Pitchfork 2009: The National and other highlights

No it wasn’t so chilly that you need a scarf Saturday night, but as the band members pointed out, the last time they played Pitchfork it was 95 degrees.  The National played a stunning 90 minute set and commanded the reverence of an audience winding down from a full day of music.  The setlist was heavy on tracks from Boxer.  I could have gone for a bit more Alligator, but I digress.  Singer Matt Berninger looked stately in his charcoal suit flanked by a horn section and multi-instrumentalist Doveman.  Three new songs were played (indicated below with a dash) and the one that stood out the most was “Blood Buzz Ohio,” but another called “Vanderlylle Cry Baby” was very strong as well.  Anticipation for their 2010 album figures to be fierce and deservedly so.

Setlist:
-Runaway
Start A War
Mistaken For Strangers
Brainy
Secret Meeting
Baby, We’ll Be Fine
Slow Show
-Vanderlylle Cry Baby
Squalor Victoria
Abel
All The Wine
Apartment Story
Ada
Green Gloves
Fake Empire
-Blood Buzz Ohio
Mr. November
*Encore
About Today

Here are some generalizations about Pitchfork 2009 that I observed: 1) the sound could in many cases stand to be louder, 2) the event filled up far earlier in the day than it has in past years making it hard to bounce from the B stage to a set on the A or C stages and jockey for a decent position to hear well, 3) NOT enough bathrooms and why are they no longer on the baseball fields? At least then you could see and hear the A and C stages while waiting in line for up to 30 minutes.

I started off by watching The Antlers. The band lacked some of the intensity they display on record early in their set, but finished strong with three standouts, “Bear,” “Two,” and “Epilogue.” A cloud of melancholy hangs heavily over their songs, but the beauty of the falsetto vocals make for a fine counterpoint. I even wondered if the sky was crying when it started to rain during the song “Two.” Singer Peter Silberman seemed genuinely humbled by the whole event and pointed out that this was the band’s first Chicago date and his first time in our fair city. The re-release of the album Hospice is due 8/18 on Frenchkiss Records.

My next stop was to see The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. I couldn’t belive the size of the crowd they drew. “Come Saturday” was a highlight as well as a new song called “Higher Than The Stars.” Onstage, frontman Kip Berman related an anecdote that Fucked Up’s singer Pink Eyes advised him that they should try to sound more like Weezer. While that is sage, I think they ought to aim more towards New Order. In my one minor brush with fame I met Berman later in the afternoon, wherein I inquired about the new song’s title. He was quite affable.

Yeasayer was enjoyable but not completely captivating. I did mange to see “2080,” but I wanted to scope out what Wavves had to offer. What I found was a band that looked to be a no-show, finally taking the stage 20 minutes late. The vocals were extremely quiet and the microphone remained distorted even when Nathan Williams addressed the crowd. Wavves seems to be much ado about nothing.

The act that knocked my socks off was DOOM. Originally I had planned to skip his performance, but realizing how rare an appearance this might be I checked it out. To my surprise (and elation) the setlist covered tracks from Madvillain and Danger Doom, as well as from his MM..Food and current Born Like This albums. There was some speculation that DOOM’s vocals were pre-recorded, but I choose not to believe this. The lyrics and his reference points set DOOM apart and put him on a whole other level than mainstream hip-hop. The masked man delivered and according to some only took the stage after receiving his payment in cash in advance.
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At the CHIRP Record Fair, Derek Erdman’s Michael Jackson installation that let you be his doctor was classic.
YAMJD (2)

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Stream two new tracks from The Flaming Lips new album Embryonic. They are called “Silver Trembling Hands” and “Convinced Of The Hex.” The weirdness returns!
http://hypem.com/search/flaming%20lips/1/

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