Here to Stay -- Pitchfork Music Festival - Paris 2013

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p4k-paris

Here to Stay — Pitchfork Music Festival – Paris 2013

Paris is Pitch’d to generally great ends.

Author: on November 12, 2013
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Pitchfork Music Festival Paris 2013 — or simply Pitchfork Paris, for the get-busy-living crowd, and #p4kparis to the socially-networked world. Whatever way, the festival’s title is one of the most succinct and descriptive, compared to other exhibitions; there’s no angle genre-wise, nor any sign of a stock attitude, bar new music and the artists favourably covered on Pitchfork’s publications. Continuing with the festival’s tradition, acts are alternated between two stages to minimise sound-checking and eliminate clashes. What this essentially means is sensual R&B grooves might be swiftly followed by unhinged black metal before more amicable indie, leading to a sensory assault that shakes away foundations of comfortability. Still, there’s plenty of comfort to be found within the Parisian Grande Halle De La Villette, with its calm ambience, cool crowd and thrifty pop-up stores.

Ice Age.

Iceage

Danish quartet Iceage were one of the first few to let loose on stage, with promising, though ultimately tiresome, ham-fisted noise that excited as well as failed to convince completely. Their lead vocalist squirmed as if to lose himself in the music but his drawls came across as uninterested, though the group set in motion the buzz for things to come. A dash across the hall and we were met by Blood Orange and his band. He played in all fields, somewhere between half-contemporary, half-eighties RnB and The Internet-style neo-funk, occasionally wielding a guitar as he channelled Michael Jackson, Prince and Nile Rodgers in turn. The heavy influences were a slight red herring with regards to originality, as it all worked well, the band loosening the crowd and helping them find their feet to move. Blood Orange was also happy to exit centre-stage and groove at the side as Samantha Urbani brought her support vocals into the lead.

No Age

No Age

Slick soul was quickly brought to a halt as No Age tore the place apart mere hours after it had all started. Blissful power belters drew the largest pits early on and well, it’s all kind of a blur, actually. It was super thrash-y, exceedingly fun and that’s all the justification I think you’ll need to go and see No Age live. Mac DeMarco picked up where they left off. DeMarco is an artist whose mannerisms have generally rubbed me the wrong way previously, but I couldn’t help but be won over by his boyish, juvenile jokes as he dug at the audience’s ribs between singing ballads about cocaine and such things.

Savages

Savages

It was third time lucky as far as my experience with Savages went. They’d cancelled both Parklife and Bestival this year already. Seemingly, they wouldn’t do to the French what they would to the English and I was glad to see them take stage. For all the anti-camera affairs that have littered the music journalism world this year, fans didn’t seem bothered about humouring the band’s wishes. It should be said Savages didn’t make any requests for this show in particular, and it is a festival after all, not a basement. The band weren’t as apathetic towards the crowd as expected, either; often (misleadingly) portrayed as menacing and straight-faced, it was refreshing to see sheer joy and appreciation on lead Jehnny Beth’s face as she stood on top of the barrier before the crowd, supported by their hands, manically whispering: “husbands, husbands, husbands…”. Other times Beth would be found shaking, jerking and kicking out the attitude, her raw and visceral approach complemented by the serious grooves of the bassist and the give-no-fucks guitarist. Not to suggest a competition of sorts, but personally, the band’s drummer stole the show — she’d relentlessly pound and her energy was so fierce and untameable it came as a complete surprise when she handled the more subtle pieces with finesse. Savages were explosive and vitriolic, but there was lots of love to be found in the animosity.

The most obvious change to Mount Kimbie’s live set-up this tour round was the addition of a live drummer, adding some more kick(s) to the duo’s sound. This left Dom Maker and Kai Campos available to keep themselves busy with their controllers, sequencers and other toys. They even had a microphone to make the most of — their latest release involved their own singing for the first time, and the climactic eruption of chanting during “Made To Stray” was amplified by the audience at any rate. It’s clear the newer stuff was engineered with the live shows in mind, amplifying the adventure. Interestingly, there was no use of any King Krule voice clips.

