Picking things up again, Providence, Rhode Island native Abraham Orellana, better known as AraabMuzik, brought the dubstep in a big way as things wound down on the main stages, turning a full field in one giant swirling and bouncing mass as he hands moved in a blur over his MPC and assorted other machines. His grooves were hypnotic and irresistible, but when he delivered the day’s second much-buzzed cameo—by Chicago gangsta rapper Chief Keef—things fizzled. Keef is all bluster, with little to distinguish his verbal spew or justify his bragging other than his oft-noted criminal record.
From there, it was sleepy time once again as Beach House took the field as the festival’s penultimate act. While I admire the recent album Bloom as well-crafted chill-out/make-out music, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally were no more engaging onstage in this prestigious slot than they’d been at a mid-afternoon spot on the 2010 bill. Now as then, except for diehard fans, one had to think, “As headphones music, this stuff is great. But here… now… really?” And that certainly wasn’t a first for this weekend.
Finally it was back to the well again for Vampire Weekend, the festival’s headlining closer this time, as opposed to the buzz band at 5 p.m. in 2008, but really no more impressive and with no substantial new turns to its music. (It’s been two and a half years since the release of the group’s second and last album, Contra.) Though I loathe the group’s snarky, preppy/yuppie take on Graceland/Peter Gabriel on album, I do admire its energetic grooves in a live setting, an accomplishment that owes a lot to underrated drummer Chris Tomson. But this performance really felt as if we’d been here and done that before, an assessment that could be made of much of Pitchfork 2012.
As usual, there were some highlights, and a few surprises—just not as many as there have been in the past. And for anyone who’s been to one or two Pitchfork festivals before, much less all of them, you had to leave Union Park hoping that the promoters and the Website owners will work just a little bit harder to make the bill a lot more special in 2013.