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Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: The index

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Ezra Koenig (left) and Chris Baio perform with Vampire Weekend
on Sunday night at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

The 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival concluded Sunday night with three final acts touching on each strength this locally produced marquee has demonstrated over the years: dependable college rock (Vampire Weekend), noodling electronic mood music (Beach House) and a curious, tucked away experimental surprise (The Field).

Three days down, 47 acts on three stages, Pitchfork 2012 was a mixed bag -- more mixed than usual, really -- with a full-capacity sell-out only on Saturday.

Pitchfork Day 3: Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar

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Rapper Kendrick Lamar (left) performs Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival
in Chicago, while visiting Lady Gaga (right) looks on.
(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

Straight outta Compton, rapper Kendrick Lamar earned a huge crowd at Pitchfork's smaller Blue stage on Sunday. Were they all drawn by Lamar's hard-as-nails flow? Not quite.

Lady Gaga was there to see him.

You read that right. Lamar, you see, keeps excellent company.

Pitchfork Day 3: Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, more

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Ty Segall has help from the crowd as he returns to the stage while body surfing near the end of his set at Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

The only thing that made Sunday afternoon's block of garage rock at Pitchfork 2012 more scorching and thrilling was the camaraderie between two of the acts.

"Hey, Ty Segall!" John Dwyer shouted from Pitchfork's smaller Blue stage. "Can you hear us?"

Dwyer leads Thee Oh Sees, the prolific Bay Area pysch-rock band (four albums in three years) with the ever-evolving name (OCS, the O.C.'s, the Ohsees). Sunday his band started a half hour before the like-minded Segall on the larger Red stage, and Dwyer knew a lot of fans were torn by the scheduling -- and planning to bolt. "Don't go," he pleaded limply. "Stay!"

Pitchfork Day 3: The wooden letters

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(Photo by Zachary James Johnston)

Fans who visited the Blue stage this weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival took a moment or two to decipher Matthew Hoffman's plywood sculpture (above).

In letters 8-feet tall and spanning 80 feet atop the park's west fence, Hoffman spelled out, "THESE MOMENTS."

Mind you, this is the Pitchfork Music Festival, not another World's Columbian Exposition. Nonetheless, in one corner of Chicago's Union Park during this weekend's annual indie-rock fest, there was a contraption called the Electromusical Energy Visualizer.

Saturday's Pitchfork headliners both seemed like mixed bags -- especially to the hundreds of people who stuck with them for two songs and then bolted (I've never seen such an exodus on a Saturday night at Pitchfork) -- but each earned their keep in drastically different ways.

On the main stage, the mysterious and expansive Godspeed You! Black Emperor confounded the curious and exalted the faithful. Reunited after a seven-year hiatus, the nine-member Montreal collective (last here in March 2011, just after reuniting) demonstrated why they are both revered and ignored, building a typical set that was all dynamics but little depth.

Pitchfork Day 2: Sleigh Bells and a mixed bag

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Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells on Saturday
at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Chandler West/Sun-Times)

Saturday was a day of mixed reviews. The weather: dreadful at first, delightful by nightfall. Mobile service: some hilarious tweets, though several of them were delivered two hours late. The video screen: beautifully clear this year, even though its images always seemed brighter and sunnier than reality.

Music, too. Sleigh Bells, for starters. Their reign of terror on the evening main stage alternated between hard-hitting and plain silly.

Pitchfork Day 2: Flying Lotus, Wild Flag

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Carrie Brownstein in the zone with her band, Wild Flag,
on Saturday at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Photos by Chandler West/Sun-Times)

Pitchfork's blessing and its curse can be the diversity of its programming. Saturday's schedule was proof of these extremes -- a broadly inconsistent day -- but sometimes the swing between extremes really crackle, as it did Saturday afternoon with two divergent but equally exciting sets.

p4kflylo.JPGFirst, California DJ Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison, pictured) quickly dispatched all who doubted that one man and a turntable deck could hold down one of Pitchfork's main stages. An odd booking, perhaps, but in the glare of post-rain sun, his charisma and cheer -- not to mention a wise selection of tracks for his target audience (Kanye West & Jay-Z, Odd Future, Erykah Badu and more were in his fluid mixes) -- were infectious. When he tweaked the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic," the crowd -- already pogoing in the slop -- went berserk. When his time was up, he kept spinning and few argued.

Follow that postmodern party with a purely old-school guitar band. The inimitable Wild Flag continued knitting a '60s psych-rock thread that started on Friday with Outer Minds and Olivia Tremor Control.

Pitchfork Day 2: 'Embrace the mud!'

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The real cutting-edge at Pitchfork 2012. (Thomas Conner/Sun-Times)

After Friday's soggy opening, the second day of the 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago's Union Park received another soaking early in the afternoon. But a little rain failed to dampen the spirits of the sold-out crowd.

Festival organizers acted quickly to manage the puddles and mud patches, laying down clay and plastic decking, and pumping where necessary.

As one festivalgoer said, though, leading several around her in a chant: "Embrace the mud!"

Thomas Conner

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


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