Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another Year at Pitchfork

Pitchfork (an outdoor music festival in Chicago) started out this year as a somewhat frustrating experience for me. We didn't arrange for a sitter soon enough so ended up bringing the kids with us. We'd brought them before and it had been okay, but never for acts we were especially eager to hear. The Dude had already been to two days of Pitchfork so was fine with heading home with them after a couple of hours, leaving me to enjoy the rest of the day by myself, but it still meant that my attention was fragmented for both the Sun Ra Arkestra and Kemasi Washington, the two bands I had most wanted to see. I didn't even try to see Homme, another band I was interested in. On the other hand, we did get to hang out and watch Woods and that was a great new discovery - I bought the album and we've been grooving on it ever since.

The Blue Stage was just a general frustration - for everyone, they had multiple tech problems this year, it seems they always do but it was worse this year - but it was also more closed in than in the past and had a somewhat claustrophobic feel. It's a smaller field, made smaller this year by the appearance of a fenced-in area for VIP ticket holders. And there's always significant sound bleed-through from the other stages.

Still exploring lots of music from the days I wasn't there, both on The Dude's recommendation and from reading reviews. Empress Of, Moses Sumney, Anderson.paak, Savages.

There's always a moment at these festivals where I am overwhelmed. Not necessarily tired, hungry, or hot, although sometimes these can be contributing factors. Just, overwhelmed. A colleague of mine who is very Myers-Briggs oriented suggested it might be that as an Introvert on the M-B scale I might be getting drained from being around all the people and activity - and it's certainly true that once I have a chance to sit and be with myself (and maybe weep a little if I need to) and assess things, I'm usually good to go again. But I also think it's the need to deal with the difference between my expectations and the reality, and at these festivals there's always a gap. Bands you were excited to see turn out to be meh, or in the wrong setting, or you hate the audience, or you don't even get to see them - while at the same time if you're open to it you can discover/experience something new, different, exciting, expansive that you couldn't have dreamt of finding on your own.

(I think the only time I haven't experienced this was at Bonnaroo in 2007. Maybe because I had no idea what to expect, maybe because since we knew we were there for a long haul we paced ourselves and had our tent to retreat to. Or maybe because I was there with two other people even more I on the M-B scale than myself and they regularly had to pull back to compose themselves.)

It's always worth it though, these festivals. (I do love Pitchfork the best.) I firmly believe in the power of live performance - theater, dance, and especially for me, music - to act on us in some way. Whether through the sound waves, vibrations, intent of the performers, or the concentrated energy of the audience - I think we are moved in ways both obvious and subtle. I love that. And I think this effect is magnified under the open sky.

The summer before college my family went to the south of France for two weeks. While there, we went to two nighttime open air concerts: Oscar Peterson and the Merce Cunningham dance company. Both in spaces that had once been Roman ruins, both under the moon, both magical. And watching FKA twigs in the final Pitchfork performance of the night, with her mesmerizing dance and vocals, I had the sense of being suspended in a web of time, that moment connecting with those evenings and casting forward to other performances and other evenings I haven't known myself to experience yet. And I write this listening to another performer of the weekend - that I hadn't seen - cover Laurie Anderson's "O Superman", a song I haven't listened to since just after college. And thinking on all these connections makes me think of even more...

Just some of the reverberations continuing on from the show.

Swimming in sound -

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