Pitchfork Fest 2014 Saturday Recap

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After a mostly laid back opening Friday at Pitchfork Music Festival, things heated up both weather-wise and musically on Saturday. Electric guitars replaced the acoustic ones and synthesizers on display Friday, and the folky skin was shed to show that, yes, rock ‘n’ roll still exists. And with that, here’s our recap of Pitchfork Fest 2014 day two…

1:05 p.m. – Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Chicago’s own Twin Peaks were the first real garage rock band to perform at this year’s festival, and they did so with all the youthful, exuberant and gusto that I expected from these kids. Along with The Orwells, Twin Peaks are the other band at the center of Chicago’s current tween punk/garage revival. They absolutely didn’t disappoint as they tore through quite a few jams from their upcoming LP Wild Onion including the snarling, riff-tastic take, “I Found a New Way.” Did I mention singer/guitarist Cadien James had to perform seated in a wheel chair because of a fractured ankle as a result of on-stage horseplay with The Orwells? Cast be damned as the band showed a real knack turning three-chord tunes into real headbangers. Near the end of their set, guitarist Clay Frankel smashed his guitar, which is always cool, and then proceeded to throw pieces of said guitar into the crowd, which isn’t always as cool. It was quite a funny moment when the stage manager walked up to Frankel, and with a slight smile, seemed to tell him that might not be the best idea. Twin Peaks definitely brought their A game for Saturday’s first set, which is admirable because something tells me most days these kids are still in bed when 1:00 p.m. rolls around.(Richard Giraldi)

2:30 p.m. – Circulatory System
Circulatory System

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Circulatory System is the other band of Olivia Tremor Control’s Will Cullen Hart, whose OTC bandmate Bill Doss passed shortly after the band’s appearance at Pitchfork Fest 2012. Although nothing can replace the wily psychedelics of Olivia Tremor Control, Circulatory System delivered a powerfully tight set that sounded way larger than the tiny Blue stage where they played. The addition of strings and woodwinds at times recalled jazz-hotbed Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, LA, but jagged, unhinged guitars and pounding rhythms built out their sound into some odd amalgamation of ragtime psychedelic pop, which seemed oddly comforting in the early afternoon sun. (Richard Giraldi)

3:45 p.m. – Cloud Nothings
Cloud Nothings

Photo by Richard Giraldi


After Cloud Nothings’ excellent 2012 release, Attack On Memory, the arrow for these rockers was definitely pointing up. However, when second guitarist Joe Boyer left before the recording of their latest, Here and Nowhere Else, I was skeptical that a three-piece Cloud Nothings could match the intensity of the Attack On Memory era. Of course, the band proved me wrong within seconds of taking the stage. To compensate for only one guitar, the bass was dialed up to paint-peeling levels. Cloud Nothing’s set at Pitchfork fest 2012 was quite legendary. A thunderstorm hit shortly after they went on cutting their set short, but the band continued to play to a sizable crowd after the stage power was cut and the rain poured. This time around, there was not a cloud in siight, and the band let it rip from the first note on. At times, they now reach a punk-like intensity with their aggressive take on guitar-centric indie rock. Frontman Dylan Baldi’s Cobain-esque screeches are now more desperate than ever, and Cloud Nothings showed that they can indeed roll with the punches as their upward trajectory continues. (Richard Giraldi)

5:15 p.m. – tUnE-yArDs
tUnE-yArDs

Photo by Richard Giraldi


As tUnE-yArDs prepared to play following a disappointing, delayed Pusha T set, a larger than usual number of families with small children packed the field in front of the Red stage. And then, in what may have been the most family-friendly main stage set (lyrically notwithstanding) in Pitchfork Fest’s history, tUnE-yArDs’ wild, rhythmic-based whimsical pop entranced the crowd from start to finish. Frontwoman Merrill Garbus was dressed in bring pink, green and blue garb as she bounced, crooned and howled her way through a set that touched evenly on songs from the band’s latest nikki back and popular cuts from their 2011 masterpiece, W H O K I L L. The bass shook everything within a close proximity to the stage during the jungle groover, “Gangsta,” while “Water Fountain” showed the band’s hook-writing prowess. It was also admirable how Garbus kept the inter-song chit chat to a minimum only because she wanted to fit in as many songs as possible during their set time, which is an approach best suited for the Pitchfork Festival atmosphere. (Richard Giraldi)

7:25 p.m. – St. Vincent
St. Vincent

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Annie Clark has grown into a bonafide guitar rock goddess. Barely recognizable from her 2010 stop at Pitchfork Fest, St. Vincent has shed the innocent string-driven vibe of her Actor album on favor of a more art-rock vibe on her last two records, Strange Mercy and 2014’s self-titled release. This is reflected in her live show as she’s quite the dynamic performer these days. She seems to have benefitted with her time with David Byrne as she’s takes command of the stage, and when she is on the stage, it’s difficult to take your eyes off of her. But as entertaining as her actual live show as evolved, from my own personal stance and familiarity with St. Vincent, the set list did leave a bit to be desired as she mostly pulled cuts from the aforementioned Strange Mercy and 2014’s self-titled. Many exquisite songs from Actor and Marry Me I’m afraid are being left in the dust in favor of more guitar-centric numbers. However, her short set time may have contributed to this. Still, one of Saturday’s top highlights came as Annie Clark performed a terrifically angst-y version of “Cheerleader” perched upon a pink mini-stage that looked like a layered cake from the distance. Additional highlights came whenever Clark ripped a solo. Seriously, she’s just that good. (Richard Giraldi)

8:55 p.m. – Neutal Milk Hotel
Neutral Milk Hotel

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Even though Neutral Milk Hotel has been playing shows since last fall, and we all knew they’d be headlining a day of Pitchfork Fest for months, it was still pretty surreal to see Jeff Mangum take the stage Saturday night. Playing to an audience of people the majority of whom probably never dreamt this concert would ever take place, Mangum seemed in good spirits, chatting a bit in between songs and even joking around with the crowd a bit. He came out alone and played early favorite “I Will Bury You In Time.” That transitioned into the rollicking “Holland 1945” as the whole band joined him onstage. The crowd lost it and the show quickly became a giant sing-a-long. I’m not always pleased when a crowd sings along to this degree, but this time I was totally fine with it. By the time the band made its way though all the parts of “King of Carrot Flowers” and “Two Headed Boy Pt. One,” people were swaying arm in arm, belting out every word. It was something to see, one of those “perfect concert moments” that only happen every once and awhile. Of course the set leaned heavily on In The Aeroplane Over the Sea – every song but “Communist Daughter” was performed – but the set list included classic tracks like On Avery Island’s “Naomi” “Gardenhead” and “Song Against Sex,” and non album gems like “Ferris Wheel On Fire” and “Little Birds.” The set was a great snapshot of the band’s small but beloved discography and the full band sounded great. The set closed with the Aeroplane-ending sequence of “Ghost,” “Untitled,” and “Two Headed Boy Pt. 2,” the last of which Mangum performed alone. The crowd quieted as the singer delivered the devastating album closer, and it was an absolute jaw-dropper. He then went into album centerpiece “Oh Comely” and slowly throughout the song the band rejoined him onstage to deliver one of the finest set closing songs I’ve ever seen. For 8-plus minutes the whole crowd sang and swayed and enjoyed the moment. It was a powerful conclusion. (Dan Henshaw)

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