Last things first: Our recap of day one of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival must start by mentioning the crazy storm that cut Björk short. Like "Where's the ATM?" and R. Kelly pee jokes, it's going to be an ongoing topic of convo this weekend. After a swelteringly hot day, welcome breezes swept through Union Park for the Icelandic singer's headlining set. At first, the gathering clouds and lightning that flashed in the distance didn't seem to pose a threat—only Mother Nature adding to the hauntingly beautiful atmosphere conjured by the all-female choir and Björk in her Maiko Takeda headpiece. ("Hellraiser or Big Trouble in Little China golden god?" my coworker, Jake Malooley, commented.) But then, with her set reaching a crescendo, Björk informed the audience she had to stop due to a storm warning. '"Wouldn't be much in Iceland, I'll tell you that," she added before exiting the stage and the crowd booed in disappointment. The wind kicked up and rain showers followed. If only she'd been allowed to wait out the weather, a la Pearl Jam over at Wrigley Field. Bold statement, but did I mention that, even abbreviated, it was still the best performance I've witnessed at Pitchfork? Ever.
Even in spite of the humidity, the opening day of the festival had plenty of highlights. For one, each of the three stages had good sound quality, a noticeable improvement on previous years. For two, it was day one: There were plenty of places to find shade, the Porta Potties weren't disgusting (yet) and everyone seemed to be staying well-hydrated. Beer hydrates, right?
Shortly after I arrived, I saw Bikini Girl. Actually, quite a few bikini-clad girls. These were only highlights insofar as they were part of a little people-watching game I like to play at music festivals: Find Bikini Girl. Find the Guy Wearing a Winter Hat in July. Find That One Girl You Went to High School With (then pretend not to see her because you're not feeling the small talk). Find four text-based tattoos—extra points if they're quotes by Dr. Seuss, Lewis Carroll or Kurt Vonnegut. Find Guy Reading a Large Art Book in the Middle of the Field, Who Cares If This Is a Fest, He Has Studying to Do! (Thanks to my coworker, Brent DiCrescenzo, for spotting this one.)
More highlights: Mac Demarco charmed the crowd with a string of covers, including "Enter Sandman," "Cocaine," "Taking Care of Business" and "Blackbird." Chicago singer/songwriter Angel Olsen held the audience's attention with her gorgeous Edith Piaf-y warble. The energy kicked up for Mikal Cronin's set, with rowdy kids crowd-surfing and throwing water (so I guess not everyone was staying well-hydrated) during "Apathy." Reminded me of a slightly dialed-down version of Ty Segall's Pitchfork set last year, of which Cronin was a part. Wire had a light show going, but no one could see it with the sun beaming down, defying weather reports that called for rain and hail. No matter—the veteran British rockers delivered a propulsive set. Next was Joanna Newsom with her challenging, spellbinding and lovely harp compositions, including a new piano song rooted in New York history, about John Purroy Mitchell, mayor of NYC from 1914 to 1917, who fell out of a plane to his death.
Newsom was followed by Björk (more on her mind-altering set here), who was followed by the super storm. A solid, if a little rain-soaked, start to Pitchfork 2013.
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