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The Top 10 Moments of Pitchfork 2013

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    p4k The Top 10 Moments of Pitchfork 2013

    After offering a bill headlined by Vampire Weekend, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Feist last year – informally, the “best headlining bill of five years ago” – Pitchfork one-upped themselves for 2013 with, unequivocally, the best headlining bill of 1997. But the all-veteran status of its main acts was only half the news. Aside from breaking out back when cassettes were important, the three artists occupying the top line of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival roster combined for almost certainly the widest-spanning stylistic range the festival has ever seen.

    Never before have Pitchfork’s three headliners each occupied such extremes of such unrelated movements: the psychedelic art pop of Björk, the charmingly twee rock songs of Belle and Sebastian, and the marquee status of international R&B sex symbol R. Kelly. Maybe the organizers simply thought it would be more fun – it certainly was – or maybe it was their way of responding to a centripetal, Internet-sparked force on all corners of pop music today. As we recently heard from Chuck Klosterman, “Because media’s become so democratized and there’s so many people sort of jockeying for space in this universe, there literally is no artist that you cannot take seriously.” Enter Mr. Trapped in the Closet.

    Between rain-accompanied sing-alongs, dusty mosh pits, and a fair share of emotional performances, this year’s annual union of music geeks in Union Park was an overall success – even if each day bizarrely saw perfect weather right until the moment its headliner took the stage. And yet, all three managed to turn in among our favorite sets of the whole weekend. Here, along with seven more, are our reactions to the best of P4K2013.

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    Photography by Meghan Brosnan.

    Mac DeMarco’s unlikely, weekend-kickoff cover band

    macdemarcobrosnan The Top 10 Moments of Pitchfork 2013

    For most weekend festivals, any Friday afternoon slot before seven p.m. is an inherently tough, uncomfortable gig. People are arriving straight from work, tired and sober, and internally calculating cost-benefit analyses between finding a second wind or just passively watching and gearing up for a real early afternoon Saturday start. If they were wise, every weekend festival this year would go after Mac DeMarco for that 4:30 p.m. Friday job. DeMarco charmed the pants off the not-yet-relaxed crowd with humorously cliché compliments, a faux-emcee persona, and that toothy, near-psychotic grin.

    After burning through nine songs from Rock and Roll Nightclub and 2 and calling his surroundings “sexy” roughly 10 times, DeMarco’s band ended on fire with an absurd medley: a “Taking Care of Business” cover, a Beastie-fied take on The Beatles’ “Blackbird”, a loyal cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, and lastly, 2 closer “Still Together”. For that one, DeMarco brought out his (formerly mysterious, now well-known) girlfriend Kiki for some 15 seconds of slap-and-tickle, and then to sit on his shoulders as he wailed its irresistible hook one last time before signing off to the finally relaxed crowd with “enjoy the weekend – it’s only just started!” –Steven Arroyo

    Hearing Joanna Newsom’s new material

    joannanewsom2013brosnan The Top 10 Moments of Pitchfork 2013

    When the adorable 31-year-old singer took the Red stage Friday evening, the ears of the crowd were transitioning from boisterous post-punk guitar of Wire’s preceding and neighboring set. Even for the always eclectic festival, the switch was stark. Joanna Newsom held the stage all on her own with the help of her signature harp and a grand piano, both of which dwarfed her doll-like figure, although she commanded her instruments with power and grace.

    The set’s vibes can be summed up by the seemingly emotionally stunned set of admirers who hung over the front railing, some of which had letters with Newsom’s name penned on the front – one even held a bouquet of fresh flowers. Onlookers stuck toward the back of the crowd complained the show’s volume was far too hushed, but those whose proximity allowed for them to hear new tracks “Look and Despair”, “The Driver’s Wife”, as well as Newsom’s latest “Untitled” found themselves charmed into the evening by the soon-to-be Mrs. Samberg at her only 2013 show thus far. –Amanda Koellner

    Björk’s sort of, but not really rain-delayed set

    bjorkbrosnan The Top 10 Moments of Pitchfork 2013

    Pitchfork’s Friday crowd showed up expecting rain all day but didn’t see any sign of precipitation until Björk showed her face. Except, she never really showed her face. Emerging with a sparkled-out choir behind her and what appeared to be a giant ball of tinsel for her head (not on her head, not around her head – for her head), Björk unleashed her current setlist and a series of spastic jog-dances to stunning results – an overall success, even if it was cut short by 25%. It was all-systems-go from the 8:30 p.m. start, which is exactly when the storm clouds that were promised all afternoon finally showed up.

    Her stage-lighting setup (especially the booming, bullet-like beats towards the end of “The Hunter”, accompanied by staccato blasts of light) reflected off the low clouds in a way that felt eerily planned – as did the massive winds that kicked up during “Moon”. But at 9:37 p.m., the showstopper everyone feared was coming arrived 23 minutes too soon: “We’ve been told by the weather station to get off the stage,” she announced, audibly as disappointed as anyone else. “Wouldn’t be that much in Iceland.” A chorus of frustrated “fuck you”s ensued, and then an orderly evacuation, and then at 10:15 p.m., a few hours of positively apocalyptic weather over Chicago. –Steven Arroyo

    Savages vs. the sun = Savages 1, sun 0

    savages2013brosnan The Top 10 Moments of Pitchfork 2013

    This year’s honorary Gang of Four dressed in black, faced an angry heat, and assaulted the yellowed clouds of baseball field clay in the dry season. Savages delivered a set worthy of Les Savy Fav and captured the peyote noon glow of a Bauhaus show in Arizona. Jehnny Beth screamed “Shut Up” and skulked the stage, oozing bestial notions as she issued warnings to the “Fuckers,” while Ayse Hassan’s lifeguard bass lines battled Gemma Thompson’s surging riptide of experimentation on guitar. The group trucked through a number of cuts off their debut record, Silence Yourself, and left the crowd stunned. It was a hot day with an unworthy timeslot, but The Breeders – later warned about the rising temperature – used Savages as a rally cry against their own solar oppression: “Fucking Savages didn’t hide from the sun!” –Dan Pfleegor 

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