P4k 2011 Day 2: The Dismemberment Plan, DJ Shadow and Fleet Foxes
The problem with festival high points such as No Age and OFF! is that when the rest of the long, long day fails to measure up, the disappointment is all the more intense.
Some of the rest of Day 2 wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t that good.
With its mix of hard-hitting D.C. punk ala Jawbox and Fugazi and hints of R&B and hip-hop, Pitchfork the Webzine has credited the Dismemberment Plan, which broke up in 2003, as progenitors of the dance-punk explosion of more recent years. Hence anticipation was high in some corners for its reunion at the festival, but this was not one of those.
In the past, when it was pushing forward in a straightforward punk way, the group could be perfectly… O.K. But when it would break things down for a lazy beat-box interlude or experiment with more fonky grooves and snaky choruses, it generally lost the plot. The same held true as the band took the stage in Union Park, highlighting tunes from the recent reissue of “Emergency & I,” originally released in 1999, and the rest of its catalog.
Rating for the Dismemberment Plan: 4.1.
Though turntable artist DJ Shadow(Josh Davis) undeniably is brilliant at what he does—perhaps the best—booking him as the penultimate main-stage act was a big miscalculation. For one thing, his hypnotic breakbeats are really an excitement-building, night-ending sound. For another, there just isn’t much for 18,000 people in a hot dirt field to watch.
Shadow tried to make up for this with the weirdest stage set-up yet seen at Pitchfork (and yes, it even was stranger than the Flaming Lips’ sideshow circus). Taking a big cue from Lady Gaga, he started his set hidden behind a giant egg, which only turned around to expose him midway through. The problem was, we were supposed to be entertained by video projections on this large white orb during the time when we couldn’t see him. But at 7:30 p.m., and for quite some time after, the sun still was too bright to fully enjoy whatever images he was showing, so all was for naught.
Rating for DJ Shadow: 5.3.
Finally, it was time for Fleet Foxes to close things out. Though I love their new album “Helplessness Blues,” and was blown away by how their beautiful, multi-part harmonies held the crowd in hushed awe when they played a midday set at the Pitchfork Music Festival a few years ago, I was dubious that they could pull off one of the three key headlining slots. The music is just too intimate.
Some people clearly agreed: There was a steady exodus out the gate and down Ashland Avenue shortly after the Seattle musicians began. But other devout fans had been camped out in front of the green stage since 1 p.m. specifically to claim a prime position for their heroes, and they were rewarded with perfectly spellbinding renditions of the group's delicate but captivating and haunting yet uplifting tunes.
While current Pitchfork raves Bon Iver deserve nothing but scorn and derision for their modern take on Bread or America, Fleet Foxes are a welcome reminder that not all of the folk-rock of the ’70s should be forgotten. Still, they just weren’t as much fun as OFF!
Rating for Fleet Foxes: 8.5.