Pitchfork Festival Day One: Tune-Yards, Animal Collective and Harry Potter

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Editorial Note: article first published as Music Review: Pitchfork Festival 2011 Day One – Righteous Tune-Yards, Animal Collective Deja-snoozes and Harry Potter Shout-outs on Blogcritics.

The first day of Pitchfork Festival 2011 might not have sold out with only 18,000 fans piling in to Union Park, a place that can hold around 20,000. But nonetheless the eager fans that did show up were treated to a worthy feast of indie rock, rap and electro-pop. Of the 11 eleven bands that played on three stages, those few bands that I expected to bring the goods did, for the most part. But there were a few that slowly evaporated like mist in the heat of the summer sun ultimately leaving me wanting more.

That said, when it was all said and done, these are the performances and fan moments that defined Day One.

Tune-Yards Plays with Pure Powa

First: the visions of Tune-Yards’ set. The music that Merrill Garbus conjures on stage with her backing band is so sweet, seductive and immersing that you can’t help but be instantly pulled into her sonic portraits of love, joy, pleasure and pain. Under the canopy of trees at the Blue Stage, Garbus came out for a quick sound check to tweak her snare drum them came back with her band to dazzle us with deft live looping, masterful percussion work, and crooning that somehow simultaneously channels Prince, Sam Cook and Captain Beefheart.

Start to finish, she sent surges and throbs through the communal heart and mind of the crowd. Fan faces flashed grins of pleasure, bodies swayed, shoulders and heads kicked back in oblivion. It was all proof that Garbus’ emotive incantations and beautiful afro-pop-meets-indie-rock-meets-soul ballads “Powa” and “Bizness” had us all in the palm of her hand tugging full force on our heart strings.

Then I voyaged over to the Green Stage to see what prog-rockers Battles was up to. But to my dismay, they were subpar and lacked the same driving power and tenacity that they unleashed during their 2008 Pitchfork set. Maybe it was the sound or where I was standing? Sound issues or not, a good band should be able to make you feel at least something with their set, no matter where you’re at or what technical problems they’re having. And I’m sorry to say that I left Battles after a few songs feeling nothing, and headed elsewhere to explore the grounds, chat with other fans and see what else was going on.

A Harry Potter Shout Out

Then a hour later, back at the Blue stage, an unexpected shout-out to Harry Potter erupted from the crowd as fans waited for hip hop jester trio Das Racist to start. One mischievous, albeit timely fan, led the charge screaming “I say Harry, you say Potter!” and all the other fans followed suit laughing as we all shouted back and forth.

As you see in the video above, the wizard-inspired call-and-response quickly morphed into a rowdy chant for water, and seemingly out of nowhere a security guard appeared in the pit and began handing out free bottles of water to the pinked-faced, mildly dehydrated and sweat-drenched fans in the front row.

Shortly after this strange series of events, Das Racist swaggered on the stage and sloshed their way through a zany set of songs filled with sly, semi-intelligent, joke-filled rhymes about money, race and wild parties from their forthcoming debut album Relax.

Deja-snoozing with Animal Collective

Wrapping the night up was electro-jam-rockers Animal Collective. And boy was it an odd a case of deja-snooze as I was shot back to 2009 when Animal Collective closed out Saturday night with a no-direction and overly insular set of synthy jams and mis-directed psychedelic ravy lightshow. So yet again, even though they are pretty amazing on album but not so good live, Animal Collective was given the honor of closing out the day.

And as I headed home I thought it would have been so much better to experience Tune-Yards taking us to the end of an otherwise solid start to the festivities.

Next Up for Day Two?

Fleet Foxes, DJ Shadow and who knows, maybe some more Harry Potter shout-outs? And if you’re looking for a great mobile guide to the festival, be sure to download the Pitchfork iPhone app. It rocked. And it’s one of the best festival apps I’ve ever used!

Were You There?

Were you at Pitchfork? We invite you to share your Pitchfork concert experiences in the comments below, so they can be included in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Top 5 Concert Fan Expectations, Pitchfork Music Festival 2011 Preview

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What do you expect to feel and experience at a concert? During this episode of Live Fix Radio we’ll answer that question as we explore the Top 5 Expectations of the live music xperience.

It’s also time for Pitchfork Music Festival 2011 this weekend in Chicago, so we’ll share our own high expectations, Top Picks and some cool new tunes from Pitchfork performing artists to get you ready for the show.

Subscribe via iTunes.

