Pitchfork 2009 Festival Preview

<div> <a href="features/features/pitchfork_2009_festival_preview/"><img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/pitchfork09preview.jpg" alt=" " /></a> </div> <p> Pitchforkmedia.com is the most talked-about indie website out there – though as much because of disagreements with its opinions as...

Pitchfork Festival is also known for some unusual arrangements.  In previous years, bands have played an entire classic album, back-to-front, from Sonic Youth doing Daydream Nation (QRO Daydream Nation live review) to Public Enemy doing It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.  This year, Pitchfork has gone the other direction, with ‘Write the Night’ on the first evening, where ticket-holders have a chance to vote on what they want Built To Spill, The Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise to play.  Saturday and Sunday ‘just’ feature a diverse line-up of acts (though many are decidedly ‘Pitchfork-chosen’ – i.e., come with a lot of hype), headlined by The National on Saturday and The Flaming Lips on Sunday – who are doing their own, special ‘Write the Night’ performance to close out the festival.

Here’s the who/what/where/when/why of Pitchfork 2009 Music Festival:



5:00 PM, Connector Stage

Mixing post-rock modernism with jazz and electronica, Tortoise are part of Chicago’s large instrumentalist community (such as labelmates The Sea and Cake – QRO live review – with whom they share drummer John McEntire).  At once experimental and yet relaxed, they’re sort of a twenty-first century version of progressive rock.

Yo La TengoYo La Tengo

6:10 PM, Aluminum Stage

There are previous few alt-rock bands with as wide a discography to choose from for fans that Hoboken, New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo (QRO photos outdoors).  The trio of singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan, drummer (and wife) Georgia Hubley, and bassist James McNew has been making critically acclaimed music for song long now that it’s hard to think of a time when they weren’t.  Their live show (QRO live review) has always featured some audience requests, from a very knowledgeable audience.

The Jesus LizardThe Jesus Lizard

7:20 PM, Connector Stage

Chicago (with some Austin thrown in) natives The Jesus Lizard were acclaimed punk-noise forebears who broke up in 2000.  But recently, singer David Yow (QRO coverage) and the entire original line-up have reunited for a series of festivals.  Touch & Go are also re-releasing their strong back catalog, perfect to peruse through while you make your picks.

Built To SpillBuilt To Spill

8:40 PM, Aluminum Stage

Yes, the ‘biggest indie-rock band outta Boise, Idaho’ is still around, still on Warner Bros., and still putting out new music, most recently 2006’s You in Reverse.  They’ve gained a second life on the festival circuit (QRO photos at a festival) – including headlining Coney Island’s Siren Music Festival the following day (QRO festival preview).


Cymbals Eat GuitarsSATURDAY, JULY 18th

Cymbals Eat Guitars

1:00 PM, Aluminum Stage

Staten Island’s Cymbals Eat Guitars (QRO photos) are a just-breaking outfit that rocks a little harder – and sweatier – than boys from Brooklyn.

Plants and AnimalsPlants and Animals

1:45 PM, Connector Stage

Montreal-meets-Halifax Plants and Animals are grounded in both alternative and classical, like so many of the high-minded acts from up there.  They also deliver, most recently with last year’s Polaris- & Juno-nominated Parc Avenue (QRO review).

The AntlersThe Antlers

2:40 PM, Balance Stage

The newest of the next wave of Brooklyn acts is The Antlers (QRO photos).  Their more atmospheric indie-rock can be a little boring – and certainly doesn’t live up to the Radiohead (QRO album review) comparisons, but who would? – but plays better as it goes along.

The Pains of Being Pure at HeartThe Pains of Being Pure at Heart

3:20 PM, Connector Stage

One of the many up-and-coming Brooklyn neo-garage acts (including Vivian Girls – see below), The Pains of Being Pure at Heart hew more towards the brighter, twee side of things on their self-titled debut LP (QRO review).  But live & outdoors, they really kick it up a notch (QRO live review).


3:35 PM, Balance Stage

The nu-folk outfit (QRO photos at a festival) from Raleigh (and not The Bowery…) has some of the sweetest sounds around, most recently on this year’s sophomore LP, Upper Air (QRO review).

Final FantasyFinal Fantasy

4:15 PM, Aluminum Stage

One-man instrumentalist Owen Pallett has worked with acts like Arcade Fire (QRO live review), including doing the string arrangements on Funeral and Neon Bible (QRO review), but is also well known for his solo work as Final Fantasy.  Just him and a violin on stage, he loops it through samplers & pedals – though it is debatable whether he can occupy a full festival stage.


Ponytail4:30 PM, Balance Stage

The Brooklyn noise-rock group is known for going wild on stage (QRO photos) – but is their music listenable?  No, not really…


5:15 PM, Connector Stage

The experimental Yeasayer (QRO photos) combine electronica, rock, and even tribal sounds, making them sound Yeasayerlike the music of the cyberpunk future, multi-cultural in ways you’d never foresee.  They’ve been steadily building since 2007’s All Our Cymbals (QRO review) and the futuristic “2080” (QRO video), with a fascinating stage presence (QRO photos outdoors).


