The 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival was a lot like The Rock’s signature finishing move, The People’s Elbow. While executing this move, The Rock runs back and forth between the ropes…Pitchfork Fest found us running back and forth between stages to catch our favorite acts. Before dealing a punishing final blow, The Rock performs some crazy, erratic leg movements…us WUOGgers danced too! Finally, like Dwayne Johnson’s elbow, our favorite musical acts hit hard and stuck with us. Here’s a rundown of those acts. – JJ Posway
I’ve written about Trash Talk a few times for WUOG this year alone and nothing has really changed (besides their drummer). Their sets are always filled with raucous, violent energy. Lee Spielman is always the nicest, most accommodating front man ever. I’m always hesitantly far away from the mosh pit sipping on a beer. The faces in the crowd may change but the story always stays the same. I wouldn’t change it for the world. – Nathan Kerce
Joanna Newsom’s small, understated sundown set was one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend and it did not disappoint. It was just her, her big ass harp and a piano, nothing else was needed. She played a few crowd favorites and at least two new songs (off an album coming somewhere in early 2014 according to my sources). Her signature weird faces and the occasional goofy accent/mouth noise were in full effect, inciting a lot of surprised reactions from Newsom newbies killing time before Bjork. While I prefer Joanna Newsom sets entrenched in material from specific albums, this was a nice stopgap set that left me feeling very pleasant. – Nathan Kerce
As Joanna Newsom serenaded the grounds from the Red Stage, people started to camp out for Björk at the Green. After being continually reminded in several different languages that we were not to film Björk, Graduale Nobili, the all-female Icelandic choir supporting her on the Biophilia tour filed out onto the stage. In a show full of spectacles including a video of a decaying seal, crazy headdresses and harnessed lightning, the choir was the most entertaining part. Though Björk sounded amazing as ever, the choir made the performance – providing the string parts to “Hunter” with their voices alone, throwing their weight behind set highlight “Crystalline” and simply enhancing the atmosphere by dancing to a booming rendition of “Army of Me.”
Let’s not forget the woman herself though. As previously mentioned, her voice was in top form, especially while thanking the audience. Every 2-3 songs she’d usher a shrill, adorable “thank you” heavy with her Icelandic accent. It seems most reviews of Björks live show mention that so I will too. Besides thanking the audience she also delivered her parts with the appropriate fervor or delicacy. She nearly put her studio version of “Jóga” to shame, especially with a slowed a cappella outro.
Unfortunately, right before she was set to perform what would’ve probably been a set highlight, the heart-wrenching “Hyperballad,” she informed us that the staff had cut the show short due to weather. An obviously disappointed Björk muttered into the mic that the darkening sky “wouldn’t be much in Iceland.” – JJ Posway
After Björk’s set got cut short, our Pitchfork crew headed over to an Urban Outfitters/Making Time after-party featuring Chromatics and Classixx. Unfortunately on our way over, the sky finally decided to open up on the hoards of people outside. Men and women swarmed into the bus station, we took shelter under a nearby awning, streetlights flickered on and off and ambulances whizzed by, sirens blaring. Highly evolved dogs roamed the street looking to feed on bewildered festival attendees. I literally watched the moon plummet from the sky and obliterate half the city.* Welcome to Apocalypse Chicago.
Thankfully the rain thinned out and we made it to the Mid, a small nightclub delightfully appropriate for Chromatics druggy Italo disco. After I devoured my leftover pre-Björk pizza slice inconspicuously on the dance floor and Classixx revived the crowd, Johnny Jewel and co. took the stage without singer Ruth Radelet to perform their signature instrumental, “Tick of the Clock.” One solitary light spun slowly behind the band, changing colors every so often and bathing the room in red, purple and blue.
Radelet finally emerged looking unbelievably put-together, decked out in a sparkling gold dress. She showcased all the detached beauty of her voice on the next track “Lady.”
Following “Lady” Radelet donned her guitar, sheer black outfitted with a mirrored pickguard (matching Adam Miller’s), and the band looked into the crowd with the confidence I’m sure many bands experience before they launch into one of their most beloved songs. In this case it was “Kill for Love,” an obvious set highlight. When the band closed their set with their cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” they must’ve felt just as confident with their well thought out, venue-appropriate set. – JJ Posway
*Thankfully Björk and her crack team of scientists were able to hoist the moon back into the sky using sheer willpower. However, due to the damage sustained by the fallen moon, its position in the sky is predicted to last for only about 8 more years, after which it will plummet again likely destroying entire cities. Earth’s best scientists are currently working on a solution.
