The Mud Kids play Red Rover. View the photo gallery >>
Here you go: the best and worst of Pitchfork, which sits firmly atop my list of favorite local summer festivals (my other picks: the Hideout Block Party Sept. 20-21 and the African Festival of Arts over Labor Day weekend). If you didn’t get to Union Park over the weekend, you missed a reunion of Public Enemy that people either loved or hated, some great up-and-coming musical talent, and a few Hobbesian moments in the mud—all of which I’ll tell you about below. If you did make it to the fest, I’d love to hear your own best/worsts from the weekend. Put them in the comments box below.
Best performances by an up-and-comer: A tie here. 1. I loved The Dodos, a California band that—in a last-minute switcharoo—got bumped to the main stage from a side stage. Because they’re a raw rock two-piece, they draw a lot of comparisons to the Black Keys and White Stripes; but when they brought out a trombone, I started thinking that, refreshingly, neither description is quite right…. 2. I couldn’t drag myself away from Jason Pierce and his group Spiritualized, which came complete with two gospel singers on stage. Of all the new bands I saw this weekend, his will be the one I download first.
Worst: M. Ward. He made me very, very sleepy.
Best performance for a band with hype: Vampire Weekend. I like them, don’t love them, but they have a lot of energy, and they put on a danceable live show.
Worst: Animal Collective. You may disagree, but my dance partner and I got tired of being teased. They took the crowd just to the point of rhythmic explosion, then left us hanging. I love this band’s sound, and they’re a regular listen on my iPod, but their set this weekend just didn’t deliver the goods.
Best performance by a throwback: Jarvis Cocker. Though he released a solo album last year, Cocker is best known as the head of Brit rock band Pulp, which peaked in the 90s. His Pitchfork set did all the right things: it was mellow at times, full throttle at times, and absolutely entertaining.
Worst: Public Enemy. Flavor Flav wouldn’t shut up about his stupid reality show projects. When the crowd started to boo him, he had the gall to posture: "No one boos the Flav!" A lot of people might disagree with me here, but I’m over the concept of playing an album in its entirety. Pitchfork devotes a night to this every year (this year it was Mission of Burma Vs., Sebadoh’s Bubble and Scrape, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions…). I just don’t think it’s very interesting.
Best style trend: Full-sleeve tattoos. We saw some beauties.
Worst: Skinny shirtless white men. My friend Beth said it best when she said one dude "looked like Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan." If you’re under a buck and a half, keep it on, man.
Best food: After sampling a lot of what the vendors had to offer, my crew agreed that the sticky-sweet chicken-and-veggie potstickers ($5) from Star of Siam easily took the prize.
Worst: The cheeseburger from Robinsons. I want my $7 back.
Best Lord-of-Flies moment: When the hippie kids turned the muddiest part of the field into a dance floor after the Saturday morning rains. For a while it was amusing to watch them go from dancing in the mud to full-body wrestling to finally playing Red Rover. As long as they stayed contained in their mud area…
Worst: …when they decided they didn’t want to stay contained in the mud area and began splashing the chair and blanket people (us) who had staked dry ground. I’m all for free expression until it gets me dirty.
Best Trojan Horse: The Pitchfork people are strict about not allowing food or drink from the outside, so, all weekend long, it was amusing to see how people beat the restrictions. My favorite: a box of Off! Towelettes that, when emptied, became the perfect hiding spot for yogurt-covered pretzels.
Worst: Whatever the mud people snuck in to scramble their little brains. Like I said, I’m all for free expression and whatever it takes to get you there—until it gets me dirty.
Photography: Cassie Walker