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As Pitchfork Day Three starts, I am tired, my feet are numb and my back isn’t even speaking to me. It has been a long festival and the sense that I’m gathering while traversing the festival grounds is that we are all waiting for… something. For greatness. For that elusive something that makes us stand up and say, “Yes! This is why I’ve dealt with the heat and the ridiculous security measures, yes! This is why I decided to spend a day or three in Union Park of all places!”

girls

So, my final day of Pitchfork 2010 began with San Francisco’s Girls. I listened with open ears and mind as these guys took us through a straightforward, mellow rock set. Lead singer Christopher Owens opened with telling the crowd, “We want to be your friends,” and stayed pretty mellow and poppy for the first few songs. Then, in seemingly “Pitchfork 2010 style,” they broke out the synthesizers. The later part of the set was an experimental, trippy jam that perhaps would have been better suited for later in the day, and not confronting overly tired concertgoers just looking to get their bearings once again.

beachhouse

Up next on the must-do list was Baltimore’s own hotly tipped Beach House, who started out much the same way as Girls, perfectly lovely toe-tappers that reeled you in only to let you go again. Early in the set they told the crowd, “It’s nice to be back in the United States. Italian coffee will make you miss home… yeah we missed the big coffees!” As with many performers at the festival, the Beach House set started strong until the experimental jam sessions took over. Way too many drawn out songs definitely signaled a trip to the concession stands or the bathroom for many members of the dedicated Sunday crowd, who, like me, were still waiting for that something.

LB1

LB2

No one around me was ready for what happened next. Lightning Bolt stormed in with no introduction and no fanfare, just two guys; one in a mask, and the other with a bass guitar. This Rhode Island-based noise-rock duo took the stage and never gave it back, keeping it hard and fast right out of the gate and never letting up. Most of the crowd, no doubt experiencing fatigue from the bizarrely popular experimental trippy-pop trend and musicians who would rather prove their technical prowess than play good music, exclaimed, “Fuck yes! Finally!” Lightning Bolt filled that void and reminded us how to rock. I might not have understood the mask/microphone set-up of drummer Brian Chippendale, but I couldn’t resist the urge to go nuts anyway. After hours of dance-punk and noise junk, it was cathartic to see a band that was centered on the mission of unabashedly aggressive rock.

SB

The crowd for Surfer Blood over at the Balance Stage was primed and ready, and I was anticipating greatness or at least something more than synthesizers and voice effects. Thankfully, this young West Palm Beach-based quartet delivered. Light-hearted and summery music that would sound great at a beach party or bonfire thrown by your favorite fraternity or social club. Nothing groundbreaking, but at least it didn’t sound like Panda Bear’s tortured dolphins.

SV

Pleasantly surprised with Surfer Blood, I headed back to the Connector Stage to catch songstress St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark. The former member of The Polyphonic Spree offered a chill and relaxing break from the non-stop assault of Lightning Bolt, and the calm before the storm of the fest. I wish everyone had known to take the opportunity to catch their breath because it was about to get crazy.

MZ2

MZ3d

MZ1

After two days riding a hip, glib, digital trip with only momentary glimpses of rock like Titus Andronicus, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Lightning Bolt, it became clear that the hot and restless crowds were ready to cut loose in a big way. Enter rising dancehall project Major Lazer. With the best DJ we’d seen so far (Diplo) and a cast of hypers and ballerinas and Chinese dragons, Major Lazer made it very clear that it was time to get down with a vengeance. With Diplo providing the mad tracks, Major Lazer and two amply equipped dancers wound the crowd tighter than a top, inciting crowd surfers, and the first time I’d seen at Pitchfork 2010, the majority of the 18,000 plus capacity crowd was dancing with hands in the air. Between swigs off of his bottle of Hennessy and dance moves that would have made 2 Live Crew blush back in the day, Major Lazer hype man Skerrit Bwoy was the shot of adrenaline this otherwise sleep day needed. With no synthesizers or hippy/hipster bearded emo kids anywhere near the stage, this was the hottest party of the festival. Diving into the crowd at the beginning of the set and again at the end, Bwoy got the crowd more worked up and in a true party mood/atmosphere than any other performer in the previous days. The potent sexual energy mixed with the ferocious dancehall all-senses assault enveloped the crowd and made everyone move or at least stare. This would be a tough act to follow.

bb

hands

Thankfully, Big Boi was up to the task as he took the stage and ran through a handful of Outkast party favorites including “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh and So Clean,” and “B. O. B.” along with choice cuts such as current hit single ”Shutterbugg” from the recently released and extremely well-received Sir Lucious Left Foot. The enormous screens overhead played the corresponding videos for each of the hits, offering the only visual for this highly anticipated performance.

