Pitchfork Fest ’08: Lights & Music

July 21st, 2008: As seen on Paste (PDF)

The buzz and short attention spans I spoke of in Day One, and the newfound diversity heralded in Day Two, these things imploded upon each other the final hours of Sunday, with one holy rockness middle ground rising up from the rubble.

The moment can be pinpointed actually, if you were to witness Les Savy Fav’s punk-maestro, Tim Harrington, careen his bald dome into a city garbage can, demanding the crowd hoist him, and his new stage, into the air so he could finish his song.

Post-set comment from a fan:

Dude wanted up, like Oscar the Grouch, towards the sky! Easily the most zenith of any rock and roll moment I have ever witnessed.

Sure it was the same debauchery Harrington’s built his reputation upon at various sweaty clubs across the country.  But there was a time when Pitchfork’s occupation of Union Park did not care to venture too far outside Japanese drum circles and freak folk…at least at four o’ clock in the afternoon.

Lots of subjectives and parallels here, no doubt; this year’s closers, Spoon, were part of the inaugural year’s line-up, for instance.  Call it happenstance.  Call it a mirror of the market.  One certainty ran from band to band on Sunday – their ability to work a stage on a broad-appeal level, yet still harbor that sub-radar exclusivity.

And everyone there, unlike years past, yearned to share the sentiment together.

San Francisco’s The Dodos owned the rest of afternoon, engulfing onlookers in Morrissey lulls, only to bottle rocket off into tribal clangery.  It took effort not to dance those rhythms out of your bones, especially with tales about “Fools” who take loved ones for granted.

While M. Ward brooded quintessential chill, whispering lofty Satchmo-gravel secrets to his mic, while fans built sculptures in the mud. The folkster sauntered through Daniel Johnston covers and reminded people to partake in the arts & crafts aspect of the festival.  It was a nice little resting point before the divine indie-vention of Spiritualized.

If Les Savy Fav brought people together with punk hedonism, Spiritualized exalted evangelical rock. Right at the end of the day, when the sun decides to fireball into your eyes, the band took the stage, gospel choir in tow, and unleashed notes that truly saved. Story goes lead singer, Jason Spaceman, nearly died of pneumonia in the making of latest LP, Songs In A&E.  When the brooding squall of “Shine A Light” erupted from his guitar, fans were there in a foot of mud beaming rays. And when the band hammered into “Come Together,” arms flew up in the air like beacons of hope.

Meanwhile, J Mascis amped his six-stack of Marshalls to blastatron, and ripped through all that late-’80s zen-guitar fuzz he and other Junior Dinosaurs married angst with. Whereas Spiritualized ask for redemption, Mascis just shredded emotion into oblivion, throwing his white mop all over his guitar, kids screaming “Feel The Pain” like an anthem: “I feel the pain of everyone, then I feel nothing.”

And then something odd happened. Droves flooded the side stage for Cut Copy, but no Cut Copy was found. So the droves about-faced and headed back for closer Spoon on the main stage. Word was that Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’d some unity and entertainment and…yeah.  But those that held strong on the side stage were treated to a misfit superjam made up of Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, King Khan and Jay Reatard on flower and ass-wiping duty.

I do not understand what’s punk about wiping remnants of feces on flowers and throwing them into a mass of people, but the three would rock just about anything the crowd demanded, from Nirvana to CSNY.  And just when the drunken buffoonery reached its max, Khan presented a late Cut Copy, whose flight was delayed…from Australia.

Running into that silly 10 p.m. curfew law that closed shop on Animal Collective the previous night, the Aussie club-hearts lit the last 30 minutes of that night aflame in pop-techno circusry; sweaty night thrusts, burning into brains with every camera flash:

Lights and music, are on my mind. Be my baby, one more time.

There were kids dancing without a clue as to why they were dancing. Synth-hook genius, indeed. But this was simply about sharing lights and music.

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