Pitchfork Day 1: Willis Earl Beal and Outer Minds
The best thing about Outer Minds was definitely Gina Lira on tambourine, and I can't believe I just wrote that. Lira convinced me that it was a legitimate instrument with her enthusastic tapping in time with her vocals. The look wasn't bad either; she not only had some of the best red lipstick on I've ever seen, she enthusiastically threw confetti into the crowd. It didn't go far but the effort seemed to be there; keyboardist Mary McKane was prompted to say, "Sorry, Security Guard people" as they bore the brunt of the attack.
The meaning of the confetti remains unclear (it was thrown out of a brown paper bag with what looked like an evil eye sharpied onto it) but the best thing about this Chicago psych band remained the rhythm section, as drummer Brian Costello stood out from songs like "Always In My Head."
But at the end, the '60s sound morphed into some sort of ghoulish, haunting sound, which felt very Addams Family (and worked with the Cousin It hair of several of the male band members). "Thank you so f*cking much," said McKane, and that was basically that, leaving their city with not much more than they started with.
Willis Earl Beal was a slightly different Chicago story; the South Side native paid immediate homage to his roots. "I just want to say before I begin, I used to ride by bike up from 85th and Ashland," he said, before launching into "a little acappella" version of "Wavering Lines."
Beal was certainly vocal; sounding like Prince doing gospel, he proclaimed "I like to warm up a little before I start," to huge applause. The look matched; part Prince, James Brown and Michael Jackson, Beal became increasingly performative. The mic stand was a prop, his blanket (with a smiley face on it) became a cape and then a skirt. That same smiley face was on his shirt as well, right beneath the word "Nobody."
The rock star kept rocking, crooning through as he swigged what looked like whiskey (sans coke) to great additional applause. He sat down on the edge of the stage during a serenade about lust, and while he might have slightly lost me during this sermon (a sample lyric: "And nothing is everything"), everyone else seemed fairly enraptured. The line about a "Pitchfork rock" and "nine hard inches" was memorable, though.
"Why don't people play normal sounds?" he asked afterward. "You want to hear folk and rock sounds." Good question Beal -- why don't you tell us?