Then, at last, we were down to the final two main-stage bands of the weekend.
Cut Copy fared better with its light show than DJ Shadow did the night before while holding down the same slot; after a painful day with temperatures in the mid-90s, boy, was it a relief when the sun finally set. But the group’s music was nowhere near as interesting.
The Melbourne, Australia-based quartet opened with several fairly straightforward power-pop tunes; think of Crowded House remade as modern indie-rockers. Then the drum machine kicked in, and suddenly we were transported to Brooklyn, hipster dance-rock center of the universe.
The grooves were a sort of aural Red Bull to help keep anyone who was fading on their feet through the home stretch. But the band certainly wasn’t anything to get excited about, making for my second perfectly-right-down-the-middle, not abysmal but certainly not great rating of the fest.
Rating for Cut Copy: 5.5.
In welcome contrast, not only to its predecessors but to an awful lot of what we heard over the last three days, ultimate headliner TV on the Radio was transcendent. The genre-defying art-rockers came out swinging with a strong opening salvo of several of their hardest-hitting anthems before calming things down for the more bedroom-oriented jams from their latest album “Nine Types of Light.”
Tunde Adebimpe’s stunning vocals shone as brightly as the full moon throughout, but the middle of the set made you long to hug the one you love (sweat and all). Finally, the group closed things out in high-energy mode once more, including a well-chosen cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.”
Rating for TV on the Radio: 9.3.
Thus it ended, and overall it was a more confusing jumble of music great (OFF!, Superchunk, Deerhunter, tUnE-yArDs), horrible (Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance, Thurston Moore), and overwhelmingly bland, mediocre, or just O.K. than in any year past. As always, hundreds of the familiar faces that make the Chicago music community such a vital and vibrant place worked hard as volunteers or staffers to make the festival happen, peopled the booths representing their organizations or businesses on the midway, or just shared the grooves and said a friendly hello. But then the corporate sponsors with their beer-preference surveys and foul-smelling blasts of body spray were more obnoxious and ubiquitous than in any of the previous six years, too. And, of course, there was Odd Future.
Maybe the last word and final verdict should come down to the numbers, as it does with the Pitchfork Webzine. Over the last 72 hours, I saw 23 acts with a combined total rating of 147.2 averaging out to… 6.4. And make of that what you will.