5:30 PM, Balance Stage

WAVVESPitchfork curated a stage at Barcelona’s Primavera Festival, and invited two-man lo-fi San Diego outfit WAVVES to headline – with which singer/guitarist Nathan Williams had a very public breakdown on stage (later blaming technical problems, and “alcohol addiction” – isn’t that what disgraced Rep. Mark Foley said?…).  They cancelled their whole European tour, but Pitchfork is still inviting them to their festival (QRO photos at a festival).  Why their uninspired shitgaze gets so much attention is anybody’s guess – maybe Pitchfork just can’t bear to admit when they were wrong…


DOOM6:15 PM, Aluminum Stage

The ‘super-villain of hip-hop’, DOOM (formerly ‘MF DOOM’, amongst many stage names) got a lot of notice when he teamed up with Danger Mouse in 2005 as ‘Danger Doom’ on The Mouse and the Mask.  But now he’s back to his solo work, with the just-released Born Like This.


6:30 PM, Balance Stage

Norwegian producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm started his own Lindstrømgenre, ‘space disco’, with a series of twelve-inches.  He’s since paired up with fellow producer Prins Thomas – the two are releasing their second full-length this year.


7:25 PM, Connector Stage

While Zach Condon began his instrumental outfit Beirut as a Beirutsolo project like Owen Pallet’s Final Fantasy (see above), he’s since developed it into a full band, featuring just about every instrument you’ve ever heard of.

Matt & Kim

7:30 PM, Balance Stage

Serious, long-time ‘Friends of the Q’ (QRO spotlight on), it’s been great watching Matt & Kim (QRO photos) blow up so seriously – without losing their infectious cheer (QRO photos).  Singer/keyboardist Matt Johnson (QRO interview) and drummer Kim Schifino (QRO interview) bring a self-described “onstage pizza party” with their sugar-filled hyper-pop/rock on stage (QRO live review).  Known for spreading their giant, ever-present grins to every Matt & Kimcrowd they play for (QRO live review), large, outdoor stages (QRO live review outdoors) don’t faze them, and neither do massive festivals (QRO photos at a festival).  They’ve also stepped up their musical game on this year’s Grand (QRO review).  So expect them to rock the crowd, from old tracks like “Silver Tiles” (QRO video) and “Yea Yeah” (QRO video) to new ones like “Good Old-Fashioned Nightmare” (QRO video) and “Daylight” (QRO video).

The Black Lips

8:30 PM, Balance Stage

A band better known for their live show than their records, that’s not just because of the relatively unimpressive recorded material like this year’s 200 Million Thousand (QRO review), but also due to their crazy mishmash of genres and styles on stage.  Atlanta’s The Black Lips’ wild live show includes everything from nudity to fireworks – and live animals (QRO photos at a festival).  Who knows what Union Park will let the boys get away with this time (QRO photos outdoors), but be rest assured Black Lipstheir rabidly loyal fan base will be crying out for more.

The National

8:40 PM, Aluminum Stage

So up-and-coming that they’re pretty much already there, Brooklyn’s The National hit it big in 2007 with Boxer (QRO review) and tracks like “Fake Empire”, “Mistaken The NationalFor Strangers”, and “Apartment Story” (QRO video) – and again last year with The Virginia EP (QRO review).  An impressive and much-in-demand act (QRO live review), they’re fitting in nicely as a festival headliner, like they did last year at Fun Fun Fun Fest (QRO photos outdoors, headlining Fun Fun Fun Fest 2008).  Their raw emotional power and strong discography makes for an amazing performance, whether at a wedding reception or in the great outdoors (QRO photos outdoors).



The Mae ShiThe Mae Shi

1:00 PM, Aluminum Stage

Los Angeles’ experimental punk band The Mae Shi have changed members and minds since they started, with three LPs, most recently last year’s HLLLYH.  And they’re working on another featuring all of the now-six members.

Frightened Rabbit

1:45 PM, Connector Stage

Frightened RabbitScotland’s Frightened Rabbit really put themselves out there on record, but their live show also sees them joking, in their Scottish brogue, capture on this year’s live album, Liver! Lung! FR! (QRO review).  Also a strong festival band (QRO photos at a festival) – they’re going to be coming in from Coney Island’s Siren Music Festival only the day before (QRO festival preview) – it is a pity they’re not doing a ‘Write the Night’ set, as they’re even better when taking requests (QRO live review all-request show).

