Perfect 'Pitch'

July 13, 2007

BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC

  •  

  • As it enters its third year in Union Park, this weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival has once again shaped up to be the most promising outdoor music fest in Chicago this summer, with an exciting and diverse roster of cult heroes and up-and-coming buzz bands; an excellent location; great sound, and exceedingly reasonable prices -- so reasonable that the fest is already sold out, with attendance capped at 13,000 tonight and 17,000 per day tomorrow and Sunday.

    Here is an hour-by-hour look at the artists performing on the two main stages, which run consecutively. A smaller secondary stage runs concurrently; see sidebar. (Almost all of these bands have Web sites or MySpace pages that enable listeners to sample the music before heading out to the park; search the Web.)

     

    TONIGHT
    Led by Barry Hogan, All Tomorrow's Parties is a U.K.-based traveling festival that approached Pitchfork about playing a role in the Chicago concert. When the city Park District said it was open to Pitchfork adding a third day this year, local promoter Mike Reed saw the opportunity to bring ATP into the mix with its "Don't Look Back" series of underground acts each playing one of its classic albums in its entirety.

    Slint performs "Spiderland," 6:30 p.m.

    With this 1991 album, the Louisville quartet created a sonic blueprint for much of the indie rock that followed in the next decade, highlighting emotional, poetic lyrics, intertwining guitars and dramatic dynamic shifts. The group had broken up by the time "Spiderland" was released, but it reunited in 2005 and has been performing sporadically ever since.

    GZA performs "Liquid Swords," 7:45 p.m.

    Considered a masterpiece of gritty, street-smart East Coast rap, this 1995 solo album by GZA (a.k.a. the Genius or Gary Grice) featured contributions from many of his Wu-Tang Clan bandmates, including producer RZA, whose mix of elements from Samurai films, creepy soundscapes and unsettling beats was arguably never better.

    Sonic Youth performs "Daydream Nation," 9 p.m.

    Newly reissued by Geffen Records in an expanded deluxe edition, many fans consider this 1988 album to be Sonic Youth's finest moment. Personally, I'd rather hear the long-running New York noise-rockers play all of "Bad Moon Rising" or "Goo," since this disc's foray into more lush and atmospheric sounds could work splendidly, or fall flat after the hard-rocking opening anthem, "Teenage Riot."

     

    SATURDAY
    The Twilight Sad, 1 p.m.

    This guitar-pop quartet hails from just outside Glasgow, Scotland, and it's touring in support of its first full album, "Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters," a collection of gorgeous, dreamy songs that bring to mind the best of New Zealand's Chills.

    Califone, 1:30 p.m.

    From his days with Friends of Betty through Red Red Meat and on to Califone, Tim Rutili has been one of the most consistently creative forces on the Chicago underground rock scene. Though he is now living on the West Coast, he and Califone MVP Ben Massarella continue to make entrancing and hypnotic sounds based on warping blues and folk roots whenever they reunite onstage or in the studio, as they did for last year's "Roots & Crowns."

    Voxtrot, 2 p.m.

    The pace starts to pick up a bit with this Austin quintet, which alternately delivers upbeat, driving Britpop (albeit with a Texas accent) and slightly more twee and affected material a bit too obviously inspired by Morrissey and Belle and Sebastian.

    Grizzly Bear, 3 p.m.

    This Brooklyn quartet strikes me as a poor man's Califone, lacking the twisted melodies that lurk underneath the skewed roots music. But Pitchfork raved about last year's "Yellow House," and drummer and vocalist Chris Bear and his bandmates may be better appreciated live.

    Battles, 4 p.m.

    One of the acts I'm most excited about, this Brooklyn quartet led by former Chicagoan Ian Williams of Don Caballero has created a thoroughly distinctive take on progressive rock with their phenomenal new album, "Mirrored." Watching singer Tyondai Braxton recreating unique voices that evoke Alvin and the Chipmunks on psychedelic drugs should be even more fun in concert.

    Iron and Wine, 5 p.m.

    Florida-based folk-rocker Sam Bean is gearing up for the September release of his third album "The Shepherd's Dog" on Seattle's Sub Pop Records. Think Nick Drake goes Southern Gothic.

    Mastodon, 6 p.m.

    This Atlanta metal quartet is the heaviest group Pitchfork has ever booked. Its 2004 album "Leviathan" was a concept effort inspired by Moby Dick, and the music did ample justice to the title, as do the sounds on last year's "Blood Mountain."

    The Clipse, 7 p.m.

    The recent, long-awaited release of "Hell Hath No Fury," the second album from Virginia Beach brothers Terrence and Gene Thornton (a k a Pusha T and Malice) justified the underground buzz that has been building since 2002, with a stellar production from longtime friends the Neptunes and unusually smart, insightful and funny rhymes about the harsh life of the hustler.

    Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues, 8 p.m.

    Indie-folkie Chan Marshall traveled to Memphis to inject a dose of soul into last year's "The Greatest," but she remains notoriously uneven onstage, prone to emotional outbursts and cutting performances short. Here's hoping that the sensitive backing from Dirty Delta Blues will help her keep it together.

    Yoko Ono with special guests, 9 p.m.

    One of the most controversial figures in rock history, Ono has been experiencing a reassessment of her avant-garde solo recordings for several years now, with underground rockers celebrating the music for its noisy experiments and electronic innovations. (Witness the recent remix collection, "Yes, I'm a Witch.") Ono originally wanted to do a rare live performance with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Cat Power at South by Southwest last March, but festival organizers blocked the gig because it wasn't a sanctioned event. It's likely that Ono will finally deliver whatever she'd hoped to do in Texas here at Union Park.