Pissed Jeans early afternoon set was easily the funniest act of the entire festival. Sweaty front man Matt Korvette ripped his way through multiple Tito’s Homemade Vodka branded tanktops as he stumbled around the stage joking about “making Björk money” and messing with people in the audience (the members of Savages, who were walking through the crowd, seemed less than impressed by his antics and promptly left after one song). Whenever Matt took the time to occasionally sing/scream a song, Pissed Jeans lived up to their reputation as one of the most solid punk bands on the scene in several years. – Nathan Kerce
Poor Julia Holter, stuck performing her pristine, ambient pop during the same slot as Pissed Jeans. An entire field of separation couldn’t stop their sound from bleeding into Holter’s, even towards the front of the stage. She handled it with grace though, performing her delicate nighttime music in broad daylight. She’s added two more members to her live group since I saw her last at Moogfest 2012, a violinist and saxophonist joining the usual Julia (keyboard and vocals)/drums/cello arrangement. Opening with Ekstasis closer “This Is Ekstasis,” the band eased into the song so casually it took the crowd a minute to quiet down and notice that the band had started. Again, perfect for Julia Holter, but the early timeslot rendered it slightly awkward. Highlights included “Our Sorrows” and wistful set closer “Goddess Eyes.” – JJ Posway
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Ever since I first heard them in high school, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have been on my bucket list of bands to see before I die. It was one of the few acts I made it up front-and-center for and thankfully their rip-roaring, angsty prog-rock lived up to my boyhood expectations. I was worried by the warnings of other people up front that their recent live shows have been heavy on mediocre Tao of the Dead material but I could breathe a heavy sigh of relief once they jumped into “It Was There That I Saw You” for their opener. They also played a few new songs that signified plenty of positive things to come from the band that had both the highest and lowest Pitchfork album review scores of anyone playing the festival. – Nathan Kerce
Savages paid little mind to the Chicago heat, taking the stage in all black. A grimacing Jehnny Beth prowled as the band opened with Silence Yourself opener “Shut Up.” One thing that immediately struck me was their mesmerizing bassist. Ayşe Hassan shared the same stony onstage personality as the other members of Savages, but her seemingly effortless execution of their technical bass parts made her all the more intriguing.
It’s hard to look much more intriguing than the other members of the band though. Never once breaking character, the instrumentalists stood sullenly as a continuously concerned-looking Beth made jagged movements, peering into the crowd as she sang. Highlights included “Strife,” a sneering “Fuckers” and the always fantastic, set-closing “Husbands.”
The most memorable part of Savages Pitchfork set was a particularly inspired “She Will.” “This one’s for the ladies,” announced Beth. The girl next to me was going nuts and though the song wasn’t necessarily played for me, I certainly felt like I was part of something, watching an all-female band throw their songwriting and live performance skill in the face of the doubters and detractors. – JJ Posway
Ryan Hemsworth may have not sampled any Drake songs like I guessed he would in my pre-coverage (though I swear I heard clips from a Drake interview somewhere deep in the background) but he still turned in a typically creative and crowd-pleasing set of cloud beats and interpolations of your favorite bangers. There was a particular beautiful moment where Hemsworth transitioned from A$AP Ferg’s “Work (Remix)” into a sample of a Kenny G sax solo (confused by the crowd reaction, his only retort was “you guys fuck with Kenny G!?”) into a triumphant closing remix of “Bound 2” by Yeezus himself. It was one of the most memorable DJ sets I’ve seen at a festival and my personal pick for best performance of the weekend. – Nathan Kerce
The Breeders decided to open with a cover of the Guided By Voices song, “Shocker In Gloomtown,” a decision surely felt by one Lawson Chambers* miles away. At its conclusion (when Lawson stopped whatever he was doing, struck by how strangely content with human existence he felt), Kim Deal announced that the reunited classic Breeders lineup would be performing their classic 1993 LP, Last Splash. This was explicitly foretold on the Pitchfork bill but still exciting.
The Breeders superfan in front of me cheered loudly as the band performed the album with extreme attention to detail. They brought out that vocoder for the chorus of “Cannonball,” played background noise for “Roi” and even sent bassist Josephine Wiggs back to the drums for a song because that’s how they recorded it. The only differences were found in the vocals. It seemed Kim wanted to stretch phrases out as long as she could and Kelley enjoyed playing with the inflection of her vocals on set highlight “I Just Wanna Get Along.” Other highlights included a jubilant “Divine Hammer,” a serene “Drivin’ on 9” accented by Carrie Bradley’s violin solo, the band actually fulfilling a fan’s request for “Oh!” and Wiggs’ dry wit. – JJ Posway
*If you are reading this and do not know Lawson Chambers, he loves Guided By Voices and he really digs The Breeders too. He hosts the ‘90s indie/alt show Perfect Sound Forever – check it out some time.
