Monday, July 21, 2008
THE PITCHFORK FESTIVAL
( I meant to post this last night, but I was so fried that I barely was able to get my photos uploaded on FLICKR. But that just means I had a great time.)
My son and I went to the final day of The Pitchfork Festival in Chicago. Music festivals are such an endurance test for old farts like me -- standing out in the hot sun in a park with few seats for 10 or 12 hours -- I just wanted to do one day. I chose Sunday mainly because of King Kahn & The Shrines.
I knew he was bound to be one of the major highlights of the festival but Khan and band were even better than I'd imagined. Their brand of crazed rock 'n' soul music (9 or 10 guys in the band, plus a lovely go-go dancer), along with Khan's crazy lyrics and antics ignited the place. At one point he had people tearing up dollar bills. In one song he describes a surreal and hilarious sexual encounter in shameless detail.
And what a band! These players -- mainly European I'm assuming -- play like Stax/Volt all-stars on crystal meth. For all the weirdness and tomfoolery, The Shrines are extremely tight.
Khan's set was heavy on tunes from his recent "greatest hits" package The Supreme Genius of King Khan & The Shrines. "Welfare Bread," "I Wanna Be a Girl," "Torture," and an unbelievably intense "Shivers Down My Spine."
This reportedly is this band's first U.S. tour. I'm expecting it's far from the last.
I was so worn out out from the Khan spectacular, I couldn't deal with much music for the next couple of hours. I did catch a little bit of M. Ward, who has a cool roots-rock sound. I heard some Leo Kottke guitar riffs early in his set when Ward was playing solo.)
I was still pretty kooked out when Spiritualized took the stage. They actually were one of the only disappointments of the festival. The band had a couple of female vocalists with them to add some gospel-like touches. But the ultimate effect was just too churchy -- too many lyrics about souls on fire, shining lights, etc. And too much Dark Side of the Moon in the music, at least for the first half of the show. Spiritualize began rocking out about 30 minutes into their set.
But I was truly revived by Dinosaur Jr. I'd been looking forward to seeing them with the original line-up featuring Lou Barlow on bass. The only other time I saw them was back in 1993 when they played Lollapalooza. (I caught the Denver show.)
I expected to enjoy their Pitchfork set, but I didn't expect them to be that good. They roared! Mascis still rips into his guitar like a wild man forcing it to scream.
Dinosaur Jr. played tunes from their most recent album Beyond, (an actual reunion album that doesn't suck), plus some old favorites like "The Wagon," "I Know You're Out There," "Feel the Pain" and their anthem of old, "Freak Scene." J's hair might be gray, but these tunes are forever young.
Early in the day I caught The Dirty Projectors. Their album Rise Above -- radical reworkings of Black Flag's Wasted album -- made my Top 10 list last year. But I wondered how these songs would translate on a live stage.
Quite well, it turns out. Frontman/singer.guitarist Dave Longstreth deserves credit as the guiding light behind the Projectors, but the two women singers (Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman, if their MySpace page is to be trusted) also deserve recognition for the strange and intricate harmonies.
While Longstreth's guitar often sounds straight out of Africa, seeing the Projectors live also reminded of another style of World Music -- mainly the experimental tunes of Brazilian Tom Ze.
A band I enjoyed -- though I suspect a little of them goes a long way -- was HEALTH. This is a Los Angeles noise band that specializes in heavy percussion, feedback and screaming. They reminded me a little bit of The Boredoms, (though they could use a little of that band's zany humor.)
My son was excited when he learned they were playing Pitchfork. He'd just seen them the week before here in Santa Fe. It's funny -- the HEALTH album he just bought doesn't sound much at all like their live performance. The record is full of synthy keyboards and seems like run-of-the-mill techno. Their live show is harsher and more relentless, but ultimately more listenable.
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