Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Pitchfork Festival

Watch This: Vol. 46

Part two of this week’s recap (there really was an absurd amount of great material to go through), this installment of Watch This features videos that emerged during the past few days. Between a handful of full sets, a few videos from places that have become series staples, and, above all else, great performances. Everything on display here is worth taking some time to enjoy and a handful of them will likely warrant return visits. All in all, this set seems like a very fitting way to cap off what’s been one of the strongest weeks for new content that we’ve had this year. So, sit back, open the blinds, turn the volume all the way up, focus, and Watch This.

1. The Midwest Beat – Vortex Hole (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Vortex Hole” was recently featured here as a stream in support of The Midwest Beat’s excellent new full-length, Free of Being. In the video below, the Milwaukee-via-Madison band gets invited to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel studio to tear through the live version. They tear through it with an enviable amount of verve and a peculiar madcap glee that somehow transforms the performance into something endlessly fascinating. It’s one hell of a rendition.

[Due to a temporary embed issue, this video can currently only be seen here]

2. Cloakroom – Asymmetrical (unARTigNYC)

“Asymmetrical” is a characteristically slow-burning song from Cloakroom, who seem to be exploring the middle ground between shoegaze and post-hardcore with a frightening amount of precision and clarity. Easily one of the most fascinating bands to have begun a steady emergence over the past handful of months, Cloakroom still retains a sense of mystery- something that factors directly into their music. This is an astonishing performance from a band that’s worth getting to know.

3. The New Pornographers (NPR)

It’d be easy to argue that, at this point, The New Pornographers are an institution. Between their own releases and their various members solo releases, they’ve put out some of the most highly acclaimed music of this young century. It’s a formidable body of work and  the fact that their most recent effort, Brill Bruisers, both lives up to and earns its spot among their long list of triumphs is fairly astonishing. This full, lovingly shot, NPR performance spans their discography and showcases one arguably indisputable fact: they deserve their acclaim and status.

4. Beverly – Not Ours (BreakThruRadio)

Beverly, the duo made up of Frankie Rose and Drew Citron, released one of the definitive records of the summer with Careers. Ever since that release, footage of the band’s tight-knit live show’s been popping up with an alarming frequency. While Rose is taking some time off to focus on her own solo project, there are still old sessions coming out of the woodwork. Here’s a lighthearted stunner from the always-excellent BreakThruRadio.

5. Cloud Nothings (Pitchfork)

There aren’t many moments in life that are better than watching a great band with extraordinary people on a perfect day. Cloud Nothings were an easy highlight of Pitchfork’s second day and now their whole set can be relived in full. Culling mostly from their 2014 highlight Here and Nowhere Else, their set went a long way in re-establishing the fact that they’re now a power trio (a term that they fully live up to). Not a lot of bands can lose a member and immediately re-define themselves without losing their personality but it’s evident that Cloud Nothings haven’t lost a step.

Watch This: Vol. 40

Welcome to the 40th installment of Heartbreaking Bravery’s Watch This series, a weekly examination of the best live videos to have surfaced over the past week. Volume 40 has no shortage of riches to offer and may be one of the strongest offerings of the series to date. From two fiery KEXP sessions to the late night performance of the year, there’s a little something for everyone. Acoustic sessions and feedback freakouts are all contained within and, as is always the case, every band to have secured a spot this week puts on a live show that’s worth seeing multiple times over. So, sit back, focus, turn the volume up to deafening heights, and Watch This.

1. Benjamin Booker (KEXP)

With his now (rightfully) hotly-anticipated record just around the corner, the timing on this KEXP Session couldn’t be more perfect. After Booker’s stunning NXNE performance, the amount of verve on display here isn’t the least bit surprising. ATO Records dug up a diamond with Booker and if he winds up making as much of an impact as he deserves, radio stations will be better off for it.

2. Black Wine – No Reason (Don Giovanni)

Last week Black Wine released the excellent Yell Boss, which included the standout cut “No Reason”. Here, Don Giovanni captures the band running through a brilliant acoustic rendition of that song while also operating as a perfect document of a band having fun just being a band. It’s a riff-happy stomper that showcases the band at their absolute best, making it a can’t-miss affair.

