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Day Two of Pitchfork 2010 started out slow and sleepy with a number of acts that caused much head and chin scratching, and the age-old question of, “What’s all the hype about?”

Free Energy and Real Estate were two of the first bands up to entertain the anxious, sweaty masses on Saturday. Perhaps I’m too old, or I just didn’t get it, but… huh? Both groups weren’t bad… but they weren’t good… just somewhat banal. Now, granted Free Energy is signed to DFA, the label co-founded by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, and I guess that gives them their bonafides, but nothing really impressed me, or made me think, “Wow I’m seeing something great here! I’m glad I’m dealing with the ridiculous heat for this!”

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Things looked up a bit when Barcelona’s Delorean took the stage. A trippy, ambient vibe mixed with pleasant vocals and strong instrumentation made for a welcome change of pace. The crowd dug it too, with plenty of heads bopping and hands in the air. Still, I know the new thing is to mix keyboards, click tracks, beards and drum triggers with real instruments, but with some acts it’s more like they are trying too hard. It almost sounds like they know this particular sound is popular right now, so… “Man, we need to add some synthesizers and some electronic drums! Yeah that will make this song cool! Groove, hipster, groove!”

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Thank God for Titus Andronicus! Maybe I’m just an old punk at heart, maybe I love the sing-along choruses of the Dropkick Murphys but this was the jolt in the arm this festival (and crowd) needed. This is the formula to follow, kids: just come out and rock. Simple song structures that aren’t complicated just for the sake of being complicated, songs driven by simple progressions and dramatic changes instead of seeing how many complicated rhythms we can lay over one another with the 40 synthesizers we have on stage. You couldn’t help but want to jam along with these guys from Glen Rock, New Jersey. Frontman Patrick Stickles even warned, “This may get dangerous… let’s take care of each other!” And I’m going to take care of Titus by purchasing everything they’ve ever done. My new favorite band.

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Then it was time for Raekwon. Back in college, I was a huge fan of Wu-Tang Clan; wasn’t everybody? So I was somewhat nostalgically intrigued for what was surely going to happen during this performance. After a 20-minute delay, unfortunate technical issues and numerous false starts, my reminiscing about the glory days of the ever-glorious Wu-Tang were satisfied as Raekwon ran through all of the hits, even including a group of four breakdancers called Chi-Town’s Finest Breakers, who have appeared on Oprah and opened for the Black Eyed Peas. Here’s the twist: none of these kids were over the age of 10! They stole the show so much so that Raekwon and his men gave up the stage to the kiddos as they pumped up the crowd with full-song headspins and all the favorite old-school breakdance moves!

I barely made it over to cover Chicago’s own Smith Westerns. Why were they playing? Guys, go back to the garage and practice, practice, practice, and in a year or two we’ll talk!

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Then it was back across the sprawling festival grounds for the legendary assault of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. With the crowd still full of funk from Raekwon and punk from Titus Andronicus, the Blues Explosion was definitely in order, and explode they did. Spencer stormed the stage in second-skin leather pants, and with the heat index nearing 100 degrees on Saturday, wearing leather pants is what I call dedication to your craft. Spencer delivered a ferocious set that you couldn’t turn away from, and jumped, jived and wailed all over the stage.

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Keeping the energy going, it was time for Montreal’s Wolf Parade. Like Titus Andronicus, these guys belted out power single after power single. Commenting between songs, “We’re not gonna talk… we’re gonna try to play as many songs as we can in the hour they’ve given us,” and boy, did they ever, delivering a non-stop tide of catchy, summer rock-pop songs, covering numerous genres one right after the other with grand intensity. After this performance, Wolf Parade’s third album Expo 86 is another must-buy for me.

Not familiar with the next act, and pumped after an afternoon of power-rock and hip-hop, I was very interested in catching tastemaker favorites Panda Bear. There was a lot of buzz in the crowd and the press tent about this guy much like there was around the Smith Westerns. All I can say is, again, huh? Panda Bear, aka, Noah Lennox, was just a guitar, a synthesizer, and a whole slew of beat machines and voice effects. I’m pretty sure he tried to use every preset sound on his synthesizer and every voice effect possible in every song, and that every dog in the neighborhood was going nuts reacting to the random yelps and tortured dolphin noises coming from Union Park. The entire crowd stood there for a minute or two out of respect, then looked at each other and decided it was the perfect time to go get food or go to the bathroom, or just to try to get out of the direct line of noises coming from the stage. Thank God the press tent was far enough away and offered at least a little refuge from these atrocities of sound. Maybe at the Winter Music Harvest raves in South Florida after dancing for six hours straight and trying to give Keith Richards’ drug use a run for its money would this noise have passed for music… maybe.

Finally it was time for LCD Soundsystem, one of the most anticipated headlining acts of Pitchfork 2010, and a perfect example of how to combine live instruments with electronics and synthesizers. So many of the other bands on Pitchfork tried to make that combination work and failed miserably. To all of the other acts out there… pay attention ‘cause this is how it’s done. With unbridled energy and enthusiasm, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy led the crowd in a non-stop, life-affirming celebration. With a sound reminiscent of late ‘70s and early ‘80s alternative electro pop, I was happy to end my day at Pitchfork with LCD Soundsystem by dancing myself clean. –Dennis McLennand, Photos by Dennis McLennand

 
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