It’s safe to say at this point Solange has outgrown the shadow of her older sister (as well as her previous career peak as the singer of The Proud Family theme song). Her breezy, soulful outpouring of joy was easily one of the highlights of the festival. Performing most of the material from her True EP along with a cover of Dirty Projector’s “Stillness is the Move,” Solange wowed the crowd with synchronized dance moves and a straightforward, positive-pop presentation free of cynicism or elitism. It was a big, mainstream moment and everything about it was just right. – Nathan Kerce
Belle and Sebastian
I camped at the front for four hours to be close for this show and I was not disappointed. Set against a giant backdrop depicting the album cover of upcoming Push Barman to Open Old Wounds companion piece, The Third Eye Centre, the band emerged with more than a dozen members to perform the instrumental Legal Man B-side “Judy Is A Dickslap.” It worked surprisingly well as an overture, building even further excitement. That excitement came to a head when Mick Cooke finally added his trumpet to the equation, a familiar sound to Belle and Sebastian fans.
Following “Judy,” the band maintained their momentum with Dear Catastrophe Waitress standout “I’m A Cuckoo.” Stuart Murdoch pranced around the stage, made gestures and generally looked as whimsical and wistful as his best songs. The kitschiness of his onstage persona was fitting for a man who actively portrays himself as “bookish.” During the band’s ode to another not-so-macho boy, “Lord Anthony,” Murdoch made his way onto the rail where fans reached out to him or took 80 pictures on their camera phone (I only took like 4 because I’m superior). For another Dear Catastrophe cut, fan favorite “Piazza, New York Catcher,” Murdoch sat on the edge of the stage, dangling his legs back and forth as he sang pleasantly. It was all very Belle and Sebastian really.
Incredibly tight musicians, the players on stage produced near immaculate recreations of each song’s studio incarnation. Though this live practice sometimes deflates the energy of a song, B&S were only guilty on a few occasions, surprisingly managing to make mid-tempo twee-pop sound arena-ready. The massive sounding twee-drop (just coined it, pay me) after the second chorus of set-closer “Judy and the Dream of Horses,” was perhaps the best example and by far my favorite part of the show. The sheer joy lingered in the crowd, by now nearly soaked by the persistent drizzling, into their encore of “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying.”
Other personal set highlights include “Dirty Dream Number Two,” “If You’re Feeling Sinister,” “Your Cover’s Blown” and “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” during which selected audience members danced onstage through to the next song, “Legal Man.” Though “Boy with the Arab Strap,” sounded magnificent live the song soon became a vehicle for the girl in the polka-dot dress to showcase her dance moves. Though only one girl got to show off her stunning dance moves I think Belle and Sebastian’s set provided a satisfying end to Day 2. – JJ Posway
I saw Rustie at SXSW in a dark warehouse and he blew me away. He played a very similar (and shorter) set for Pitchfork Festival and if I’m being honest (and I swear, I am), I was a little disappointed. He ran through his two new singles and old classics like “Surph” but the truncated runtime, tired insertion of another Danny Brown verse and odd remix choices he made didn’t really make me feel like skipping Belle and Sebastian was worth it to see him for the second time this year. I still love Rustie but I might wait a bit before I decide to take time out to see him again. – Nathan Kerce
TREE and his crew were dressed in their Sunday best as they performed the best material off his newly released Sunday School II mixtape. Songs like “The King” and “Hurt” were the perfect jams for a sunny summer morning in Chicago. It was also fun seeing “White Girls” get backup vocals from an honest-to-god white woman. I will say that TREE did seem to overly rely on his hype men to back him up on his verses (sometimes it felt like he never said more than three words at a time) but it was still an enjoyable and humble performance from one of the best up-and-coming rappers out of the city. – Nathan Kerce
I arrived to DJ Rashad’s set a little late because I wanted to catch some of Tree, but it was a fantastic set. Kind of a weird way to kick off the morning though. They had some dude on stage showing off his best footwork moves and that was neat. DJ Spinn was there too. Short set, short review. – JJ Posway
It’s not really clear whether Foxygen’s wackiness is contrived or really ripping the band apart. I tend to lean towards the former, but its interesting enough to watch the act, even if the mic-thumping, stage climbing b(r)attiness of Sam France is fake.
With the theatrics and Rolling Stones-esque psych rock comes a certain crowd, a mix of the kind of guys who talk down to you about being the fifth row back at the last AnCo show (even though he was like twenty) and the group of girls yelling over the music, bragging about how they are going to mosh at Blood Orange. Stereotyped, but generally consistent with the general surroundings of the Red Stage on Sunday.
