Friday, August 3, 2007

SLICE OF LIFE :: Pitchfork Music Festival


A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to go to Chicago and see the Pitchfork Music Festival. The Pitchfork Music Festival was a 3 day show held July 13-15 at Union Park in Chicago, featuring a variety of acts from indie rock, metal, and even hip hop. The other reason I went to Chicago is because Chicago is a town known as much for its comics as much for its alternative music scene. Various comic strip and comic book cartoonists have called the Windy City home at one point or another. So my trip to Chicago was as much about comics as it was about seeing music.

I started the trip buying comics since the gates didn’t open until 6. When buying comics in Chicago, I always go to Quimby's. My reading habits tend to go towards more alternative comics and Quimby's is one of the best stores specializing in alternative comics. It's hard not to when you have a store sign designed by Acme Novelty Library's Chris Ware. My haul generally consists of mostly books that we don't have at Heroes and issues of alternative comics that we might no longer carry at Heroes. One of the other things that Quimby's has that really draws me to the store is their wall of mini comics. A mini comic, for those wondering what one is, is generally a small hand made comic that is sold at conventions but sometimes stores like Quimby's carry them. You never really know what you're going to get when you buy a mini comic but I like getting them for their handmade nature and because they generally look pretty nifty.

The Friday line up consisted of alt rock legends Sonic Youth, Wu-Tang member GZA, and the recently reformed indie rock band Slint all performing their classic albums. Slint performed first playing their album Spiderland and the crowd went nuts. The album, which is the sonic equivalent of a gothic cathedral, sounded terrific in the live environment and the band, which had not played much since reforming, pulled everything off as good if not better than they did on the album. There was something appropriate about the album, which has this air of foreboding and darkness surrounding it, being performed at dusk that lent a lot to the performance. Closing out day one, Sonic Youth performed their classic album Daydream Nation, one of my all time favorite albums. The band was in fine form and the performance was easily as ferocious and exciting as the album itself is. I got the feeling that Sonic Youth had not played the material on the album at much if not at all in the recent past and were really excited to see if they could still pull off these songs which they did with the energy of a band half their age. It was the highlight of my weekend getting to hear one of my favorite albums in its entirety.

The band Califone was the first band I saw on day two. I had seen Califone a couple of years ago at the Charlotte club The Room and it's still one of the most memorable (and loudest) shows I've ever seen. The band still sounded great in the outdoor environment and I hope they come back to Charlotte in the neat future. I also saw Battles. I wasn't a huge fan of the band before the show but after the performance I saw, consider me converted. The show was fun, energetic, and the music just exploded out of the amps. The final band that I saw Saturday was Mastodon. Mastodon, after Sonic Youth, was my favorite show of the weekend. To call the set heavy would be an understatement. The band was loud and brutal which is exactly what I would have expected from these guys. Though I didn't know a lot of the songs it didn't detract at all from how good the performance was.

On the final day of the festival, Sunday, the two best bands I saw were The Sea and Cake and the Klaxons. I was very quickly impressed by the Sea and Cake whose cheerful jazz-pop rock was perfect for the bright, clear Sunday afternoon that we were all experiencing. The other highlight for me on Sunday was a band from England called the Klaxons that put on a fantastic show to close out the festival. As someone who hadn't heard the band before I was really impressed by how loud and catchy they were.

I spent most of Sunday taking the opportunity to look at a couple of the other events and vendors at the festival. Several booths that you might expect to see at this type of festival were present; booths informing about social causes or about online do it yourself services. One of the more interesting events was the Flatstock Poster Fair taking place. Artists from all over the country and even some international artists were displaying their work. Looking at the wide variety of poster art was amazing and if I had more money I certainly would have bought something but most posters were running around the range of $200 which was out of my budget.
Another event that was taking place was a record fair being sponsored by local radio station WLUW. It was basically like vendors at a comic convention but with independent record labels and stores instead of comic book dealers and publishers. Many of Chicago's larger independent record labels, such as Touch and Go and Thrill Jockey, were present at the fair along with some labels not native to Chicago but big on the independent rock scene such as Sub Pop Records from Seattle. There were a lot of dealers there trying to sell rare or out of print records for collectors who eagerly bought them. Local record stores had booths set up selling albums not by artists on the exhibiting record labels. Again it was an atmosphere that was akin to the comic conventions and slightly surreal to experience.

Anyways, that was the Pitchfork Music Fesitval for me. It was filled with a lot of comics and a lot of loud music. I'm glad that I got the opportunity to attend but probably won't do another one for awhile. Like I said, this was very much like a comic convention and I can only take one of those a year! However, I do hope to attend another one at some point and I'm glad that my first music festival was a memorable one.

7 comments:

Shawn Reynolds said...

I do love the GZA, and the RZA for that matter. I am bummed because I just found out that I missed Talib Kweli and Little Brother. So sad.

Dan Morris said...

You totally listen to rap because it's rebellious don't you Ms. Reynolds?!

Jason Wheatley said...

Or, because rap is cool.

Rusty Baily said...

oh you kids and your rap music.....

Dustin Harbin said...

This sounds great. I think I will after all try the new Thor.

Shawn Reynolds said...

Thanks for sticking up for me Jason.

Jason Wheatley said...

Fo' shizzle, my nizzle.