3. Sharon Van Etten – Serpents (Pitchfork)

There are very few voices on the planet more arresting that Sharon Van Etten’s, which is a fact that’s loosely evidenced on record but becomes irrefutable fact in a live setting. Van Etten’s also an artist that can do wonders with a shifting sonic template and when she taps into her darker side it’s usually enough to stop just about anyone in their tracks. “Serpents” found her perfecting that aesthetic and has only grown as a song since its first reveal, which is something that winds up on full display with this performance from Day 1 of last month’s Pitchfork Music Festival. 

4. Ty Segall – Feel (Conan)

It seemed like ever since Future Islands’ career-making turn on Letterman, people have been desperate to anoint the “late-night performance of the year”. The War On Drugs’ “Red Eyes” run-through (also on Letterman) had a lot of people talking as well (as did The Orwells’ Letterman turn) but none of them have felt as furious, as vital, or as sincerely impassioned as what Ty Segall and his band pulled off on Conan O’Brien earlier this week. Previewing “Feel” off of his outstanding new record, Manipulator, Segall and company fearlessly make their way through some vicious solos, a percussion breakdown, and a barrage of insane falsettos before finally pulling off one of the most memorable television performances in quite some time.

5. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)

In all honesty, this entire write-up could be dedicated to what Jayson Gerycz pulls off behind the kit here. That kind of talent is rare enough that it borders on something approaching the realms of the inhuman. That it doesn’t overshadow what Dylan Baldi manages to accomplish with his unbelievably intense vocal/fretwork/lyrical onslaught is nothing short of astounding. Cloud Nothings are operating at an obscenely high level right now, with their live shows consistently outstripping what they managed to accomplish with the 1-2 punch of Attack On Memory and Here and Nowhere Else– two  of the finest records of this decade.  In short: see this band as soon as humanly possible.

Watch This: Vol. 39

Now that Watch This is actually up to speed and back to its regular Sunday rotation, the five videos to earn spots will likely be a little more varied than usual. That’s certainly the case for the 39th installment, which features another set of videos from Pitchfork, two full sets from KEXP, and a handful of stunning performances. From hazy folk-leaning psychedelia to frantic, unhinged post-punk, there’s a little something for everyone. So, grab a cup of coffee, let it cool to optimum drinking temperature, take a sip, cue up the speakers, and Watch This.

1. Speedy Ortiz (Pitchfork)

There were a lot of great sets at NXNE and Pitchfork, several of which came from Speedy Ortiz. The band’s live show has been growing increasingly sharp and Pitchfork had their film crew on hand to capture incendiary performances of “Oxygal”, “Tiger Tank”, and “Everything’s Bigger”.  All three of the videos contained in this playlist sound as good as they look, which is more than a little impressive. Once again, the clips are stunning and the takeaway is simple: don’t pass up any opportunity to see this band live.

2. Idiot Genes (Allston Pudding)

Allston Pudding continues an impressive video streak with this take of Idiot Genes blazing through “Randy” and “Drunk Consistently” at their practice space. Playing to nobody but a film crew can occasionally affect a band’s energy but it’s a non-issue for the post-punk rippers. Both performances are as weird and engaging as the band themselves, making for necessary viewing.

3. Woods (KEXP)

Very few bands have a discography as consistent as Woods’, especially taking into account how far along into their career they are. Here, the band stops by KEXP for a full set highlighting their most recent effort, the quietly remarkable With Light and With Love. All of the songs here drift by in a dreamlike state, tinged with bits of Americana, folk, psych, and subtle hints of post-punk. It’s as fascinating as it is entrancing and definitely not worth missing.

4. Happy Fangs (BreakThruRadio)

“Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk about rock n’ roll?” was the strangest introduction anyone had to offer at NXNE and it came courtesy of Happy Fangs’ singer, who was armed with a business card and no shortage of determination. That same confidence ties over to her performance as the San Francisco-based trio’s relatively fearless vocalist, which is a fact that’s clearly evidenced in this session for BreakThruRadio that features a fiery performance (from all members) of the attention-demanding “Hiya Kaw Kaw”.  

5. Parquet Courts (KEXP)

Sunbathing Animal is in a prime position to appear on a slew of year-end lists and Parquet Courts are likely aware of that fact. They’re certainly playing with the verve of a band that’s on an ascending trajectory of interest and acclaim. Recently, the band stopped by KEXP and delivered a blistering five song set that only re-affirmed their status as one of the more exciting bands around. All wiry post-punk, unease, and nerve, Parquet Courts seem to have no intention of stopping and are content to just keep humming along, never looking back to see who (or what) they’ve left in the dust. 

