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Posted Jul 22nd, 2010 (1:17 pm) by Korvas Black

Things didn’t start out so hot for Day Three of the Pitchfork Music Festival. A cooling breeze brought sprinkles of rain and ominous clouds that kept some would-be attendees away at first, though both passed harmlessly, leaving behind the blessed breeze and a lot less flying orange dust for the large crowd that filled the park later in the day. As the night went on and the threat of rain diminished, attendance swelled. Things looked iffy at first, but the weather turned out much more pleasant than on the previous two days and by Pavement’s closing set the crowd was far and away the largest of the weekend.

The grounds got noticeably littered in much of the park for the first time today. Many attendee’s interests turned out to be more in being seen as “green” than in actually being “green” (try to contain your surprise). As the park filled to capacity lazy people began abusing the anonymity of the crowd to avoid having to get their asses up and walk the ten or twenty steps to a trash can or recycling bin and casually ditched their cigarette butts, empty water bottles, and food containers on the grass. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, lots of other people are doing it too. Yes, you’re a lazy, littering asshole. Moving on.

I arrived halfway through Beach House’s set. It was still a hot day, even with the breeze, and I was surprised to see the crowd more bored than blissed out by the band. Beach House’s music seems tailor made to chill and absorb on a hot summer day, but these people were having none of it.

I caught Lightning Bolt next. They really woke the crowd up with their hard and fast noise rock. I was as surprised by how the previously drained crowd found the energy to throw their hands up and lose their shit for Lightning Bolt as I had been by their inability to relax and be soothed by Beach House before. Though hot, sweaty, and drained by the heat, the crowd still responded enthusiastically to the brutal drums and distorted guitars of the noise rock duo. The pattern held for the rest of the day, with the crowd responding more to wild, energetic acts than to quieter bands, with the notable exception of St. Vincent.

The crowd shifted gears smoothly for her set. They ate up her comparatively (sonically, if not always thematically) lighter tone and let themselves be soothed by her exquisite vocals after burning themselves out for Lightning Bolt. She’s a personal favorite of mine, and I was glad to see the audience getting into her. She quickly captured the crowd’s imagination, and it was easy to forget where you were, to forget the heat and the sweat and the sea of strangers pressing around and into you for as long as you could hear her voice. Outstanding.

Major Lazer, complete with a pair of Chinese dragons dancing on the stage, soon had the crowd going wild again. As excited as the screaming throng was by their stage, I’m not much into dance music, so I wandered off to see what was happening at the neglected (by me) B stage on the far side of the park from the bigger A and C stages that were reserved for the better known acts. Out there in the boonies of the park I found Neon Indian had a whole other festival going on. I found a band literally bouncing happily along with their cheerful crowd towards the end of their set. Perfect music for a summer Sunday afternoon in the park.

In fact, I saw a lot of very happy people enjoying great performances by some of the less well known bands of this festival, many of whom were banished to B stage. I’d go as far as to say that those who came to see the headliners probably went away less satisfied than those who came for the plentiful others. I didn’t see an outright bad set all weekend, but all of the best were by non-headliners. Which is why I stuck around at B stage for Sleigh Bells.

I’m glad I did. After a little delay in getting set up those two blew the metaphorical doors off and ripped out probably the most fun set I saw all weekend. Alexis Krauss totally dominated everyone in earshot, most of whom, judging by how many sang along, were there to see them. I had never heard Sleigh Bells before yesterday, but what I heard was enough for me to go out and get their debut album, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since. These two are my favorite discovery of the festival.

Standing room only in the entire park for Pavement—no surprise there. What was a surprise was that Rian Murphy (of Drag City) spent ten or fifteen minutes on stage telling us, in no uncertain terms, that our generation has ruined good music by illegally downloading albums for which, had we bought them, the bands wouldn’t have gotten any money from the corporations anyway (um, what?). I’m glad he’s not bitter. The reunited Pavement, practically the raison d’etre for the festival and by far its biggest draw… sounded a little stale to me. Maybe they’re a little rusty after so long offstage, I don’t know, but I was sorry to have left Sleigh Bells early to see these guys. In spite of their greatest hits set, what I heard out in the crowd was less the expected rapturous screams and more, well, conversation. This was the band most of these people came to see, but I saw more people talking on their phones than bobbing their heads. Even the scattered applause between songs was lackluster. About four songs in there were streams of people working their way out of the crowd and nobody pressing in to take their places. I guess it makes sense. These are a bunch of fifty year old guys who’ve come out of retirement now that their name has grown great enough to earn them the paydays they never got back when they were actually making great new music and being criminally ignored. These guys were one of the greatest bands of the nineties, and it looks like they’re going to stay that way.

All in all it’s been a great weekend. Even the worst performances I saw were still pretty good (well, maybe not El-P or Jon Spencer, but they still weren’t that bad), and some were among the best shows I’ve seen. Broken Social Scene, Titus Andronicus, Wolf Parade, Lightning Bolt, St. Vincent, Neon Indian, Sleigh Bells… hell, there were more highlight performances than not. Good shows, good crowds, good staff, and a good location. Three days of music and sunshine doesn’t get much better than this.

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