     

    SUNDAY
    Deerhunter, 1 p.m.

    A self-proclaimed "ambient punk" quintet from Atlanta, this group is distinguished by its electronic psychedelia and a flamboyant frontman, Bradford Cox, who suffers from Marfan syndrome.

    The Ponys, 1:30 p.m.

    These Chicago garage-rockers graduated to Matador Records for their third album, "Turn the Lights Out." I've never heard the excitement others praise on record, but Jered Gummere and his bandmates are a rollicking good time onstage.

    Menomena, 2 p.m.

    This goofy experimental/electronic trio from Portland is another act that can be a bit underwhelming on album, including the recent "Friend and Foe." But it more than acquits itself with its frenetic energy onstage.

    Junior Boys, 3 p.m.

    More electronic pop from a Hamilton, Ontario, duo that often expands to a trio in concert. Their entrancing sounds should offer the perfect mid-afternoon chill-out.

    The Sea and Cake, 4 p.m.

    Chicago's much-hyped jazz and electronica-tinged lounge act is a love it or hate it proposition. Me, I adore space-age bachelor pad music, but I'll take Esquivel or Stereolab any day, since Sam Prekop's anemic vocals have always left me cold. But it's always fun to watch drummer John McEntire in his most straightforward role behind the trap kit.

    Jamie Lidell, 5 p.m.

    A one-man band and talented singer from England, Lidell offers an inspiring mix of influences old (with a deep love for '70s soul) and new (he creates most of his music with a sampler and a sequencer, mouthing each part as he builds electronic loops). Though Pitchfork would be loath to mention it, he has been broaching the mainstream with songs on the soundtracks for "Grey's Anatomy" and recent Target commercials.

    Stephen Malkmus, 6 p.m.

    After Ono, the former leader of Pavement is probably the most revered indie/underground hero on the bill (though the guys in Slint might disagree). He's said to be performing alone at Pitchfork, without the band that has backed him on recent tours supporting solo albums such as "Face the Truth" (2005).

    Of Montreal, 7 p.m.

    This Athens, Ga., indie-rock quintet is the best of the second-tier bands that recorded under the Elephant 6 moniker, mixing a giddy dose of '70s disco with guitar-driven psychedelic pop on the album "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?"

    The New Pornographers, 8 p.m.

    Though the Vancouver supergroup is always a good time live, thanks to its effervescent indie-pop anthems, it tends to suffer a bit when alt-country chanteuse Neko Case isn't on board. She won't be here, but on the plus side, we should be among the first to hear songs from a new album due later this year.

    De La Soul, 9 p.m.

    While it would have been amazing to hear this groundbreaking Long Island trio play its 1989 classic "3 Feet High and Rising" on Friday night, we'd have missed out on material from recent albums such as "Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump" (2000) and "The Grind Date" (2004). Those were nearly as strong, even if they didn't garner as much attention as when the group first heralded the Daisy Age of alternative rap.

     

    SECOND STAGE

    Though I'm usually covering the acts on the two main stages, many fans rave about the offerings on Pitchfork's smaller secondary stage, and I intend to see several of them this year. Here's a quick look at those performers.

    SATURDAY
    Ken Vandermark's Powerhouse Sound (1 p.m.), the hard-hitting combo fronted by Chicago's avant-jazz sax master

    William Parker Quartet (2 p.m.),more cutting-edge jazz from the acclaimed double bassist

    Beach House (3:10 p.m.), moody pop from the Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally

    Fujiya & Miyagi (4:10 p.m.), '70s Krautrock meets early-'90s electronica

    Professor Murder (5:15 p.m.), a New York post-punk quartet

    Oxford Collapse (6:15 p.m.), more post-punk art-rock from this Sub Pop trio

    Dan Deacon (7:15 p.m.), electronic lunacy from a flamboyant Baltimore performer, and Girl Talk (8:30 p.m.), high-energy grooves from genre-blurring mixmaster Gregg Gillis.

    SUNDAY
    Fred Lonberg-Holm's Lightbox Orchestra (1 p.m.), improvised music from the latest combo led by Chicago's wildly creative cellist

    Brightblack Morning Light (2 p.m.), environmentally conscious psychedelic/folk-rock from New Mexican duo Nabob and Rabob Shineywater

    Nomo (3:10 p.m.), free jazz meets world beat in Detroit

    Craig Taborn's Junk Magic (4:10 p.m.), experimental electronic jazz from another one-man band

    the Cool Kids (5:15 p.m.), a quickly rising Chicago hip-hop duo anointed by Kanye West's DJ A-Trak

    Cadence Weapon (6:15 p.m.), more promising new hip-hop from former Pitchfork writer Rollie Pemberton

    The Field (7:15 p.m.), electronic noise-rock from Sweden's Axel Wilner, and Klaxons (8:30 p.m.), New Wave dance-punk from a much-buzzed English trio.

    PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL

     Tonight through Sunday

     Union Park, Ashland Avenue at Ogden and Lake Street

     Sold out

     Public transportation via the CTA's Green Line is encouraged. (The Ashland stop is only yards from the entrance to the park.)

     Gates open tonight at 5 tonight and Saturday; noon Sunday.

     Non-professional cameras, fanny packs, sealed bottled water, medium-sized backpacks and folding chairs are allowed. Prohibited items include tents, flags, lounge chairs, knives or other weapons, video cameras, audio recorders, pets and outside food or beverages (other than sealed bottled water).

     For more information, visit pitchforkmusicfestival.com.

     

     

    BACK