The musical acts that rose to the top of the pack on the second day of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival all had one thing in common: Energy. Specifically, they knew how to wield it. Whether they brought it themselves, infused the crowd with it, or did some combination of the two, Saturday’s lineup had a nice slice of groups that kept the energy high: Chrissy Murderbot, No Age, OFF!, The Dismemberment Plan, and DJ Shadow.
Chrissy Murderbot kicked things off at perhaps an inopportune time for a DJ: 1 p.m. Though gates opened an hour earlier (to a big cheer from eager attendees who packed the fest’s main entrance long before things got started), the crowd at the blue stage was fairly meager. Fortunately, Chrissy showed up guns blazing. He spins what he describes as “juke-rave-jungle-disco-dubstep-hi-NRG-gangsta-dancehall-ghetto-garage-core.” Which basically means anything that can get your body moving without second thought. The Chicago DJ had an excellent hypeman in the form of MC Zulu, who got the growing crowd to move without much trouble, at one point shouting a simple mantra everyone appeared to understand: “This is not our show, this is our show.” Chrissy’s set was all about an inclusive experience—his crew even tossed lip-shaped kazoos into the audience so concert-goers could make their own noise—and it worked wonders. Chrissy Murderbot set a pretty high bar for the rest of the bands to follow him throughout the day, and left me feeling pretty exuberant after an anxiety-filled first day of the fest.
Though they couldn’t top Murderbot’s dancefest, Philadelphia synth-pop act Sun Airway put on a satisfying set. As far as indie-pop goes, these guys are like meat and potatoes: It’s filling and enjoyable, but it hardly tops your “favorite foods” list. Still, they did wonders bringing their quasi-introspective ditties to life with a good bit of force and some spot-on execution.
Another synth-based band couldn’t quite keep it together: The black-clad members of Cold Cave didn’t seem to mind that the heat had cranked up a couple dozen degrees since Friday, nor did they seem to mind that their set was in disarray. Their noisy, ‘80s-biting tunes sounded sloppy and the underwhelming set had me caring more about how sweaty the dudes wearing black leather jackets were than the actual reason they were onstage.
With the sun beating down on the crowd, No Age appeared primed to get rolling with their set—technical difficulties be damned. Seconds after wrapping up some sound issues, the duo launched into a raucous set where they appeared (at least, at first) hell-bent on making up for lost time and anemic sound issues. That anger from the set-up issues soon faded, and the band treated the crowd to punk tunes by classic acts—Black Flag, The Misfits—and their steadily-growing back catalog. Though this band has gotten plenty of props for mixing up cut-and-dry punk with some arty songwriting, their set came down to pumping up a whole lot of adrenaline and spraying it on a gleefully moshing crowd.
Wild Nothing and Gang Gang Dance became casualties of my own scheduling conflicts. Though I didn’t mind only catching a brief snippet of Wild Nothing—their hard-on for New Order felt, well, rather flaccid in execution—I would’ve loved to have seen the rest of Gang Gang Dance’s odd, endearing musical pastiche. Still, I wouldn’t have missed the chance to catch OFF! over at the blue stage, and they did not disappoint.
Frontman Keith Morris opened the band’s set with a lengthy introduction that saw him recount the musical experiences of the other three members of his group. Morris is a loquacious fellow, which is starkly different from the quartet’s hard-fast-loud style that recalls the singer’s early work in the hardcore punk scene. Just as soon as he finished talking about his band-mates’ accolades, the group launched into their first tune that seemed over before it began. And yet, it left a pretty indelible impression, one marked with the image of a gravity-defying Morris hopping around stage and screaming until his eyes seemed ready to burst out of his head. The group had plenty of muscle to pull of these mini-punk anthems, and suffice it to say they killed it.
I left OFF!’s set a bit early to scarf down some food and recuperate before The Dismemberment Plan took the stage. This being the final show on the quartet’s reunion schedule—at least, for the moment—I wanted to leave a little time to line up to take some photos and mentally reflect on the situation while standing in the blazing heat on a sand-covered plot of land normally used as a baseball diamond. I may have missed one particular band some of my friends have been hyping for months (The Radio Dept), but catching the D-Plan in full was well worth the wait.
They opened with “Do the Standing Still,” a song railing against a certain type of concert-going activity that’s become synonymous with the stereotypical Pitchfork reader—not dancing. Whether or not the band meant this to be a sly joke to fans or for themselves is besides the point: It helped set up a lively, goofy, entertaining, and, yes, energetic set that absolutely hit the mark. Sure, some things seemed amiss because of the setting—in particular, the inability for the band to continue the tradition of hosting fans onstage during their performance of “The Ice of Boston”—but they doled out one great song after another with a playful glee. Certainly my unabashed love for the band kept me thrilled, kept my fists wildly pumping during “What Do You Want Me To Say,” and kept me prodding my fellow cohorts in bowl of the crowd to just dance, but the guys in The Dismemberment Plan exuded such a warm, friendly charm it would’ve won me over even if I’d never heard the cathartic “Gyroscope” before Saturday.
I’d only heard bits and pieces of DJ Shadow prior to Saturday, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a string of new and old danceable tracks. DJ Shadow isn’t for everybody, and perhaps the average dance fan might have been miffed that the evening sun prevented his usual light show from going down. And hell, the fact that he performed within a giant orb might not have gone over well with the rock-ready set. But DJ Shadow’s funky grooves made for one great soundtrack to dance the sun away.
Then came Fleet Foxes. The group has garnered a massive audience for their folk numbers driven by vocal harmonies, and those intricately sung parts were just about the only thing worth noting during the band’s set. Fleet Foxes aren’t an arena band, and the big stage dwarfed some of the emotional frailty behind their best material. It also seemed to suck what life the group might have out of them, as they appeared to merely bob in place while carefully putting together these delicate ditties.
Something seemed lost in translation with that group on such a big stage, and even the tremendously moving “Your Protector” just wafted away. Fleet Foxes make intimate music, the kind of tunes you want to play while you relax with a good book on a rainy day. But closing out a day of bands far more engrossing and entertaining? Not so much. And so I found my thoughts and body wandering, waiting for the last song to come around so I could head home and rest up for the festival’s final day.