SBells

I quickly ran across the park to try to catch the much anticipated Sleigh Bells. The crowd at the tiny Balance Stage had swelled to such a tight capacity and many wondered why extraordinarily buzzy Sleigh Bells had been parked on a small stage and not one of the larger. On the heels of their debut release, Treats, the anticipation was obviously palpable, which made the unfortunate technical troubles all the more disappointing. Whether it was trouble with the tuning of his guitar or one of his effects pedals guitarist Derek Miller struggled to get it together in the beginning of the set. At the same time, singer Alexis Krauss kept switching microphones and sound checking relentlessly between the first couple of songs. The crowd didn’t care, they just wanted them to hit their stride quickly. Krauss was full of energy and never stopped moving, happily playing to every person in the crowd. Given that other than the vocals 99% of what was heard from the stage was tracked in, I’m not sure why there were so many technical problems with Miller’s guitar. I enjoyed Sleigh Bells but they need a better guitar tech to “Tell ‘Em” better next time with their impressively rowdy “Crown on the Ground.”

Pitchfork 2010 culminated with a glorious and reunited Pavement. Judging from the mood as we waited for Stephen Malkmus and gang to hit the stage, it was as if all of the prior acts from the last three days were just an extended support for the indie rock icons. Opening with Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’s “Cut Your Hair,” there wasn’t a person in eyeshot not singing along with the infectious chorus and hanging on every word and note. To all the up and coming bands that played at Pitchfork 2010, Pavement was the example of how it’s to be done (as they have long been), and this is why they were last. Some of the younger demographic left after the first couple of songs, but the overwhelming majority of the sold-out crowd stayed and made it clear that they had been waiting three days for this performance, and to hear classics such as “Silence Kit,” “Frontwards,” and “Spit on a Stranger.”

All told, after three days in Union Park and mixing with the teeming, odiferous masses, I have some new bands that I’m excited to check out (Lightning Bolt, Titus Andronicus and Liars among others) but also some questions about the state of alternative/indie music today. As much as I enjoyed the majority of performers at Pitchfork 2010, I still wonder how/why some acts made it on to the bill. Incredulity and creative differences and confusion aside, I took forward to being in attendance next year and overall was really impressed with what Pitchfork brought to the table (and my ears and limbs) this year. –Dennis McLennand, Photos by Dennis McLennand

 
  1. Your review was stupid. Nothing to do about the acts. If you aren’t familiar with the music, don’t review it. You suck. Just like the security

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  2. let me guess you are a die hard sleigh bells fan… or some kid who feels personally attacked when their favorite silly little band isn’t considered the greatest thing ever?

    guess what kid… welcome to the real world!

    i was at pitchfork and this guy is on point… he references every artist and their strengths abilities and weaknesses.

    so man up kid… which act is your favorite? the one that you follow religiously, know every word they sing, think they understand you and know what your going through… do you cry at every show?

    so this guy didn’t like your fav band… other than tat name one thing wrong with these articles!

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  3. last year was the first year i didnt go to a pitchfork but the draw of major lazer, big boi, and lcd soundsystem made me return.

    my question is: what the fuck happened?

    the park is over crowded, over-run by these mgmt/passionpit/mtv indie fans, and the lineup included more sleep-inducing music than i can shake a stick at. i thought it was purely because i was so stoned that i didnt have a great show until i saw lcd close out the 2nd night but i wasnt the only one.

    i feel like pitchfork used to be trendsetters where as now its just merely playing towards this crowd. and this crowd is most certainly much different than any weve seen in the past.

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  4. I watched the festival from the internet. I was happy to see acts I liked, such as Beach House, but I was fully blown away by Lightning Bolt. The energy of the music was coming out of my computer, and I had the volume turned low. I couldn’t take my eyes off the energy. That was one of the most incredible things I have ever watched a band do. And it wasn’t just noise, it was music.

    I’m not really sure why there are so many good reviews on the Major Lazer performance. I guess you had to be there.

    But that Lightning Bolt performance left me speechless. They are definitely my next band to watch.

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  5. Lightning Bolt’s been around for a while, shame they haven’t caught on. Went Sunday this year, expecting a mind-blowing experience as I felt last year, but was a bit underwhelmed. Sleigh Bells, while a bit sloppy, were probably the best act of the day, in terms of energy and getting a crowd going, IMO.
    Again, not perfect live, but listen to their records, you have to at least give them credit for doing their own thing.
    Still, a lot of a show’s enjoyability (?) depends on the audience.
    Maybe everyone was stoned dead, but I mean come on, at least move around a little.

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  6. then again, I unfortunately missed Major Lazer :(

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  7. Very enlightening and beneficial to someone whose been out of the circuit for a long time.

    - Lora

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