By the time the gates opened mid-afternoon on Friday for the 2010 installment of the annual Pitchfork Music Festival at Chicago’s Union Park, the lines to enter were circling the block, and the train and buses that were transporting eager concertgoers were packed to capacity.

On surely one of the hottest days of the year (yet)  in Chicago, Pitchfork 2010 kicked off with the cool, yet nearly mournful stylings of Brooklyn’s Sharon Van Etten. Her voice though elegant and sultry, bordered on pained and tortured at times. Her bubbly attitude and smile between songs was a nice departure from the arguably downtrodden vibe of her captivating music. All said, however, It was a nice way to start a very long, hot day. Van Etten’s set was the calm before the storm reminiscent of Joan Baez at Woodstock. Following Van Etten was the acoustic-heavy tunes of Sweden’s Tallest Man On Earth. A raspier version of Bob Dylan was a descriptive phrase I heard from several people in the crowd as his performance continued.


Then the skies of sound opened up and the audible storm of Brooklyn’s El-P (aka to his friends and family, Jaime Meline) took the stage. Maybe it was the fact that the kinks were still being worked out of the sound system, (there was a lot of distortion and microphone feedback), or I just didn’t get it, but I dare say at certain points of the set, if you closed your eyes it was as if the Kottonmouth Kings were performing. Agit-hop? The crowd seemed somewhat receptive but that might just have been because they’d had enough of acoustic guitars and were ready to rock out. I’m fairly certain they played their hit, 2007′s “Up All Night,” but between the naked aggression and pronounced feedback, it was hard to tell.



Before the Brooklyn-based Liars arrived to unleash their impressive fury of trippy-experimental-psychedelic-punk, concert promoters took to the stage with a very important announcement: free bottles of water were going to be passed out from the pit area in front of the stage, with the request: “Now lets control ourselves people… this water is to be drank and used to keep you hydrated! Not to be tossed in the air or thrown at your friends! Look at the people around you… let’s watch out for ourselves and each other and we’ll get through this heat in one piece!” With that fair warning, Liars lead singer Angus Andrews, guitarist Aaron Hemphill and drummer Julian Gross stormed the stage for a remarkable set (including a Bauhaus cover), and, to be a certain, an early highlight of the festival. Combining old-school California punk with trippy synths and psychedelic vocal effects, Liars are a bold, creative force to be reckoned with. Andrews, who reminded me of a young Gibby Haynes, was all over the stage, playing to the crowd and loving every second of it.




After the proper face-melting by Liars, it was time to shake a boot with the delicious electro-pop stylings of Swedish superstar Robyn, whose contagious, flirtatious dance gems complemented by a full band got the crowd worked up with set opener “Body Talk Pt. 1.” After all, it is summertime and this was truly great beach music (“Dancing On My Own” anyone?!). Even the usually staid photographers in the photo pit with me were dancing and nodding their heads to the infectious beats of “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do.” Robyn was graciously responsive to the crowd, working every inch of the stage and smiling from ear to ear.



Toronto’s beloved Broken Social Scene was next and continued their long-standing tradition of leaving audiences speechless with an extraordinary set. Opening with “World Sick” off of the recently released Forgiveness Rock Record, BSS commanded attention and kept the jubilant crowd watching ‘til the last note was played, even stating that Chicago is their “home away from home,” and the multi-instrumentalist collective more than delivered that sentiment in their performance. At the end of the set, which was by far the most energetic and crowd-pleasing yet, singer Brendan Canning said, “We believe in all of you! Hope is not just a word, it’s a responsibility.” 

The night was closed by Seattle’s Modest Mouse, lead by schizo-voiced singer Isaac Brock, who sounded like a young David Byrne at times, but as the songs approached crescendo, would quickly change to Frank Black and hardly be able to contain himself, or remember to scream into the microphone. The energy and power of the enduring popularity of the band was palpable, even with the surprising inclusion of banjos and trumpets. In the shadow of Willis Tower (Sears Tower) Day One of Pitchfork 2010 came to a hotly satisfying close. –Dennis McLennand, Photos by Dennis McLennand

  1. Oh–Liars are now L.A.-based, BTW, but rad review and pics, cool.


  2. Dumping local favorite Goose Island for Heinekin was dumb.

    But every year PF fills up the stage with hip hop nonsense like Big Boi? etc. What are you doing? You’ve got Pavement and your lead in is some foul-mouthed melodiless un-musical hip hop rubbish? That’s your legacy?

    Please do you people actually listen to that crap?

    Pavement, LCD, BSS, hurray… Bring back Goose, and lose the yo yo yo f*ck f*ck f*ck eight tracks,



  3. [...] Day Three recapMinnesota Daily (blog)Billboard (blog) -Sentimentalist Magazineall 44 news [...]

  4. Broken Social Scene is NOT from Montreal, they are proud residents of Toronto. And it is not surprising at all for Modest Mouse to have banjos or horns in their set. Whoever compiled this review did a good job, but really needs to get their facts straight.