Slightly cooler temps made day two of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival a bit more bearable Saturday afternoon in Union Park... as did performances by Low, The Breeders, Belle and Sebastian and more...
Beginning with performances as early as 1PM on Saturday, the Pitchfork Music Festival was up and running on day two courtesy of KEN Mode, White Lung and Pissed Jeans.
One of my biggest complaints about the festival in years past was that of beer selection. This year, Goose Island is serving not just food but beverages too. For a town with such a great craft beer scene, this is a significant step up from the imported, Dutch lager of days gone by (One of the Goose beverages available features a collaboration with Sunday festival performers Killer Mike and El-P on a dry-hopped, Belgian wheat ale called Run the Jewels).
I got an earlier start on Saturday (though frustratingly, not early enough to see Pissed Jeans' 1:45PM set on the Red Stage) and started my day with the frenzied stylings of Swans on the Red Stage.
One of the greatest things about the Pitchfork Music Festival is the ability to discover great new music. It's early, but so far my favorite new discovery this weekend is Swans. While they've been around in different forms since 1982, they somehow flew under my radar and I dug the ruckus they stirred up on Saturday. To my ears, it felt like music that would work appropriately alongside a horror movie. At times it sounded like an odd cross between Primus and the Deftones, other times it strayed closer to actual metal and throughout, slow dirges became riotous affairs (why, there was even piercing clarinet courtesy of Thor Harris).
Fresh off leaving The Pixies, Kim Deal arrived at the Pitchfork Music Festival with her twin sister Kelley for a full performance of The Breeders' 1993 album Last Splash featuring that era of the band's lineup - though the performance ultimately left some to be desired.
The set started out unevenly, with long gaps between songs (filled, at times, with gear banter and more) which, following early album hits like "Cannonball," repeatedly killed momentum.
The band finally hit it a stride about two thirds of the way through the album and starting with "Divine Hammer," a stretch including some of the album's more rocking fare (tracks like "S.O.S.," "Hag" and "Saints") closed out the main set in decent fashion though the set as a whole was ultimately a bit disappointing.
Heading south to the shady retreat that is the Blue Stage, I was excited to catch part of Low for the second time in just over a year.
When I saw Low for the first time in April of 2012 (as the opening act for Death Cab for Cutie at the Chicago Theatre), for whatever reason, their set just didn't resonate with me (despite the best efforts of nearly everyone around me that night). On Saturday afternoon, however, the music I've come to admire on record finally grabbed me in the live setting.
Despite sound bleed from The Breeders on Union Park's north side, Low's Saturday set at Pitchfork was excellent: at times delicate, building on soft percussion, vocals and harmonies and eventually shifting gears toward the louder and faster (take for instance a portion of the set that featured 2005's "Monkey" and their newest single "Just Make it Stop" back to back).
I can't put my finger on exactly what it was about this set that stood out for me, because certainly Low is the type of the band that, at least on paper, should be more appealing indoors in a smaller venue with acoustics better geared toward their sound palette... but I couldn't get enough of Low on Saturday at Pitchfork.
With the majority of day two slanted in the direction of alternative and indie-rock, Solange allowed for a nice change of pace.
Beyoncé's little sister, Solange Knowles delivered a surprisingly rewarding set that, while worlds away from her sister stylistically, was packed full of catchy hooks and influences that seemed to range anywhere from soul to new wave. Plus, Knowles' most recent project True was released in November on Terrible Records, a label owned by Grizzly Bear member and Pitchfork Music Festival alum, Chris Taylor.
The ballad "T.O.N.Y." paired nicely with the easily danceable grooves of "Losing You" and showed range throughout a fun, late afternoon set.
And as rain started to fall upon Union Park again just as it had Friday evening (though in a less menacing fashion), Belle and Sebastian nevertheless began and completed their closing set on the second night of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival.
The Scottish indie-pop outfit got things moving early with a jangly rendition of "I'm a Cuckoo" second in the set.
From there, a night heavy on audience participation (both onstage and off) continued during tracks like "Dirty Dream Number Two."
And while the set was good enough, it seemed that many could've done without frontman, Stuart Murdoch's reference to Chicago's violent summer, care of a tongue in cheek request that the crowd not shoot him. "I hear there's been a lot of shootings recently" he chuckled. Nobody else did.
- Jim Ryan
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