Pitchfork Music Festival Paris : 31th October, 01 and 02 November 2013, Grande Halle de la Villette

Pitchfork Music Festival Paris 2013

Now in its 3rd Paris edition, the Pitchfork Music Festival held in the beautiful place of the Grande Halle de la Villette is the European cousin of that held in Chicago every year. For those with a slight interest in music or in the digital world, Pitchfork is probably the best musical site today either for the quality of its contents or for the impressive number of interesting things one can fin there on a daily basis (reviews, videos, news, etc…).

The least one can say about the European edition of the festival is that this is for sure now one of the best in Paris. I had attended last year’s edition with quite a lot of enthusiasm but must admit having been lost a bit sometimes in “hard-to-listen-to” music, with the fact that I had been overambitious vs. my old age in wanting literally to watch ALL bands. My program made more sense this year even if I still managed to see seventeen bands in three days.

I read or heard a few jealous comments from a few French media about the fact that Pitchfork was too much about hype and not enough about “real” established bands. This might have been partly true but not for this year as headliners (and less famous artists) were really accessible to all listeners in the right mindset. And what makes this festival really fantastic is the beautiful place where the two stages stand, the audience and its diversity which is probably made out of more than 50% of non-French people, the always excellent food, the pleasure in having a Rough Trade shop within the festival where you can buy vinyl to kill time during the abominable Panda Bear set and last but not least the fact that there is a roof when it rains! Now, what about the music this year ? I tried to classify what I saw in three categories :

  • The electro & dance acts :

Mount Kimbie Pitchfork 2013

To my mind, this is really what makes this festival different from the others. You sometimes have electro acts in big outdoor festivals but energy barely equals subtlety and good music. Completely different mindset here where the festival wants you to dance while listening to beautiful and dreamlike music. Although I was a bit disappointed by the new Australian sensation Jagwar Ma, the two sets from Mount Kimbie and Darkside the first day were pure moments of joy and constant well-being. Darkside in particular is the new project of a American-Chilean musician called Nicolas Jaar where he mixes euphoric dance music with great guitars reefs and a mood not that different from the best Pink Floyd moments.

Hot Chip Pitchfork 2013

I personally ended the festival on Saturday with the great UK band Hot Chip and enjoyed every minute of it. To summarize, let’s say that these guys look like complete nerds but make beautiful music, a crossover between LCD Soundsystem and New Order as far as I am concerned.

  • The discoveries and UFO’s :

Omar Souleyman Pitchfork 2013

Once again, this is what makes the Pitchfork Festival so interesting. Where could you see in such a consistent line-up artists such as the Syrian dance sensation Omar Souleyman (exciting the first 10 minutes but boring afterwards), the teeny trash-pop future star Sky Ferreira (quite promising on stage ; can’t wait to hear the album), the more-than-quite boring Panda Bear (I really have issues with Animal Collective members on stage) or the amazing saxophone player Colin Stetson ?

Colin Stetson Pitchfork 2013

The later was a real discovery for me although his sounds were familiar as he played with many bands, including LCD Soundsystem. Here was a guy who only played four very long instrumentals alone and made it sound as if it were (great) new alien music.

  • The “rock” bands :

Savages Pitchfork 2013

…and for those more at ease with traditional drums-bass-guitars rock sounds, indeed there are such bands @ Pitchfork Festival! But rather than seeing Phoenix for the umpteenth times like in all other festivals, here is the place to see bands that have come exclusively in Europe for Pitchfork.

Warpaint Pitchfork 2013

Although I enjoyed the drums-guitar duo No Age and their energy, I am starting to feel a bit disappointed by the all-female band Savages. Although they are quite hype everywhere, the sub-Siouxsie voice imitation by their singer is a bit nerve-stressing after a few songs. Quite the opposite with the Californian band Warpaint who were back on tour after a long period of time and on the eve of their new LP to come soon.

Yo La Tengo Pitchfork 203

I was very happy as always to see again Yo La Tengo on stage after their Parisian show earlier in the year. Excellent show as always in a pure Velvetian tradition (either they sing beautiful slow-core ballads or furious rock numbers) and it was particularly moving to see them back on stage sharing vocals with Hot Chip for a cover of Pale Blue Eyes, in memory of the great Lou Reed who had passed away a few days before. Great initiative from the Rough Trade store as well where you could meet the musicians after the show for a few words and an album-signing workshop.

Ira Kaplan Yo La Tengo Pitchfork 2013

My best show of the festival though probably came from the beautiful Swedish band Junip led by José Gonzalez. A perfect mix of craftmanship, energy, melodies within a loop-oriented kind of music, that was an amazing performance and their last LP is greatly recommended.

Junip Pitchfork 2013

That’s it for this year. Prepare your 3-day pass for next year as frankly this is not a Festival to miss if you happen to live in Paris or around. And remember, Pitchfork is stronger than rain!

Audience Pitchfork 2013

My 2012 Autumn Music Festivals 1/2 : Pitchfork Music Festival, Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris, 2nd and 3rd November, 2012

Day Two (2nd of November)

By far the weakest day of the Festival, best examples being the soul pastiche singer Jessie Ware, the pseudo Swedish dance sensation Robyn or the quite boring Wild Nothing or Chromatics. The headliners were Animal Collective and I must say it confirmed even more on stage what I thought about this band : I want to like them, I may find the way they do music quite interesting but I do not get it at the end of the day and it leaves me emotionless. Their high-pitched non-voices were particularly annoying live although they had a great stage set (inside a giant mouth).

