Pitchfork Fest ’08: Looking Back On ‘Don’t Look Back’

July 19th, 2008: As seen on Archive (PDF)

It took a field of hipsters to hold back reality t.v.’s favorite half of Public Enemy last night in Chicago’s Union Park, as Chuck D shot the gun on Pitchfork’s third effort in the festival realm with the opening diatribes of hip-hop’s seminal album, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, sans his counterpart.

Chuck D upon Flavor’s belated entrance: “Where the fuck were you on “Bring The Noise?”

Flavor Fav: “I don’t know Chuck, I was with the family.”

Apparently he was talking about his actual family, of which he helped set up shop back stage.  His godson would later grace the platform and stare blankly as the duo fought the power.  But at the moment, the sentiment quickly lost value as track by track of their twenty-year-old album deployed via their production team, The Bomb Squad.  And politically-empowered ass shaking ensued.

If you aren’t hip to the London-based promoters All Tomorrow’s Parties series “Don’t Look Back,” in which fans are to precisely do just that in honor of full LPs that master the art of time and organization, Pfork Day One would baffle the mp3 mind.

Public Enemy were given closing honors, albeit marred by Flavor Fav’s self-promotion for his new season of Flavor Of Love, in which a sea of horn-rimmed-glassed music purists attacked with boos.  Though it spurred the best comeback I’ve heard since grade school (“For all you mother fuckers boo-ing: What are you, ghosts or something?”) followed by an equally volatile performance of “Don’t Believe The Hype,” Flavor introducing it with a tale of a New York DJ trashing the PE name with an on air one-liner, “No more music by these suckers.”

Of course Chuck and Flavor would spit many more diatribe catchphrases, capped by a “Fuck George Bush,” a peace sign emblazoned “Fight The Power That Be,” and finally, “Only You Have The Power To Give Peace.”

Flashback to daylight, the band that Sonic Youth took many pages from, punk stalwarts Mission Of Burma tore through Vs., to start the fest proper.  The 26-year-old influential tunes were lost amidst many of the new-gen, finger-on-the-pulsers present, but that didn’t stop frothy gems like “Dead Pool” and “Fun World” from inciting fist-pumps abound.  And in one awesome parallel, a four-year-old girl frolicked in the grass with traffic-control headphones in tow, while guitarist Roger Miller careened licks from his own firing-range pair in place to keep the band from breaking up again.

Wedged in between MOB and Public Enemy, came the scrappy Lou Barlow guitar fuzz of Sebadoh’s Bubble & Scrape, the youngest of the track-for-track bunch (15 years) but the only responsible for building the foundations of emo, with its heart-on-sleeve tales of lost loves, paired with supreme guitar squall.  Barlow was all smiles though, switching up the record order, referring to its host as “Pitch-fuck” and sharing tales of how much his wife hates his song about masturbation (“Homemade”).  At one guitar-change point, he punkified the chorus of Tom Petty’s “The Waiting,” asserting to the crowd how great his vocal range is.

It was interesting to see the attention spans of the masses.  Through all three of these bands sets, hipster disdain was pretty minimal, save for the pocket of kids too young for Mission Of Burma.

Stay tuned for Day Two and Day Three, as buzz bands compete 15 minutes apart from each other, where kids truly won’t look back. And Flavor Fav will not be there to entertain.

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