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 :
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.
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 :
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 ?
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 :
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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!