Pitchfork Day 2: Titus Andronicus, Raekwon, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

July 17, 2010


(photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)

The excitement finally kicked in on day two with a rollicking set by New Jersey's Titus Andronicus, who were one of the highlights of the festival two years ago.

In 2008, touring in support of their first album "The Airing of Grievances," Patrick Stickles and his bandmates delivered an edgy set of twisted art-punk. With the release of their second album, the historical concept effort "The Monitor," their sound has taken a turn toward simpler song structures with anthemic choruses and dramatic dynamic shifts -- a sound, needless to say, ideally suited for motivating a bored, over-heated crowd in the wide-open spaces of a baseball field.


Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)

 Stickles was a less flamboyant frontman this time around, but the band's bigger sound, made all the more powerful by the addition of horns, proved to be this festival's second undeniable highlight, after Robyn on day one.


Raekwon (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)

 Alas, the excitement level waned once more as Raekwon, one of the more energetic members of Staten Island's legendary Wu-Tang Clan, started his set 20 minutes late. With his hype man intermittently taking the stage to trumpet his imminent arrival, many in the crowd assumed that rapper Corey Woods was simply being a prima donna, building suspense for his appearance. Then, when he finally did appear, he was plagued by dicey sound throughout the set.

In fact, Pitchfork's Chris Kaskie said that both the delay and the sound problems were caused by a generator overheating in the brutal temperatures. UPDATED: Kaskie was wrong: Pitchfork Festival stage managers say the delay in starting the set was not on the festival's end--no generator overheated--and that one of Raekwon's posse in fact was having trouble booting up his laptop with the backing tracks.

Raekwon did seem to be trying hard to overcome the sound difficulties and the sketchy pacing of the set with extra energy, but the show was over before he ever had a chance to get in front of these obstacles.


Jon Spencer (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)

 And then it was time for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Or, I should say, in the ever-annoying, super-hypberbolic manner of the band's titular leader, THE BLOOOOOOS EXPLOSION!!!

In sorry contrast to Spencer's first, legendary indie-rock combo Pussy Galore, which got the mix of blues grit, garage grunge, and goofy rock camp exactly right, the Blues Explosion, despite the exquisite playing of guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins, always had a relationship to the music it claimed to love that bordered on blackface parody. While the band's guitar blow-outs and rolling rhythms were as ferocious as ever, that quality remained as the reunited combo took the stage in Union Park, and, as in the past, it made it difficult to totally lose yourself in the noise.