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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

July 25, 2005
If you're reading this website, chances are you are a frequent visitor to Pitchforkmedia.com as well. Whether you check their news section several times a day or publicly renounce them as the Rolling Stone of Internet music magazines, you are not alone in your obsession. The site is the meeting place of hipsters, scenesters, snobsters and music downloadsters (but not napsters) who wish to stay informed about the goings-on of indie bands that others may or may not be familiar with. If you're like me, you visit Pitchfork twice a day--once when I get to work to read album reviews and again when I get home, to make sure I didn't miss any important news updates like "M.I.A. prep new EP" or "T.V.O.T.R. announce tracklist." After all, you never know when you'll need to show off how much you know about music.

Inevitably, I read all of the notices about the first ever Pitchfork-sponsored music festival, Intonation, and was sucked in. From my base camp in Minneapolis, the drive was feasible and the expenses would be minimal if I stayed with a college friend from the area. It wasn't long before I was recruiting fellow Pitchfork readers to accompany me to what was being billed as this festival to end all festivals. The line-up being as diverse as it was, I was able to pull together four other bodies and we were on our way. As dedicated readers of Pitchfork, we were quite sure Intonation would be a never-ending joygasm of pure, perfect indie rock.

That, however, was not the case. Though the weekend was to be considered an overall success, it wasn't the greatest 48 hours of my life--and I fully expected it to be. Of all the wonderful things to see and hear at Intonation, it was not the indie-Eden the purveyors would have you believe. For those of you who were unable to attend and are reading the website's ridiculously lengthy four-part debriefing, you need not salivate; I'm here to give you an objective perspective on the festival, the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

1. The Lineup: The quantity and quality of bands on the bill was incredible. From smaller acts like the M's and Pelican opening the festival to the now arena-worthy headliners the Decemberists and everything in between, there was something worth hearing for the whole family. Also, having two non-competing stages kept things going, and there was barely any down over the duration of the entire 18-hour festival.

2. The Go! Team: I like their album, but their live show took me off my feet. They were the only band able to get a throng of self-conscious indie snobs to wave their hands in the air as if they didn't care. Toward the end of the set, singer/rapper/cheerleader Ninja rushed onstage with 15 kids pulled from a local swimming pool to form a makeshift dance squad during "Ladyflash." It was easily the most vibrant moment of the festival, and for a few shining minutes everyone within earshot was either dancing or pretending to, at the very least considering it.

3. Mobility: Getting in/out/around the festival was not a problem. Roomy Union Park was well suited to accommodate thousands of people, two stages and numerous vendor booths. Food lines got a bit long once and a while, but it was easy to move from the record fair to the Holiday stage to the porta-pottys to the DJ booth without shoving or biting anyone.

4. Parking: Spots were surprisingly ample, and coming from downtown, it was no problem finding a free spot on the street within 3 blocks of the park. I guess everyone listened to Pitchfork's advice about taking the train, which as a result may have sucked.

5. Cooling off: It was hot as ten bastards all weekend, so anything providing shade was a blessing. After walking to the park and standing around for some of the earlier sets, it was necessary to get out of the sun and drink some cold, cheap water, reasonably priced at $1 per bottle.

6. Colin Meloy of the Decemberists: The lyrical Montanan getting everyone in the crowd to crouch was a nice touch, and ending the festival with all the fans bowing down to the bonnie princes of the Pitchfork scene was an appropriate display of appreciation.

The Bad

1. Deerhoof: I had been waiting eagerly to see Deerhoof, and when they finally took the stage I was completely bored. Rather than rip through a set of mind-blowing rock songs like "L'Amour Stories," the band opted for longer, slower, simpler numbers. It was impossible to see Satomi's subtle, funny antics from any distance, the energy was low, and the crowd wasn't really into it. The group would relish in long, mid-song pauses, which confused newcomers and old fans alike-no one knew when to clap, so after a while the portion of the crowd that stayed stop trying. By the time they played "Milk Man," I had already wandered back to my shade tree, head hung in disappointment.

2.Xiu Xiu: Though there was a fair amount of buzz for his set, Jamie Stewart's music is decidedly not meant for a summer festival. Not being a big fan in the first place, I was glad to be far away from the bizarre autoharp stylings that killed everybody's buzz.

3. The Dress Code: I have never seen so many hipsters trying to pretend it wasn't a mid-July weekend, one of the hottest 48 hours in recent memory. Decked out in impossibly-tight jeans and sport coats, the crowd was in full-scene armor and waiting to be envied by fellow thrifters. I expected to find a sense of camaraderie amongst friends in music, but found nothing but found competition and ill will. It seems insecurity is the tie that binds indie kids together.

4. The Merchandise: My heart was all atwitter when I heard there would be a vinyl fair at Intonation, but it turned out to be a disappointment. It would have been nice to haggle prices with sellers, had there been anything worth finding. Neighborhoodies set up a booth so that concertgoers could put stupid expressions on shirts and pay for them, handsomely, before the regret set in.

The Ugly

1. The fatso in the red mesh shirt-both days of it. This guy was active, too, getting in on an impromptu frisbee session one of the baseball diamonds.

2. Dave Newfeld: After being assaulted by New York City cops, Broken Social Scene's Dave Newfeld looked pretty grim. I couldn't see his face from my vantage, but the story was pretty grim, and so are the pictures floating around the web.

3. EL-P's DJ set: I didn't wander into the tent to see EL-P and James McNew of Yo La Tengo duke it out, so this is hearsay, but at least three people told me that EL-P didn't even know how to match BPMs.

4. Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington: I was at the other stage holding a spot before the Decemberists went on, but I'm pretty sure Harrington got naked at some point during Les Savy Fav's set. He got damn close at least, and the announcer thanked the Chicago PD for being "so cool" about the whole thing.


All things considered, it was a great weekend for indie music and its legion of overly-anti-fashionable fans. Don't let Pitchfork fool you, though-Intonation had its victories it also had its defeats, just like any other congregation. If you're still bummed about not making it to Chicago, just sit in the sun in your most celebrated indie rocker outfit for a few days. That should give you a feel for it. And, there is always the possibility that Intonation will be back next year, with an entirely new line-up of bands that only image-conscious, precision-tousled people care about... did someone say Fiery Furnaces?

SEE ALSO: www.intonationmusicfest.com

--
Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn't think he has an accent.

See other articles by Andy Brown.

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