Watch This: Vol. 32

Well, festival coverage has officially ceased. This site will now be resuming its regular features. One of the few recurring segments, Watch This, was largely overlooked and sorely missed in the pursuit of getting as much NXNE and Pitchfork Festival material up as possible. That all changes today. This will be the first of several Watch This installments to go up in the very near future. With more than a month’s worth of material to look back on, there was a treasure trove of videos that couldn’t be whittled down to a definitive five. So, while some videos from outside forces that were connected to NXNE and Pitchfork will earn a few spots, the emphasis will be on the videos that left the deepest impression in this features absence. Now that all that’s been said, sit back, prepare for the best, and Watch This.

1. Cloud Nothings – Pattern Walks (Pitchfork)

Cloud Nothings’ set at the Pitchfork Festival was one of a staggering number of highlights. One of a very small number of bands that thrive on aggression to be featured in the lineup wound up working to their advantage and the crowd paid them back in full. It was a triumphant showcase for a band that continues to get better as a live act. Missing them whenever their close would be a major disservice.

2. Courtney Barnett – Scotty Says (Chart Attack)

There were very few lower-key sets that stood out more than Courtney Barnett’s Sonic Boom appearance during NXNE and, thankfully, Chart Attack was on hand to capture a great performance of “Scotty Says” that’s intercut with a delightful mini-interview. The whole thing’s worth watching and can be chalked up to another emphatic mark in the win column for the emerging Australian songwriter.

3. Flagland (BreakThruRadioTV)

Another strong entry in BreakThruRadioTV’s Serious Business series is this entry for New York City’s Flagland. Mixing performances with some raw live footage that culminated with a great performance of “Awesome Song Kerry Yawn”. From that alone, it’s easy to see why both Nirvana and Weezer are name-dropped in their introductory paragraph.

4. Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene (unARTigNYC)

There’s not a lot to say about Dinosaur Jr. that hasn’t been said already. The trio’s one of the more influential bands of the past several decades and responsible for a handful of classic albums and singles. Among them is “Freak Scene”, which sounds as vital now as it did when it was first released.

5. White Mystery  – Good Girl / Smoke (Audiotree)

Chicago duo White Mystery has been flying just under the radar for what feels like years, despite appearances on late night talk shows and a healthy amount of critical acclaim. Over that amount of time, their reputation’s steadily grown and the band’s sharpened their live act considerably. Audiotree was wise enough to not overlook all of this and bring the band in for a feature performance. It’s hard to imagine anyone was disappointed.

Pitchfork Festival Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Review)

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It’s only fitting that the run of festival coverage ends with Perfect Pussy, a band that’s earned more words from this site than any other. They’ve been a part of the site since it’s very beginnings (vocalist Meredith Graves, now firmly positioned as this site’s patron saint, was one of the very first to know that it even existed). They’re one of the only bands that inspired me to break a narrative rule in order to use first-person by virtue of being so endearingly sincere about issues that are important to myself and to this site. I have lost desire for all feeling and Say Yes to Love earned two of the strongest reviews that this site’s ever given and their showstopping NXNE performance prompted the most personal thing I’ve ever written for any outlet. I have seen this band’s ascension and felt confident in my position to ally myself with them, even in the face of a staggering amount of backlash. Over the past 7 months, I’ve been fortunate enough to seen them play 8 sets (and in everything from a halfpipe in a bike shop to a fairly extravagant ballroom) and fully intend on raising that number at the next available opportunity. Of those 8 appearances, none felt as important as their showcase on Day 3 of the Pitchfork Music Festival.

I’d spent a large portion of the festival, and the moments leading up to their set, with a nerve-wracked Graves and watching her steady transformation throughout their set was nothing short of inspiring. All of her fears seemed to be coming to a head before their set even started when the sound crew ran into a technical issue with her vocal amp. This prompted a brief delay as a visibly distressed Graves did everything she could to attempt to assist them in resolving the issue as the rest of the band quietly set up around her. It was a matter of minutes before the issue was resolved and the band was allowed to breathe a collected sigh of relief. They took a minute (maybe less) to collect themselves sidestage before walking back out and picking up their instruments in front of a crowd of roughly 3,000 people, all of which anxious to have their opinions dissuaded or reaffirmed.

