The second day of Pitchfork offered varying shades of angst. It was a bill foolishly overstuffed with growling people in black tees and black jeans being dramatic, the kind of bands that roadies form. Group after group of joyless dump-grunts grunge, scuzz and metal-minus-the-absurdity-and-hair-and-shredding rawk bands took to the three stages for an eternity.
There was the poor man's Jesus Lizard, Pissed Jeans, it's singer retching and howling while wiping his sunglasses off on his ripped tank. KEN mode added to the din from the other stage. Trail of Dead, a prog band with no prog elements, utterly out of place, at least cracked one joke in the midst of aimless instrument bashing: "This is a song from Pitchfork's favorite album." (World's Apart received a 4.0 rating in 2005.) The stupidly overhyped Savages, admittedly an impressive, taut post-punk racket, whipped up a fury without a purpose beyond fashion. Metz tried to open a wormhole to 1989 Seattle with distortion pedals. Ugh, the tedious gothic punk of Merchandise. And Swans, an ugly band with ugly music that people have been telling me I'm supposed to like for two decades, brought the dour mood to a peak in the inappropriate sunshine with drones.
Any burst of melody was a salvation. Solange twerking to slap bass was a religious experience in contrast. The Breeders were a blast, until you realized there are really only three or four great songs on Last Splash, a 20-year-old album the band played start to finish. "Cannonball" was the biggest alternative nation hit heard in Union Park since the Thermals broke into "Basket Case." Phosphorescent breezed easily, bringing to mind Caleb Fallowill covering the mellowest jams of the Black Crowes, but hippie Americana always goes down well in this setting. This all started with Woodstock, after all.
The coal tone of the day made the stand-outs pop in contrast. The chillwave R&B of Solange, merely a pleasant diversion on record, was a burst of color equal to the tropical prints she and her band sported. Belle & Sebastian played its hits with a slick arena polish that can surprise those who peg the Scots as twee mopes in wet sweaters. When the world first heard the shut-in folk If You're Feeling Sinister, I doubt anyone expected singer Stuart Murdoch to one day dance around a stage in white jeans while attempting humor between tunes. But it was Parquet Courts who won the day. The witty and razor-sharp quartet ripped through most of its wonderful debut, Light Up Gold, nicking ideas from early Pavement, early Replacements, early Descendents, early Strokes. It is one of those acts that arrives perfectly formed, with nowhere to go but a sophomore slump. The two frontmen are too weak of singers to take this band beyond beer-soaked clubs, but the one on the left, the one that doesn't look like a love child of Thurston Moore and Beck, summed it up best in the driving guitar volley of "Stoned and Starving": "Facebook pages, boring, boring, boring! Rock & roll needs restoring!"
RECOMMENDED: Solange pictures and review
RECOMMENDED: Belle & Sebastian pictures and review
RECOMMENDED: Complete coverage of Pitchfork Music Festival