Doom does his thing at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Sun-Times photo by Oscar Lopez.
"I've made so many friends today, it's awesome!"
It wasn't too surprising to hear this exclamation from a festival-goer as he headed out of Union Park on Saturday night, following the final notes of The National's headlining set at Day 2 of the Pitchfork Music Festival. Friendliness is (mostly) the standard in Union Park, and you're never lacking for conversation starters, whether they're fashion- or music-related. We caught several people bonding under the porous cover of the trees during Yeasayer's rainy afternoon set - and only one moment of conflict, during the Black Lips' closing performance on the Balance stage. Say what you will about hipsters (and everyone does), but they sure make it easy on security.
Music-wise, Jim DeRogatis has things mostly covered in his Day 2 recap; we'll echo his thoughts on the highlights of the day: Yeasayer was sublime, offering a perfect mix of percussion and acoustic jams to get the crowd through the occasional bouts of precipitation. And Doom's set was solid, as the feathered camo suit-wearing rapper tore through a set of songs from all his alter-egos, including King Geedorah ("The Fine Print") and Viktor Vaughn ("Rhymes Like Dimes"), plus plenty of songs off the now-classic "Madvillainy" collaboration with Madlib (including "All Caps") and his later release with Danger Mouse ("Benzie Box"). After all we'd heard about his lackluster performances in the past, we were pleasantly surprised - even though we were across the field for much of it (and so weren't able to tell if he was lip-synching, as the Tribune's Greg Kot claims), waiting for Beirut to hit the stage.
We'll respectfully disagree with DeRo's comments on this one, which we felt was a success -- though it could be a bit hard for a casual fan to differentiate one horn-laden ballad from the next, Zach Condon and his bandmates (and especially the drummer, with his near-constant goofy grin) were fun to watch, offering solid versions of "Elephant Gun," "Postcards From Italy" and "Mimizan" (the set opener, off the recent charity compilation "Dark Was the Night," put together by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National). We kind of liked the ukulele, too -- though we could've done without all the French Condon spoke in between songs.
In any case, we were ready for a shot of energy after the show, so we skipped past the sizable crowds heading to see The National. Lead singer Matt Berninger's low rumble is great, but the band's often sleepy sound wasn't what we needed at that moment. The Black Lips' garage rock (with many more '60s pop and doo-wop influences than we remember from their record) turned out to be just what we needed. The show was not quite as crazy as we'd been led to believe (save for the guitar-smashing after the first song), and the sound could've been a little louder, but these guys have some seriously catchy songs ("Short Fuse," "Cold Hands") that make you want to bop around, if not crowd-surf, which a few people in front were doing. It was enough to convince you, as the band suggested mid-set, that Pitchfork may have underrated their last album with a 7.4.
We managed to make it back to the Aluminum stage for the final songs of The National's performance, which, by all accounts, was one of the strongest shows of the weekend. As we lay in the grass, serenaded by the brass horns of "Fake Empire," we reflected on an enjoyable day of sights and sounds. And as the extended encore faded out, we got up, brushed off, and went to meet some friends.
For more takes on Day 2 at Pitchfork, check out these links:
Greg Kot's informative running diary gives some love to Yeasayer and makes Doom look bad.
NewCity runs down the day, from early afternoon sets from Cymbals Eat Guitars and Antlers to evening fun from Wavves and Lindstrom.
Metromix dug Matt & Kim and the Black Lips.
Windy Citizen gives The National a good review, and examines the cost of a day at the fest.