over an hour.
And finally, Sunday, which was definitely the most humid of these very hot and humid days. So it was with great pleasure that I laid back and listened to two bands perfectly suited to a lazy summer day — Girls and Beach House. Girls have a jangly sort of sound, and a singer who sounds like Elvis Costello and looks like Darryl Zero:
I heard a bit of Surfer Blood and Local Natives both, but the crowd at that stage was packed tight, and it was simply too hot to hang around without passing out. I couldn’t get into the noise of Lightning Bolt, but it sure had some people in a frenzy. When I left the festival, it was with a grin on my face as Big Boi ripped through “Ghetto Musick” at top speed.
I saw other bands during the weekend, but the last one I’ll mention is the energetic Major Lazer. The hype man and two main dancers certainly had people going, and it was fun to dance to Diplo DJing, but I felt kind of uncomfortable the whole time. You’ve got this white guy, Diplo, presiding over the whole stage, while Skerrit Bwoy and two nameless women dancers, all dressed in very little, shake and scream and dagger below. Major Lazer is the brainchild of Diplo and Switch, two white DJs who decided Jamaican dancehall is where it’s at, and they needed to be in on it but had to have a cartoon black man as their front man. They get all this credit for being DJing geniuses and true to the Jamaican clubbing scene, but while I know that they’ve had a lot of black artists perform vocals on their recordings, it still feels a whole lot like appropriation. “Ooh, look, this is the authentic artistic scene! I will take it now!” It’s the ultimate hipster move.
Also, side note, Diplo’s an asshole. I don’t know if you heard about the M.I.A. interview with the New York Times Magazine last month, but basically, Lynn Hirschberg wrote a long feature article on how M.I.A. is politically naive, musically untalented, and a huge sellout. (Note, M.I.A.’s reaction to the article, Tweeting Hirschberg’s phone number, was not only wrong but dangerous — printing personal information opens people up to physical harm.) For the article, Hirschberg didn’t interview M.I.A.’s current boyfriend at all, but rather her ex, Diplo, who had quite a bit to say on how he basically made the best parts of M.I.A.’s records and she did nothing herself. As commenter Andy at comment 11 on this great Tiger Beatdown post notes, what kind of authority does Diplo have to make these kinds of statements as if they were facts? Why is his the last word as opposed to, I don’t know, M.I.A. herself? And she’s said more than once that she’s upset with Diplo getting all the credit for Kala, as if she weren’t heavily involved in its entire production. (If you’re interested, there are two more really great posts on this issue, one at Pitchfork and one at Change.org.) Diplo’s doing it again on M.I.A.’s latest (which he helped produce), distancing himself from it as it’s less successful than expected, and calling her unmotivated and untalented. Basically, I’d like Diplo to shut his asshole mouth and just make good beats.
Anyway! Pitchfork 2010! It was good times, and I had a lot of fun hanging out with friends, drinking my weight in water, and dancing along to music made for the joy of it. Check back next year to see who sounds good in 2011.