You could say that some sets at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend were highly anticipated.
“She’s a fucking rockstar,” a photographer said of Sleigh Bells frontwoman Alexis Krauss. “You don’t get to say that very often.”
A three-day music event with plenty of big names represented, and no rockstars? Impossible. Extremely photogenic, relentless in her efforts to rouse the crowd, energetically whipping her hair before diving into the crowd, Krauss and bandmates Derek Miller and Jason Boyer truly performed Saturday evening, making the most of their hour-long timeslot and stopping only to further address and praise the crowd.
Sleigh Bells weren’t apprehensive to throw out their own classics early in the mix, entertaining vehemently with “Crown On The Ground” between “Demons” and “True Shred Guitar” (which, by God, wholly lived up to its name).
Among the other rare rockstars present at the festival was rapper Willis Earl Beal and even Lady GaGa, in support of rapper friend Kendrick Lamar (but only as a spectator). Even MPC DJ Araab Muzik needed an appearance from Chicago hip-hopper Chief Keef to bring his set to life. As Pitchfork gains a reputation over the years, clearly it turns heads as well. Game-spitters such as Beal and Lamar surely didn’t disappoint, either, both outperforming their hype as they threw out their respective microphones and smiled at the riled-up crowds throughout their entire shows. Though newcomer Danny Brown’s set wasn’t as packed, his smile was just as vibrant.
Though not as eccelctic as other Union Park festival North Coast or even Lollapalooza, crowds at respective shows can vary significantly. Friday’s headliner Feist brought together crowds of older indie folk diehards while up-and-coming Purity Ring gathered tripped-out mini-hipsters just an thousand or so feet away.
The previously unplaceable Dirty Projectors drew a crowd of all sorts, too. Supporting new Swing Lo Magellan, the band brought together hits from then and now, incorporating older “Temecula Sunrise” into a crazy-strange set of vocal impossibility and musical wonderment.
Dirty Projectors and Hot Chip had this groove in common, representing their new records with proper energy to match, and both “Gun Has No Trigger” and “Don’t Deny Your Heart” were real gems to hear, though fun familiars like “Stillness Is The Move” and “Ready On The Floor” were certainly incredible to be a part of.
Chicago-based Pitchfork, known for its reputation of being operated solely by hipsters, always promises a colorful crowd in attendance. Though mostly young and trendy, there was an inevitable variation in age and style, which always makes for an interesting range of observation. This year, the atmosphere felt friendly and energetic.
Some spectators argued that hype isn’t always a good thing. Experimental newbie Grimes had everything going for her, including a well-performing critically acclaimed album (titled Visions) and a special guest on stage: Skrillex’s very own tour partner Blood Diamond. Yet still, Grimes underperformed, remaining on her feet behind a board of buttons and enduring technical difficulties for an ultimately underwhelming show.
Believe it or not, Baltimore natives Beach House weren’t able to represent their recorded content as well either. With two incredibly strong albums under their belts, a stellar show was anticipated. But there was something lackluster about their setup. Dressed in black and white and hidden by singer Victoria Legrand’s bushy bangs, the only thing going for Beach House was their expertly crafted melodies and ghostly audio and visual effects. Though great music is essential, stage presence is also key. There’s always room in our hearts for Beach House, some genuine personality is what the indie dream-poppers lacked Sunday afternoon. This proves that good material doesn’t always ensure a good show, though it may provide the right soundtrack for a weekend’s-end sunset.
Some acts, alternatively, had moments that transcend their context. Friday’s headliner Feist simply gave it her all, displaying a complicatedly simple look at all the band’s hits while foreshadowing what’s to come with “How Come You Never Go There.” In the same way, Vampire Weekend was an incredibly generous treat that many concertgoers were lucky to see. An upbeat mood was the perfect setting to end the weekend, and the New York-based band delivered happy toe-tapping anthems from start to finish, performing nearly all of the hits from 2009′s wonderful Contra and a number of classics. Vampire Weekend closed the festival with classic “Cape Cod,” a “song about leaving,” according to singer Ezra Koenig. Fitting, yet inevitably bittersweet.