What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary: as the band tore through song after song with an indescribable amount of passion and meaning, the sound proved to be perfect. Graves was audible, no instrument overpowered another, and each member gave the performances of their lives. I’ve never seen Garrett Koloski, easily one of the most underrated and overlooked drummers out there, hit his drums with more fierceness or look more determined. Synth and noise mastermind Shaun Sutkus seemed like he was completely disconnected from everything but hitting every nuanced motion with an uncanny precision while occasionally being driven by the music into frantic, spastic movements. Bassist Greg Ambler ran into no problems with his cab, head, or levels and took the opportunity to thrash around without consequence, pummeling his bass to the point of abuse without missing a note. Guitarist Ray McAndrew transformed into a mode that bordered the animialistic, growing increasingly intense as the set’s momentum picked up before it’s final breaking point at the very end.

As for Graves… there are no words that can do justice to just how commanding of a performer she is. It’s an intrinsic quality that’s completely intangible and it was one of the things that made me fall for this band in the first place; her face is usually contorted in a manner that expresses the meanings she’s trying to convey because she can’t help it- she feels this music so completely that it seems to pour out through every fiber of her being. As a performer, it’s tough to tell if she animated the songs or the songs animate her, and watching her use her conviction to convince a crowd of thousands (easily one of the largest the band has ever played to) as they brought her to ecstatic tears was one of the proudest moments of my life. Every flower that was thrown at her (and there were several), and every tear that she shed, was earned- a culmination of understanding, validation, and the feeling of a moment.

Watching Graves’ transformation from fighting against some severe nerves and her total certainty that everything would go wrong (which, unfortunately, has seemed to be a trend at several of their recent shows) to the flower-adorned vocalist in the throes of one of the best sets I’ve ever seen, suddenly recognizing that everything was falling into place, prompted a feeling that’s literally impossible to put into words. It brought out the life in her, it brought out the life in the audience, and it sure as hell brought out the life in me- it’s those exact moments of subtle minutiae that I built this site to celebrate and to see it happen to someone who has become one of my closest friends was unforgettable. Being surrounded by strangers, all having extremely intense reactions that paralleled mine was an experience in camaraderie that all festivals are supposed to foster; where the setting suddenly doesn’t matter and everyone’s putting their all into the performance happening on the stage in front of them.

I“, “Driver“, “Bells”, “Interference Fits“, “Big Stars”, “III”, “Advance Upon the Real”, the songs came one after another, with no interruptions from the band other than an occasional thank you. The order didn’t matter because no one had time to react; every song felt like a perfectly-timed triumph that whipped the audience into a frenzy (shouting “Since when do we say yes to love?” during “Interference Fits” with 3,000 strangers and a few close friends broke the plane of ecstasy right into total catharsis). All of the front rows were doing their best to hold onto something, anything, for dear life as a mosh pit threatened to consume them. Railings were saviors, heads were kicked in, elbows were thrown, and everybody made sure that if someone else was in trouble, they were given the attention that they needed to prevent anything damaging from happening. Everything and everyone was unified in a staggering display of the exact kind of support the band does their best to endorse. No oppression, only care.

As the band wound their set down with Sutkus’ noise, sweat-and-tear-strained mascara was running down Graves’ unbelieving face; a lasting image of gratitude. She took out a camera to take a snapshot of an adoring audience, still in stunned disbelief, visibly overwhelmed, as everyone else quietly packed up, unable to contain smiles of their own. Nothing had gone wrong. Nothing had broken. Nothing had stopped the band- and it’s extremely unlikely anything could have stopped them after a certain point, anyway. As everyone left, Sutkus stayed, still completely entranced by the moment, doing one of his best noise deconstructions to date, as people in the audience caught their breath and looked on, either in awe, wonderment, or a state of complete and total confusion. Perfect Pussy had said just about everything they’d ever wanted to say with that set, in exactly the way it should be said. Actions became words, words became daggers with pinpoint accuracy, and no one could be bothered to tear themselves away. Each one of their thirty minutes (a marathon set, by their standards) was paid back in full by an unrelenting applause- and somewhere, off in the corner of my mind, that applause has refused to cease. Hats off to the band, hats off to the film crew (who provided some stunning visuals), hats off to the sound crew, and hats off to the audience who finally gave the band exactly the kind of recognition they deserve.

