Pitchfork Music Festival: Saturday recap

Saturday’s lineup of legends of mosh-worthy favorites made it by far my most anticipated day of the weekend. Besides, I had not gotten sunburned despite forgetting rule number one of music festivals, and a splash of iced coffee left me walking into Union Park shortly before 1 p.m. stoked to see a group of young musicians I had not seen for a year.

The band, of course, was Twin Peaks, the Chicago based group of young garage rockers who owe much of their homegrown success to ruling the DIY circuit. Despite touring across the country last fall, they have been strong advocates of local music; they about to tour with local super-pop outfit The Lemons and, later, Ne-Hi.

Lead singer Cadien Lake James was rolled onto the stage in a wheelchair with a broken leg which, according to MTV, resulted carrying Mario Cuomo of Chicago peers The Orwells on his back. James crossed his legs, propped up his guitar, and leaned into his low-tilted microphone to break into “Sunken” opener “Stand in the Sand”.

“Look—we’re on TV!” said bassist Jack Dolan, pointing at the live feed streaming on the adjacent stage. It is rare for bands to seem genuinely excited to perform an opening slot, but Twin Peaks were clearly having a blast.

I had seen Cloud Nothings three times before Saturday’s set, one of these being just over a month ago at Bonnaroo. But I could not help but take a half hour to camp out for a front-and-center position; their latest, “Here and Nowhere Else” has been my headbanging album of choice this year, and quite possibly my favorite overall release; it’s vaguely post punk with choruses that push into huge screaming climaxes without compromising a popish sensibility.

Though my initial spot was perfect, this was clearly for naught. Jumping into the distorted riffs of “Now Hear In”, the crowd broke into a fierce moshing for one of the appropriate times of the weekend. Even just months after the release of “Here and Nowhere Else”, the setlist was split between cuts from their latest and 2012’s “Attack on Memory”.

After being sufficiently covered in tiny bruises and stranger’s sweat, I settled in to watch Pusha T from a distance. He claimed to be “the greatest rapper alive” but ironically covered Kanye and Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like”, and was essentially opening for Danny Brown. But at this point in the day, there was not much of a choice but to watch him, as his bass drowned out much of producer The Range’s set in the secluded confines of the Blue Stage.

Pinning down Merrill Garbus, the lead of Tune-Yards,  as a “girl power” artist feels wrong. While much of her music deals with issues of gender, body image, and oppression, Garbus’ explores this through raw and open emotion. She walked on stage adorned in face paint and a rainbow dress, flanked by two vocalists who interpreted her lyrics literally through jerking and stomping dance.

Granted Tune-Yards—with all of their choppy, beat driven oddities—is music for dancing. Even pushed far to the back of the crowd, many seemed overtaken by the need to move, and I was surprised by the number of men who took to boogying and stomping themselves about amid female-oriented tracks.

I took to watching Danny Brown from a distance. He is a great performer, with his squealing voice and general kookiness, but watching a few highly concerned faces emerge from the madness of the mass crowd was fair warning that I did not dare enter. Even in back, a young girl began running about in some presumably intoxicated state as her friends attempted to restrain her until the medics arrived.

Foregoing St. Vincent —who, as apparent from the monitor feed, has a powerful stage presence—I stuck it out for an hour long wait for Neutral Milk Hotel. The monitor warned, now famously, that there would be no photography or video at the performance, and though that did not deter the few that decided a pixelated video of “The King of Carrot Flowers” was better than just enjoying the show, most seemed to respect their wishes.

But what is left to say about Neutral Milk Hotel’s live performance? Opening with the jaunty “Aeroplane Over the Sea” cut “Holland 1945,” the show was a glorious singalong as they spent nearly all of the tracks from their merely two releases. Jeff Mangum, his face now covered in a grizzly beard, led the marching band procession with crisp and perfect pitch.

Few musicians can close a multi-genre festival with a folk hymnal like “Oh Comely”, but as the horn flares faded, it was clear that this is a legend.

More to Discover