Monday, July 21, 2008

Pitchfork Festival, July 20, 2008

I made it for only half of the day, but I managed to come right on time for King Khan and The Shrines. I had only heard of the King by reputation, and boy, did he earn it on stage. Decked out in a cape and a glittery turban-esque piece of headgear, he and his band (complete with horn section) dove headfirst into some gutbucket garage R & B,

Khan is a shouter, who at times reminds me of Peter Zaremba of The Fleshtones. In fact, the 'tones are a good comparision overall, as they, like Khan and his mates, can go from primitive rock to fairly bouncy R & B, with a bit of swing. Khan parodies soul moves, but in a way only someone who loves them can. And his between song patter was bizarre and funny.

The highlight? Maybe it was the self-described gospel song which ends up with Khan going down on his woman, and then getting his arms inside her...then his legs...but he takes off his shoes first because "I'm Indian, and that's what we do." Khan is boatloads of fun and a more-than-credible garage rocker. Great stuff.

I've somehow never listened to M. Ward. His sandpapery voice, which has a bit of both Dylan and Joe Strummer is very appealing. The music draws from rustic country and modern folk rock, with some plain old rock and roll somewhere in the mix too. One song propelled on one of those freight train rhythms that always grabs me. I can't say he was great, but it was a good set, and I need to investigate his recorded work.

Due to overlap, I could only catch the first 10 minutes or so of Spiritualized, but the band's powerful brand of psychedelia and blues, turbocharged, sounded fantastic. Matt Berlyant of the Big Takeover's website (check out my links) gave it a thumbs up, so I'm sure the rest was just as good.

I had to ditch Spiritualized for Bon Iver. Justin Vernon has found a way to flesh out some of the songs on the brilliant debut album without diminishing their intimacy or power. His band is drums, bass and guitar, and the drummer was exceptional, really adding drive where necessary and holding back otherwise. The drummer also did a swell lead vocal on a cover of Talk Talk's "I Believe in You".

In fact, the other three all sang, recreating the multi-tracked vocals of Vernon on the album. Vernon dropped in register in a couple of places (while his falsetto was swell) and showed that he can sing well in a lower range. I have a review up of the Bon Iver album and wish it could do justice to the album. I don't know if I'm doing much better in describing the live experience.

Came back from Bon Iver to find Dinosaur Jr. in the midst of a long jam, with two lengthy solos by J. Mascis. The band sounded great and evoked Neil Young and Crazy Horse as successfully as anyone could. A version of "Freak Scene" hit the spot. A good half a set, even if half of that half was the jam.

I left during Spoon. Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and Co. were crisp and sleek. But they opened with "Small Stakes" and another song (knew the song, can't recall the title) which beat a nagging chord pattern into the ground.

From there, Spoon went into its more recent R & B laced material. The tension between Spoon's Cars-like detachment and the fluid soul grooves should work better for me than they do. But it's all so "clincal" (to quote Mr. Berlyant) that I was simply left cold. So I left.

The only other thing I can say about the festival is that it was better run then last year, as food lines weren't as bad and the extra porta-potties were a help. And the relocated third stage was much better situated, making for a much better experience (it's where King Khan and Bon Iver played). The fest was truly a bargain.

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