Photo Credit: Leif Johnson
Right off the bat, the best thing this year's Pitchfork Music Festival has going for it is the weather: Rather than last summer's mind-melting heat, Friday attendees were treated to a clear-skied 80-degree afternoon.
Swedish-born, London-based songwriter Neneh Cherry played her first show in the U.S. since 1992 (!) on the Green Stage. What percentage of the Pitchfork crowd was even born in 1992? "It means I'm old," she quipped, but the sounds she and her two-man band Rocket Number Nine made were fresh and surprising, paying homage to Cherry's trip-hoppy '90s work and incorporating the avant-minded bent of her recent collaboration with free-jazz group The Thing.
On the Blue Stage, a sizeable crowd gathered to watch The Haxan Cloak, who proceeded to fill the warm, shaded area with icy, uncompromising gloom. Bobby Krlic has a workmanlike stage presence; when his drummer was off from the prerecorded track by a few milliseconds you could sense him tense up. An odd fit for a sunny afternoon, perhaps.
Sharon Van Etten delivered a strong if same-y set on the Red Stage, capped by the minor-chord romp "Serpents," from 2012's Tramp. Back in Green-land, Mark Kozelek and his crew of skilled backers ran mostly through cuts from this year's Benji, denying hardcore fans classic Koz tunes like "Have You Forgotten." His legendary tendency towards crabby inter-song banter was minimized, though he did manage to remark on one fest phenomenon:
“There’s a lot of white people at this festival.” - Mark Kozelek of Sun Kill Moon. #p4kfest— loudlooppress.com (@loudlooppress) July 18, 2014
Friday's lineup was the most muted of all three days, though after Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks delivered a shockingly compelling set of jagged future-funk and disco linchpin Giorgio Moroder plowed through a 45-minute DJ set that incorporated his past hits as well as current chart-toppers ("Fancy"), noted Scientologist Beck Hansen played the white-boy freak-soul hits, including "Loser" and "Devil's Haircut." Thankfully, he managed to sneak in a few cuts from the still-great Midnite Vultures, too.