The 2013 edition of The Pitchfork Music Festival opened to a stream of eager Björk fans hurrying through the gates to grab a spot along the rail of the Green Stage for her set and her set only. For those of us who came for everything else we were greeted with wispy white clouds blown by light breezes, that helped to somewhat temper the heat and high humidity of the day.
Frankie Rose started off the festivities with her set on the Blue Stage. Greeting early arriving “Pitchforkers” as she called them, with endearing interactions that continued throughout the set. Her sweetly discordant vocals layered over moody bass and airy synths created an inviting atmosphere in the shady tree covered space. A new song or two in the set sounded right at home with the rest, but “Know Me” with its sing along lyrics and cool energy was a sure highlight of an overall engaging set.
Daughn Gibson’s dark rhythms, intense drums and deep voice brought listeners out into the sun of the Red stage. “A Young Girl’s World” brought a mysterious energy that was continued all the way through the set closing “All Hell.” A song that normally runs just over 3 minutes was drawn out into a bombastic jam with an epically loud and crashing breakdown of layered instrumentation.
Back over at the Blue Stage streams of people were heading directly over to catch Trash Talk. The band launched into their first song as a thick cloud of dust began to rise into the air. By the second song the band’s front man Lee Spielman, instigated a full on circle pit, and by the third had jumped into it himself. The frenzied crowd buoyed him above their heads as he sat cross legged, riding over energetically pumping fists. Urging the crowd with a yell of “none of this standing around shit” Spielman continued to lead all that were present into further chaos.
The Green Stage’s first set of the day saw Montreal’s Mac DeMarco. As he played through songs like “The Stars Keep on Calling my Name” and “Rock N’ Roll Nightclub,” his quirky energy and personality brought the performance a vivacious energy, while his backing band lent a fuller and funkier vibe to the tracks than what the recorded versions would have shown. As he powered through the set playing mouth opened and tongue out he humorously quipped that this was a “Big sexy party in the park!” Indeed it was full of bobbing heads all around in the hot afternoon sun and many an air guitar riff to be seen throughout the crowd. The fairly lengthy set culminated in the raucous and random covers of Bachman Turner Overdrive’s 80’s classic “Taking Care of Business” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” pleasing a wide range of fans.
Angel Olsen’s late day performance brought loud cheers of glee from the audience right from the beginning. Starting off with “Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow” her modern waltzes with an ever so slight country twang brought forward through a yodeling voice reminiscent of Emmylou Harris. A slower set allowed onlookers to relax and take in the day as her angelic voice rose about the trees while the moody plodding bass floated by as slowly as the clouds above. The summer cicadas seemed to sing along to her plaintive sorrowful tone. She stopped briefly to put up her hair and check in on the crowd, “Did ya eat?, Did ya drink some water?” Everyone’s response was a resounding “Yes.”
Mikal Cronin kept the fresh buzzy energy of the Blue Stage going with a whispered intro into a clash of noise on “Is It Alright.” The crowd began to push into the center as he alternated between fuzzy and frantic guitar riffs. “Situation” brought about a fair amount of thrashing from those up front, while “Apathy” had them fully singing along. Though a few of the early arrivers left after only a handful of songs, presumably to see Wire, plenty more came to take their spots. By this time the core of the crowd had devolved into full on moshing and water bottle explosions, yet somehow despite the thrashing it somehow seemed just as appropriate to casually watch from the sides. The apparent dichotomy of his catchy and engaging lyrics combined with the raging guitars made this one of the most electric sets of the day.
The lovely Joanna Newsom came on to close out the Red Stage behind the encroaching clouds and relaxing everyone into the evening. “Bridges and Balloons” came first and was no less than melodic brilliance. She stopped to let the audience know that she wasn’t quite sure what to play next as she had a lot of new material on hand, but opted instead for the moving “In California.” When she did get to the new songs it was definitely worth the wait. Three new songs all in sequence, brimmed with promise and her usual wistful lyrics. Seamlessly plucking harp strings, her childlike vocals fluttered along with the leaves in the wind. An army of adoring fans were enraptured and watched in awe as she went from harp to piano and back again. The evening grew darker, as more clouds seemed to appear as if she was them conjuring up with each strum of the harp. But no one seemed concerned as she began to play “Cosmia” she was greeted with happy gasps from the crowd and an extended applause at its end. A flawless performance that led into the evening’s headliner.
With the moon rising over the Green Stage, everyone gathered for the almost guaranteed brilliance that is Björk. The crowd burst into rapturous cheers as an all female choir clad in metallic blue costumes emerged on the stage followed by Björk herself, dressed in gold with an amazing headdress that made her somewhat resemble a shimmering intergalactic sea urchin. With spotlights on her constantly, she was a radiant ball of reflective light, growling and prancing from side to side, with her choir in almost complete unison. The intensity kept building and enthralling the audience as a whole, however the lightning in the sky began to match that of the giant Tesla coil suspended above the stage during “Army of Me.” By the conclusion of “Mutual Core,” a hugely disappointed crowd was given the news by Björk herself that she was being made to stop the show per the “weather authority’s” concerns over an impending storm. A sea of boos erupted, but as the winds and lightning kicked up within minutes of the announcement, everyone quickly scattered to the streets bringing day one to an abrupt end.