Pitchfork Day 2: Sleigh Bells, Hot Chip, Godspeed You! Black Emperor

July 14, 2012

Alas, Pitchfork Day 2 failed to provide another high point as memorable as Wild Flag or Cloud Nothings on the main stages, and the rest of the day petered out in an inconsistent, fairly mediocre though thankfully rain-free way.

As in the past and as on the recordings, I was unimpressed with Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller’s attempt to create an overwhelming merger of noise and melody with Sleigh Bells. Stiff, contrived, canned, labored, joyless and often vocally off-key—these are none of my favorite things. And judging by the reaction of the crowd as well as comments on Twitter, as many people agreed with me as joyfully reveled in the New York duo’s clangorous din.

The U.K. dance combo Hot Chip was better, but only to a point. As on its recent album In Our Heads, the group can provide an uplifting disco high during its best moments, such as the celebratory single “Night and Day,” with its goofy rapped lines such as, “I like Zapp, not Zappa/So please quit your jibber-jabber.” But moments like those come in only one of three songs, live or on record, and too much of the overly long set in Union Park recalled the generic sounds of a cheesy, thinking-they’re-too-cool-for-the-room wedding band.

Finally, the music closed out in the main part of the park with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a Montreal instrumental band whose expansive, slow-building psychedelic drones can be revelatory or even transcendent in the right place at the right time—it’s all about set and setting, as Timothy Leary said—but which pretty much looked and sounded like paint drying at Pitchfork, though at a considerably more robust volume, once things got going.

Like Feist on Friday, you just had to wonder why anyone thought this was the right headlining act after a day that included much better—as well, granted, as some worse. The most common comment I heard out in the fields and in the VIP areas backstage today: “It’s just not all that special this year.” Then again, during a brief rest at the WBEZ booth at the midway, I also was approached by two obviously out-of-town festival-goers who eagerly asked (direct quote), “Do you know if there’s any Pitchfork-branded merchandise for sale anywhere?”

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