Yesterday I went with my friend Eric to go to the Pitchfork Festival. He contacted me late Thursday with an offer I couldn’t refuse – a free ticket and a ride to the event which was taking place at Union Park, just west of downtown Chicago. The free ride turned out to be most useful, since all the vehicles in our family were spoken for on Saturday. Three cars and four drivers occasionally makes for some awkward moments, but Eric was kind enough to be my chauffeur, as long as I played navigator.
Parking was pretty easy, as there was lots of nearby on street spaces. Many people rode their bikes or took the el, which stopped right next to the park.
Just as we arrived the Jon Spencer Blues explosion was taking the stage, the alt-punk-garage. My best description of the set would be “Blistering.” They were loud, incredibly tight, and owned the stage and the crowd. I was tired just from watching. Or at least I thought so, until I realized we were still in the hot sunlight. I didn’t know any of the songs, but apparently they have a sizeable cult following, and many in the audience knew the material and bopped along with it. It was terrific stuff. Check out the YouTube video to see what I’m talking about.
Next we grabbed some dinner at the food area. Goose Island had a chipotle chicken sandwich that was delicious. I topped it off with a chocolate brownie from The Berghoff. Those were just two of the numerous restaurants set up to sell food and drink. There was an entire vending area that we never even got to see, but I’m told had a giant record mart among other fare for sale.
After that we went back to the music area. The goal was to get a spot to see the headliner, LCD Soundsystem. But first, we checked out Panda Bear. The only Panda is Noah Lennox, an expat living in Portugal, who also a member of the band Animal Collective.. His wailing, electronic sound made me think – Gregorian Monks on acid. Didn’t do much for me, but the video screen footage had a Pink Floyd quality to the presentation.
Two songs into the set, we decided to move over to the other stage, which was setting up for LCD. Good idea, since it was already crowded, more than an hour before show time. We could still hear the Panda, and see the video screen from our new spot in the thick of the gathering crowd.
LCD did not disappoint, by the time they hit the stage the crowd was already jumping and pumping in anticipation. My best description of the show would be pulsating and exhilarating.
The New-York based band (actually in the studio, it is simply James Murphy all the instruments including drums, programming, synthesizer, piano, bass, guitar, percussion, clavinet, organ, glockenspiel, kalimba, and claps with some assistance from his stage mates,) was also tight-knit, and enjoying themselves as much as the crowd. Murphy seemed quite impressed by the ovations and crowd response.
The music itself seems rooted in late seventies David Bowie, Brian Eno,Talking Heads and Adrian Belew-era King Crimson. The set included “Pow Pow,” “Drunk Girls,” and “You Wanted A Hit” from their latest release “This is Happening.” Also featured were “Us V Them,” “Time to Get Away” and the show’s closer “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” LCD’s second release “Sound of Silver” from 2007. I highly recommend both albums.
All in all it was a fantastic afternoon/evening. The crowd was very well behaved. The security people were good about giving bottled water out and occasionally spraying water into the crowd on a very warm and sticky day.
The festival concludes today with “Pavement” as the headliner. Union Park is at Ashland and Lake Street. website: Pitchforkfestival.com