The first full day. I started it off seeing Cymbals Eat Guitars—kind of a cool experience since the guitarist/vocalist, Joseph D’Agostino, graduated from Fordham this past year. Seeing someone I recognized from campus onstage at a major festival was equal parts strange and exciting.
From there my brother and I took a hiatus to meet up with friends, snarf foodstuffs and blow money at the CHIRP Record Fair. Then we camped out at the Balance Stage for a couple of hours to catch Ponytail and Wavves. Ponytail is just straight high energy fun—so much fun that Wavves’ set had to be delayed because all the up-front ruckus demolished the stage barrier. Ponytail’s singer Molly Siegel reminds me of an unmedicated ADHD-suffering child in the absolute best way possible, and once again reinforces my notion that lyrical profundity can easily be eschewed for the sake of catchiness.
While in the crowd for Ponytail, I found myself next to a gal grabbing contrived candids with a medium format Holga camera. Later, while catching The National’s set from afar, I was met by a random mobile bowing couple. These events and others more mundane – casual cigarette bumming, for instance – reaffirmed the happy togetherness aspect of festivals, only the slightest unfortunate if for the cliché effect it has on writing about it. People in these dense crowds have positively extended courtesy and consideration.
Back to the music. When Wavves was finally given the go ahead, they played through tunes from their albums as well as two new songs, with only minor pullbacks in direct force as Nathan Williams was, after all, playing with a broken arm. The song that struck me was ended on the repeated lines, “everybody thinks I’m dumb/but I know they’re wrong/everybody thinks I’m dumb.” While there’s nothing particularly poet laureate about the lyrics, the slower, almost labored delivery made a profound dent.
Since this was also the band’s first major appearance (Williams played in NYC with Woods earlier this week) since Barcelona, some of the draw came in response to that Spanish debacle, as illustrated be the people behind me who joked to the effect that it would be about as entertaining to see another “meltdown” as it would be to just see the band play their songs. During the set, Nathan flippantly addressed the crowd with, “So do you guys want to hear what happened in Barcelona?” (Cheers from the crowd) “Psych!”, proceeding to play “No Hope Kids.”
While Ponytail and Wavves were on, my roommate was with his girlfriend over at stages A and C seeing Final Fantasy and Yeasayer. Meanwhile others enjoyed local foods, the record fair, or breaking the record for fastest mustache-shaving, or, or, or…you get it. At Pitchfork, as in any other festival, you’re always geographically fucked. The trick is to think as if everybody who’s not where you are is also geographically fucked, and remember that you are going to have your own memories to swap, as rare and valuable as the audience surrounding you, like currency in the social exchange.
The last two acts I saw for the night were Beirut and The National. When I saw full-force acts Pontytail and Wavves, the crowdsurfing made sense. When crowdsurfing occurred during Beirut’s set, the band’s comment hit the nail on the nose: “I think we set the Guinness World Record for slowest song to ever be crowdsurfed to.” Beirut’s orchestrated, musical set was a delightful complement to the full-speed-ahead music of Ponytail and Wavves.
I watched The National from a baseball field away from my compatriots, partially because I needed some food but also because on the walk back into the crowd I thought it was cool just to see the mass of people spread out across the park.The further back you went, the less concerned they seemed with seeing the band or even the jumbo screens, content simply Being There. About here was when I realized that I was really glad to be there as well, despite the stresses involved (i.e. I spent the better part of my day wondering if my car would be towed when I got back, having moved my parking permit out of sight), and the whole thing is worth the thousand-plus miles of driving and the tolls and the gas and all the things that really just bum you out when you think about them instead of what’s in front of you. This is water? This is music, These are people. This is Chicago. This is The National. This is Pitchfork.
Bobby Cardos currently attends FordhamUniversity in Bronx, NY. Outside of literature and music, he enjoys the cooking and eating delicious foods and reciting quotes no reasonable person would bother to remember.