Main discovery of the day for me was the hip-hop band Ratking. Animated live by two very young MC’s from Brooklyn, their set was quite refreshing, mixing up weird sound à la Wu Tang Clan with a great energy and complementary attitude of the two leading voices.

The best band tonight without any doubt was The Walkmen. I had seen them this summer in Chicago but must admit that they get better and better with every set they do. This band is now for me in a R.E.M. position just before they got worldwide famous : authenticity, great songs, a real team and family spirit, many albums behind them, a growing audience,….everything actually to go from one of the best bands of the indie rock world to be one of the major bands of our times.

Day Three (3rd of November)

After having enjoyed 20 bands out of 20 in the first two days, I dramatically decreased my ratio on the third day to 8/13, being probably too old now to go to bed at 7 am. Anyway, excellent third day, starting with a very good French band I had never of called Isaac Delusion which makes beautiful music, quite close in spirit and sound of that of James Blake.

 Seeing Cloud Nothings at the Pitchfork Festival was a real pleasure as this was a first-time for me and as their 2nd LP “Attack on Memory” published this year is one of the highlights of the year. They were even better on stage creating a sort of punchy and melodic grunge music but with a real knowledge of rock history as seen in a couple of tracks that went from typical American rock (influence Dinosaur Jr.) to the best moments of German music of the 70’s (influence Can). And so happy to see guys playing powerful guitars in the middle of this electro-influenced festival!

The rest of the evening was a bit weird, mixing the great energetic but frankly a bit inaudible on stage (Liars, Death Grips) with the pop oriented sounds of Twin Shadow or Breton for instance.

But the real kings of this last day were the headliners Grizzly Bear. This band is slowly but surely building up a beautiful repertoire of songs influenced equally by challenging and intellectual rock and by harmonies as those done by The Beach Boys. This is the band that is to my mind very similar to Animal Collective (smart guys, huge music knowledge, will to change things in music but in all art forms as well) but they have one major difference : they have songs. Their music world is not one in which you will enter easily but when you found the keys, you will stay in a very welcoming and warm house. I have always liked as well the bands with more than one singer and their set was really showing how much they master the art of multiple-voice singing.

A good way then to finish three excellent (but physically exhausting) days, hoping that a third festival will take place next year. Stay tuned for a soon-to-come post about my second Paris Autumn Festival (les Inrocks, with Pulp!).

My 2012 Autumn Music Festivals 1/2 : Pitchfork Music Festival, Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris, 1st November, 2012

The concept of attending a non-summer festival is always weird as they are often associated with outdoors events, when one can enjoy his beer under the sun… or rain clouds. However, let’s start with our first part with Pitchfork Music Festival held in the beautiful site of La Grande Halle de la Villette.

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Pitchfork is probably today the worldwide best web music site where one can find five very critical and elaborate records reviews every day, news, articles and videos (on Pichfork.tv) and all this for free. They had started to organize a festival in Chicago a few years ago and since 2011 Paris has been honoured to host the European leg of their festival. This year was the second edition and as I was stuck in Paris during a Bank Holiday for working reasons, here I was attending these great three days in the middle of the hippest audience seen in Paris for a concert. Great festival, mixing lots of artists and bands, mainly from the electro world but from soul, rock and hip-hop as well with a different touch and other options compared to your standard festivals : great food, trendy shops, a Rough Trade music store, people from all countries in the audience, etc… The only difficult thing to cope with was to be in a good enough physical shape to attend all the shows, starting everyday at 5 pm until very late…

Day One (1st of November) :

Very electic day to start with and I must say all ten bands/artists were either interesting to watch or great, even if I still have difficulties to stay focused and passionate about seeing guys on stage in front of machines, even if their music is often enjoyable (I guess I am an old-fashioned guitar-loving guy…). I had been particularly impressed by the beautiful voice of the singer of How To Dress Well and the voice and weirdness of James Blake whom I had the pleasure to see in another atmosphere at Austin City Limits around a year ago. Top three shows of the day were the following ones  as far as I am concerned :

Japandroids are a guitar and drums band formed near Vancouver. Their first LP went out in 2011 and it was supposed to be their swan record as they had not succeeded in having a strong follow-up despite good reviews. It looks like their fate was to be different as Pitchfork did an excellent review of this first album and word of mouth started to have a positive impact on the band. Excellent and super-energetic show from Japandroids and I do recommend warmly their new “Celebration Rock” LP for those who like their music with blood, sweat … and humour.

Sébastien Tellier is an old musical acquaintance of your host as I remember having bought very enthusiastically his first LP “L’incroyable vérité” many years ago and having see him on stage opening for Air in Strasbourg @ la Laiterie theatre. The guy is a mix of guilty-pleasure music, kitsch, craziness, very down-to-earth and very funny indeed French jokes but mainly an extraordinary talent, who wrote in particular one of the most beautiful songs ever with “La Ritournelle”. His last LP “My God Is Blue” is based on an invented story around a Blue sect, which gives you an idea about the character… Anyway, very fascinating show, with him onstage playing a V-neck guitar and beautiful piano with the help of his two great musicians (drums and synths).

Last but not least, the first day finished with M83 as headliner, the band led by Anthony Gonzalez, from Antibes, France! I had never been a real fan of his cinematic electro music in the past although I found it very nice to hear. Everything changes with his last LP “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” which is a heavy ambitious (too much sometimes?) 22-track piece of work and holds fantastic hymns, in a Daft-Punk-meets-Cocteau-Twins style. I did not stay until the end as I had something called office work the following day but that was indeed the best band to finish this first marathon of 10 bands…

For amazing photos of Day One, please click to go to the Pitchfork site.

Keep on being posted for Day Two review to come soon!