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2012 Pitchfork Festival Roundup

20 Jul

Jumbled Line-Up and Inclement Weather Make for Odd Year at Pitchfork Music Festival

By Aundrea Billings
Photos by Michael Stangler / Charlie Christenson

Day 1

A few unlikely headliners paired with lots of rain and humidity made for a regrettably lackluster year at the 7th annual Pitchfork Music Festival. Day 1 saw the beginning of two major themes from this year’s festival – inconsistent vibe and uncooperative weather.

Lower Dens

Lower Dens opened the day with a torrent of rain that clearly affected turnout. While the set sounded decent, the band couldn’t have looked more bored. Granted their music is of the moody and eerie persuasion, but it felt like a missed opportunity and a disappointing way to kick off the festival.

The day continued to be musically disjointed, jumping from Chicago native and folky newcomer Willis Earl Beal, to something-to-prove veteran indie rockers The Olivia Tremor Control. One of the brightest moments of the day came both literally and figuratively with the brash rockers, Japandroids. The duo of Brian King and David Prowse exerted a level of energy on par with the 15+ entourage accompanying hip hop newcomer A$AP Rocky.


Fresh off the tail of their Tuesday release, Swing Lo Magellan, the Dirty Projectors did not disappoint. They colored their set with new, complex material and older, feel good favorites, to a somewhat under-appreciative crowd. Closing out the day was a solid, toe tapping (yet poorly placed) headlining performance from Feist.

Dirty Projectors


Day 2

If Japandroids parted the clouds on Friday, then Cloud Nothings brought the rain on Saturday. Their highly anticipated set was interrupted by sound failures due to the downpour, but the band played on for a grateful remaining crowd. Good news was Day 2 brought a bigger crowd, with festival-goers bravely tromping through mud, covered in ponchos and garbage bags.

The rain decided to move on just in time for peppy indie crooners Cults. As the smell of wet dog, cigarette smoke, and weed filled the air, so too did the looks of confusion and discontent among the crowd. Not only was the band experiencing technical difficulties, but lead singer, Madeline Follin couldn’t pull her vocals together to make the band’s signature sound fans have come to expect from favorite tunes like “Abducted” and “Go Outside.”


After the third or fourth song, many festival-goers made a break for it to see Youth Lagoon on the small stage. While Trevor Powers’ music is both haunting and melodic, the band’s performance ended up pleasant, yet sadly stale.

Youth Lagoon

Sleigh Bells brought the biggest surprise of the day with a much-needed surge of danceable pop energy. The crowd thanked the band with a heavy dose of genuine excitement and engagement that this festival sorely needed.

Electronic mainstay Hot Chip kept that same bouncy feel-good energy going with a truly invigorating performance. Just as disjointedly as the day began, so too did the day end, with headlining performances from post-rock legends Godspeed You! Black Emperor and beat-heavy electro act Grimes.

Day 3

The real fun began on the third and final day of the otherwise spastic festival, with a humid dose of good ol’ reliable punk rock. While the back-to-back sets of tour mates Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall were poorly planned, both bands managed to keep spirits high for festival-goers.

Ty Segall

A lull in an otherwise redeeming day occurred with a fairly indistinct set by Real Estate, followed by over-hyped rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose act wasn’t revived even with the unfounded rumor of an onstage appearance by Lady Gaga.

Real Estate

A reminder of more memorable Pitchfork Festivals of the past came via Beach House, who played many of their notable anthems with precision for appreciative fans. Vampire Weekend rounded out the festival as the only headliner truly earning its closing slot by engrossing the crowd with an upbeat and familiar blend of indie rock.

Beach House

Whether you blame the rain, the sound, or young hipsters, there’s no doubt that this was a hit or miss year for the Pitchfork Music Festival. Interestingly, these tastemakers wouldn’t have it any other way. Unlike other more commercialized festivals such as Lollapalooza and Coachella, this event continues to do something the others can’t – bravely deliver innovative and diverse new music to the hungry masses.

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