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July 20, 2007
This year Pitchforkmedia.com, arguably one of the biggest internet tastemakers in modern music, launched the second effort for their annual music festival, aptly named the Pitchfork Music Festival. The magazine made their first foray into curating summer festivities with the 2005 Intonation Festival, also held in Chicago, and after assembling a sturdy lineup (including smaller local bands like the M's and Pelican alongside the likes of the Decemberists) and pulling off a drama-free weekend that year (check our coverage of that year's festival here), they figured they could do it better on their own. Last year's inaugural Pitchfork-branded event (check out that coverage here, and here) went off without a hitch, packing so many high-profile acts into one weekend that it became, almost overnight, the hippest American "indie" festival.

For 2007 the powers at Pitchfork faced the task of clearing the bar they'd set with last year's festival, and by teaming up once again with the Flatstock poster fair and the WLUW record fair there is a good chance they could have applied the same formula with the same results. Instead Pitchfork did that and more, adding a DEPART-ment craft fair, coordinating a Friday night blockbuster with the ATP Festival and Don't Look Back that brought together three seminal acts to perform their most seminal albums live, pulling together a series of "LunchBreak Shows" with eMusic around Chicago the week before, and stacking a wealth of talent across the festival's three main stages for the sold-out weekend of shows. As with last year, we sent our Chicago bureau chief Josh Zanger out to cover this summer's Pitchfork event, and it wouldn't really be a festival in Chicago without fellow Windy City writer Jon Burke on the wing. The two headed out for the three days of billed music, a couple of underground cub reporters bound for glory or failure, and here are the thoughts they brought back. (Be sure to check out our photo feature on the festival as well.)

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Josh Zanger: So, Pitchfork Fest. It's over, Burke. Three days of music, food, booze, and pretty ladies. What's your overall feeling about the whole thing?

Jon Burke: You know, overall I had a good time, but I was not terribly impressed by most of the performances. There were a few exceptions, like Battles and Menomena, and especially Jamie Lidell, but much of the rest of it wasn't terribly interesting to me. It was great music to sit in the grass and drink beer to, but nothing to really get excited about. Last year, when Art Brut took the stage with the mercury pushing 100 degrees, they decided to up the ante and fucking rock out. This year, with the temps in the low 80s and a cool breeze blowing, the lead singer of Deerhunter was shoeless and standing on the kick drum to avoid the heat of stage floor. I think that is a perfect example of the difference between this year and last. 2006 was in your face. 2007 was laid back.

Zanger: For me, pound for pound, this year was much better. I can only think of one act that I really didn't enjoy, Stephen Malkmus. And although I had no desire to stay for Yoko Ono, I heard that even her set was pretty good.

The most major problems for me arose from the sheer numbers of people, a ton more people in attendance than last year - including an army of photographers and media people - and constant sound and setup issues. I didn't stay for everything, but what I saw I enjoyed.

Burke: Yeah, the sound problems were a little intense. The crowds too… I should stop being so negative though. What was your favorite thing about Friday's performances? I would say for me it was the last 15 minutes of Slint and most of Sonic Youth.

Zanger: A few people I was with said of Sonic Youth's set, "I don't remember the album rocking out THIS much." I'd have to agree. I was extremely impressed.

But Slint's set was what really did it for me. Spiderland was one of the first touchstone indie albums I really got into and I think they pulled it off live this weekend. The whole ATP/Don't Look Back series is such a cool idea, and it fit so well with Slint. I know you're into Wu Tang and GZA - did you feel his Liquid Swords set?

Burke: I have seen GZA a few times before, both solo and with Wu, and I must say this was one of his better sets. He has this bad tendency to rhyme a line and then hold the mic out for the audience to say the next verse, and that gets annoying because, frankly, we don't have his flow. The problem with GZA's set was the audience; it seemed like very few people in the crowd had actually heard Liquid Swords. That album is as much a milestone as either Daydream Nation or Spiderland, it is just less accessible as an aggressive rap album, something that most sensitive hipsters can't stomach.

Zanger: Yeah, the sensitive - and all other - hipsters were out in mass quantities. We were talking about doing a "Douchebags" section instead of this recap, simply because of all the hilarious fashion choices. My favorites were the cowboy boots, bad facial hair, and mom shorts. Give me the top five of hilarious things you saw this weekend.

Burke: Jamie Lidell's acid trip of a performance was fucking funny. Hipsters dressing like 80s preps were entertaining. Your brother's lack of sleep combined with his heavy intoxication made Saturday extra special. My favorite thing had to be the beautiful women of Pitchfork 2007, though. I am guessing you agree with me.

Zanger: Yeah, for sure. Sooooo many fine ladies. And the little sundresses? Christ. OK, let's get back on task.

Burke: Do we have to? Alright. Um, well one thing that I salute Pitchfork for were the prices of food items and beer. They kept things affordable - $1 for water and $4 for beer. On top of cheap passes for the whole weekend. I really appreciate not being gouged for every last dollar. What was your favorite part, besides the sundresses?

Zanger: Well here, I'll lay down my favorite parts of the entire weekend. Friday was the dead-on re-creation of Spiderland. Saturday was my favorite day though. I think Battles had to be a LOT of peoples' top highlight of the whole thing. They had such a powerful and creative sound, which was great, but they were also working their asses off up there. John Stanier, the drummer, had fully sweat through his shirt by the end of the first song and was just dripping through the rest of the set. Hard work equals good. Also impressive on Saturday was Cat Power with members of Delta 72, Dirty Three, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Grizzly Bear, William Parker Quartet with the impressive drumming of Hamid Drake, and the heavy metal of Mastodon. Tell me about the hot shit on Sunday.

Burke: Sunday's set by Menomena was incredible - definitely one of the only groups using a Baritone sax last weekend. The New Pornographer's set was tight. Jamie Lidell was incredible - I mean that muthafucker knows more about classic soul and R&B than most MoTown artists. I'd have to say that Jamie Lidell's set was my favorite of the whole weekend. De La Soul reuniting with Prince Paul was incredible - hearing "Rollerskating Jam" with Prince Paul DJing was a fantasy I never thought would be realized. Some of Sunday I didn't care about at all - Brightblack Morning Light and Cadence Weapon, for example. Anything good on Sunday I missed from your perspective?

Zanger: Fred Lonberg-Holm's Lightbox Orchestra and Nomo were really great. The Lightbox Orch had Lonberg-Holm directing a large musical group with cue cards and lights. Jeff Parker, of Tortoise fame, was a notable player along with a guy that was rubbing metal into a sheet of dry ice. Nomo was also great. They are some afrobeat outfit from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and with five horn players and three percussionists they really brought a funky, polished and fun sound to the side stage. I also really wanted to see Craig Taborn's Junk Magic, because the drummer is David King from Bad Plus, but the stage was consistently an hour behind its listed show times.

That's basically it. I enjoyed myself, and already look forward to next summer's big event. Any last words, JB?

Burke: None, other than thanks to the good folks at Pitchfork for bringing a bunch of great artists and people together for a long and entertaining weekend. I am looking forward to next year's fest too. Hope to see you there, JZ.
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That's a wrap on PMF07. Be sure to check out our photo series from the festival as well, and you can do that here.

SEE ALSO: www.pitchforkmusicfestival.com
SEE ALSO: www.pitchforkmedia.com

--
Josh Zanger and Jon Burke


See other articles by Josh Zanger and Jon Burke.

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