Friday at Pitchfork Music Festival was the perfect intro to a music filled weekend being that it was the least crowded and the weather was near perfect. I roamed my way around the grounds when I first got to Union Park around 3 PM and it was noticeable that Friday pulled in one of the youngest crowds I’ve seen at Pitchfork in a few years. I can only assume that the reason was Animal Collective because the other bands lined up seem to appeal to an older crowd in my mind.
The first act I caught was EMA which I headed into fresh and excited after hearing about her, mainly through Pitchfork media, and was interested to see what she would bring to the stage. Unfortunately, she packed light. It may have been the early time slot she was awarded but she played to a pretty weak crowd and didn’t have much, if any, stage presence. She turned out to be playing a show that I had to really force myself to get into, thinking in the back of my head that if she has gotten so much buzz then there must be something noteworthy. Instead I ended up leaving her set early finding her live vocals uninteresting and that I couldn’t get one decent photo from such a lackluster performance. I left wishing that I would have skipped her act entirely and gone straight to Gatekeeper whose performance at the Blue Stage sounded pretty awesome even from the sidelines.
Luckily, the next stage I hopped to was the Green Stage at 4:35 where Battles was playing and they had me hooked from the first note. Battles is one of the four or five bands that I’ve wanted to see ever since I started liking halfway decent music in the latter part of my high school years. Not only were they extremely entertaining to watch (Ian Williams on the coolest keyboard setup I’ve ever seen) but they sounded good, really good. They started off their set with a few numbers from their recently released album Gloss Drop but they also played to their fans with numerous numbers off of Mirrored, the album that gave them so much notoriety in 2007. If I hadn’t caught a single other act that day I would have left happy knowing that not only does Battles sound good at home blasting out of my speakers but that they can live up to that in a festival setting.
After Battles I switched it up and caught Curren$y at the Blue Stage (where the shade is the best thing ever). The thing I loved about Curren$y’s set is that he really interacted with the crowd. He started off his set by jokingly (but not jokingly) addressing the crowd with “Don’t clap for me, don’t do that shit, just light up”. It’s great that he’s able to not take himself 100% seriously and just have fun. You could tell that no one felt more comfortable performing on that stage than he did. Besides having a great demeanor he also sounded awesome. His rapping wasn’t lazy, he had a bad ass girl DJ (new life ambition for me?), and he seemed truly grateful and even surprised that such an enthusiastic crowd had come to see him.
Unfortunately the day couldn’t stay as perfect as it was seeming to be because after Curren$y had finished it was time for Das Racist. Now, not knowing much about Das Racist, but having seen how much people all over the blawgz seem to love them, I had somewhat high expectations. I mean, even Rolling Stone awarded hahahaha jk? one of the fifty best singles in 2010. About 1/8 of the way through the first song I could see that this was definitely not what I was expecting. They were drunk, way too drunk to be rapping coherently. Good thing that their rapping isn’t very coherent in the first place. Their lyrics sounded lazy and gimmicky. I understand humor and I would like to consider myself humorous, but as a musical artist you need to have at least some respect for your talent and take yourself a little bit seriously. Das Racist has gladly held tight to this title of hipster rap but, seriously, if you want to consider yourself worthwhile don’t show up to a venue, where people have paid to come see you, wasted and slurring.
James Blake saved the integrity of the Blue Stage when he played his set at 7:30. Although a music festival isn’t the ideal setting for Blake’s sound he still put on a pretty impressive performance. He started his softer tracks and slowly built up to some dance numbers. It was clear that he thought through his set list and what would be the best for the type of crowd that was coming to see him play. His voice sounded great although if I were to see him again it would probably be in a smaller more intimate venue.
Animal Collective headlined day one of Pitchfork and they maybe weren’t my favorite act of the day but they were definitely better than the last time I had seen them which was in 2008. The thing that’s fun about Animal Collective live is their stage set up. The only way to describe it would probably be underwater Halloween (wut? I know, weird, but still pretty cool). They played a solid set with Pandabear on drums but unfortunately he was hidden by some sort of paper-mache iceberg, really the only member you could see clearly was Avey Tare so if you’re one of those people that needs to see the band up close then this might not have been the show for you. Regardless, the overall ambiance of their set was the perfect closing act for the day.