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. But my intrepid colleagues Andrew Gill, Annie Minoff and Kate Dries did an admirable job filling in, and they’ll continue contributing here through the rest of Pitchfork 2012—in between baking in the sun and getting drenched in the “intermittent” thundershowers (which never seem all that intermittent when you’re in the middle of them).
All of the cynicism that Pitchfork majordomos Ryan Schreiber and Chris Kaskie seem to expect from this blog will, however, be mine and mine alone.
As a blazing sun alternated with ominous gray clouds during the early afternoon, Saturday kicked off on the main stages with the ferocious instrumental stoner/space-rock of the New York trio the Psychic Paramount. Trippy stuff, but the 35-minute set was about twice as long as it needed to be, given the group’s relative dearth of unique ideas. (As always, a little jamming goes a long way when there’s not much melody to leaven it.)
Former Cleveland bedroom recording artist Dylan Baldi and his now official and full-blown quartet acquitted themselves well, opening with two of the best tunes from this year’s exquisite Attack on Memory. Onstage, the group amplified its more melodic side, evoking the most tuneful Replacements more than the ferocious Hüsker Dü of the recordings. But as the clouds appropriately enough finally opened up with a full-blown downpour, the band stretched out into more expansive noise jams, keeping the diehards who didn’t run for cover churning in the mud in front of the stage, and eventually blowing out the PA system without ever missing a beat.
Next up serenading the very soggy baseball fields: Bradford Cox, who seems to have been at every Pitchfork fest since the start in one of his several incarnations or another. This year, he’s here as Atlas Sound, performing in ghostly white face paint, and strumming an acoustic guitar over ethereal backing tracks. Some lovely moments aside, the sound (with the PA seemingly still handicapped from the earlier crash) was way too sleepy to generate the adrenaline necessary to counteract the sullen dampness.
So far, the day belongs to Cloud Nothings. But Wild Flag may just claim it back.