Pitchfork Music Festival, Day 2

By Jeff Weiss

Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady (Photos by Nick Lucchesi)

Sometimes, on your own, you arrive at the realization that

“hey, it isn't so bad. I'm attending a music festival for free in a

very beautiful city and even though I'm trying hard not to gawk at the

mustachio'd sailer-hatted hipster either in the merchant marines or an

aspiring killer clown, things is alright.” But at other times, nothing

can palliate you, outside of the right street pharmacist, one who will

sell you $100 worth of that sweet chiba in an apartment a few blocks

from Union Park, while bumping M83's “Graveyard Girl.” Yesterday was

one of those days. And in conjunction with my new found ray of light

(no Madonna), the murky, muggy rain that had been washing down on the

streets of the Chi lifted, just in time for me to miss the last 10

minutes of Caribou's set.

Welcome to the Midwest

Things were different yesterday. The publicists who I had so lustily

condemned the day prior were able to fall for my cheap ruse about

there obviously being some sort of mistake in my not getting VIP

passes. Or was there? Maybe it was wise for them to throw me the VIP

tags, after all, as the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a jaded,

spoiled reporter not being able to smoke blunts the size of burritos

and eat burritos the size of blunts. Plus, free beer and free

Sparks – and while Sparks might taste like “perfumed asshole” as one of

my colleagues so eloquently put it, it not only give you wings, it

convinces you to climb to the top of the nearest building and play

Daedelus. (Who should've been at this festival now that I think about


Besides, the energy was different on Saturday. Long gone was Friday's

indier-than-thou crowd lured in by unremembered nostalgia for Mission

of Burma, Sebadoh and PE. In their stead were a bunch of teens and

people in their early 20s, drawn by the promise of Vampire Weekend's

dulcet pop and The Hold Steady's sincere sing-a-longs. It was the

proverbial “next generation,” and anybody lambasting Vampire Weekend

for their depictions of an idle, spoiled rich class might be well

served to note their fanbase, full of MTV sunglasses and girls with

purses bought at Saks 5th Avenue, and understand that hating them for

singing about Louis Vuitton and Reggaeton is like hating a chicken for

laying eggs.

The first band I caught was Fleet Foxes, who pretty much owe 80

percent of their fanbase to a whopping 9.0 rave that the Fork gave

them earlier this year. I've been resistant towards the Fleet Foxes

bandwagon. Not because I dislike them per se. Watching Robin Pecknold

and co. sing their America meets My Morning Jacket hymnals, you can't

help but note how pretty the songs sound. But for a website

focused on originality and progressive sonic ideas, it was a little

strange to think that these are their new poster boys. Earlier this

year, I asked Jim James how he felt about bands like Fleet Foxes and

Band of Horses essentially stealing the blueprint from At Dawn

and The Tennessee Fire. Wisely, he dodged the question,

claiming he'd heard them and didn't really have any thoughts on the

matter. Good for him for being tactful enough to side-step any

controversy. However, were it be me, I'd be halfway towards

re-enacting the “Shark N–Z” sketch from Only Built For Cuban

Linx, where Ghostface and Raekwon indict copy-cat rappers. Bottom

line, Fleet Foxes sound identical to My Morning Jacket. They do what

they do well and their songs are winsome, affable and at times very

poignant, but I'm not nowhere near ready to pronounce them the next

best thing.

The same can't be said for the Hold Steady. I know a lot of people

hate their music and it's not hard to see why. At times, they're

almost painfully sincere and occasionally they can veer dangerously

close to parody, but on any given Friday night, this band be in any

top 5 of bands that I'd want to see. In the festival environment, their

guitar rock is damn-near explosive, their songs rollicking, boozy and

often brilliant. Perhaps the most joyful performer in all music, every

show Craig Finn summons the sort of joy and catharthis that often

provides the foundation for great rock n' roll. They're the sort of

band that can make cliches come to life. You “lose yourself in the

music.” You become “one with the audience.” Or more aptly, as they put

it, “Party Pit,” it's the sort of music that makes you want to walk

around and drink some more.

So I listened, liquored up good, heading to the C stage, way out in a

no-mans-land corner of the park to see No Age thrash and twist and

somehow prove what a lot of people thought was impossible: that it is

possible to re-invent the punk song. Were New Found Glory, NoFx and

all those other hacky mall-punk bands to have seen No Age in person, I

can imagine them being reduced to tears, struck with the realization

that they're frauds and that with just a drummer and a guitarist Dean

Spunt and Randy Randall could cauterize their flesh and bleach their

bones. Real vicious, powerful Punk music that justified the acclaim

and hype and left me feeling guilty for having never dragged myself

out to the Smell once. Thankfully, they've outgrown their first home

and are ready for prime-time, local boys made good. God willing, in

due time they'll have strung Pete Wentz up by his assymetrical

haircut, stolen Ashlee Simpson, forced Panic at the Disco! into a

full-on panic and saved an entire generation of 14-year olds from

being emo. All in a day's work.

But speaking of a day's work, like the White Rabbit, I'm late for a

very important date. Besides, I need to get my Lewis Carroll on, as

their are herbal refreshments to be rolled and there are Times New

Vikings to be seen. To say nothing of Spoon or King Khan or best of

all, Ghost and Rae performing together. Hopefully, they will play

“One” from Supreme Clientele, if only so Ghost can offer the

question, “How Many Blunts We Smoke.” To which the crowd can only

respond, “One…at a Time.”

Randy Randall of No Age

LA Weekly