The Austin music scene through the eyes of a programmer/music enthusiast/show-goer

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pitchfork Music Fest: Best Of

Ah Chicago! I moved to Chitown after college (hook em) then moved back a year and a half after experiencing what I can only describe as "cold as shit." It was a bit of culture shock, but beautiful for 3 months of the year.

And it's no wonder that Pitchfork would pick the middle of the beautiful summer to host what was an awesome festival. I jumped at the chance to return to my old haunts, check out some Cubs action, eat a bunch of amazing food (see Frontera Grill, Piece, hotdogs w/ shit piled high, and mad mad pizza), and watch a group of the best artists playing music today in a tiny West side community park.

In the spirit of my SXSW review, here are the top guns ...


Best Show: The National

Wait a minute ... he didn't say Band of Horses. I know. Because it wasn't the show that The National put on (and if Alligator was put out this year that's all I'd write about probably and be giving BOH the honorable mention). They played for about 40 minutes and threw out just about every good song (ok, they're all good) off of Alligator plus a couple of new ones for good measure. If the new songs are any indication of what is to come, LOOKOUT! The new songs were called 'Mistaken For Strangers' and 'Start A War'. The first was a rocker talking about being "mistaken for strangers, by your own friends" and the second was the show closer; started pretty chill and finished strong. I didn't want this set to end.

And the best part - they brought violinist Padma Newsome with them! I've seen The National a few times, but never w/ the violin player. He added such power and beauty to the songs, which really brought them to life from how they play on the album. That fool can jam a violin too. The entire 6-man group seemed to pour whatever they had into each song, especially singer Matt Berninger. During most songs he actually looked like he was in pain just from the words coming out of his mouth, and at the end of 'Abel' I thought he was going to keel over. They didn't mess around for their entire set, which I felt could have gone on longer given that the next band wasn't up for another 20 minutes. But seeing the look on his face after every song, I think it's possible that they didn't have anything left in the tank for a few more songs. Either way it was worth every minute.

Best Show (before The National came on): Destroyer

Both my lady and I agreed that this set was the highlight when we left Saturday. I've always been a fan, but haven't really had the opportunity to check out Bejar & Co. as they don't make it all the way to the Lone Star State much (if ever). We were in the unfortunate position of being right in front of the right stack of speakers. So apart from being deaf for the following 3 hours in our right ears only, it was an amazing experience filled with songs from Rubies and Streethawk: A Seduction. Listening to Rubies will never be the same again. The guitar jam in the middle of 'European Oils' not only made my ears bleed, but made me wish the set could go on for the rest of the day. The entire band was solid, not really missing any steps as they churned out Destroyer's not-so-ordinary songs.

Worst Experience: Every second the band announcer spoke

That guy needed to be shot, quartered, and dragged to each corner of beautiful Union Park for public mockery. He felt compelled to repeat himself every time a new band came on - telling us to be part of a "community," start our own band like Art Brut, pick up trash, not pass out flyers, blah blah, other annoying shit, some poems, and bullet to the head. And his little speeches got longer each time he told them. It was amusing to see BOH stand behind him trying to hold in the laughter as he thought we was being clever working "Everything All The Time" into his shitty intro poem. Well done Bridwell & Co.

Best Band Member Encounter: Aaron Dessner of The National

Ok, you're saying it's because he's obsessed w/ The National, but it's the only encounter that didn't involve seeing someone walk by. We decided to lounge in the field while catching some Ted Leo and eventually The Walkmen. We were just chillin' on our blanket and I hear this familiar voice [familiar because somehow I run into this guy at every music festival they are at ... I swear I don't stalk] say "We've been in the recording studio for the last 2 months." So naturally my ears perk up and I'm interested to see who's been laying down them tracks. And to my surprise it's Mr. Dessner creepin' right up on our blanket (He's playing the bells during the start of 'All The Wine'). Being the solid music citizen I am I didn't interrupt his convo with some little lady. But I was excited to learn that they'd been recording. This is very good news. I very much wanted to confirm they would rollin' to Austin on the next bigger tour (following a jaunt on the West Coast), but it wasn't meant to be. They will come. They must.

Biggest Surprise: The Pitchfork folks didn't screw it up

It was pretty much a high quality experience. Water was $1. There was GOOD keg beer from local brewer, Goose Island. Small tents were set up for shade. Lots of good food. A tent full of stuff to keep you occupied when not peeping tunes. The Flatstock poster show was fantastic. I always mean to go during SXSW, but a man's got to sleep sometime. After wakey time it's day-show time, then on to showcase time. Where am I supposed to find the time? The location was amazing -- right off the L and very easy to get to. And a beautiful park surrounded by huge trees w/ the Sears Tower peeking out in the distance. Besides the amazing line up, the best part: $30 for 2 days! [For shame ACL.] I'd have paid $30 for The National and Destroyer alone. Well done fork folks. Here's hoping they don't slowly up the price, squeezing us indie music lovers of our hard earned dollars. We gotta have some duckets left over to actually buy the CDs our favorite bands put out.

Funniest/'What Is Up' Moment: During the short wait before Spoon's set, 2 SOUND team songs were pumped over the speakers

I thought my ears (not my eyes) were liars, as the song I was peeping suggested. I'd like to think this was Britt Daniel's way of stickin' it to the fork while simultaneously reppin' a fellow Austin band. Or maybe it was the fork saying, "SIKE, this stuff really is good enough to be played at our festival." Either way it was legit.

Best Non Festival Moment: CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!

Actually Cubs SWEEP the Cards for the first time since the 70s. We caught Friday's 6-5 victory. After rolling up a little late to find the Cubbies down 3 in the 3rd, our spirits were uplifted with a 6 run 4th inning! They gave the Cards 2 more to keep it suspenseful (and keep us drinking them Old Style beers), but the Cubs held on for the W. Good times. Oh how I miss living a few short blocks from the best baseball stadium in the world.

UPDATE: More pics ...

Texan Hotel Fork-trot

Band of Horses to sound guy: "Huh?"

The band waits for the horrible announcer to wrap it up. (Check out that smoke!)

Berninger croons

Padma plays violin and guitar!

Berninger almost passes out singing 'Abel'

Syncronized Dessners playing new song 'Start A War'

From the floor of Union Park


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