Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Day 2 at Pitchfork Music Festival

07/15/2012

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Saturday’s best moment at Pitchfork Music Festival was not provided by any performing artist. Under 5-ft. tall with braces and a Supreme hat, a kid who appeared much younger than all the others stood alone in front of me along the photographer’s fence during Danny Brown’s set. He hopped up frantically on the metal stage barrier, waving his hands and trying to signal the attention of someone backstage. I thought it could be a parent, until he turned and asked how much I wanted for my VIP badge. I said I needed it, and he shook the fence harder. When the photographers exited the pit he approached not one, but two individuals, pleading to borrow a press badge for a few minutes. And then from backstage, Flying Lotus and friends appear. The kid is electric. He rushes the fence. They’re surprised by someone so young approaching them. They share a brief, enthusiastic conversation and head off in the direction of elsewhere. The kid is now very quiet, looking at his shoes, considering. After an eternally long minute, he bolts off through the crowd in the direction of FlyLo.

For the full gallery from Day 2 of Pitchfork Festival.

With Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Grimes headlining, Saturday brought the younger and the older together, with all the rest of us in between. Legacy and newness danced in the mud and no one got hurt.

Keeping my promise to check out one unfamiliar act, the day started early with Chicago psych metal outfit The Atlas Moth. Their dark, raw sound was delivered with expert precision and a surprising amount of melody. From beneath the sludge rolled expansive psych experimentations. Baritone sax and trumpet accompaniment was a welcome addition, adding depth to their already enveloping sound.

Proving age has no bearing on influence, young Cleveland band Cloud Nothings channeled the spirit and sound of early 90s indie rock. Their sunny, jangly melodies delivered with a punk sneer had drove an early and very enthusiastic crowd. Mid-set rain began, turning quickly to a harsh downpour. People ran in every direction, and still Cloud Nothings played on.

Another favorite with the younger crowd were Cults. The band who exploded out of nowhere last year with their catchy hit “Go Outside” fell flat. It’s not until you hear their songs live that you realize how little substance there is to the songwriting. Madeline Follin’s voice has come a long way, but an improved tone is not the depth that this band lacks. They’re cute. They’re innocent. They’re fun. If they’re going to stick around though, they need to be more.

With the rain finally done for the day the crowd beelined out from under the vendor tents in the direction of Flying Lotus. Sped up to a juke pace, FlyLo turned a muddy field into an all out dance party. He supported fellow festival artists, dropping tracks from Clams Casino and Schoolboy Q, weaving rhythms with liquid ease. He was enigmatic to watch, a true performer who brought nonstop energy. Every face in the crowd seemed to be smiling as one.

Having seen Schoolboy Q recently, I was curious to compare and contrast a festival appearance with a venue show. Setting shaped the set, and like Willis Earl Beal on Day 1 of Pitchfork Festival, Schoolboy Q seemed at peace outdoors. The heated, aggressive delivery that marked his venue set was less pronounced, only occasionally puncturing the calm in short, energetic bursts. The slightly older crowd didn’t seem to mind his reservations. The air smelled of weed and Schoolboy approved.

The biggest disappointment of the day goes to an act with one of my favorite albums so far this year. The Chromatics were a difficult set to watch. Synth motorik churned, a freight train traveling fast towards a pretty girl tied up on the tracks. The instrumentation wasn’t the problem, in fact it was sublime, full of life and depth despite its repetition. It was her. Ruth Radelet stood lifeless, a mannequin in stark contrast with her active bandmates. Her voice was fragile, pale, her eyes blank. She added nothing, and detracted from everything. Her emptiness was chilling.

The sun set and the crowd parted, making their choice between post-rock legends Godspeed You! Black Emperor and relative newcomer Grimes. Grimes’ DIY pop looped and flitted about in a vivid, technicolor fantasy world. Godspeed built sounds into mountains then quietly they crumbled only to be built again. Despite their stylistic and demographic differences, the two headliners shared an unspoken connection. Both acts are brave, and inventive, with experimentation guiding their music creation. In that big field, visibly separated by age, we ended the day united, experiencing the same principles through different sounds.