Blitzen TrapperBlitzen Trapper

2:30 PM, Aluminum Stage

While some of the ‘sweet seventies’ revival has been overhyped [cough-Fleet Foxes-QRO album review-cough], Portland’s Blitzen Trapper deserve their praise, as they add in some freak to their folk.  After self-releasing their first three records (including 2007’s Wild Mountain NationQRO review), they signed to Sub Pop for last year’s excellent Furr (QRO review).  And their live show (QRO live review) has stayed strong, with songs like “Sci-Fi Kid” (QRO video) and “Murder Babe” (QRO video).


3:35 PM, Balance Stage

Of all the acts to break out of the plains of western Canada, and it had to be Calgary’s Women (QRO photos at a festival)?  Their arrhythmic sounds feel like a poor man’s Dirty Projectors (QRO photos) – and the band doesn’t even have any women…

The ThermalsThe Thermals

4:15 PM, Aluminum Stage

Portland, Oregon’s The Thermals (QRO photos) have become lo-fi heroes since their debut, More Parts Per Million, delivering catchy pop-punk the kids love.  However, even after moving from Seattle’s Sub Pop to their hometown’s Kill Rock Stars this year with Now We Can See (QRO review), they’ve never become that impressive to a finer-tuned ear.  But they’ve got a legion of fans that turn out in force, especially outdoors (QRO photos outdoors) and at a festival (QRO photos at a festival).

The Walkmen

5:15 PM, Connector Stage

Practically a ‘Brooklyn veteran’ by now, The Walkmen (QRO photos) have grown from their The Walkmenmore soused early days (QRO photos – which included a front-to-back cover of John Lennon & Harry Nilsson’s drunken weekend Pussy CatsQRO review) to a sadder, but more accomplished band (QRO photos) by last year’s You & Me (QRO review).  Their live show (QRO live review) has similarly evolved, if losing some of that early fun.  But, even at festivals (QRO photos at a festival), they range nicely from barstool rockers like oldies “The Rat” (QRO video) and “Thinking of a Dream I Had” (QRO video) plus the new “The Blue Route” (QRO video) to sadder pint glass-raisers like older “Another One Goes By” Japandroids(QRO video) and “Louisiana” (QRO video) plus the new “On the Water” (QRO video).


5:30 PM, Balance Stage

Vancouver garage-rock outfit Japandroids are hitting up a bunch of Canadian festivals this year, but only a few in America – including Coney Island’s Siren Music Festival the day before M83(QRO festival preview) – on the back of their debut full-length, Post-Nothing.


6:15 PM, Aluminum Stage

How is it that France does such great atmospherics?  M83 actually exceeded countrymen Air (QRO album review) with last year’s Saturdays = Youth (QRO review), their most accessible electronica album to-date.

Vivian Girls
Vivian Girls

6:30 PM, Balance Stage

One of the many up-and-coming Brooklyn neo-garage acts (including The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – see above), Vivian Girls (QRO photos at a festival) come it more lo-fi on last year’s self-titled debut LP (QRO review).  Whether the Girls (QRO photos at a festival) can live up to their massive hype is questionable, but they do have fun at festivals (QRO photos at a festival).

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear7:25 PM, Connector Stage

Just hitting their stride, in terms of acclaim, is Grizzly Bear (QRO photos).  The group use both traditional and electronic instruments for their experimental music, most recently on the just-released Veckatimest, and such tracks as “While You Wait For the Others” (QRO video).  Not for everyone, no doubt, but their experimental music is definitely for some.


7:30 PM, Balance Stage

Denmark needs to get in more on the indie-rock act (and stop letting Sweden hog everything), and no one is better placed to do that than Copenhagen’s Mew.  Alternating between calling themselves “pretentious art-rock” and “the world’s own indie stadium band”, whatever their genre, things look bright for the band and the new No More Stories, out the month following.

The Very BestThe Very Best

8:30 PM, Balance Stage

Hip-hop impresarios Radioclit’s Etienne Tron and Johan Karlberg are pushing the boundaries, thanks to their team-up with Malawian songsmith Esau Mwamwaya as ‘The Very Best’.  The trio is rewriting western pop rules (and not in English) with both original material and numerous remixes.

The Flaming LipsThe Flaming Lips – ‘Write the Night’

8:40 PM, Aluminum Stage

Hitting up the few festivals they didn’t hit last year, there’s a good reason The Flaming Lips (QRO photos at a festival) are so popular on the circuit, as there is no live show out there like a Flaming Lips show (QRO live review).  Confetti cannons, costumes, video screens, balloons from the sky, puppets, singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne surfing the crowd in a giant plastic bubble – The Lips have it all, and expect them to take it even higher (Coachella 2004 featured the first giant bubble).  Oh, and they’ve got some great music, too, from early nineties hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” to 2006’s Grammy Award-winning At War With the Mystics (even put out a movie, Christmas On MarsQRO review).

The Lips’ show has been known to be the same thing in every city, but this year, special for/inspired by Pitchfork, they’re throwing away the set list for their own ‘Write the Night’ performance.

For festival website, go here – www.pitchforkmusicfestival.com


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