“On Blue Mountain” was the show opener and the frenetic high point of the show. The glory of the Space Jam website was referenced and “Shuggie” was just okay. Pretty much what you would expect, minus what I considered to be an obligatory appearance of “San Fransico.” – Will Guerin
Autre Ne Veut
Arthur Ashin AKA Autre Ne Veut’s performance was a pretty significant step up from what I caught of him at SXSW. It seems the voice strain that I would have initially pegged as sickness or fatigue is just part of how he sounds live so while he does have trouble hitting the high notes, the raw emotion is still there. He exclusively performed material from his sophomore album Anxiety (including an excellent mash up of “World War” with Whitney Houston’s “How Do I Know?”), got to do some tinkering around on his piano and seemed genuinely grateful for the passion and size of the crowd. There was a distracting bit of set dressing in the form of two pairs of gloved gentleman holding up blank frames (mimicking Anxiety’s album cover) behind Ashin for the entire set. These large, wooden frames seemed extraordinarily heavy and one guy in particular was struggling to keep his end held up. Their pained faces took a little bit away from what was otherwise a beautiful performance. – Nathan Kerce
Run the Jewels
After Killer Mike’s excellent Green stage set some people decided to go see The Braves take on the White Sox but most people walked directly over to the Red stage to catch El-P perform.While I would have been perfectly fine with a dedicated set from El-P, I was still absolutely thrilled when after only two songs (“Drones Over BKLYN” and “The Full Retard” aka El’s two most potent bangers off Cancer 4 Cure), Killer Mike came out on stage and a full blown Run the Jewels show began. They ran through most of their material off the new self-titled album as well as a few songs they have done together from their solo albums. It was one of the most carefree, hyperactive and nonstop acts of the entire festival. Mike and El only occasionally took a breather to plug their new Run the Jewels branded beer which, appropriately, smells like weed. – Nathan Kerce
Yo La Tengo
It took me about fifteen minutes before I could talk about the band’s near twenty-minute closer “Blue Line Swinger” without having my voice waver, eyes water or chin tremble. Even after that, all I could manage was a repeating cycle of awe-struck mutterings accompanied by a heavy sigh.
I had just seen a band perform with an uncompromised fervency for something they still loved after 28 years and realized that I could never relate how those last twenty minutes made me feel. And worse yet, I realized how shallow and feeble any attempts would be and how cheesy it would play out in words.
I’m reluctant to ever listen to “Blue Line Swinger” again and taint the 10-minute buildup of distorted, out of tune guitar abuse; deranged and struggling against the imposed structural beat, a chugging finality that eventually washes over the madman but never quite secures the straitjacket on the jagged barbs of Kaplan’s guitar. I want it to remain as Ira insulting his guitar, wrenching it wildly in a kinesthetic attempt to embody his guitar’s simultaneously gaunt and drenched feedback, as Georgia Hubley cuts through to intone “Out of darkness you will come around, I know you will.”
A man so far removed from rock stardom, with grass stains on his blue jeans and sweat stains on his white shirt, joking about opening for R. Kelly (he reported the band had toured with him in Europe) and content with leaving the stage with a simple wave of his hand. He ignores, and doesn’t try to make the R. Kelly waiting crowd believe anything about him, but just tries to relate the lines that wrinkle his face. – Will Guerin
Lil B’s hyped-up, intense and sometimes rambling set didn’t quite match the more intimate and seriously spiritual experience I had during his spot at Coachella a few years ago. However, as always, BasedGod’s positive energy and enlightened attitude shined down on all those who were willing to listen. We were mainly treated to the more turnt-up singles from Lil B’s unbelievably large discography. “Ellen Degeneres” and “Wonton Soup” may have got the crowd moving (amidst warnings from Lil B that the sexual explicitness of some of his lyrics was a joke) but it was the emotional honesty behind closer “I Love You” (which he performed twice in a row, once completely a capella) that made this something to remember. Many people may see Lil B as nothing more than some kind of walking meme but it was clear from how he jumped in the front row and hugged his adoring, crying fans that nothing could be further from the truth. Lil B is real, now it’s up to you to believe. – Nathan Kerce
