Words + Photography by Bobby Talamine
So begins another year of the Pitchfork Music Festival: The hot and sweaty and sticky version of Day One.
Lots of drinking of water, lots of shade between acts to get out of the uncomfortable sun and humidity.
First up: Standing on the Corner. Formed by Gio Escobar, Standing on the Corner is an improvisational group in the realm of free spirit jazz, for lack of a better term- kind of like a mellower version of Lester Bowie's Art Ensemble of Chicago, and their version of Avant- garde jazz. Not much of a live presence, more musically inclined, with Escobar giving direction at various times with the horn section into the rhythm section.
A decent start to today's festivities.
Chicago rapper Valee was next up on the lineup. Having witnessed his live performances a couple times before, he's the definition of "Mellow." Lots of weed smoking, pacing the stage from left to right slowly yet assuredly, and well- a sleepy set for a mid afternoon performance in the blazing sun.
Next up: Sky Ferreira. Plagued with audio ear problems from the start of her set, Ferreira truly never fully recovered from the audio inadequacies. Trouble hearing her band, pulling out the ear monitors, looking at the stage hands for help, replacing portable ear monitors, awkward pacing, blazing sun, cover tunes, such as Aimee Mann and Till Tuesday's "Voices Carry." She can surely capture a crowd with all the mistakes, and yet- there's mistakes.
Earl Sweatshirt graced the stage next with his brand of cool vibe, American quality rap. An exciting rapper who lays down sophisticated beats, simple in performance, but yet powerful.
Next up: Julia Holter, an LA- based singer- songwriter, who creates challenging and sophisticated albums worth a listen, and when performing live, the sound collages are guaranteed to make you listen intently and assuredly.
Pusha T came out next with his forceful nature of rap and hip hop. He’s the kind of guy you don't want to mess with, and a guy with lots to say. There's a sense of unease when he stalked the stage, and it's fascinating to watch. Pusha T had fun, but you can tell he has lots on his mind, and needs to get it out, like expelling demons.
Next up: Sophie Allison and her band Soccer Mommy. Definitely one of the highlights of my day at Pitchfork. She sights Mitski, Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne as some of her influences. But the opening instrumental of her set- I hear the Cure, and Jangly post punk. Definitely songs that are catchy, songs that are beyond the realm of the three influences mentioned.
All please hail and bow to Mavis Mavis Mavis. Mavis Staples was the standout set of the day, from beginning to end. A force of nature. A soul legend times ten. Oh so convincing, oh so brilliant with a voice from the heavens. From the mighty "Take us Back," to a cover of The Talking Heads' "Slippery People," up to the end of her set with "No Time for Crying," your in deep with soulful gospel, and a testimony to how gospel should be done righteous and with purpose and meaning.
Next up: The Minneapolis via Duluth trio Low, a band that challenges itself at every corner, every new release. The group still as unpredictable as ever. And before they played their first note, lead vocalist Alan Sparhawk wanted to know why everyone isn't over witnessing Mavis Staples perform live, saying that they don't compare, but they'll do their best to proceed. Alan said this not as a joke, but as a real head scratcher with everyone watching them play live instead of Mavis. Low proceeds brilliantly, and unrelenting.
And the headliner: Haim, in all their American pop band glory. visible on the giant LED screen behind the drum kit, live footage of their backs walking up the ramp to the stage, and the crowd going crazy nutty for their grand entrance. The three sisters- Este Haim on bass and vocals, Danielle Haim on guitar and vocals, and Alana Haim on guitars, keyboards and vocals, each came out one at a time to knock out some serious floor tom drumming, and then onto the hits. Captivating as they are, left to right on a shiny red lit stage, it was hard to navigate the pit to get decent shots of these three, with umpteen (and I mean plenty) of photographers filling up the entire pit. As decent as the girls are, not my cup of tea.
However- they do know how to put on a show.