Pitchfork Festival 2016 — Day One

Hi, Chicago! The forecast kept changing: what the Weather Channel predicted to be a crisp afternoon with light sun turned into a cool afternoon with a sky of impenetrable grey offering the occasional damp mist. The climate reflected the lineup on the first afternoon and evening of Pitchfork Festival 2016: predictable but with unexpected and welcome demonstrations of warmth, redundancy forgotten but not transcended. I chose not to watch Beach House for the fourth time or Shamir’s second consecutive appearance and missed Mick Jenkins, one of the festival’s few hip hop artists booked this year.

Here are Friday’s highlights:

Julia Holter: Full disclosure: she bores me. However, I arrived a few minutes before start time, and Pitchfork is the sort of buffet whose items I want to sample even if I’m haunted by memories of runny omelets and bad coffee. Standing at the keyboard while a violinist sawed at gentle notes, she gamely played compositions — don’t ever say “tunes” — from 2015’s Have You In My Wilderness, hailed as a pop breakthrough in some quarters but in the open air sounded like footprints on snow. She might have impressed in a small club, I’ll grant. If she’d slipped a Beach House, ah, tune into her set, would anyone have noticed?

Carly Rae Jepsen: Wearing boots as sparkly as her material, the Canadian quasi pop star drew a strong crowd in general admission who gamely pumped their fists through “Making the Most of the Night” and “Boy Problems.” “Gamely” because for all its acclaim E•MO•TION sold bupkis in America, and few things depress me more than failed pop crossovers; it’s possible that this fervent crowd represented the sum total of the people who’d bought or streamed E•MO•TION in America. Nevertheless, she connected, thanks to a voice suppler and stronger than I predicted.

Twin Peaks: These native sons like the Raspberries and the Strokes, two influences as durable as dandruff. Down in Heaven, released in May, slows down the tempos, a move which doesn’t result in the usual farrago (“Cold Lips” might be the sturdiest thing they’ve ever recorded). Live, playing Catch the Influence got boring. The mildest of “not bad”s.

Broken Social Scene: Thrashing through a pummeling set, the Torontonians made the most of a concept that often boasts as many members on stage as peak P-Funk. But they avoid the groove like a pothole in the road, preferring the aural equivalent of a concrete divider separating express from the crowded lanes on interstates: thick, formidable, impenetrable. Six years since Forgiveness Rock Record and Broken Social Scene played as if touring behind their first record, true believers in it to convert skeptics. In an on-point gesture, they played “Superconnected” and “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” back to back, knowing what they had wrought and for whom they were intended.

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