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Pitchfork Day 1: Feist, Japandroids, Dirty Projectors

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Brian King of Japandroids performs Friday
at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Andrea Bauer/Sun-Times Media)

The two guys who make up Japandroids have a knack for multiplying humanity. First, guitarist Brian King (pictured) and drummer David Prowse generate enough raucous sound for a full quartet and then some. Secondly, they draw a crowd -- one of the biggest I've ever seen at Pitchfork's smaller stage under the trees.

Taking the Blue stage as the rain receded, King took responsibility. "We brought the Vancouver weather with us," he said. Because of the weather delays, their set was trimmed. "So I'm not gonna talk after this. We're just gonna cram in as many songs as we can. ... It's Friday night! Let's have some fun!"

Here are two guys definitely not sorry for party rocking. Playing several bashers from their latest album, "Celebration Rock," they filled the small space with spirited, punkish New Wave jams that electrified the large crowd -- like they did at Pitchfork back in 2008 -- and could have held down one of the main stages with atomic aplomb.

On the flip side, Dirty Projectors began their main stage set shortly after Japandroids, offering highly quirky, jazzy chamber-pop that might have been more rewarding on a smaller, more intimate stage.

A regular at Chicago outdoor festivals (Pitchfork in 2008, Downtown Sound in 2009, Lollapalooza 2010), Dirty Projectors just released "Swing Lo Magellan," a slightly more straightforward batch of songs, though that's not saying much for these herky-jerky composers. Opening the set with "Magellan" songs, Dirty Projectors presented a cool, jazzy front, mixing in prog-rock breaks and dubby bass into fractured tempos and occasionally glitchy sounds. Dave Longstreth is charismatic and creative, but he's no singer. Well into the set, the grooves began knitting together more seamlessly, and the songs that spotlighted the harmonies of the group's three women -- as on the stunning "Beautiful Mother" -- reminded me how much I used to love the Roches.


(Andrea Bauer/Sun-Times Media)

Closing out Friday's main stage was Feist, the not-so-feisty Canadian who became a darling of indie-pop years ago with a little song called "1,2,3,4," a song that wound up everywhere from iPod commercials to "Sesame Street." And she didn't play it.

What Feist did instead was put on the show she clearly intended to put on -- a patient rendering of her songs, old and new, with a decidedly earthy, rootsy palette. She even had (speaking of the Roches' harmonies) the female trio Mountain Man singing backup and wrapped in baggy, monk-like robes. Mixing new songs, from last fall's "Metals," and spacious reinterpretations of a few old ones ("Mushaboom"), Feist and her band slowly prodded her catalog. Rhythms palpitated like Native American songs, and the set started off like a bit of a wet blanket. Chatter online and on-site leading up to this set questioned whether Feist was a headliner-worthy act. As she plodded along like Jackson Browne's sister, the naysayers were winning.

Eventually, though, she cranked things up to festival level, grinding into her guitar hard enough to remind us she began her musical life in a punk band. "My Moon My Man" featured some six-string squall before its big, booming finish, and midway through the rocking backbeat of "I Feel It All" she had the whole crowd back. This ebbed and flowed, swelling again during "Comfort Me" and concluding with a self-satisfied grin.

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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on July 14, 2012 1:26 AM.

Pitchfork Day 1: A$AP Rocky vs. Big K.R.I.T. was the previous entry in this blog.

Pitchfork Day 2: 'Embrace the mud!' is the next entry in this blog.

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