With afternoon temperatures just shy of hitting the triple-digit mark and a busy lineup that included everyone from the ever-profane hip-hop collective Odd Future to ambient punksters Deerhunter, Sunday didn’t only end up being the hottest day of the Pitchfork Music Festival. It was also the most enjoyable.
As the torrid sun beamed down on throngs of attendees early Sunday afternoon, round three kicked off in typical Pitchfork fashion with sets from a slew of buzz acts — including Yuck, How to Dress Well and The Fresh and Onlys. But despite the three-way split, indie pop outfit Yuck managed to draw a sizeable crowd early on in the day. The UK-bred shoegazers might not be anything more than Dinosaur Jr-meets-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain derivatives, but their lo-fi homage had no trouble finding an audience.
It wasn’t until raggedy folk-rock stalwart Kurt Vile and his long-haired cohorts, the Violators, took the Green Stage that the day really hit its proverbial stride. Vile might just be our generation’s quintessential anti-rock star. He’s shy, reserved and horribly mild-mannered. But there’s a cool mystique about the man, which makes him such an enthralling performer. Borrowing mainly from his last two LP’s — “Smoke Ring For My Halo” and “ Childish Prodigy” — Vile and his fellow heartland rockers carried on with a consummate ease that only true professionals in their arena could muster.
And while Vile readied to exit the stage, it became obvious where the bulk of the festivals energy was invested in — Odd Future. Unless you’ve been living under a (or smoking too much) rock for the last 8 months, you’re probably familiar with the 10-man rap clan that’s been at the very center of this year’s indie hype mill. Despite the crowd being scrunched shoulder-to-shoulder, the scene on Sunday’s Red Stage looked more like a clip from American Hardcore than a rowdy rap concert. Loved for his unparalleled charisma and hated for his juvenile irreverence (others refer to it as hate speech), Odd Future ringleader Tyler, the Creator— suffering from a recent foot injury that left him in a cast — limped across the stage for most of the day. Minor injuries aside, hip-hop’s newest controversy-generator put on a truly powerhouse performance that came with all the necessary ingredients: stage dives (including one from Tyler), middle fingers and gratuitous, unabashed vulgarity.
“I dedicate this beautiful song to everyone who doesn’t like me… every protestor… every organization… everyone who’s gonna write a [expletive] [expletive] review,” Tyler said, just moments before launching into the 7-minute epic “Radical,” which wrapped up a sprawling Odd Future set.
But even as temperatures peaked and concertgoers moods turned from ecstatic to sluggish, the late afternoon delivered more Pitchfork cream of the crop. While glam-pop guru Ariel Pink’s set was marred by sound problems (Pink stormed off the stage 15 minutes early), indie grey beards Superchunk stole the show shortly before Deerhunter graced the Green Stage.
In spite of the fact Deerhunter’s music sounds like the soundtrack for an inner-city acid trip, frontman Bradford Cox packed a little punch into the performance, occasionally shrieking in place of his typical lazy-cool vocal delivery. It was a set that drew from the very best of the group’s catalog with performances of Deerhunter favorites “Nothing Ever Happened” and “Little Kids” to more recent fare that included “Helicopter” and an extended rendition of “He Would Have Laughed” to close.
But as the sun disappeared, so did portions of the audience. The Blue Stage fell behind schedule (HEALTH performed 25 minutes late) and Australian synth junkies Cut Copy finished off on the Red Stage. And while many – worn from the heat – had already called it a day, indie art-rockers TV on the Radio closed the festival with a performance so spirited, so unexpectedly energetic, it would’ve felt cruel to have forced anyone else to have to perform afterwards. The band even belted out a rendition of Fugazi’s classic punk staple “Waiting Room” which unfortunately went over the heads of some of the younger faces in the audience.
What this year’s festival lacked in big-ticket names (2010’s Pavement and Big Boi), it more than made up for with three days of stellar performances. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment. From the evening sunset that accompanied Fleet Foxes Saturday performance to No Age’s cover of Black Flag’s “Six Pack,” there was a little something for everyone this weekend. And that’s exactly what keeps audiences coming back for more each year.
– Photos by Jules Ameel