official opinions: summer music festivals, part deux

As a live music junkie and music festival veteran, I was inspired by Derek’s Monday post so I thought I’d give my two cents about a couple of my favorite festivals, two of which I was lucky enough to attend this humid summer.

Pitchfork: Even though I’ve been in this city for 3 years and my friends and/or fiance have gone every year, I always managed to miss Pitchfork due to work or vacation.  This year was my first time, and I have to say, while I had fun, I’ve had much more at other Chicago music festivals.  I like indie rock but I’m not on the cutting edge of the scene like others I know.  I was woefully under-prepared for the scores of bands that I just didn’t recognize.  And it’s hard for me to sit for 8 hours in the scorching sun and humidity, using disgusting porta-potties without hearing a couple hits now and then.  But the bands I knew (and some that I didn’t) really rocked my socks.  And there is some great people-watching.  (So, so many bad tattoos and beards!) All-in-all a successful weekend. Lesson learned, I’ll bravely bear the sweat and heat next year, but I need to do my homework first.

Some highlights of Pitchfork:
Saturday: New bands to check out: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Panda Bear and Wolf Parade.  I had heard a few songs by these groups in the past, but now I must get to know them better because they were good; really good.  But my favorite of the evening was the incomparable LCD Soundsystem.  I just don’t know how anyone can sit while this band plays.  Their dance-y groove even had the few blue-hairs in the crowd jumping!  The band sounded awesome, but I bet they would sound even better in a small club where their steadily-pulsing beats can grow to fever pitch with their light show.  Personally, I think they sounded a bit muffled and the open air venue thwarted their commanding presence.  Still a great time though.

Sunday: This was by far the best day of Pitchfork.  A majority of these bands were ones I knew by name only… but that will change shortly.  Surfer Blood and Here we Go Magic were light and fun. St. Vincent’s eerie sound was a stark contrast to the hip-hop stylings of Major Lazer, who just cracked me up.  An African-American rapper with a blond Mohawk, booty dancers and ballerinas in tutus onstage, this guy was so much fun to watch on stage.  At one point he pulls out a 30 foot ladder, jumps off from the top rung and does a push-up right over the booty dancer laying on her back at the bottom.  Scandalous! OutKast’s Big Boi totally rocked it out too with hits like Ms. Jackson & B.O.B. But Pavement was by far my favorite act of the night. If you don’t know them, you should look them up immediately.  Don’t wait! They are just that good.  They played all of their popular songs (or at least the ones I wanted).  I was so close to the stage I could see Steven Malkmus sweat and during “Range Life” I turned to look at the sea of people behind me.  Everyone, I mean everyone, was singing & smiling.  For an hour and half, tens of thousands of people became one unit enjoying life and music. What could be better?

Guitars made from car mufflers

Chicago Blues Fest: The Original- with a big O.  Every time I’ve attended this festival I’ve had fun, but this year one band sticks out above all others-Homemade Jamz. After hiding out under a drippy roof near Buckingham Fountain to avoid a spontaneous afternoon downpour, my cohorts and I wandered over toward the Mississippi Juke Joint stage where some blistering blues was spilling out from the guitar amps.  After a minute I notice that both the bassist & guitarist have instruments forged from mufflers. (Yes, car mufflers!) Then I notice the guitar with a double-neck. A double-necked, car muffler-forged guitar-WOW! After I get over that shock & continue rocking to their crunchy grooves I notice the little girl beating the hell out of some drums.  We spent the whole concert dancing and trying to figure out if this is just a short, young-looking woman or a true drum prodigy.  Turns out, she’s an 11year old prodigy.  Homemade Jamz is a family band with all of its members under the age of 20 (except for who I presumed was the dad who played the harmonica like a champ).  They really played their hearts out and everyone, from the elderly woman rocking in her foldout chair in the front row to the frolicking little boy behind us, were totally moved.  I haven’t had such a surprising experience at a concert in a long time.  I hope they come back next year!

One quick note about Lolla: Can’t we bring back the lineup from 2008?  How can you even compare a lineup with Radiohead, Wilco, Nine Inch Nails, & Kanye West to the current one?  How can you have an “alternative” music fest with Lady Gaga as one of the headliners?  Ah, Lolla, come back to your roots because I miss you!  It’s a shame because I really love some of the non-headlining bands that are playing but I’ve seen a number of them already.  Like Derek, I just can’t fathom spending that kind of money on it this year.

A festival preview: For those of you who like to dance check out the North Coast Music Festival coming up on Labor Day weekend.  The Chemical Brothers, Lupe Fiasco, Moby… I know I won’t stay seated for long.

Hope you have a chance to make it out to see some of the incredible live music happening in the city this summer.  Maybe I’ll see you there…




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Delivering a mind-blowing musical performance at an event is an art and planning it is a science. Stitely Entertainment has mastered both by planning and executing thousands of events.

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