Pitchfork Festival: Day 3 (Review)

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After the threat of a storm cleared up, Day 3 was given a gentle opening courtesy of Mutual Benefit. Jordan Lee’s project released one of last year’s best records in Love’s Crushing Diamond which was featured heavily throughout their set. More than a few moments warranted an unexpected chill down the spine, a very rare feat for a band so unassuming. It was genuinely difficult to leave but it proved a little more difficult to pass up the opportunity to catch the end of Speedy Ortiz’s set while securing a good spot for Perfect Pussy. Speedy Ortiz played with their usual amount of verve, injecting their songs with off-kilter humor and small surprises. “Bigger Party“, their recent Adult Swim-endorsed single, drew a strong reaction- as did fan favorites “American Horror” off of this year’s great Real Hair EP and “Indoor Soccer” off of their excellent early EP, Sports. When everything ended in a cataclysm of precisely-controlled noise, it seemed like Speedy Ortiz were exactly where they belonged.

Once more, Perfect Pussy‘s set felt too important to be given a brief summary so it will be given a separate, full review after the Day 3 recap. Rest assured: it was an extraordinary performance that felt like a defining moment for the band. Just like a few days prior, the band following Perfect Pussy were divisive metal act Deafheaven. While Deafheaven did feel slightly out of place in the broad daylight, it did provide the festival some unexpected balance- and it was mixed to near-perfection. Drawing what was easily one of the most diverse crowds of the festival, watching the passerby reactions to the band’s signature sound was nearly as intriguing as the band themselves. Having already seen them two nights ago in a more appropriate setting, it was off to catch the heavily-acclaimed Isaiah Rashad, who delivered his set with a comfortable confidence. While Rashad’s lyrics often hit the same beat, that repetition is easily distracted from by some innovative production work. Rashad himself was an engaging presence that kept the crowd involved with natural charisma, star magnetism, and some festival-appropriate choruses. It was a nice break from the high-level intensity of the previous three acts and wound up striking the perfect balance between relaxing and exciting, offering festivalgoers a chance to catch their breath while their attention remained invested in the performance.

Dum Dum Girls kept that balance exactly where it should have been with their peculiar brand of easygoing, subtly psych-glam-inflected, dream-pop. Everyone seemed to be in a sedated trance only a few songs in, eyes fixated to the stage, where the the band was running through a set emphasizing their most recent material (most notably this year’s enchanting Too True). They’ll be back in the Midwest before too long and, as evidenced by just a handful of songs, are definitely worth seeing (catch them at the High Noon Saloon on October 23). After a brief reprieve, it was time to catch a few songs from ScHoolboy Q, a figurehead of the increasingly influential Black Hippy crew. Q’s Habits & Contradictions was one of hip-hop’s defining records just a few years ago and it’s power- and Q’s stature- have only grown since. He lived up to every expectation and delivered a set just as lively as both Pusha T and Danny Brown’s attention-demanding performances from the previous day.  It was another strong example of the festival’s genre sensibility for the category and it was nothing short of thrilling to see Q take full advantage of his slot.

What followed ScHoolboy Q was an impromptu-heavy stunner of a set from Canadian duo Majical Cloudz. Devon Walsh and Matthew Otto are responsible for Impersonator, a haunting and minimal triumph of a record that stands as one of the best releases of the decade so far. It’s a record whose success no one could have predicted the extent of- just as no one could have predicted that less than two songs into their set, Otto’s keyboard (responsible for the bulk of the band’s music) would die completely. After frantic, futile attempts were made at a fix, the band embraced the dire conditions and weathered them with no shortage of bravery. Their first post-instrument-death piece was an a cappella rendition of “Bugs Don’t Buzz“, an immediately arresting performance that set the tone for what was to come. From that point forward, Walsh would graciously extend the microphone to anyone that wanted to sing one of their songs, beatbox, or even tell a joke- all while making sure the performance was kept relatively reigned in. More vocal-only renditions of songs from Impersonator were given- and loops were used whenever possible- and, for the grand finale, they took the now-useless keyboard and smashed it to smithereens in a moment of pure catharsis. It was genuinely unforgettable and wound up being a perfect transition to the next band on the schedule.