The band had to rush just to make it on stage ten minutes after their scheduled start time. Consequentially, the crowd was forced to suffer through 15 minutes of hissing, microphone feedback in addition to the fucking Pop-Chips beach balls that were littered around every stage on Sunday. Chairlift’s Caroline Aiken likes to carry a cheesy, heart on sleeve enthusiasm into her live performances and it just didn’t work very well on Sunday. The band’s compulsory hits were performed (“Bruises, “I Belong In Your Arms”) but seemed barren with just the band’s main trio performing stripped down arrangements of their classics. Three new songs made appearances with varied success, accompanied by the questionably high, unbelievably smiley saxophonist (who also joined Julia Holter), who stole the show with his enraptured, close-eyed bliss. – Will Guerin
M.I.A. did everything right for her set. She had impressive lighting, she played pretty much every hit she has ever had and threw in a few new songs as well. Unfortunately, her performance was plagued with bad mixing and sound problems that turned the whole thing into a near incomprehensible blast of noise. There was constant mic feedback and on more than one occasion Maya ripped out her earpiece in frustration. Still, she fought through it like a champ and for the people up at the front where the sound would have deafened them anyway; it still must have been an incredible time. Also it appeared as if they were filming a music video, though I can’t imagine that footage could have been any good. – Nathan Kerce
Even though the Blue Stage seemed to be the waiting room for TNGHT and the frustrated masses who were turned away from MIA’s immense crowd, Ida No and Johnny Jewel (of Chromatics fame) ended up with the haunted, albeit clichéd, discothèque they work towards. Ms. No (not yet a certified MD) played the part of the somewhat ditzy, oblivious, Barbie doll, strutting around the stage with her choreographed dance moves and excess of towels which she was more than happy to disperse to the crowd (yes, they did fight over them like a pack of hungry wolves).
If Jewel’s other project, Chromatics, could be criticized for anything, it would have to be its insistence to hide behind the somewhat detached, snythy smoke and mirrors it hides behind. No’s vocals and exuberant stage personality correct and maybe overcompensate, as her shrieks and yelps cut through Jewel’s more dance-centric compositions. As the set wore on, thoughts of returning to catch “Paper Planes” faded and I was more than happy to dip my head, close my eyes and dance; encouraged by a crowd that ended up taking a crowd surfing Ida No past the sound-booth and refused to let her go. – Will Guerin
It’s clear that R. Kelly’s festival sets at this point are designed to please any and every fan he has, casual or hardcore. Running through nearly forty songs medley style, Kelly reflected over his entire twenty-plus year career and fourteen album discography. No stone was left unturned (unless you’re a big fan of Batman anthem “Gotham City”) as the audience danced to “Ignition (Remix)” and more obscure/ridiculous fare like “In the Kitchen” with equal levels of enthusiasm. There was plenty of sing-talking about inane things like towels and working out (as prophesized by Aziz Ansari’s now classic standup routine about his love for the singer) and a grandiose finish involving a performance of “I Believe I Can Fly” and a giant release of white, dove-shaped balloons. It was a summer blockbuster-level performance and as a massive fan of R. Kelly it was anything I could have ever wanted (yes, I shed a tear during “I Wish”). – Nathan Kerce
I’m incredibly glad I watched R. Kelly perform “Ignition (Remix)” before heading over to TNGHT. I was right on time and I’m confident that his performance left me a better person who will lead a more fulfilling life.
However, one could argue that TNGHT put on just as memorable a performance. Though they didn’t release hundreds of inflatable doves into the air at the climax of “Goooo” they did put on one of the weekend’s most unbridled shows. You can check out one of the videos on my phone if you’d like. Lights flashed wildly, Lunice occasionally danced in front of the DJ rig and the crowd burned the last of their energy left over from the previous three days.
Hudson Mohawke later tweeted a picture of the crowd, the only time he’s ever done that supposedly. If you look closely at the bottom right you can see my head poking through the 3-4 people in front of me, it’s really neat.
It was obvious Mohawke was feeling good though, he wore a constant grin, letting Lunice do the crowd work while he calmly manned the rig. My favorite HudMo-centric moment though was when the duo transitioned into a version of his killer “Furnace Loop” mashed up with GOOD Music’s “Mercy.” As if that weren’t enough to make this performance noteworthy, the duo proceeded from “Furnace Loop” into “Bugg’n,” Kanye West’s TNGHT-produced Yeezus standout “Blood on the Leaves,” the duo’s masterstroke “Higher Ground” and finally into their remix of West’s “Cold.”
TNGHT’s set was the most energetic I witnessed, rivaled only by Run The Jewels and M.I.A, and easily one of my favorites. The icing on the cake was that I got back to R. Kelly just in time to catch him close with “I Believe I Can Fly” where he released hundreds of inflatable doves into the air at the climax. – JJ Posway
We had a great time at the 2013 Pitchfork Fest, hopefully we’ll see you guys again next year!