 

Show Notes:

 

Music from the podcast (all album links via iTunes)

“Powa” – Tune-Yards, Whokill (intro music and then we play the full song at the end of the show)

“Expectations” – Belle & Sebastian, Tigermilk

“Second Song” – TV On the Radio, Nine Types of Light

 

Live music news
During the live music news segment, we talked about Coheed and Cambria bassist Mike Todd and his pre-show pharmacy robbert, Dave Grohl’s reprimanding of a fan during iTunes Festival, How Lady Gaga saved HBO ratings, and you can read more about these stories in live concert news.

 

How to use Layar mobile app at Pitchfork

Continuing our exploration of mobile apps, we also shared info about our experiment with Layar Augmented Reality mobile app at Pitchfork last year. And stay tuned for more as we take this very cool mobile app for another spin during the show this weekend.

 

Step Up To The Mic

What do you think about concert fan expectations? Heading to Pitchfork? Got a question about something we talked about during the show? We invite you to share your concert experiences and thoughts about this podcast in the comments below, so they can be included in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Video Experiment: Transfixed By A One-Man Band, Tune-Yards and Andrew Bird

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As we’ve discovered before, the Little Things are what draw you in, and they’re what makes the show irresistible and unforgettable.  But what happens when concert fans get transfixed by a one-man band street performer, and others artists like Girl Talk, Andrew Bird or TuNeYards who are pushing the art forward in the 21st century.

We’ll explore those three artists in a moment, but first, let me share with you a fantastic encounter I had with a one-man band who put on a virtual Little Things clinic on the streets of Michigan.

Above is a video of Detroit-based street performing one-man band Joseph O’Keefe as he pays tribute the real Jesse James (not the Sandra Bullock one), masters the art of the stop spot pause, and relies on fans to help him tune his cow bell — while playing live in Holland, Michigan during the Tulip Festival.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a one-man band artist before, I hope you do sometime soon, because it is really something amazing to see.

And what I love about O’Keefe’s take on the multi-tasking solo rocker, is the way he entertained and interacted with the Holland crowd.

There was a big parade going by while he was playing, but most eyes and ears were glued to O’Keefe because he was way more fun to watch that floating balloons and vintage cars cruising by at 5mph.

O’Keefe won me over the instant I saw him jamming on the street.  I quickly flipped on my camera and watched as he rambled through the classic folk tunes and told funny stories with the kids in the front row.

And within just a few minutes, I couldn’t help but toss some cash in his tip bucket.

I’ve been excited to share this video with you too because when you watch the video closely, you see just how amazing what he is doing really is.  Each of his feet are connected to straps so he can play the cymbal/hi-hat and the bass drum by moving his feet.

The end of his guitar is attached to the cowbell (which a fan kindly helps him re-tune) and he’s wails on the harmonica while plucking his banjo and singing all at the same time.  AND he’s got the crowd interaction down pat as he tosses humor and quick jokes into his act.

The One-Man Band of the 21st Century

Watching O’Keefe got me thinking about other Little Things I’ve notice during some of my favorite concert adventures.

First, I thought of how technology has created a new 21st century version of the one-man band with the advent of the laptop artist. Yes, DJs have been around for years, but when I think of guys like Girl Talk, I can’t help but think how he’s a great example of a new breed of the one-man band with in his genre. Who else would you put on the list?

Mastering the Art of Live Looping

You can also look at artists like Andrew Bird and or Merrill Garbus of TuNeYards to see how they’ve mastered the art of the loop machine — among other live instrumentation and orchestration — to create mesmerizing sonic tapestries, and get the most out of their own one-man(or woman is Merrill’s case) band creativity.

 

 

And the other thing I’ve been thinking about after seeing O’Keefe is the level of captivation that I had while I watched him.

There was so much going on in such a small space and it was all being done by one person.

And the reason I think I was so amazed is that I’m used to seeing five or six band members do what O’Keefe did all by himself. What a show it was. And I know I’ll be thinking about it during my next concert.

Who’s Captivated You?

Think back to your favorite concert. And tell me….

How did they captivate you during the show?

Was is it with their playing, or do they mesmerize you with their words, or how they move their body during the show?

Were you so transfixed during the show that everything and everyone around you seem to fade away?

Special Note and Request for Help: Unfortunately, I didn’t have the change to talk with O’Keefe that day and I have since tried to connect with him, but have been unsuccessful finding his outposts online.

I would really love to share this post with him and invite him on our Live Fix Podcast, so if you know Joe (or are Joe) please drop a comment and let us know how we can get in touch with him. Thank you very much for any info!

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