A Pitchfork seems like the appropriate emblem. After all, it's been a hellish last two days, culminating with this moment right now, my friends already having set off for the festival at the absurdly early crack of noon, abandoning me to pump Fela on my iPod in a Chicago Barnes and Noble, spitting venom on a stifling, rainy summer afternoon. There isn't much time either. The great minds at Barnes & Noble have apparently yet to discover the wonders of the power outlet and my lemon of a Dell laptop is already on the verge of crashing. But duty calls, so while my crabby carcass should be creeping Union Park-bound to catch recent Best New Music'd Titus Andonicus, I've got my own airing of grievances to compose. Bear with me.
First off, fuck Southwest Airlines for losing my bags, forcing me to endure 36 hours of a swampy Chicago summer in the same rank clothes, sweating, stinking and swearing. Fuck Pitchfork for reneging on their promise of a VIP pass, instead offering some utterly worthless press medallion that only allows access to some wretched corner to sit hunch-backed on folding chairs, pecking away on a laptop with the rest of the poor press schlubs. While simultaneously, the party I came with lamped luxuriously in the VIP, scarfing burritos the size of skulls and guzzling quarts after quart of beer.
Fuck the indie caveman clone that tripped me yesterday when I decided to abandon Sebadoh's snooze-worthy set to play hoops on a court inside the park. Right now, there are massive gashes on both of my hands that no amount of drugs can palliate. Congrats, Nas fans, looks like you've got your wish.
Meanwhile, while I'm the topic, fuck the lack of drugs at this place. To paraphrase Mr. Hand, what's wrong with you people, why are you not on dope? Forget the lack of shrooms or acid or ex. There's no need for that, not here, as with the exception of maybe Caribou, the line-up is about as un-friendly to psychedelics as you'll find at any extant American music festival. But y'know, this being a music festival, you'd think weed would be plentiful–instead, in the course of yesterday's empirical research, the place was as dry as a Mormon camping trip in Death Valley.
Instead, it's Sparks and snark, malevolent vibes and awkward gestures, a bespectacled snarl of people, standing stiff with slanting haircuts, the apotheosis of whatever indie still means in the year 2008. I don't know who my people are, but I know this ain't it. Give me a drugged-up hippie floating around in the ether of his mind, passed out on the grass at Bonnaroo, spewing gibberish about unicorns, rather than a bunch of glazed-eyed goggled geeks who'd rather gripe about the merits of The Unicorns vs Islands.
Granted, my time in La-la land has probably left me a bit jaded but I've never seen this many ungainly looking people in my life. Yesterday alone, I saw 16 people who seemed to be cultivating the law professor turned rock star look of Craig Finn and another dozen or so, rocking the balding barbarian look of Les Savvy Fav front-man Tim Harrington who looks suspiciously like a guy my college friends used to only refer to as “the gnome.” Glasses seem to be the ideal fashion accessory. So much to the point that were you to not know any better, you'd assume that at some point between the second Nixon administration and Glasnost, the Soviets succeeded in implementing a vast conspiracy to collectively mar the eyesight of America's youth.
What Man, You Don't Like Mission of Burma?….Conformist….
The music. Right. The music. Ok. So yesterday was the Don't Look Back: All Tomorrow's Parties segment of the festival featuring Sebadoh playing Bubble Vs. Scrape, Mission of Burma playing Vs. and Public Enemy playing It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. As for the first two, I suppose I could try to write something, but I know next to nothing about both of those bands and judging from what I saw of their performances, I don't care to find out much more. The highlight, and really the only thing that salvaged yesterday's experience was Public Enemy, who proved that 20 years after that seminal album they can still bring the noise and possibly the funk (No Savion Glover).
They were all there. Chuck D. Public Enemy. The SW1 dancers (I know this isn't their name but I'm feeling a little bit better know and am in the mood to make In Living Color references). Professor Griff wasn't there though, I assume Nasir has kept him as his own personal political guru. They ran through the album and more, Chuck's voice, booming like a bazooka, Flav, clock dangling, imploring the crowd that “no matter how much TV I'm on, I'll still Public Enemy this is my first love.” Most impressive was the fact that instead of mailing it in, doing the perfunctory It Takes a Millions and heading off to their hotels, the group didn't want to leave the stage, running through pretty much all the hits of their discography, from “911 is a Joke,” to the He Got Game theme song to their most recent single whose name currently eludes me. It was a great set and served to again reiterate what everyone already knows: that Public Enemy are one of the finest groups in hip-hop history.
I 'd like to write more but unfortunately, there's no time. Caribou's on in less than an hour and I'm sure to miss it. Meanwhile, my laptop is about to crash and the Fela's starting to repeat itself and so am I. These are not ideal writing conditions. Besides, I have to badger the press people into handing me over a VIP pass so I can gorge myself on the free burritos and beer. This is serious business. Godspeed. Or something.