I can't deny that my engagement in the Pitchfork Music Festival has evolved over the past five incarnations of the festival. Where as back in 2005 I found myself running all over the park to catch every band and stand as close as possible, with each passing year I find myself wanting to spend more time lounging on a blanket between stages and checking out the craft and poster fair. (I never understood who would bypass all the great music for crafts five years ago; now I see). I used to race to the park each morning to get there in time for the first band at noon; now I saunter in around 3 or 4pm.
That's not to say the festival doesn't have anything to offer me anymore. There's a lot to love about lounging around to great music, running into everyone you know and eating tasty festival food. But the youthful exuberance that kept me standing on my feet for 10 hours is long gone, and more and more it seems the bands that play at Pitchfork just played Schubas or the Metro a few months prior, where I could actually see them (the product of living in a major music destination, I realize).
Or maybe part of it is that bands don't make their festival appearances special, at least relative to their usual performances. The Flaming Lips don't count; sure, launching balloons and confetti and running over the crowd in a hamster ball set them apart from the rest of the performances, but considering I saw that hamster ball routine debut five years ago at Coachella, it's clearly not a special performance made for us Pitchfork goers; it's just what they do. Remember when Go! Team brought all the kids from the park's pool up on stage to dance, a small slice of local African-American children shaking it in front of a sea of white hipsters? Now that's a unique and memorable performance you can't get at the Metro. Go big, or go home, I say.
And I always have my perennial complaint that Pithfork fails to bring female artists. Sure, there were Vivian Girls and Kim of Matt and Kim, both relegated to the B stage, and Kathy Foster of the Thermals rocked it out as always. Maybe they thought an all-male band called "Women" was a good enough substitute. But how about some more acts where women are front and center? St. Vincent? Camera Obscura? Bat for Lashes? All three of these artists got "Best New Music" accolades this year, but none were to be seen on the stage.
I realize a lot of people have the same complaint when it comes to hip hop or electronic music conspicuously missing at the festival. Which is why I say, bring back the DJ tent!
Still, I had a good time this past weekend and enjoyed a lot of music. I wished it would have been just five degrees warmer, but the cooler weather did make for a more comfortable viewing experience. I biked to the festival for the first time; never have I gotten to Union Park so quickly, or escaped so easily.
Most of my highlights were on Sunday. The Walkmen tore it up; The Thermals played the most random covers; M83 sounded amazing and was one of the few bands to get people dancing; Grizzly Bear was as adorable as ever, celebrating Chris Bear's birthday with his family in tow (though I'm still not totally sold on the new album). I left the Flaming Lips early after Wayne kept wasting time snarkily talking about how he got to pick from the top 25 "Write the Night" songs, which apparently were the same ones they always play live anyway (per Coyne), stopping by the B stage to catch some incredibly fun African calypso from The Very Best (and the only Michael Jackson tribute of the weekend, apparently requested of them by the Pitchfork folk).
Still, with all my complaints, it's hard to go wrong with a weekend of music, food and fun for the cheapest festival price around.