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Fork in the Road: The Ghosts of Pitchfork's Past Part 2

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Continuing on from my previous post, this is a look at my personal highlights from last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival.

Pitchfork 2008

A year after my first Pitchfork experience I made another trip to the Windy City. I was not staying in Northwest Indiana, as I was the previous year, but in a northern suburb of Chicago. As a result, I was able to take a train into the city. I love taking the train and only wish that Indianapolis had something similar.

I decided to make a beeline for the record sale. I had been collecting releases on the Numero label for the better part of two years. The Chicago-based re-issue label had their wares discounted and they were shelling out freebies including an amazing soundtrack for a film on cassette that was never produced called, “Brotherman,” trading cards, 7-inches, and posters. I walked away with more funk than I knew what to do with.

After emptying my wallet, I wandered over to catch Fleet Foxes as they were creating quite the buzz leading up to the festival. They sounded phenomenal and the crowd seemed to really enjoy it. After hearing Fleet Foxes close out a beautiful and serene set. Dizzee Rascal took the nearby stage ten minutes later and yelled, “Y’all Asleep!? F*** that folk s***!” Needless to say, Mr. Rascal played an outstanding set and blew everyone away, while at the same time managing to alienate every Fleet Foxes fan, not that there would be a lot of crossover fans of grime-style hip-hop from the UK and the preceding dream-folk delight.

Also during this festival, I managed to accidentally see Vampire Weekend for the third time. I always seem to go to shows and this band is somehow on the bill. I never anticipate buying tickets for one of their shows because I know I’ll end up seeing them somewhere, somehow. I saw them open for the Dirty Projectors and Celebration in Bloomington on two occasions, but the band had finally released their debut album and had received significant critical praise by the time Pitchfork rolled around. It was nice seeing a band that had spent time opening for bands and touring for a while with little recognition grabbing a bit of the spotlight at the festival.

I had stumbled upon an album by King Khan and the Shrines prior to the festival and was eager to see if this raucous brand of freaky funk could be recreated in a live setting. Khan entered the stage wearing only blue underwear, a cape, a crown, and sunglasses. He looked like he would be winded after one song, but beer bellies can be deceiving. The band was tight, fun, and they even had a cheerleader on stage for no apparent reason. By the end of the set the crowd was literally ripping up money from their pockets because King Khan told them to do so. King Khan could have asked his minions to do just about ANYTHING after this blistering show, but luckily, he only used his powers for good.

One of the bands that I was most excited to see was the brainchild of space-rocker Jason Pierce (aka. J. Spaceman.) Pierce is a UK native and had an extended stay in the hospital in 2005 after a near-death experience prior to the recording of Songs in A&E. This combination of sparse US touring and a health scare made me even more determined to witness interstellar ballads about love, drugs, and religion (seriously, check this band out.) I was utterly thrilled to bliss out to Spiritualized’s airy and epic onslaught as the sun was setting. The band was tight, the backup gospel singers were uplifting, and the venue was perfect.

Another band I had feared that I might never see that performed at Pitchfork was Dinosaur Jr. The band had called it quits in 1997, but had reformed 2005. Before the band had a chance to disband for good, I was thankful to be able to witness the hard-rocking, guitar-heavy barrage of J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph, seemingly as strong as they ever were.

One of the highlights of the festival was seeing Spoon perform a variety of tunes from their entire catalog along with a small horn section. It was an excellent way to close out a starry Chicago night. There were no elaborate props, expensive set pieces, or any unnecessary frills. It was just a hard-working, talented band performing some of their best-loved songs for their fans. That is what Pitchfork is all about.

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