by Griffin Winton-LaVieri (WPRB Music Director)
Every year the Pitchfork Music Festival seems to book the best bands. Last year as I watched the artist announcements (Broken Social Scene!) come out (LCD Soundsystem!) through out the spring (Pavement!), I was all too aware that there was no way I could make it. But 2011 was different; with orientation for college in Wisconsin, a trip to Chicago would fit perfectly into my summer and thus the trip was meant to be. When Animal Collective was announced as a headliner, I ran through the halls of my high school to tell my best friend, Ravi, who would be going to the festival with me. It was going to be the high point of my summer.
Since we arrived the day before, Ravi and I had nothing in particular to do midday Friday. As I’m a big fan of being early to concerts (a result of my short stature and subsequent love of being in the front row), we arrived at the festival gates at noon- approximately 3 hours before they would open. This was, in retrospect, one of the best decisions of the weekend because it allowed us to think about our priorities and prepare to realize our goals; namely, we decided to get through gates quickly and sprint to the Green Stage and stay there the whole day so we could see Animal Collective up close.
The first band on the Green Stage was Battles. Despite the fact that Tyondai Braxton no longer numbers among their ranks, they rocked through “Atlas” and other songs with the help of prerecorded vocals and a screen on stage displayed the guesting vocalists. Their set up was gear-intense as it featured such remarkable aspects as a cymbal elevated to the height of approximately 7 feet, effects pedals lining key board stands, keyboards angled at 45 degrees, and the machinery which built the loops that built the songs.
After Battles was Guided By Voices. If one band epitomized rock’n’roll that weekend, I’m pretty sure it is GBV; first off was Robert Pollard, the lead singer, who proudly took swigs of rum between songs and did multitudes of leg kicks as he performed. The guitarist took the prize, though, as he chain-smoked through the set; always needing a cigarette, he had a stagehand behind him whose sole role was to light new cigarettes and place them in his mouth. I have never gotten into GBV’s extensive catalogue so I recognized only a few songs that they play, but any set with “I am a Scientist” is a good set, right?
At 8:30, Animal Collective finally took the stage. In the break after GBV, an elaborate set was built featuring a giant head behind the band, huge glowing crystals in front of the band, and illuminated plastic bats hanging down from the rigging. The set consisted of almost entirely new tracks and the first song they performed was especially special as it was “Change”, one of the new tracks, which is the first Deakin sings on. As for the new songs, they generally the rhythmic and aggressive, more like Water Curses than Meriwether Post Pavilion. Then again, it by the time they come out in the form of a new record they will probably not only have different names but new directions as well. AnCo did play several old songs and each time they did, it seemed more euphoric; They worked their way through “Did You See the Words”, “Brothersport”, a slower, heavier version of “Taste”, and ended on an incredibly high note with the much loved “Summertime Clothes.” Despite the fact that they had 10 minutes before the Chicago curfew, they didn’t play an encore. Although the time they spent playing was magical, I’m sort of glad they didn’t. They couldn’t have topped “Summertime Clothes.”
Photo credit: Ravi Prakriya