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Review: Pitchfork Festival 2012, Day One 

Japandroids at Pitchfork - GRANT CATTON

It's actually Day Two and I'm sitting in the press tent trying to get this piece done before the Cloud Nothings come on at 1:45 p.m. The Psychic Paramount are jamming away on the Green stage right next to the tent, and there's definitely a bit more excitement in the air today.

Yesterday's crowd was a little thin, according to anecdotal evidence from regular Pitchfork fest attendees (this is my first Pitchfork). The low attendance was probably due to the rain and the fact it was still technically a weekday. I myself got caught in a monsoon-style rain burst the moment - and I mean, the very second - I got to Union Park. Having nowhere else to go, I hid under a semi-trailer with a few other folks then we scurried like rats to the doorway of a cathedral on Ashland Ave.

click to enlarge Carrie Brownstein of Wild Flag - GRANT CATTON

The rain had stopped by the time Baltimore-based Lower Dens came on, and the sun was actually out. I saw Lower Dens last summer in Indy when they opened for fellow Baltimore-based musician Cass McCombs. They have a real shoegazy kind of style but yesterday they felt a little bit 80s post-punk-ish, reminding me of the Cure at times. Either way, their set definitely renewed my interest in this band. Probably the second best show I saw yesterday.

What was the first best? Japandroids, absolutely. Their set on the Blue stage, in the back of the park, took a little while to get going due to an epic soundcheck. However, once it did get going they completely killed it. I somehow never realized the group were only two dudes - drums and guitar - but they make enough noise for five. By far the most high-energy and hardest rocking set that I saw yesterday.

Purity Ring's closing set was a real surprise. The only thing I knew about this band was they are fairly new and they only have like five songs or something, and also their name is really funny. Another two person act, they play a sort of weird, choppy, synth rock with lots of echoes and vocal effects. The percussionist had this bizarre set up of what looked like light bulbs in little cages that he hit with his drumsticks to make different tones, and the light bulbs lit every time he hit them. In the gathering dark, along with the hanging, pulsating Japanese style lights above the stage, visually it made for an incredible set. I'd have to listen to them a little bit more to really form an opinion, but their set made me want to do that, at least.

click to enlarge The Men at Pitchfork - GRANT CATTON

Another surprise was Dirty Projectors. Again, a band I knew next to nothing about when I walked upon their set around dusk on Day One at the Red stage. Even during the beginning of their set I wasn't that into them, but within 20 minutes they won me over with wickedly complex, mathy guitar riffs, three-part female vocal harmonies and a bit of funkiness. Something about them reminded me of Vampire Weekend a bit.

Willis Earl Beal proved himself a highly entertaining solo performer. He came out dressed in tight cowboy-type blue jeans with a big belt buckle and a black T-shirt on, decorated with a silver sort of smiley-face spraypainted on it. He had a black flag with the same symbol on it, which he draped over himself as he swayed and danced seductively on stage with a slow, deliberate, even confrontational presence, hunching over at the waist like a football player getting ready for a tackle. His voice resides somewhere between a deep gospel wail and a dirty, musky growl. His lyrics offer a lot for the ears and I found myself laughing out loud a few times at his blatantly sexual innuendos ("Don't leave me hangin' like a spider with no fly... lift up your dress and help me sing this song").

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