Pitchfork 2014 in 6 Movements
Matt McMahon | Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Early Sunday Festival Experience – Not wanting to miss Sunday afternoon opener Speedy Ortiz, I made it known I had to get to Union Park at doors’ open — or gates, I’m fairly new to this. Getting there at 12:00 p.m. meant being able to explore some of the other activities offered at the music festival, including the tented record fair. After briefly getting caught up talking music with representatives from a superb, familiar local New Jersey label, Don Giovanni, we hurried over to the small, tree-alcoved Blue stage for Speedy Ortiz. The band lived up to all my expectations — and dreams — slaying lesser-known material from their debut “Sports EP” along with their week-old Adult Swim Single “Bigger Party.” With their less-than-hour-long set leaving still more hard-nosed noise to be desired, Perfect Pussy followed, well, perfectly. Two of the most cathartic performances of the weekend came from Perfect Pussy’s lead singer Meredith Graves, who was moved to tears during her powerhouse performance of the stunningly beautiful “Interference Fits,” and the subsequent Sunday afternoon players, Deafheaven. The two young bands exerted all of their energy and played with their hearts on their sleeves, justifying their early critical acclaim and spots on the lineup. All this in the span of three hours early in the day epitomizes the festival experience.
Rapping Along to Danny Brown’s “Monopoly” while Sitting and Eating Chicken Sateh – This is also what festivals are all about.
Graced by Pusha T’s Presence for 20 minutes – His set started late. No, it barely began before it was already over. He made up for lost time by blazing through his material, giving fans every verse and bar he has so meticulously crafted over the past couple of years. His deliberate, slow-burning flow oozed attitude and commanded the attention of those who stuck around during the delay and surely grabbed those who previously walked away because of his tardiness. Though his time was punctuated, he did not leave out any one of his bests from last year’s hit-filled “My Name is My Name,” or his features on “Cruel Summer,” “Move That Dope” or “Runaway.”
St. Vincent’s Entire Set – When you see St. Vincent’s Annie Clark in person, you become transfixed by her. She has an absolutely captivating aura, like she definitely knows something her audience — and everyone else — does not. Between songs, we joked that, at the end of her set, Annie Clark would be taken off stage by a UFO abduction because that’s the only possible way she could leave. If that had happened, I’m sure everyone else in the crowd would have easily accepted it. Oh yeah, and she went berserk playing her second-to-last song on top of a security guard’s shoulders, writhing on the ground with her guitar and ending it by kneeling in front of the kit and head-butting the bass drum. After this wild performance, she calmly played a beautiful rendition of “Your Lips Are Red.”
Grimes Closes with New Material and Genesis – Watching Grimes perform felt like witnessing her material alone in her bedroom. Nervous but excited, her feelings towards unveiling her music to such a large, receptive crowd brought out the multidimensional, upbeat persona that her music embodies and that the crowd so obviously anticipated seeing. After an already lively set, she introduced her brand new single “Go,” which sounded gigantic and blew the crowd away. Finishing off with fan-favorite “Genesis,” Boucher was met with the loudest crowd applause I heard throughout the entire weekend.
Singing Along and Looking On with Neutral Milk Hotel – As we made our way out through the silent, attentive crowd to get a view of the entire stage and massive instrumentation gathered for Neutral Milk Hotel’s Saturday Night headlining set, glances anywhere above shoulder level revealed a sea of exhausted faces. Clearly, many of NMH’s avid fans were choked up in a pre- or post-teary-eyed state, coming down from a long day, and, more immediately, a cathartic performance of “Two-Headed Boy.” The band had forcefully plowed through three of their liveliest songs — “Holland,” “1945,” “The King of Carrot Flowers Part One, and Part Two & Three” — early on, to thousands of people, which at that time seemingly made up one living entity, singing along at the top of its lungs. The excitement of being in that crowd came from not only hearing Jeff Mangum’s signature vocals and lyrics, but from sharing his music with this group of people. Seeing couples in each other’s arms and groups of friends getting their second winds bouncing around once the band got to upbeat blasts “Ghost” and “[Untitled],” made me think about those in the audience who might have met or shared a moment at a NMH concert during the band’s first active years, and those who would share this new memory far into the future. Mangum stately finished with the full band playing out “Two-Headed Boy, Part Two” and then left goosebumps with “Oh Comely,” while thousands and a high-rising church looked on from the background.