Arts Desk

What I Learned at the Pitchfork Music Festival

Keith Morris of OFF! (Photo by Blake Miller)

The sixth annual Pitchfork Music Festival wrapped this weekend. Dismemberment Plan smiled the whole way through. Attendees got mad at Odd Future for saying offensive things. Face paint sales throughout the Midwest rose. It was dusty. It was hot. It was fun. I learned a few things that concert-goers, specifically those who have tickets to Virgin Mobile FreeFest, can refer to next time they attempt a massive rock festival.

Lesson 1: See Everyone
Music festivals are buffets. Whether they're of the Golden Corral or fancy hotel variety is up to you. Don't stick with what you know. If you're a fan of the artist you're seeing, you're bound to be let down. It's probably not the artists' fault. They don't control the people sitting on blankets talking through everything—that's your fault. Walk away. I was enjoying the Tune-Yards songs I recognized, then I wandered over to Battles and saw my favorite set of the weekend.

Lesson 2: Metal = Good
Metal and punk are awesome but are under-represented at music festivals. I shouldn't have to go to Warped Tour to see bands that have energy. It's why sets from No Age, OFF!, and Kylesa were so great for Pitchfork. Sure, the crowd didn't seem as happy as my teenage self was, but all three acts earned their money with sweat, broken strings, and raw throats.

Lesson 3: The Sun Sucks

DJ Shadow and Zola Jesus played great sets at 8 p.m. during sunset. But the light ruined DJ Shadow's projections, and Zola Jesus looked like a caricature of a pop star.

Lesson 4: The Sun Can Be Good
Battles played to not a very packed mid-afternoon crowd that could have been bigger, were it not for the heat. In other words, show up early. There's more space, people seem to have taken the right amount of drugs, and there aren't as many blankets on the ground.

Lesson 5: Know Your Headliner
Since it's the last act of the night, don't worry about discovering the headliner. If you don't love them by now, you probably never will. Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, and TV on the Radio headlined Pitchfork's festival. I know all of these bands quite well, and all of them delivered excellent sets that did not surprise me. Just get ahead of the traffic if you don't love the headliner. It's less likely you'll die in a horrible car crash 30 minutes before the last note is played.

Lesson 6: Drink water
When it's hot outside, you should drink more water so you don't die.

Lesson 7: Respect Your Elders
Superchunk, Dismemberment Plan, and Guided By Voices all delivered to their loyal devotees and possibly turned some onto the gospel of '90s rock. Superchunk had the energy of a much younger band; D-Plan played what felt like a greatest hits set and beamed throughout; Guided By Voices made it okay to drink and smoke as much as you could for an hour. Without bands like this, most of the other indie rock acts on this festival—and others like it—probably would not exist.

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