Finally: a day in which the weather wasn’t actively working against us. Well, other than the fact that it was 95 degrees, which after two days of rain and heavy foot traffic led to Union Park smelling like the world’s most depressing petting zoo. Nevertheless, if you’re going to spend the day at an outdoor festival, “hot” beats “rainy” ten times out of ten. And as long as you followed John Dwyer’s (of Thee Oh Sees) advice to “stay hydrated, goddamn it”, it was a solid day to catch some great performances from Milk Music, Thee Oh Sees, The Field, and The Men. Oh, and Lady Gaga was there, if that’s your thing.
Best Set: The Men
Near the beginning of The Men’s set, someone in the crowd kept shouting, “Play some Springsteen!” at the band. It’s unclear if this was meant sincerely or as a joke, but a little bit of The Boss wouldn’t have sounded out of place. From the moment in their sound check when they played the opening riff to Van Halen’s “Jump” to the end of their outstanding set, the Brooklyn four-piece seemed like they were on a mission to prove that all of those people who say Pitchfork doesn’t care about rock music anymore don’t know what they’re talking about. They even had one person skanking! (Maybe he thought he was going to see Mustard Plug and just decided to roll with it? Whatever. He was happy, so right on, buddy.) The audience-led clap-along to “Open Your Heart” was just the cherry on top of an awesome performance.
Biggest Surprise: Araabmusik
This was more of the bad kind of surprise, but I’ll take some of the blame for it. My familiarity with Araabmusik stems exclusively from from last year’s fantastic Electric Dream album, which was closer to the house music genre. I was unprepared, then, for his brostep-heavy set that evening. To his credit, he’s certainly a lot more fun to watch than most DJs, as he constructs songs on the fly by pounding on his MPC at speeds that seem almost superhuman. But in the end, my low tolerance for wub-wubs beat out my fascination with his technique. Kudos to whomever scheduled him before Beach House, though, as that is a Pitchfork Festival trainwreck transition for the ages.
Biggest Disappointment: the stage assignments
I’m sure there’s some kind of logic to who plays where at Pitchfork, but I’ll never understand it. For example, Thee Oh Sees drew twice as big a crowd as Iceage, yet they were relegated to the smaller Blue stage. The same thing happened on Friday with Japandroids, though in their case I wonder if it was a conscious decision to make sure the crowd was bananas. This is a nit-picky complaint, I know, but it would be nice if more established acts got to play on the bigger stages, since they’re more than likely going to bring in more people. Sure, it was nice being able to watch Thee Oh Sees and The Men in the shade at the Blue Stage, but I’d be willing to stand in the sun a little bit if it meant more people got the chance to actually see the bands they wanted.