For the first time since its now hazy origins eight years ago as the Intonation Music Festival, I had to miss the opening of festivities in Union Park on Friday because of a family obligation.
Pitchfork's celebration of on-the-rise rap artists continued with Schoolboy Q on the Blue stage. Q (legally Quincy Matthew Hanley) is a big guy with a gravelly voice and a gregarious personality. His flow seems suited to storytelling, but like his pal A$AP Rocky, Q is mostly just talking about weed. Not anything specific or interesting about weed, just the fact that he has it and likes to smoke it. Take for instance this lyric from early in his set: "Got no money, but I got some weed." That last part is the refrain and it really drove the crowd crazy. It was really boring to me. It got me thinking that maybe marijuana should be legalized just to get talented rappers like Q to tackle more interesting subject matter.
Q could do better because he clearly has a good sense of humor.
"Looking forward to a literal Youth Lagoon at the Blue stage," Andrew Gill tweeted earlier this afternoon. He was right; the young Trevor Powers has the crowd to match, the weather finally held up and who ever said the young weren't wise? (A lot of people, that's who.) Powers, who was joined by "my friend Logan [Hyde].
Saturday's Blue stage line-up began with a true head-bangers ball. The Atlas Moth represented the concious side of metal well, with three guitars and screamed as well as growled vocals. There was also plenty of hair flying as half the band had a longhair, black-clad hesher look to them. The screamer wore a beard and plaid, distinguishing the band from the typical metal bros. The drummer split the difference with both flowing locks and an impressive beard.
As my stomach rumbled from the stench I started wondering what would go on an Atlas Moth burger at Kuma's Corner. It turns out the folks at Kuma's had the same thought back in 2009.
The Dirty Projectors' Pitchfork appearance was perfectly timed. Their new album was released on Tuesday and had been streaming for about a month. Unsurprisingly the website gave Swing Lo Magellan an 8.8 and named it "Best New Music."
The band has a knack for creating catnip for music critics with their upside down approach to a wide variety of musical traditions. Some hear hints of doo-wop combined with African guitar. Others pick up on R&B mixed with art rock. But to some listeners it's nothing more than complexity for complexity's sake.
To those who, like me, don't see the point of the digressions in some Projectors songs, I must say, they make more sense live. On a car stereo, the abrupt shift in "Offspring Are Blank" is a reason to skip to another track, but in concert it's a suckerpunch, an unexpected turn on a roller coaster.
Clams Casino’s beats ring out before the hip-hop producer even takes the blue stage. Across the park, A$AP Rocky’s already busted out “Wassup,” just one of the tracks Clams created for him (it’s also on the producer’s excellent new Instrumentals 2 mixtape).
The contrast between the exuberant party put on by the A$AP crew and Clams’ own performance couldn’t be starker though. This is clearly an artist used to being the man behind the curtain. Clams doesn’t reveal much: whatever clicking and dropping he’s doing to create those crushing, reverb-heavy beats is obscured behind a shrouded podium. He says nary a word to the crowd, which doesn’t seem to mind much. Arms bounce gamely in the air as wave after wave of chilled out bass wafts out from the stage, punctuated occasionally by a chopped up vocal or particularly explosive beat.
In a sharp programming shift, Day 1 went from the psychedelic pop of Olivia Tremor Control into the mixtape hip-hop of A$AP Rocky. The only similarity I can think of between the two acts is that there are higher than average odds that both their listeners partake of illicit substances.
Walking into the photo pit at the start of Rocky's set, the presence of pot smoke went from occassional to all-encompasing. Photographers were even smoking joints while jockeying for position in front of the stage- the only time I've ever seen that.
The crowd quickly doubled in size, but quadrupled in excitement. Women in elaborate bathing suits suddenly appeared among the fans. Kids in front knew every word of every song. All this for a rapper who still hasn't released a proper album (but did recently sign a $3 million deal with RCA).
As an outside observer to the hip-hop mixtape world, this set reminded me of Odd Future's performance at Pitchfork 2011.
Tim Hecker, tell us how it was hanging out in the rain, because I definitely didn't make it to your set as it downpoured (through sunlight?). Which seems appropriate, given how half of outdoor festivals is talking about and braving the elements.
But as for fellow Canadians Japanroids -- moshin', ya know? I didn't go into this weekend a fan of Brian King and David Prowse's particular brand of sweaty punk jams. But man were they effusive and by the end of their set I was, if not converted, questioning. Perhaps that was because of King's boyish charm. Any sign of recent turmoil between the two was gone; the duo seemed incredibly thankful to be at the festival, talking so fast it was hard to hear what they were saying.
"You're going to want to pay attention because there's a f*cking drum solo in this one by yours truly, David," said King of his bandmate as they charged into yet another song.