Pitchfork Music Festival 2006: Critical Review, Day Two
Tapes ‘N Tapes Sunday’s festivities began just as the clouds that promised a day of relieving thunderstorms parted, revealing a sun that was impossibly more searing than the one of the previous afternoon. At one o’clock, indie pop’s reigning darlings, Tapes ‘N Tapes, hit the stage to begin what would be a half hour set charged with enough, dare I say it, TNT to match the sun’s explosive energy. Let’s forget that they were introduced by their annoying internet promotions manager who claimed, “If bands had cocks, this band would have a big one;” instead let’s remember that these Minnesota boys rocked out a show of catchy tunes as if they were auditioning for a crowd that held its life in its hands. On some level, I suppose, we did. Tapes ‘N Tapes are a product of the new power of word-of-mouth www brushfire, and midway through the set Tapes #1 (aka Josh Grier) revealed that last year he was in the crowd himself, a mere rock fan listening to 2005 Sunday openers Thunderbirds Are Now! Just a year later he and fellow Tapes filled that same position, and it seemed the band could be no more jubilant at the thought. They played a brisk set, beginning with “Cowbell” and a reverberating bombardment of clean pop rock that filled Union Park, earning the appreciation of the large crowd forming around the Aluminum stage, and also demanding attention from us who watched from the Connector stage while waiting for the next band to set up. Tapes ‘N Tapes ran through several tracks from The Loon, bouncing through, among others, “Just Drums” and “10 Gallon Ascots” and also unleashed a new track entitled “Frankfurt,” which brought the set down a bit and featured a tuba, charmingly off key crooning, and a mushy, metal mid section. They ended on an upswing with “Insistor,” which sounded less twangy hoedown power pop and more “I’m-a-little-indie-kid-who’s-conquering-the-world-of-Pitchfork-o-philes” ecstasy. And the perfect mood for day two was set. Danielson So last year dance punk champs Out Hud played an afternoon set of heat-induced hallucinogenic euphoria that sent me to another plateau of awareness. Who’d a thunk that this year quirky Christian popsters Danielson would push me near that same edge? At 1:30, Brothers Daniel, David, Chris, and Jedidiah, along with Sister Megan (Sister Rachel and Brother Evan were apparently on vacation in California and Sweden) chucked out a show to melt the coolest of critics. In full ship captain regalia they smiled and bopped along as if it wasn’t 100 degrees outside, starting with the jaunty “Cast it at the Setting Sail” and not missing a beat from then on, even through various clap and snap-alongs. In his usual beguiling, soft-spoken, pseudo-irreverent manner, Daniel bantered with the crowd, giving us instructions to shift our clapping from the up to the down beat as if it was easy for the average festival-goer to do. Contained within the set were several tracks off the Pitchfork-praised Ships, including the all-out jam “Did I Step on Your Trumpet.” Under direct sunlight the crowd shuffled its feet, hooted, raised the temperature several degrees but forgot the heat and its own ego. The sound was incredibly tight and sonorous for the setting. What was simply four lads and a lass strumming and banging subtly complex, infectious rhythms, turned into a romping dance fest worthy of our rapturous love and praise. While more jaded, soul-dried critics might have called their set “gimmicky,” Danielson put on a show whose feel-good nature did not detract from its musical perfection. Liars If you’re looking for the meaning of life, then look no further than Angus Andrew decked in tighty whities and a blue pinstriped dress. If you want to die having lived a fulfilled life, then do so while in the gridlocked center of a huge, sweaty, smelly crowd under the canopy of a scorching, saturated atmosphere. At 3:20 on Sunday afternoon, Andrew, Aaron Hemphill, and Julian Gross (collectively Liars, transcendentally God) played an intense set of noise punk that to be a part of was to feel like an emaciated Ewok trying to get a glimpse of C-3P0’s golden skin. Forgive the geeky Star Wars analogy, but the show was nothing less than stellar. Epic. From the middle of the pit I rubbed a frozen bottle of water all over my face and neck; it was all I could do to not pass out while my body involuntarily flailed to the beats Gross pounded. Gross himself seemed to threaten a fainting spell from inside his sweat-soaked biohazard suit. Eventually he peeled himself out of it, but there was still a moment when he collapsed in front of his drum kit and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had dropped dead, such was the energy this trio brought to its performance despite the hellish weather. Andrew came out in a pair of trousers that were quickly disposed of; his long, sweaty, scraggly hair was matted to his face while he screamed out and thrashed his guitar. “There’s a lot going on this weekend,” he said at one point. “I’m talking about World War III, right here in Union Park.” Lest you think this Liars show was all about doom and gloom, picture an ugly, gangly dude strutting around a stage in his underwear, mocking festival Emcee Tim Tuten’s perennial maternal warnings by saying, “Like the man said, drink as much beer as you can and rub your skin with fried chicken.” The band was slated to play for an hour, but after forty solid minutes of noise, sex, humor, sweat, and rock ‘n roll, Andrew said with a giggle, “I can only do one more,” and they dropped into the menacing drone and beats of “Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack,” finishing the set with a force that no mortal could endure a moment longer. Mission of Burma Mission of Burma are older than I am and they still have the ability to bring the psycho-frenzy of post-punk to life through an onslaught of rock tunes every teenager can appreciate. Indeed, I heard that there were some sixteen year olds at the fest who came specifically to see them. It’s not surprising that they are still recruiting fans when they have the gusto to perform the way they did on Sunday evening. It was a wonder that they weren’t given top billing over some (all) of the other Sunday bands, but they didn’t seem bitter. I’ve heard that Mission of Burma is either monumental or a joke on stage, so it was a relief when they were halfway through their set without crumbling or turning me off. They sucked me and the rest of the crowd in, and we jumped and shook fists and shouted along words to classic anthems like “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” and “Academy Fight Song” as Roger Miller and company played with a nervy punch that should have made the younger Pitchfork bands take note. While some of the weekend’s performances were ruined by pretentiousness and egotism, Mission of Burma played an honest, hard, gritty set that often seemed a moment away from falling apart. But rather than being an accidental byproduct of age, this near-dissolution was the controlled effect of masterful punk icons who, twenty-seven years after their inception, are still earning respect the hard way.