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Monday, July 20, 2009

The Flaming Lips rule Pitchfork

The Flaming Lips

CONCERT REVIEW: Pitchfork Music Festival
July 18-19, 2009

Union Park, Chicago

The Flaming Lips'
raucous live show highlighted an entertaining 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend at Chicago's Union Park.

The Lips' Sunday evening set ended the event with a bang. There were the requisite giant balloons and confetti cannons, and singer Wayne Coyne walking through the crowd in a giant rubber ball.

Coyne says hello to the adoring crowd

The Lips were supposed to play the fans' most requested songs, but they took some liberties at times. Coyne would say, "That song was #66, but we know you wanted to hear it." They did play the top four requests - "Yoshimi," "She Don't use Jelly," "Fight Test," and "Do You Realize?"

On several occasions Coyne had to encourage the passive Pitchfork audience to get excited, and they obliged. The Lips played for only 75 minutes because of the city's 10 pm quiet ordinance, but that was long enough to deliver the weekend's most memorable performance.

Just before the Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear delivered a satisfying set of some of their most exquisite songs, including "Two Weeks" and "Cheerleader." Forty-five minutes seems to be the perfect length for a Grizzly Bear performance, as their music requires a great deal of patience and anything longer would be pushing it.

Sunday's other excellent show came from the Japandroids, a manic garage rock two-piece from Vancouver. Many of their songs consisted of only a couple of lyrics repeated over and over, but their ferocious delivery was enough to captivate.

The Japandroids kick ass

The Mae Shi were a disappointment, delivering an unfocused performance that was at times bizarre. It took them 15 minutes to play something discernable as a song. Then later, they tossed a parachute into the audience, causing many to believe that some stage diving may be forthcoming. Instead, they did nothing at all with the parachute, and took it back from the crowd just minutes later. They did close on a high note with their best track, "Run to Your Grave."

MP3: The Mae Shi - Run To Your Grave (live @ Pitchfork 7-19-09)
[*This is coming as soon as mydatabus gets their shit together]

The Mae Shi sing about sleeping in your tomb

Elsewhere on Sunday, Pharoahe Monch brought hip hop to the hipsters, with "My Life" and "Desire" especially standing out due to his soulful background vocalists. Frightened Rabbit's acclaimed emotional rock came off as bland at first but the energy picked up as they went along. M83's dreamy electropop was the perfect late afternoon soundtrack, Blitzen Trapper weren't remotely interesting, and Vivian Girls provided proof that punk rock can indeed be boring.

Pharoahe Monch tries to fire up the crowd

Saturday's best performance was delivered courtesy of The Duchess & The Duke, a duo with an indie rock sound and folk sensibility. Their soothing harmonies were complemented nicely by a string section for "I Am Just a Ghost," which may have been the best individual song performance of the weekend.

Royalty in action - The Duchess & The Duke

Earnest and adorable, indie popsters Matt & Kim triumphed with a lightning-fast set of their sugar-sweet pop songs. Newer tracks "Good Ol' Fashioned Nightmare" and "Daylight" were received just as well as older favorites "Yea Yeah" and "5K."

You cannot help but love Matt & Kim!

Final Fantasy also delivered a standout performance. Owen Pallett performed by himself for most of the set, using violin and keyboard to record musical phrases and looping them over top of each other to build stunning crescendos.

A Final Fantasy masterpiece in progress

The much-anticipated performance by Fucked Up turned out to be a letdown, thanks to the freak show behavior of frontman Pink Eyes, who only bothered to sing about every third line. Whenever a beach ball came near he stopped singing so he could rip open the ball with his teeth. His sideshow act was entertaining for about five minutes, then ultimately became annoying as his band performed brilliantly behind him but he was more interested in making people laugh than in actually performing.

Fucked Up, in a rare moment where Pink Eyes was singing

Saturday headliners The National were rock-solid as usual, closing with a stellar "Mr. November." Black Lips offered some catchy rock choruses but weren't as entertaining. Yeasayer's combination of world and electronic music was tempting. High-energy rock band Ponytail didn't quite live up to all their hype, Norwegian DJ Lindstrom found his groove after a very sluggish start, and Bowerbirds' quiet songs didn't translate well to the festival environment.

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