Pitchfork Music Festival Day 1

I guess I owe some sort of apology as it is taking me extremely long to get my videos up from the concerts that I have been to this month. I went to see a lot of shows in a few different places and it has taken me this long to get all my videos and pictures and what not organized on my own computer.

So very quickly, Day 1 of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park was on July 18, 2008 and, just like last year, was done in association with All Tomorrow’s Parties “Don’t Look Back” which has bands performing (what some consider to be) their landmark albums. This year featured Mission of Burma performing their album “Vs.”, Sebadoh performing “Bubble and Scrape” and Public Enemy with their phenomenal “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”.

I have seen Mission of Burma perform before, at the same venue actually, 2 years ago. Their performance was very good. I only wish that they would have been asked to perform “Signals, Calls and Marches”, which to me is a better and more important album than the somewhat lackluster “Vs.”. Seeing Mission of Burma perform now though brings a certain joy to me. To me it is witnessing a band get its second chance. For anyone that has read Michael Azzerad’s “Our Band Could Be Your Life” they know that Mission of Burma was a fantastic band with a strong following that seemed to be on the fast track to success, the only problem being that they were a little bit too ahead of their time and not quite as “militant” as Black Flag when it came to gouging their path across the United States. They were out there on the East Coast alone and had to face the fact that they had to pack it up.

Luckily for us they are back to performing. They got to skip over the whole part of being good, then bad and then resurfacing with a great album that seems to come out of nowhere. They are the only band that I can think of that went from being heard nowhere but in audiophiles basements to being the old guard of indie-art-rock. I like seeing them perform and I’m glad that they have the opportunity to do it. I still think they are ahead of their time. Their music is jarring and subtle at the same time, I think that people still have a hard time placing it.

Sebadoh is a different story. I have a few of their albums. I can’t manage to ever make it through an entire one in a single sitting. They drag on, and on and on and on. Too sludgy for me. To me it seems that Sebadoh was never really popular even when they were “popular”. Maybe I am missing something, but I have never met anyone that was crazy excited about the opportunity to hear Sebadoh live, and I have never heard Sebadoh talked about at all, let alone in a gleefully optimistic and obsessive way the way that passionate music people get when they hear a band that truly moves them.

Their performance at Pitchfork was just like listening to one of their albums at home for me. I couldn’t make it through the whole thing and I began to think about other things, and just hoped that they would eventually (soon!) get off the damn stage. After a really long time, they finally did, and justice was restored to the world.

Public Enemy was up next.

This would mark only the second time that I have seen a hip-hop act live. The first was GZA last year. The difference being that this year I would be seeing Public Enemy, a group that I am quite familiar with. I remember fondly listening to “Fear of a Black Planet” when I was in 5th grade. It is funny to listen to that now, knowing what the lyrics mean. I still love those albums, they are really great. Watching Chuck D take the stage and rap lines that I used to have memorized was a great, nostalgic feeling. I stood there and wondered why I stopped listening to Public Enemy. I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.

It was an explosive performance. Chuck D can really get a crowd going and Flava Flav is just as crazy as you’d think he is.  They ran through the entire album with a live band and an amazing DJ on stage with them. It was a spectacle. I stood there in awe because when I last heard from those guys I was 10 and I had the chicken pox, and now I am 27. I never thought that I would feel nostalgic at a rap concert, I never even thought I would be at a rap concert. Their messages now are just as important as always. Public Enemy has a lot in common with punk in that the lyrics have a message warning against opression of one form or another. Basically they are saying, “Don’t let anyone hold you down”. They preach love and protest at the same time. Flava Flav reminds us that this can be done while interjecting some humor in all the seriousness.