Rain fell on Friday the 13th and day one of the 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival as artists like Feist, Dirty Projectors, Japandroids and more perfromed on three stages across Union Park in Chicago's West Loop...
Heavy rainfall? Friday the 13th? Coincidence? I think not. Rain fell early in the afternoon before festival gates opened at 3PM and again during the festival around 5PM but it passed through within about an hour, no performances were interrupted and people seemed generally nonplussed by it all. With temperatures in the 80s, festival grounds never became overly saturated and terrain remained easily and, for the most part, cleanly traversible. Sure, there was some mud but it wasn't widespread and it was pretty easily avoidable. That said, with more rain in the forecast for day two on Saturday, let's hope Union Park got a chance to dryout overnight or things could get pretty sloppy this weekend. Fingers crossed.
Onto the music...
Willis Earl Beal (Blue Stage) - The Blue Stage seemed to be running about twenty minutes behind previously announced set times all day and Beal went on about 4:35PM. Always the case on Friday, but probably even moreso this year because of the rain, crowds were pretty light on the festival's first day (so far, Saturday is the only sold out day of the festival and single day passes are still available for Sunday).
Beal began his set a capella and remained singular onstage for its duration. What began as excellent, unaccompanied, soulful vocals soon began to take the shape of something resembling more of a Tom Waits like stagger over pre-recorded beats. Finger snapping in time to what sounded like either sitar or dobro accompanied a more gutteral growl as the set progressed and overall, Beal managed to showcase vocal range.
Certainly an interesting, if not at times manic, stage presence saw the crowd into the set from start to finish.
A$AP Rocky (Red Stage) - I enjoyed the brief portion of the set that I caught before hiding from the rain but I have to ask: at what point does the fake gunshot sound effect finally run its course in hip hop?
Japandroids (Blue Stage) - I took a bit of a break to stay out of the rain I was quite ill prepared for dealing with but there was no way I was missing Japandroids.
After a lengthy soundcheck that saw guitarist Brian King repeatedly ask for more volume, Japandroids finally began their 45 minute set.
Light on banter, heavy on rock, the Vancouver garage rock duo tore through a set full of material from their newest, month old album Celebration Rock. "Fire's Highway" came early and was a great example of the arena ready hooks oozing out of this outstanding new album.
The sun came back out midway through the set and rain stayed away for the rest of the night.
Dirty Projectors (Red Stage) - There's really no better festival in the country for music fans who want to discover great new music. I was completely unfamiliar with Dirty Projectors entering the festival and I thoroughly enjoyed their set Friday night.
People around me were making comparisons to early Talking Heads album cuts and I suppose I can see that... But I heard more of a modern take on the sounds of Tom Tom Club (think along the lines of what a collaboration between Modest Mouse and Tom Tom Club would sound like).
Manipulation of electronic elements alongside jangly guitar was great but it was the outstanding vocal harmonies that sold me. David Longstreth and especially Amber Coffman sounded great together.
Feist (Green Stage) - Leslie Feist does not get enough credit for just how cool and innovative her music really is. Those only familiar with her major commercial radio hit "1234" are completely missing just what she's capable and it was on full display Friday night in the live setting.
Feist performed with a full band, handling vocals and acoustic guitar for the portion of the set that I saw. "How Come You Never Go There" came early in the set. Impassioned vocals and the full band lent the song an edge missing on record.
"I Feel it All" picked up the paceand helped to alleviate some of the sound bleed that plagued Feist's set as Purity Ring performed across Union Park on the Blue Stage.