If it's this sleepy next year, I'm blogging from the pool (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
While almost everyone is in agreement that day three is the strongest of Pitchfork 2010, it started out on the main stages with only slightly more energy than the past two days.
To be clear, I have nothing against chill-out music as a genre; I just expect ambient pop to measure up to the best of what I’ve heard from that sound in the past, whether it’s the godfather himself, Brian Eno, or Aphex Twin in his ambient mode, or the mellower of the early ’90s shoegazers. Too much chillwave, doesn’t rise to those peaks on record. And even if it did, that’s not guarantee that it can carry a crowd of 18,000 in the festival setting. Especially when it’s interspersed with just plain generically jangly indie rock.
Allá (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
Kicking things off on Sunday, not long after a heavy rain yielded to plain old oppressive heat and humidity, Chicago’s Allá gave the crowd a taste of chill sounds at their best, with singer Lupe Martinez cooing seductively as the musical team of brothers Jorge and Angel Ledezma created lush pillows of sound and gently percolating, occasionally Latin-flavored grooves behind her.
Cass McCombs (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
At his mellowest, California-bred singer-songwriter Cass McCombs brings to mind a less polished Lloyd Cole; at his best, which is very good indeed, things tip more toward garage rock and Paul Westerberg. During the second main-stage set of the day, McCombs gave a taste of both, drawing from his fourth album “Catacombs” (2009), as well as dipping deeper into his back catalog for a strong if never really fiery set.
Girls (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
Girls, unfortunately, were another step back toward mid-tempo mediocrity. The twee, tinkley sounds seem so fragile that merely listening too hard might cause them to fall apart—though the precious mix of the floweriest San Francisco circa ’67s psychedelia and mellowest Smiths isn’t helped by the lack of charisma evinced by bandleaders Christopher Owens and J.R. White. Gotta say, I would have loved to have heard another set from Allá instead.
By mid-afternoon, it was time for more mellow as Beach House, the ethereal duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, played a wispy, dreamy set of songs that functioned as intimate pillow talk—that just happened to be overhead by 18,000 people.
Beach House (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
“You know, as headphones music, this stuff is great,” said one concertgoer standing beside me during the Beach House set. “But here… now… really?” My thoughts exactly, and obviously expressed not for the first time during this long, somnambulistic weekend.
Lightning Bolt (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
Thankfully—finally!—there was a welcome shot of adrenaline from the next main-stage act, the aptly named Lightning Bolt from Providence, Rhode Island. The earth-shaking, cascading rhythmic assaults of drummer and vocalist Brian Chippendale (he had one of those headset microphones hidden beneath his Lucha Libre mark) and bassist Brian Gibson were so powerful and overwhelming that it was hard to fathom that they were being churned out by only two guys—and both named Brian, no less.
(photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
The churling, co-ed mosh pit in front of the stage erupted during the first notes of Lightning Bolt’s set, and it never let up. Clearly, at least some of the crowd filling Union Park was as eager for an outlet for their adrenaline as I have been.
Alas, things soon calmed down again with St. Vincent. With the temperature decreasing ever so slightly and the sun finally setting—though it had been obscured by clouds anyway for much of the day, anyway, with the threatened thunderstorms thankfully holding off—Annie Clark and a sizable band lilted through the songs she prefers to think of as mini-film scores, with lush orchestral pop arrangements and frequent hints of naïve and childlike touches straight from vintage Disney soundtracks.
St. Vincent (photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
It was charming. It was enchanting. But it was hardly revelatory or mind-blowing. And no, I ain’t jaded, and yes, I still love Pitchfork. But where in 2010 were the sort of shear-the-top-of-your-head-off experiences like Art Brut, Os Mutantes, and Mission of Burma (2006), Clipse, Girl Talk, Mastodon, and Battles (2007), Les Savvy Fav, Titus Andronicus, and F— Buttons (2008), or F*cked Up, Ponytail, and the Vivian Girls (2009)?
In way too short supply, that’s where.
(photo by Kate Gardiner/NewsHour)
The tempo picked up again with Major Lazer at 6:15 p.m., and -- hallelujah! -- it stayed at a pretty high level through the end of Pitchfork 2010.
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