Day 3: Sunday July 17
The Fresh and Onlys – 1:00 PM, Green Stage
No nonsense, psychedelic garage rock kicked off Day 3 from San Francisco’s The Fresh and Onlys as the appropriately tie-dye clad band shuffled into conversely spacey and punky grooves. The Fresh and Onlys acted as a direct wake up call more than anything else for the undoubtedly exhausted crowd, living up to their reputation as one of the best live bands around. The young group combined styles equally from punk legends and their Haight-Ashbury forefathers to create a sound that was jangly and carefree, but also focused and intense.
Yuck – 1:45 PM, Red Stage
I last saw Yuck in a scene stealing performance opening for Smith Westerns and in my opinion, the young British group completely upstaged the lazy headliners, so since I had been sold on Yuck from one performance, I was eagerly awaiting a second showing. The band’s 90s indie rock influenced sound proved to be a perfect way to really settle into the day as the members worked themselves into their casual and straightforward indie rock onstage presence. Everything was going great in Yuck’s set, the band having gone through fan favorites like “The Wall” and “Georgia”, but unfortunately, lead guitarist Max Bloom’s amp blew out during second to last song “Operation”. Without Bloom’s integral guitar part, the song collapsed despite lead singer Daniel Blumberg taking over for Bloom’s part. Yuck soldiered on however, finishing out their set with the doom metal slow guitar churn of “Rubber”, a huge track that left every audience member satisfied despite Yuck’s technical difficulties.
Kurt Vile and the Violators – 2:30 PM, Green Stage
Proto-rock weirdo Kurt Vile brought his hypnotizing, cyclical guitar and vocal style to the Green Stage next, along with his band The Violators. The band seemed stiff at first but soon settled down and loosened up as they got deeper into their set. With a set taking mostly from Vile’s most recent LP Smoke Ring for my Halo (2011), the thunderous Violators surely cracked a few ear drums with their freight train of a sound as the tracks from Smoke Ring for my Halo were heavily roughed up from their normally light and floaty album arrangements. The band combined the spaced out elegance of Kurt Vile’s more recent work with the cavemanish full throttle attack Vile had been known for in the past such as on tracks like “Hunchback” to great success.
Shabazz Palaces – 3:45 PM, Blue Stage
I stuck around for about five minutes for infamous LA rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All’s set (just to be able to say I saw them) before the toneless bass and bad mix that was erupting from the speakers gave me even more reason to head over to what I deemed to be the more talented rap group, Shabazz Palaces. However, Shabazz Palaces were about twenty minutes late in starting their set, which put the blue stage behind for the rest of the day. When the duo finally got going however, they proved to bring forth a heavy, head-nodding sound that one could jump around to almost as easily as one could relax to. The rhymes of MC Ishmael Butler (clad in a Low t-shirt) were delivered in his tough, minimalist flow as songs from Shabazz Palaces fantastic debut full length Black Up (2011) were given an extra thump when played live and Butler’s onstage energy along with the rapper triggering his own beats and percussionist Tendei Maraire backing him up made for an usually rousing hip-hop show. Repeated requests for sound tweaking were made from Butler and Maraire, but from my perspective the duo was perfectly mixed across selections from Black Up and older songs like the summertime anthem “Blastit”, that really got the crowd going. There was space for improvisation in the duo’s subtle yet commanding approach as well, as off the cuff percussion breaks and tweaks to mixes were made at certain points in songs. Though a larger crowd chose the media circus that is Odd Future, those who chose Shabazz Palaces’ performance were treated to a more intimate and confident show, the group slowly making their way among the best sets of the festival. Shabazz Palaces will be playing at the Granada this Saturday, July 23 at the Gorilla vs. Bear Festival, you can pick up tickets for the festival here.
Deerhunter – 6:35 PM, Green Stage
I hung around the Blue Stage for a few minutes to catch the opening of Baths, who’s soothing electronic pop got the already sweaty crowd moving and shaking, causing even more sweat. The set was difficult to leave being a fun and engrossing experience, but I felt a deeper need to get closer to Deerhunter’s stage. The experimental noise rockers opened with the droning fuzz of “White Ink” featuring frontman Bradford Cox’s dreamy vocals and heaps of feedback and distortion. What followed was an incessant stream of the band’s hits, charged up to their maximum intensity, and I was more than okay with that. Though there weren’t a lot of surprises in terms of the setlist, (“Helicopter”, “Desire Lines”, “Nothing Ever Happened”) the big surprises came in terms of delivery as normally restrained tracks like “Don’t Cry” were overhauled with masses of noise and feedback, that particular track being subject to a sludgy, head banging slowdown. The set was almost entirely comprised of the song “Nothing Ever Happened” which went on for nearly twenty minutes into a dense clash of noise which revealed a tight krautrock groove the band settled into. As the noise and fervor of the band increased, Cox frantically began shouting the lyrics to Patti Smith’s “Land” with the conviction of an evangelical preacher that brought the humongous song to its heady climax before crashing into another heap of noise and feedback. The set ended with “He Would Have Laughed” an elegy for the late great Jay Reatard and a fan favorite that Deerhunter seldom plays live. Though the set list was mostly standard for Deerhunter, the band transformed the set into a full on experience holding nothing back as artists and musicians and making Deerhunter’s set my favorite of the weekend.
HEALTH – 7:40 PM, Blue Stage
Just when I thought I had seen the heaviest performance of the weekend with Deerhunter, I went to see LA art noise group HEALTH. Known for combining elements of the abrasive with barely detectable pop sensibilities, HEALTH put on a one of a kind show that was easily the most relentless set of the festival. HEALTH gave the performance their all as they left everything on the stage, displaying their passion and belief in their art. There was a mix of abstract, hellish noise and dark pop on display throughout the band’s set, with perhaps more of a focus on torching ear drums than getting people to dance, but HEALTH was aware of the importance of each side of their sound and utilized them to the best of their abilities making for another one of Pitchfork’s best sets.
TV on the Radio – 8:30 PM, Green Stage
So it was finally time for the last set of the festival, but luckily, that set came from post-apocalyptic art pop band TV on the Radio. After the death of bassist Gerard Smith earlier this year, TVOTR’s headlining set is something of a triumph among tragedy as the band seemed to pursue their live performances with a renewed conviction and energy. The set opened with “Halfway Home” from Dear Science (2009), a big looping track that got the audience adequately pumped up for “Dancing Choose” when TV on the Radio really got to show off why they are consistently considered one of the top live bands working today. The set was sprinkled with new material that sounded revved up when played live, old favorites like “Wolf Like Me” and the super heavy live version of “Young Liars” the band is known to trot out, along with a few surprises including bringing Shabazz Palaces onstage to play percussion on the drum circle of “A Method” and covering Fugazi’s immortal hardcore anthem “Waiting Room” that really whipped the crowd up. The set closed with “Satellite” from the band’s debut Young Liars EP (2003) and the sold out festival crowd cried out and waited for an encore though it never came. None the less, TV on the Radio provided an excellent way to close an excellent, one of a kind festival, one that I will hopefully be able to return to again.