Just when I thought I was finally going to see the Twilight Sad in Istanbul, I came across Pitchfork Festival starting on the same day. When I checked, I was surprised to see quite a strong line-up with acts like M83, James Blake, DIIV, Chromatics, Animal Collective, Simian Mobile Disco, Grizzly Bear, Cloud Nothings, Factory Floor, The Walkmen, Fuck Buttons, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs…Although I have seen almost half of the bands live before, spending the weekend in Paris and experiencing a festival for the first time was quite appealing. So on Thursday morning I hopped into a Eurostar and settled in a room I could hardly manage to book the last minute.
First of all, Pitchfork turned out to be a very comfy affair. It’s organized in a grand hall in Parc Villette. It’s extremely easy to get there by tube and you reach the venue in less than a minute from the station. There are no lines in the entrance and although the festival was sold out, there were more or less 4,000 people around. I love festivals that respect the audience and refrain from overselling tickets. The acoustics in the hall was great and the best part was that there were two stages at each end of the hall. When a band finished their set, the next band started on the other stage right away. No clashes, no going back and forth between stages…
My biggest disappointment was that I missed the four bands I wanted to watch the most because some took the stage as early as 5 pm on Thursday while I was still on the train. I am really taken with How to Dress Well lately and I missed them. I also missed DIIV, Wild Nothing and Cloud Nothings. On the other hand, I could not wait until 3.30 am for Simian Mobile Disco, Lindstrom or James Blake’s dj set. Hopefully, I will catch them live sometime in London.
Apart from that, here are the best and worst bits in my opinion, and do keep in mind I have not seen all of the bands on the line-up.
As far as electro bands go, M83 are in a league of their own. They blew me away at Primavera this summer and they proved that it was not a coincidence. Their sound is tailored to perfection for bigger stages, you hear everything just about right and nothing gets lost in the sound mud. It feels like everybody gets to be the lead, no band member overshadows the other and their chemistry is incredible. The slower tracks like We Own the Sky are re-arranged to higher bpms. Their onstage personas are insane and the lights and stage show is just as amazing. All in all, no other band could match the impact they had on the crowd.
2 Grizzly Bear
To be honest, I wasn’t a fan before. I think I have turned. On their steady rise to stardom, Grizzly Bear mastered the art of live performance. They had the crowd in their palms from the first minute and did not let go until the end. They delivered beautifully. Usually I get bored after a while if I’m not familiar with all the songs but with this lot, I did not even want to take a minute to reach out to my phone and take a photograph.
3 James Blake
I wasn’t expecting such a strong performance from James Blake but he proved me wrong. He started the set with CMYK and then, everybody was quite taken when he started looping his vocals, singing on top and subtly playing the keyboards at the same time (in a different interpretation than last year’s gigs). To state the obvious, this kid’s voice is divine. Stripped from the many effects on record, it’s even better live. The best moments were when he was singing and the weaker ones were when it was just the synths. He’d also be better off adding some stage decor and decent lights to the show. Mostly, what we saw was the smoke and dark.
It feels like Breton are getting bigger everyday and they know it. They have probably been more enthusiastically received in France than their hometown all along, Saturday night being no exception. The setlist was the same, starting with 15X, delving into Pacemaker and bringing out the guns with Edward the Confessor. They were even better than the last time I saw them at Scala. They seemed like they were having a swell time onstage and their passion definitely translated into the crowd.
5 Purity Ring
The reason I enjoyed this band so much is because I love their album as well. Their set was far from perfect. When they started with Belispeak, Megan James had so much reverb on her voice (or some crazy effect I don’t know about) that she practically fell out of synch with Corin Roddick. When they played Lofticries, her mike was mute and we listened to half of the song instrumental. The two were giving each other lost looks by then. However, despite the technical problems, their songs had the power to catch the crowd’s attention and keep them highly entertained the whole time. They had by far the best stage decor in the festival (my photo do not do them justice) and apart from M83; they were the only band that truly put on a show, with drumming lights and all.
Also good were:
Fuck Buttons. I texted my good friend Mabbas straight away, who has probably seen every band on Earth live, and he just laughed saying they were truly “brain-f*****s.” In a good way.
Chromatics. They exceeded my expectations. A girl I met there said that she’d recently seen them live and they were much better in a smaller venue, with a different setlist. I don’t know about that, since it was my first time and I enjoyed it. They performed Looking for Love for the first time and let the fans chose their last song out of two, since they ran out of time. (It was Into the Black.)
Robyn. I don’t like her and I could not name a song if you asked me. I thought I would be shopping her away at Rough Trade but she turned out to be quite good. I still don’t like her but to be impartial, she is a good live performer.
-1 Death Grips
Imagine Jay-Z trying to pull a Prodigy and rather ending up as a B.A. Baracus look-alike going tribal electro. It was pure torture, enduring this topless guy messing with my brain. What a girl has to do to listen to Grizzly Bear is unbelievable! It was not a bad performance; it was just horrible, horrible music. Avoid at all cost, unless you are a hard-core fan. In that case, avoid me.
-2 Sebastian Tellier
I like some of his songs but he talks nonsense, deliberately looks funny and does not sound good at all. A peculiar character that one…And to think he advised festivalgoers to check out an extremely posh restaurant at Four Seasons George V is just beyond belief. So not cool!
-3 Animal Collective
Animal Collective is no easy listening and I will upset some friends by saying this, but I didn’t like them live as well. They were dull and static. I’m sure a lot of other people enjoyed them but it just didn’t do it for me.
It would not be fair to call theirs a bad performance. They are not bad, but challenging let’s say. I had seen them a month ago at Scala and could not make it to the end. They sing mostly from their latest album and they fire Bratz second. But after a while, I yearn for a good melody and they just get too noisy and too experimental onstage for my liking.
Overall, I really enjoyed Pitchfork Festival and strongly advise electro-lovers to check it out the next time if they haven’t already.