Lights dim over a sunlit central stage. The crowd hushes. From behind a wall of towering amplifiers and beat-up instruments, a lanky giant in creased white clothes emerges into a shower of golden light, his button-down billowing, to pick up a faded Stratocaster. He settles the strap on his collarbone and ambles up to the mike. His wife, an ancient woman with ice-white hair, wanders to his right. The giant spots her, nods his head. He leans forward and rasps.
“Hey, guys,” he says. Greetings erupt from the audience. “Wow, really. Wow. Hey, Kimmy, how long’s it been?”
“Twenty years, looks like.” A chorus of boos and groans. “Man, we never do Daydream, do we? Ever? Well, you guys are gonna love this.” A city of speakers crackles as the pair starts strumming a ragged, fast-paced bar. “Here goes,” says Kim Gordon, and so begins the most widely anticipated event of the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival: Sonic Youth’s blistering, mile-a-minute rendition of their late-80s anthem, Teen Age Riot.
If you and your friends were unlucky enough to miss this year’s Hajj for sweaty, chain-smoking hipsters, fear not—a hopelessly biased editor is here to tell you the highlights. In order:
1) Don’t Look Back—Perhaps the only time in history that Sonic Youth, the GZA, and Slint will ever be seen together, Pitchfork set aside four hours on a sultry Friday night for these three bands to perform their best and most-loved albums in full—Liquid Swords by GZA, Spiderland by Slint, and the aforementioned Daydream Nation (Pitchfork’s choice for the best album of the 1980s). Nearly 13,000 people attended the event, which sold out over a month in advance.
2) Battles—Wesleyan faculty son and Middletown native Tyondai Braxton’s latest (and most famous) robot-rock collective wowed and perplexed audience members with artfully tweaked versions of “Rainbow,” “Leyendecker,” and “Atlas.” Robots have never been hipper.
3) Jamie Lidell—A white, glasses-wearing soul singer in a spangled robe? At Pitchfork? No one in attendance could say for sure, but it seemed as though Lidell’s soaring rendition of “Multiply” could carry to the Sears Tower. A holy moment in a weekend full of awakenings.
4) Of Montreal—A guitarist dressed as an angel and a giant, three-headed Cerberus doll marked the coming of Elephant Six’s sunniest ensemble. Kevin Barnes alternated between hot pants and a football jersey as audience members swung from ecstasy to amazement.
5) Dan Deacon—Five people broke bones. ‘Nuff said.
6) Junior Boys—Lush, glacial techno cooled brows and energized hips as Jeremy Greenspan and Johnny Dark sang their way through a full hour of twilit Arctic soundscapes. Greenspan’s Ontario accent only magnified the charm.
7) Yoko Ono—Not so much a highlight as the reigning W.T.F. moment of the summer, the former Mrs. Lennon treated the crowd to a brand of singing so odd that it made one nostalgic for sitars. “Artful screaming” barely does it justice.
8) Girl Talk—If you haven’t danced to Girl Talk, stop reading right now. Greg Gilliss’ eclectic, overnight sensation made 2006 the Year of the Sweat-Drenched Corduroys, and an intimate tent show shortly after sunset perfectly captured his brilliance. Gilliss had just quit his job as a chemical engineer at the time of the festival; the number of fans that appeared to cheer him on proved his decision right.