Friday, July 25, 2008

Expressway Does Pitchforkfest: Day 2 & 3

I have always held a love/hate relationship with the Pitchfork website. Working in a record store, reading Pitchfork daily is a must if I want to keep up with the myriad of mediocre "indie" rock bands that the site champions. Almost instantly after Pitchfork has given out a "Best New Music", their is an instant influx of cusotmers rushing into the record store and demanding whatever hip album has been recommended. More than half the time the record hasn't even come out in Canada yet, which is particularly frustrating for record clerks across the globe, i'm sure. The site's ability to make or break a band with it's silly decimal rating (really, how many people actually read those overlong, pretentious reviews?) is incredibly annoying, particularly when a great band gets a mediocre "7.whatever" which most readers' eyes zip right past. The decimal point is king in this domain, and the score is all most readers give a shit about. Don't even get me started on their shit taste in modern hip hop. That being said, the site has brought groups that would have been overlooked much needed attention, though this seems to happen less and less now.

Bickering aside, the site now has enough pull to put on a a large-scale festival featuring dozens of bands across the indie spectrum. As I mentioned before, the ability to get Mission of Burma, Sebadoh and Public Enemy (none of whom are doing full scale tours) to play their best records is quite the feat and was also the the decisive factor in spending a week in Chicago, a city I had wanted to visit for a few years. Basically, Pitchfork gave me 3 great reasons to visit the city. I have to admit, Pitchfork know how to throw a festival. Located 20 minutes east of the Chicago downtown, Union Park boasted 3 stages, several beer stands ($4 for a cup of local brew!), a large merchant tent with over a dozen record dealers and craft booths, first aid stand with free sunscreen and earplugs, and dozens of local food suppliers. Not to mention the tickets were about $20 a day. Now if only Vancouver could get something like this together...

Now here is a brief, brief rundown of the acts that I caught on the last 2 days of the fest.

King Khan and the Shrines
I missed the King Khan show in Vancouver, as he was playing the night before we left. After his exhilarating (and funny!) set at Pitchfork, i'm sorry I missed it. Khan is a showman and worked the crowd into a frenzy with the greatest of ease.Complete with a a go-go dancer, full horn section and his awesome stage presence, King Khan and his Shrines delivered one of the best sets of the whole weekend. Can't wait for him to come back through.

Ghostface and Raekwon teamed up to deliver some of the best cuts of their solo records and early Wu albums. It was great to see Ghost in action after he bailed on the Wu-Tang show at last year's Bumbershoot fest.

Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr., well, they were Dinosaur Jr., loud, catchy and rockin'. Not much else to say on that.

Atlas Sound
Bradford Cox took the solo route for his set rather than employing musicians to help back him up, who probably would have livened up his sound a bit. Atlas Sound played later in the day to a drunken crowd just looking to get down (yours truly included). Most of the set seemed to comprise of newer material, which he played with what looked to be just his sampler and guitar. The sound was completely lost in the open air and probably would have translated a little better in a more intimate environment.

Fuck Buttons
Fuck Buttons pretty much just played most of their debut record in one long continuous jam. This would have been fine if their were some more improvisation involved, but they pretty much played the songs exactly how they appear on the record. Though they did play a new track that actually bridged the wide gap between dance music and harsh electronics. The future seems bright from these forward thinking Brits.

Times New Viking
One of the more anticipated sets for me, TNV absolutely ripped through most of their catalogue in their brief set. Surprisingly, the band's lo-fi, fuzzed out translated pretty well in the open air festival setting. I still, however, prefer that sound to be contained in a small club.

Only stuck around for about half of Boris' set as the material of their newest record leave me feeling a little ill. There is something about the unintentional cheesy stage presence of this band (that double headless guitar and the drummers incessant, white gloved hand clapping for example) that had me scrambling for cover. I much preferred this band when they were a simply a Melvins cover band.

This was the third time I had seen Health and by far the best. They played a number of newer songs that were similar to their older material but with far more energy, if that's believable. Don't miss 'em the next time they come through (they've played Van City about 5 times now).

I did catch a few other groups that I didn't take photos of, including No Age, Spiritualized, High Places, Jay Reatard, Icy Demons and Animal Collective. Jay Reatard and No Age were the only notables out of those. Anyways, if the Pitchforkfest doesn't get watered down next year, I would recommend heading down to Chicago for a week, taking in the city's many sites and peeping the Pforkfest.

1 comment:

A. dziewanski said...

Sounds like a goooood time...
Just wanted to say sorry about not being on top of the records at my party. I was a little out of it and overwhelmed by all the people. That ipod shit was a drag. That never should have been out in the first place. Thought you should know I've decided to sell mine and buy records with the money. Yes, actual vinyl. No more digital unsubstantial second generation bull shit sound. From now on it's the real deal.