The recently reunited (and massively influential) Slowdive thankfully encountered no technical difficulties and sounded as perfect as they ever have, cranking their amps up to their breaking points and calmly making their way through a set of several now-legendary songs. Appropriately, their audience was in an entranced awe thanks to the still-spellbinding music emanating from the stage, as affecting now as it was two decades ago. This performance was one of the band’s only US dates and they made every moment of it count. After Slowdive wrapped up, there was just enough time for a brief break before Grimes took over and played to an absolutely packed crowd. Visions is now over two and a half years in the past but it’s proved formidable enough to keep serious attention focused on Clair Boucher, the artist behind the project. Grimes’ only release since then was last month’s “Go“, which earned a large amount of attention and acclaim. From the crowd’s reaction to Grimes’ set (which often felt more appropriate for a pop star than an emerging electronic artist, right down to the fan allowing Boucher’s hair to blow in the wind) it was abundantly clear that the public opinion of her has grown drastically since the release of Visions. “Oblivion” had a lot of people screaming and the audience seemed more than a little reluctant to see her leave but there was still one performer to go: Kendrick Lamar.

At this point, Kendrick is one of the few people in music who don’t need an introduction- and that showed in his set. Mostly pulling from the already-considered-stone-cold-classic good kid, m.A.A.d city he delivered one of the festivals most confident sets, while managing to keep it from tipping over into easy braggadocio, proving to be more than worthy of the festival’s ultimate headlining slot. His audience was huge and rapturous; it seemed like half of the Day 3 attendees were there solely to see the man himself. He didn’t disappoint those expectations- or even come close. Everyone who could drink was drinking, everyone who could dance was dancing, and no one was walking away disappointed. Songs like “Swimming Pools (Drank)” elicited mass crowd shout-a-longs and Lamar used his time as well as he possibly could. He’s clearly one of the biggest names in music (this is thanks in part to the fact he’s now earned a bottomless well of guest verses for just about everyone) and has no intentions of going anywhere but up. There were very few choices that would have felt more appropriate to bring everything home. It was the best-case-scenario closing to a festival that continues to get more impressive- and if that keeps up, it won’t be worth missing by the time it rolls around next year.

Pitchfork Festival: Day 2 (Review)

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Days 2 and 3 of the Pitchfork Festival were spent seeing the festival shows themselves, rather than the after shows. Who needed after shows when the lineups for both days were so unbelievably stacked? Day 2 started with Cloud Nothings laying into a very frantic set that recalled their recent High Noon Saloon appearance. Drawing entirely from Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else, their set translated well to an outdoor festival setting. With the additional benefit of good weather, the day was off on the right foot. Before their set ended, it was off to catch Mas Ysa ending his, an impressive display of eclecticism and eccentric electronic work. It was a decided change of pace from Cloud Nothings’ assault just moments before- but it kept the audience just as engaged.

Pusha T was forced to play a shortened set after a late arrival but no one seemed to mind; there were more than a few people on the verge of losing their minds during his short time onstage. My Name Is My Name, one of last year’s stronger highlights, was well represented (predictably, “Nosetalgia” received the biggest reception- no surprise Kendrick appearance, though) as was his back catalog. Pusha handled the lion’s share of the performing himself and showcased the dazzling skill and charisma anyone that’s been paying attention to him since Clipse knows that he’s capable of. It was a standout set, even if it didn’t take up the full time slot. tUnE-yArDs played to another very packed crowd that proved to be just as entranced and receptive as Pusha T’s. Merrill Garbus and company played  off of each other expertly, offering up enviable displays of both percussive and vocal prowess. It felt appropriate in the setting and completely of the moment. Their last two songs drew two of the loudest cheers of the festival.

Next up on the schedule was Danny Brown, green-tipped hair and all, who absolutely invigorated what was starting to feel like a lull in the day’s actions. Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves was also on hand to watch this set and talked about punk, energy, unpredictably, danger, catharsis, and how Brown’s set embodied just about all of it. Brown’s last two records (XXX and Old, respectively) are two of the finest entries in hip-hop for the decade-so-far and his live show lived up to- and possibly surpassed- that recorded output. At this point he’s no longer a star in the making- he’s a bona fide star. Look out for whatever comes out of his camp next (fingers crossed on what seems to be a possibly impending collaboration with The Avalanches) because it’ll be more than worth paying attention to.

