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Pitchfork Music Festival

Union Park, Chicago Friday, July 13, through Sunday, July 15

The Pitchfork Music Festival, now in its third year, is--of course--presented by Pitchforkmedia.com, a music Web site with a powerful reputation as a tastemaker, even as it is disdained by some as the ramblings of effete upper-middle-class snobs who wouldn't know good music if it slapped them in the face with a flounder.

This year's festival was, like much of Pitchfork's content, at once nostalgic and progressive. Friday night featured three seminal albums performed in their entirety, and Saturday and Sunday offered forward-looking artists from a variety of genres, all darlings of the now-well-defined Pitchfork aesthetic--young, hip and diverse in style to an almost contrarian degree.

But you can't pigeonhole the 'Fork--this was a festival where typically reticent indie nerds responded most enthusiastically to the sludgy modern heavy metal of Mastodon and the coke-slinging braggadocio of the Clipse. Go figure.

Friday's offerings were the most attractive to the Weekly, likely due to our advanced age. In the leadoff position was the hugely influential Slint, performing their classic 1991 album Spiderland, a mesmerizingly dramatic guitar-powered epic. It is said that everyone who ever owned a Velvet Underground album contemporaneously with the existence of VU ended up starting a band; the same can be said of Spiderland and the practitioners of loud-quiet-loud who came in its wake. However, the audience vibe seemed less like enthusiasm for a beloved record and more like cautious deference to something that's supposed to be important.

Wu-Tang Clan's GZA next performed Liquid Swords, and then Sonic Youth closed out Friday with a start-to-finish rendition of their best album, Daydream Nation, a performance so good, it justified the price of admission for the entire weekend. Guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo each had a differently tuned guitar for each song, and their performance was perfect. Kim Gordon, on the other hand, isn't any better of a singer now than in 1988.

The rest of the weekend's offerings were consistenly good, if not remarkable. Battles turned in a highlight set--seeing their intricate dance rock performed live was a treat. Professor Murder was fun, if somewhat inaudible. And De La Soul engaged with the crowd better than any of the other acts--it's too bad they were dead last, and people were streaming out.

Overall, the Pitchfork Festival was well worth attending, even if next year, we decide that we're really too old for this shit.

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