Although outside it feels like Riot Fest season (…meaning mid-September), it’s actually July, and Pitchfork Music Festival is back for its tenth edition in Union Park. And this is my fourth year covering the festival. While Lollapalooza has slowly grown into an obese heffalump of a music fest, Pitchfork has maintained it’s size and feel since the beginning, and that’s part of the reason why I keep coming back. Pitchfork avoids silly gimmicks like a crazy electronic wrist band, and instead lets the music speak for itself, which, as you’ll read, at times offers mixed results. And with that, here’s my recap of Pitchfork Fest 2014 day one…
OK, first thing is first, “Wow!” at the weather this year. It’s sunny, breezy and barely 80 degrees. Thanks,
After Hundred Waters, I quickly made my way to the Blue stage for music: round two. I’ll admit that when initially taking in London’s Factory Floor, I didn’t think much. However, on retrospect, they played their synth and drum-heavy dark techno quite well. In fact, the crowd near the front of the stage was really getting into it. So much so, that it even spawned the afternoon’s first full-on dance pit. But Factory Floor, for their part, weren’t overly interested in fan interaction. The trio seemed in their own world on stage- part hard at work doing what they do and part who-gives-a-shit-about-anything. But honestly, I’m not sure that mattered to anyone. As long as the beats were thumping, fest goers were good to go. (Richard Giraldi)
After a brief visit to the always awesome CHIRP Record Fair, I made my way to the Red stage for Sharon Van Etten. Now I’ve seen SVE and covered her at Pitchfork Fest before in 2010. But this performance was a world of difference. When playing the opening day slot in 2010, Etten seemed shy and quiet, and during her performance on Friday she even admitted last time she played Pitchfork a few years back it was her first time playing with a band. But it’s been four years, and I guess she’s gotten used to is because her delivery was var more confident and upbeat than in 2010. The set even gained momentum from the laid-back folk tunes to a few more rock-centric jams near its conclusion. And one of the Friday highlights was by far was the set closer, “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” which found her smokey croon soar over the Union Park crowd. It was a brilliant end to one of the day’s best sets. (Richard Giraldi)
In the late afternoon/early evening, both of the bigger stages (Red and Green) were in their laid-back portion of the day as Sun Kill Moon directly followed SVE. Unfortunately, their performance didn’t sine like Etten’s set. Musically their acoustic-based folk tunes were quite haunting, but Pitchfork Music Festival was perhaps the wrong venue. In fact, I’d say Sun Kill Moon would be great fits at Millennium Parks’ Downtown Sound series. The biggest program was a general sense of disinterest from the crowd. Many people talked over the music and were mostly apathetic to what was happening on stage. The set was also marred by an unusual mixing decision as frontman Mark Kozelek’s vocals were oddly reverb-heavy as compared to their latest record, Benji. However, Kozelek did have quote of the day, when early in the set he spouted, “There’s a lot of white people at this festival.” Astute observation, Kozelek.
One of the most anticipated sets of the day had to be Giorgio Moroder’s as old school and young dance music fans converged for, well, no one really knew what to expect. But after running nearly 17 minutes late, Moroder made his way to the stage looking like someone’s sweet old grandpa, and he wasted no time in charming the pants off the crowd saying in his accented old man tone, “My name is Giovanni Giorgio, but you can call me Giorgio.” Moroder then launched into his very enjoyable DJ set during which he really stuck to what he knows best, meaning ’70s disco hits and pop tunes including his former Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” and “Radio”, Berlin’s “Take My Breathe Away” from Top Gun soundtrack – both choices reflective of his past. But Moroder also played his new Adult Swim single, and a fast paced mini-version of his Daft Punk collaboration, “Giorgio by Moroder.” The DJ set was a fun surprised as it was vastly different from any DJ set at Pitchfork in recent memory and worked as a celebration of last summer’s disco reemergence.
Dressed like a long lost Blues Brother, Beck wasted no time reminding the Pitchfork audience that he wasn’t always a sleepy acoustic strummer by opening with the Odelay classic, “Devils Haircut.” After only a few songs in, I realized this was quite a different Beck I saw back in 2008 at the Aragon in Chicago for the Modern Guilt tour, which was marred by Beck’s back injury and loss of mobility. H was far more mobile this time around, and even danced around the stage during unexpected Midnite Vultures cuts “Get Real Paid” and “Sexx Laws.” Of course, and much of this comes from personal opinion, but the lackluster and dull Morning Phase material still dragged down the momentum mid-set – I would have rather the mellow tunes up front and closing with a bang, but c’est la vie. One highlight was the whimsical R&B take “Debra” that featured Beck adjusting some of the lyrics to be Chicago-referential. But aside from Beck himself, his touring band, that includes bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, keyboard player Roger Joseph Manning Jr., guitarist Smokey Hormel and drummer Joey Waronker, was also quite incredible. Waronker managed massive, rapid fire fills while still staying in the pocket even on cuts you wouldn’t expect like “Gamma Ray” and “Chemtrails.” But the set finale of an extended “Where It’s At” that featured a true Beck harmonica solo was a whole lot of fun. Kudos for Beck being the most enjoyable and entertaining headliner Pitchfork has had since Pavement.