Pitchfork Fest 2013. I spent it trying not to die of heatstroke and watching bands wearing Members Only jackets perform under hot stage lights in 90 degrees.
No, no. I’m not going to start like that. I wanted to write “Fear and Loathing at Pitchfork” or something, but not only am I unqualified for the position, I also had too good of a time to hate on it much. It wasn’t even that hot, really. Plus I didn’t do enough acid to be in the right state of mind to write something like that.
Some people there certainly did, though. Some of my friends decided to trip for the Bjork show, which is probably a good candidate for hallucinogens. But I’ve never understood the whole drugs at a concert thing, personally. It’s like ketchup. If you’ve got to add ketchup to your food to make it palatable, it’s probably not very good food in the first place. Or else it is good, and you’re just so accustomed to ketchup that you can’t enjoy anything without it anymore, which is really a personal problem, and one you should seek help for, buddy. We’ve got institutions for that.
Even after Bjork’s set was cut short Friday night on account of thunderstorms in the area, I couldn’t be too upset. She did have a giant Tesla coil suspended above her for the entire set, so I can see the potential health risk. I’m no expert, but I do know that those things are designed to channel large amounts of electricity.
She was also dressed as an antenna. Or a metallic dandelion, I’m not sure. Either way, probably kind of a lightning rod in practice.
A whole mess of friends of mine showed up at the fest on Friday. Besides that, I felt like I recognized at least half of the population there anyway. Not just because these tattooed hipsters (myself included) tend to congregate in the same places throughout the year, but also, as my friend Bret put it, because “there are a lot of people who are exactly like me here.”
Which really isn’t entirely true, I think. It’s pretty easy to hate on hipsters and millennials by saying they all look/are the same, because hating on the present trend is just what people do after a certain point. It’s a way of saying “I don’t buy into the bullshit,” and it’s how trends change, I suppose. But really, that hate is just another tier of bullshit, and it’s a self-righteous, silly one at that. And I think a lot of people are realizing that, which is why you don’t find too many people with gauged ears and tights jeans saying, “I really hate hipsters” these days. Not only is the hate so laughable, it’s pointless, too. Because as the term “hipster” evolves to the point of being almost meaningless, there’s nothing derogatory or offensive in addressing somebody by it. We’ve reached this beautiful point of ambivalence about the whole thing at which we can apply the term to two people who dress and act completely differently, with no contradiction or hypocrisy.
Pardon me, I can’t help but wander into some social anthropology every time I’m in a crowd that big.
So yes, the festival was crawling with hipsters. Packed with them. But in no way did everyone look the same. There was prime people-watching to be had. There was some girl in all sequins and a feathered headdress. Hair dyed every color imaginable. Lots of cropped shirts, since those have apparently made a comeback. Really stupidly impractical shoes all around. So many tattoos. I suppose I should’ve taken some photos, but the festival wouldn’t allow anyone to bring in SLRs unless they were press. Which, frustratingly, I wasn’t, because I couldn’t scam some smalltime music blog into taking me under its wing this time around. Next year, godammit.
And I wouldn’t have been able to at Bjork’s set anyway, easily the most photogenic part of the festival. Before she came on stage, a screen at the back of the stage switched on to explain Bjork’s problem with people photographing her at shows. The slide (Jesus, slide? What am I, in 1935?) explained that not only does the flash distract her and her band, but that she encourages the audience to focus more on enjoying the performance in the present moment than on recording it to enjoy later. Which, I think, makes a lot of sense. I’d much rather spend my time watching Bjork in real time (as they say), and later look at the photos on her and Pitchfork’s websites, the photos that were taken by professionals with press badges and nice cameras. What a novel idea.
Of course, there were a few who thought it would be oh-so-clever to try to snap some low quality iPhone photos and videos of her anyway. But besides them and the girl who spilled a beer down my boyfriend’s back and then kept yelling that he was a “little bitch” while Bjork was playing, the crowd was generally civil throughout the festival. Remarkably so. While waiting for Belle and Sebastian to play on Saturday night I talked with the high school kids I happened to be huddled down with on the grass. They were so excited to be there, and continued to offer me vodka and hits from their pipe, regardless of how many times I declined. One of the kids asked me how long I had been “a straight edge.” I thought about making up an alcoholic dad or a boyfriend who’d overdosed as origin story, but decided not to be a dick to the nice people.
There were a couple cases of dehydration and bad acid that were handled quite deftly by the audience and staff. One girl stumbled into me during Mac Demarco’s set saying “I’ve never felt this way before. I don’t like it.” We sat her down and made her drink some water until security got through the crowd to haul her down to the medical tent.
And generally there were good vibes to be had all around. During the Belle and Sebastian set especially, there were so many stupidly in love couples kissing during favorite songs. Sure it’s sappy, but it’s pretty sweet, too. Belle and Sebastian are a good group for “Our Song”s, because they’ve been around awhile and are ubiquitous — not to mention good — enough that their tunes can fondly be remembered by many as “the song we had our first kiss to” or whatever. They also have lots of weird sex lyrics, which are good for “the song I first choked you out to.” Sadly, my boyfriend had only heard a handful of B&S songs, and thus we didn’t have any relevant romantic history to reflect upon fondly. But we made out a lot anyway.
Despite a bit of bad weather, the B&S show was so good that it easily trumped even the notoriously weird and fantastic Bjork performance. They were so funny and kind and excited to be there that they seemed like the embodiment of twee. Stuart Murdoch, who is a weirdo and hands down the most charming man alive, loves to kind-heartedly fuck around with the audience. He brought people on stage to recite the spoken word bits in some of the songs, and made a boy in the crowd apply mascara to him during “Lord Antony.” They’ve been one of my bucket list bands (as in, one of the bands I absolutely must see perform before I die) for a long time, and so I was thrilled to find out that they still put on a good show.
Although I suppose I should’ve actually spent some time telling you about the music I saw at Pitchfork besides Belle and Sebastian, it’s a little late for that now, isn’t it? Plus, reciting adjectives about concerts to people who weren’t there seems like the paragon of frustrating pointlessness. Instead, my practical advice: You should go look up Mac Demarco if you don’t listen to him already, and you should definitely make Belle and Sebastian one of your bucket list bands. They are so worth it.