The second day of Pitchfork Music Festival made a surprising case against a lack of stage conflict. As fans packed in quite tightly for a mid-afternoon tUnE-yArDs set, it was pretty clear that those unwilling to brave a crowd would be better off grabbing the scant free items offered towards the outskirts of Union Park. Like the many festivals that fall before and after it during this long summer festival season, Pitchfork offers free bandanas and totes, twinkies, popsicles and even a bit of Chipotle if you can brave the VIP line. Endurance is everything and it’s far easier to stick it out surrounded by strangers when your soundtrack happens to be songstress Merrill Garbus.
Center stage and dazzling in dress and demeanor, Garbus led her band on a refreshing (no pun intended, though “Water Fountain” was played during the latter portion of her set) run through her Whokill and Nikki Nack, both acclaimed albums in their own right. Sound levels still stayed at a surprisingly moderate to low level, only adding to the sun-kissed, chill atmosphere of the festival. It was only ten minutes after a sweaty but still face-painted Garbus left the stage that a whole other vibe took over across the festival grounds. Fans were clamoring for Danny Brown well before his 6:15 start time to the point that hands were thrust in the air and water was sprayed like celebration champagne, pushing fans to the limits of the Green Stage’s barricades.
Danny Brown eagerly fed off the crowd’s energy and offered up one of his more inspired festival performances, though he’s not one to undersell his performance or curtail his energy for the sake of resting up in the midst of a long tour. He’s an electric, entertaining performer but there are certainly some nights where he’s more on and this was one of them. Mega hits “Dip” and “25 Bucks” were met just as enthusiastically as more obscure tracks, a rarity given most festival fans’ predilection to simply go with what’s current than an artist’s back catalog.
Soon after it was back to the Red Stage for a blonde and braided St. Vincent. The iconic musician has changed just as many looks as she has musical styles, and with her current, more daring and experimental sound, the aesthetic shift is fitting. New singles were played in heavy rotation throughout St. Vincent’s fiery set with nearly every song off her eponymous latest LP getting some stage time. Her set opened as the album does, with “Rattlesnake” slinking and skulking through fuzzed out guitars and modular synths. For all the diversity in modern music and especially at Pitchfork, it was almost a letdown that the staid Neutral Milk Hotel would be closing out Saturday night.
The band, as per usual, was more concerned with putting on a mellow, ethereal show than allowing that show to hit the screens of fans’ phones or tablets. Lighting was dim, the music was low, and there was little to distract from the same songs Neutral Milk Hotel’s been playing since hitting the summer festival circuit. In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is a gorgeous album and song, of course, but its magic lies in its rare appearances rather than in over-saturation. Neutral Milk Hotel is indie sparseness at its finest and there is little to grow finer in age, especially when the band themselves don’t really seem to be all that enthused with the hits that netted them such a cult following. Whereas Beck fans raced towards the Green Stage to hear him, many Neutral Milk Hotel fans were walking away after a bit of a mellow musical nightcap. Sunday’s closing slot goes to Kendrick Lamar and let’s hope he can rouse the sleepy masses.