After Brown’s rousing set, it was back across the grounds for St. Vincent, still riding his on this year’s outstanding self-titled record. Annie Clark led her band through a set that leaned heavily on that record while occasionally glancing back (“Cheerleader“, in particular, was awe-inducing), always leaving at least one foot planted in her increasing fondness for futurist aesthetics. When she broke from that mold, though, the effects became staggeringly visceral. One of the most unexpected (and aggressive) moments of the festival, for instance, came when Clark led her band down into a free-for-all noise jam that bordered on chaos as it became increasingly heavier. Towards the end of this, Clark threw her guitar to the stage and started abusing it before crawling over to the bass drum, headbutting it repeatedly, rhythmically, before retreating and staying down, holding her head, clearly in some anguish. She would stay in that position for some time before a stagehand came and draped another guitar over her after receiving assurance that she was okay. It was a moment driven by pure, total feeling– and it was spectacular.

Neutral Milk Hotel put on some extraordinary shows after their surprise reunion last year (their Covington, KY show was particularly memorable) and they haven’t really stopped since. True to their wishes, the display screens for the festival were temporarily killed for their set. No cameras, no footage, just music and a shared experience. And what an experience it was. Literally thousands of people sang along in unison to personal favorites off of the band’s landmark achievement, In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea, and several jaws dropped when they went for their relatively deep cuts (“Ruby Bulbs” was as emotional as ever and “Ferris Wheel on Fire” remains transcendent in a live setting). It was mixed well, the band played with as much force as they did meaning and everyone in the audience was smiling, enjoying a moment that would have seemed impossible just a year and a half ago. It was the obvious choice to end the evening and felt akin to magic. Day 3 would have a lot to live up to.

Below watch a video of Cloud Nothings playing “I’m Not Part of Me” that was recently posted by the hosts of the festival themselves.

Deafheaven at Bottom Lounge – 7/18/14 (Review, Photos)

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Last weekend Chicago’s Union Park hosted one of the Midwest’s stacked festivals of the year and various venues around the area hosted official after party shows. By weekend’s end, around 20 sets were taken in between the official showcases and one of the day 1 after shows. The latter of which featured the first sets I was able to see throughout the weekend (shortly after arriving at The Bottom Lounge- who were putting on the after show, Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves stole me off for drinks at the festival grounds and we were able to hear Beck float through an impressive-sounding set in the background). After running back to the Bottom Lounge there was a short amount of time and the night’s first act, Pink Frost, had their set off and running. The Chicago-based quartet have been a fixture of the local scene for years and now, with the release of Traitors becoming increasingly imminent (it’s due out in September), they’re operating at a higher level than ever. Mixing shoegaze, psych, and punk elements into something impressive and towering on record, they’re even more formidable as a live act. All of the years they’ve spent playing together has resulted in an extraordinarily tight dynamic where each tiny detail is woven into an arresting sonic tapestry full of complementary threads. Their allotted time may have been understandably brief but it wound up feeling like one of the more complete sets of the year.

Perfect Pussy were next to take the stage and, despite sounding near-perfect in the soundcheck, wound up running into some apparent mixing problems. Not that it mattered, though. The band’s made a habit out of turning even the worst situations into something unforgettable. So, while Shaun Sutkus’ synths were pushed so far up that they were overwhelming just about everything else, the band played with their trademark fervor. That passion for performing is one of the biggest reasons this band’s celebrated so frequently here and, to her credit, Graves gave the absolutely packed crowd her all, even while being more inaudible than usual- to the point of leaving some of her blood on the floor (and earning several scratches on her hands). All thing considered, it stood as another display of breathtaking fierceness from a band that refuses to quit, no matter the circumstance.

Deafheaven were the headliners for the evening and their set leaned heavily on the monumental Sunbather, one of the only records to draw as much criticism from genre elitists as Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love, making comfortable bedfellows out of an otherwise curiously unusual pairing. They didn’t waste their time- or position- as headliners, they filled their set with as much material as possible. At least one new song was played that seemed to advance the transition Sunbather represented for them. Vocalist George Clarke, clad in all black, commanded attention with ease, frequently going in and out of the crowd- occasionally crowdsurfing in a corpse-like position (and it’s worth noting that every move felt organic rather than rehearsed). “Dream House” was one of several assured high points by virtue of being a moment that featured atmospheric crescendos hitting a note near the euphoric. By the time they were loading their equipment off-stage, they’d given the audience just about everything they could, bringing the first night in Chicago to a successful close.

Photographs of the evening can be seen below.