Pitchfork Fest ’09: There Will Be No Encore…

July 18th, 2009: As seen on Archive (PDF)

Flannel shirts everywhere, the fourth evolution of the Pitchfork Music Festival wafted over Chicago like a Seattle rain cloud circa 1992. And what a way to start: hometown fusion heroes, Tortoise, followed by the supreme thrash and fuzz of Yo La Tengo, another hometown reincarnation, the Jesus Lizard, and lastly, bearded shredders, Built to Spill.

Spaced out by toe-taps and side-stage smoke breaks, Tortoise were trademark blasé, on a night themed around fans’ creation of set-lists. Dubbed “Write the Night,” Pitchfork polled ticket-holders for their favorite tunes, handing over picks to the bands proper. Though on more than one occasion bands took liberties with their own faves, notably Yo La Tengo’s stabby organ nod to Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ron Santos.

Likewise for the Jesus Lizard.  If you don’t know the story, their appearance at Pitchfork marks a string of dates with the original formation of the band, as years past have seen falling outs and a hiatus or two. So by the time David Yow hit the microphone, a man known for wrapping his genitalia around instruments, the punk energy hit reckless levels. Bodies were thrown. Never mind set-lists, Yow instead encouraging the crowd to demand their money back at the gate before launching into a blur of one-word-isms from everything from Liar to ’98’s Blue.

By the time Built to Spill brought it home, “Write the Night” was really just a passing phrase, especially since Doug Martsch could be seen pre-performance scribbling out, from thin air, tunes for his closing set. Even so, hit after hit mostly pulled from the band’s Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like A Secret, saw a sea of plaid hoist intense air guitar sessions in support, all coming to a frothy, squalling head in the rhetorical fusion of classic rock past in “You Were Right,” that resonated deep within sets of generation Xers present.

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