For reuniting with great old friends and putting faces to good Internet ones, Pitchfork Music Festival rocks. The music is fine too. I especially admire the way the experiences are dispersed in a comfortable radius; if you got bored with The Men on the blue stage you could walk to the green and catch Real Estate. Blurring the line between sound check and performance, Nicholas Jaar programmed the festival’s best percussion track and coaxed rivulets of spare accompaniment from his guitarist and saxophonist. Araabmuzik made Skrillrex listenable. Lady Gaga just danced to reported new beau Danny Brown. Hot Chip assured themselves future healthy sales of a singles comp. Cloud Nothings’ eight-minute “Wasted Days” gained clarity and concision when a squaw forced roadies to cut the power to the band’s mics while beautiful evening weather didn’t do the same for Godspeed (one doesn’t go to Godspeed for clarity and concision but still). Vampire Weekend played almost the entirety of their two-album catalog (making room for song I didn’t recognize but was assured was new) and sounded as tight as Ezra Koenig’s polo jersey.
In his NYT review, Jon Caramanica observed that the festival format is cruel to young bands still shaping a sound. Concerts are always cruel to young bands. What distinguishes Pitchfork Music Festival from my other experiences is sharing opinions about what we just watched with other critics. So much of my response to the acts I saw was contingent on what I thought of the album they’re promoting. If you think Big K.R.I.T. sucks, you’re not going to watch him. But I thought Sleigh Bells’ two albums sucked and was impressed with their performance. One-dimensional Mary Chain aficionados (like the Mary Chain themselves), their arena-rock gestures and Alexis Krauss’ full embrace of quasi-stardom went over spectacularly – enough to send me scrambling back to their albums and hear what I missed. By the time the sun set, though, I sought what Wallace Stevens called a clear day and no memories. No opinions to give: no ambivalently worded encomia, no scrambled recall of an album I deleted three seconds after one listen.