What makes a good music festival? Good bands, cheap booze and nice weather…anything else is a bonus. For KATP I travelled to Pitchfork music festival - held in Union Park, Chicago - to see whether it could provide me with these things. They couldn’t. Here is my report:
Pavement played and Pavement were great, really great. But one band doesn’t make a festival. The other major act, LCD Soundsystem, headlined on Saturday night. I expected everyone else would be as appalled as I was by this booking, but no. “They aren’t really an electro group when they perform live,” said one festival-punter that I was eavesdropping on, “they are more of a rock band live.” I heard this sentiment repeated by several different people. Had they all gone mad? What is the definition of a rock band these days? LCD Soundsystem are not a rock band, nor did they rock on Saturday. They were no better than their records, which depending on your taste are either “genius” or “irritating as hell” (I fall into the latter). I was genuinely disappointed with almost the entire line-up. Having said that, Kurt Vile was pretty good, so was The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I can think of no other acts of note.
The thing that really pissed me off was the all-inclusive-lifestyle bullshit that Pitchfork insists on pedalling. Listen to these bands, wear these t-shirts, buy this beer: An all in one cool-credo. Everywhere I looked I saw hats with small brims, vegan food, imported (well, not really, but the name is foreign) beer, T-shirts with piss-poor attempts at irony. In fact, Pitchfork had erected a tent that catered to every element of personal expression - be it clothes, posters or home-made jewellery - that pretends to be one-of-a-kind but really isn’t. It was like a farmers market of fashion, as though Vice had developed some horrible cloning machine that was unleashing pretentious wankers on the world.
I hate to say it, but I actually missed the look-how-zany-I-am dudes with dreadlocks, fifteen-year-old Goths and sweaty metal-heads that frequent other corporate gatherings of generic bands. However, the price gouging was exactly as I remember it being at other festivals. They made me turn over all my currency for “tickets”, which I could exchange for food and drink. A small glass of beer was $5. A burger was $6. For fuck's sake.
The weather, however, was nice. Pavement, as I said, were the highlight. But the unquestioning acceptance of the lifestyle that Pitchfork want to sell made me very angry. It is sameness being sold as individuality, blandness as character. It is not what I expected from a company that is supposed to unearth new and interesting music talent.