Five Fast Facts: Pitchfork Festival 2011


Sadly, we weren’t able to make it out to Chicago for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, but we were closely following along at home—a task made somewhat easier this year with (now-dead) livestreams of some bands’ sets—and we wanted to share the fruits of that labor with you. So here’s what you (and we) missed:

By our count, there were three saxophonists onstage at the festival for this Summer of Sax: one as part of Destroyer‘s smooth-rock band, and two playing with Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards. Those looking for a smooth sax solo could find it at Destroyer’s set, but the harmonic and punctuating use of saxophones was a highlight of Thursday’s Tune-Yards performance at Pier 54 in New York City, and judging from this clip of “Do You Want To Live?” Friday’s Pitchfork set was no different.

Billboard reports that “Animal Collective and Curren$y had the biggest clouds of smoke during their shows,” which should surprise no one, especially since weed is the focus of many of Curren$y‘s rhymes, and Animal Collective‘s hazy art-rock has always drawn a contingent of stoner fans, especially for sets like this one which featured premieres of a number of new songs. Above is one of the older songs they played, “Did You See the Words,” from 2005’s Feels. (Eagle-eyed viewers will note that Geologist is wearing a Hausu t-shirt.) The commitment to getting high was not limited to attendees; on Sunday afternoon, a security guard doing bag checks at the entrance gates was reportedly dismissed for keeping a bag of confiscated weed for personal use.

As the temperature climbed over the weekend, the festival lowered the price on bottled water (as they had in past years) and gave away water to the first 6000 attendees on Saturday and Sunday. Also in full force at the festival gates all weekend: Axe Body Spray representatives, handing out free samples all weekend, to the chagrin of a number of attendees (if Twitter is to be believed). Axe’s two-person Twitter street team was also in full effect. Perhaps the only giveaway that made its recipients more uncomfortable than Axe’s was Odd Future, who closed out their expletive-laden set with “Radicals,” as seen above. Their handout? Cupcakes for the anti-Odd Future protesters.

TV on the Radio covered Fugazi (above). No Age covered The Misfits. James Blake covered Feist (okay, so “Limit To Your Love” is on his album, but still). Darkstar covered Human League (again, yes, it’s in their repertoire). The Dismemberment Plan covered Robyn (as the requisite insert in the middle of “OK, Joke’s Over”). The explicit exception: Thurston Moore, who reportedly responded to a shouted request for his band Sonic Youth‘s 1988 single “Teenage Riot” with the wry “We don’t do covers.”

This year’s particularly eclectic festival lineup skewed closer to more mainstream festivals’ lineups than Pitchforks past. In 2010, for example, bands like Lightning Bolt and rappers like Big Boi seemed the exception to an overall vibe of chillwave and hazy guitars constituting a summery sonic palette overall. This year’s lineup was a mishmash of indie-rock reunions, mainstage DJs (rather than a DJ tent), nineties-throwback bands, and more. And yet a band that has been quietly plugging away for two decades may have stolen the show. Judging from fan reaction around the internet (e.g. on Twitter) Superchunk turned out the festival’s best set, yet another in what’s now a 22-year run of astonishingly good indie rock shows. Despite the universal raves, though, Superchunk will likely remain interminably underrated. We don’t know why—apparently it’s just the band’s lot in life.

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