Photos by Max Blau
There’s a man waving around a smudge stick, stomping his foot to a tribal beat on Saturday afternoon at Pitchfork Music Festival. It’s one of the members of Gang Gang Dance, who beat their drums for an excessive period during their mid-afternoon set. As they slowly build up in intensity, a girl in the crowd turns around and slurs to no one in particular that this song “is going to be amazing.” It’s hard not to argue with her. The ascending piano chords ring through the air, mingling with the group’s Eastern rhythmic vibes. Lizzi Bougatsos sings for a while before hopping off the stage to hang out with the crowd. The drummers continue to build to a climax as she hoists herself over the barrier, laughing as the crowd carries her away. Gang Gang Dance’s music traverses genre and culture in an ecstatic build of energy.
With no less intensity, OFF! steps onto the blue stage while the noise of Gang Gang Dance is still lingering in the air. “We’re gonna bring a new flavor to the party,” frontman Keith Morris says as they take the stage. The fierce kick drum and frenetic pace is a refreshing and familiar sound after Gang Gang Dance. So are OFF!’s brief songs—each clocking in at under two minutes, leaving nothing more to be added or missed. It’s a punk-rock party that breaks up any lingering monotony from previous sets. What makes their set better is that Morris talks… a lot. He talks about why their song “Fuck People” is directed at those who bring 20 items into the 15-item-or-less isle at the grocery store, and those who text while driving. He’s not particularly eloquent, but he’s incredibly entertaining.
A perfect mid-afternoon break comes in the form of Destroyer’s mellow groove. The saxophone and horn are welcome balances to the worldly synths and hardcore abrasiveness that preceded their set, with Dan Bejar’s alcohol-laced vocals lulling and wooing the crowd into a more peaceful state. Across the park, Twin Shadow feels the pain of the Blue Stage running behind schedule. As a result, the NYC synth-soul outfit plays a painfully short set which people aren’t pleased about. They stick with their more upbeat numbers and let the fluid electronic beats set the tone—something everyone wants more of by the time they’re finished.
The perfect remedy to the day’s schedule clogs and late performances is the Fleet Foxes’ headlining set. Robin Pecknold always seems to act genuinely surprised that there are so many people screaming and crowding the stage—a genuine sincerity makes him all the more charming. The group plays their set almost without pause, flowing from one song to the next. The seamless transition of songs along with their beautiful and cavernous harmonies is what makes this band’s live performance shine even more than their recorded tracks. The songs are intricate and precise, soulful and brooding. When the final chords ring out over the park, the folk rockers have left the crowd with a fullness and satisfaction that lingers through the summer evening.
Check out Max Blau’s photos from day two at Pitchfork Music Festival, where the Fleet Foxes, Zola Jesus, DJ Shadow, Dismemberment Plan, Twin Shadow and more.