It was partly because of the heat that much of the acts during the opening day of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival felt oppressed, a half step short of good at every turn. The first two artists, on opposite ends of Union Park, were entirely forgettable—Frankie Rose turned in average fare and Daughn Gibson’s Johnny Cash as a rocker persona just came across bored. By that point I’d used the hotbox equivalent of a portable toilet, baking my brain in 15 seconds, so once again, part of it was the heat.
Hardcore screamers Trash Talk and the ensuing mosh pit were out of place at 4:30 p.m., especially to a crowd only there because of other acts on the schedule. Post-punkers Wire turned in a zombified set that seemed to engage the crowd only when it realized that they paid to see it. Joanna Newsom (as amazing as she is) turned up without her band, which meant that evening harp music and her impish warbling had the effect of a bedtime lullaby. Bjork continued that trend, though at least matching the mostly subdued tone of her artistry with large monitor displays of tripped-out starfish and Atari stylized images from what looked like a galactic kaleidoscope; plus, she had on a bedazzling silver dress and a matching headpiece reminiscent of “Hellraiser.”
There were a few highlights: Mikal Cronin’s and Mac DeMarco’s sets were the most entertaining, if maybe not the most compelling moments of Day 1. Mikal somehow had a mosh pit going that was better than Trash Talk's, and Mac DeMarco just goofed around for 45 minutes, turning in stand-up comedy banter (for example, “Bruce Willis has been like a father to us…he’ll be playing xylophone on our next record”) and playing cartoonish covers of “Cocaine” and “Takin’ Care of Business.”
Here’s hoping the fest gets better every day, culminating on Sunday night with R. Kelly and TNGHT.