Haxan Cloak

Haxan Cloak

Maybe I am fatigued from seeing Nicolas Jaar  three times in the same month, but Darkside were nothing special. The first half of their set essentially seemed like the first half of their album, albeit with a modest visual accompaniment. Jaar did his thing while Dave Harrington’s proggy riffing was the only aspect that seemed animate during the performance, erratically ranging between the astounding and the preposterous. Afterwards, The Haxan Cloak arrived. Excavation has been a much talked about, plentifully recommended record this year, however it was mischievous at the least to have music this difficult to access as a headline act. He stood composed before the largest of crowds and was unrelenting in his devastatingly atmospheric and only occasionally percussive approach. I relived pretty much every bad memory I had lying around in my head during the set, such was its power. The Haxan Cloak’s music demands to be paid attention to in any environment, though with a sizeable soundsystem it was especially worth listening to.

The Knife

The Knife

The Knife’s Shaking The Habitual show was one of our Bestival highlights and it was unfortunate to see the act gloss over the workout-like prelude. Actually, even the main show was more concise — rushed even — though there’s little to be bored of as the troupe play exotic one-of-a-kind instruments and dance in movements that mesh together bhangra and ballet. They achieved their mission statement of brushing away all shackles of negativity by way of magnificent intensity. The first day of the festival packed some serious punch; full marks, so far.

Colin Stetson and his sax.

Colin Stetson and his sax.

There was a general consensus that Warpaint were playing too early on the Friday. The festival had to fight through a couple of cancellations in fairness, and plenty were there to be lulled and mesmerized by the mellifluous psych waves from the foursome. Warpaint get people into a zone, but they seem to require a certain context, and in the live setting their music seemed to err on the border of boring, with simply not all that much going on. Enter Colin Stetson, to rattle us awake from the things we think we know. Stetson stood equipped with two saxophones (one bass sax) and talked only to thank the crowd and reminisce on previous escapades to Paris with Bon Iver. He saved the rest of his breath for the brass, as the oscillations arpeggiated outwards in a way which I could only compare the sound to Holden’s techno odyssey The Inheritors. It sounded like he was looping the sounds though I can’t be sure: I’ve little idea of what was happening. Like the rest, I stood in silent awe, enamoured by the acute presence of the man so appreciative of being able to play to us. On the platform, Stetson looked set to detonate, performing with astounding composure and breath control as well as throaty vocal techniques. This was his zen state more so than the rests between pieces, as he hurried onto to the next song, delivering a highlight set.

Connan Mockasin

Connan Mockasin

I don’t mean any disrespect to Junip when I say they were simply nice. As for Jagwar Ma, I couldn’t get on board. It was the second time I was seeing them and they have me thoroughly convinced that they exist to fill an unnecessary void that dumbs down Factory Floor for those who just won’t leave the Madchester museum. The drums were thin and soulless while their psychedelia spiralled in circles never really leading anywhere, with a stage presence I’d liken to a hip-hop group filled with mediocre hype-men and no lead MCs. Shallow and empty, and a real shame it took the removal of clothes to get the crowd moving as much as they did (to my perplexity). Connan Mockasin was much easier on the ears, his band’s silky meanderings through dreamscapes maintaining the beguiling unease of tracks like “Faking Jazz Together” on one of the more honest performances of the weekend.

Danny Brown

Danny Brown

Naturally, Pitchfork opted to pick an act from the opposite end of the spectrum to follow up and after his backpack-and-capped DJ teased some hype tunes, Danny Brown bounced to the foreground donned in a leather tee and biker trousers, all black everything. He fed his kineticism into a happy riot of fans chanting catchphrases such as, “Income Tax Swag!” and, “I am in a Kush Coma!” All the setlist picks showcased Brown’s more extroverted side — on record Brown might be willing to demonstrate versatility — and dare I suggest, sobriety — but in the flesh there’s no interest other than to party. Though Disclosure would go on to carry the party vibe into their own set, their overly-polished garage-turned-house material seemed a little slow after Brown’s ferocity, which was a slight downer. It’s easy to forget the weapons in their locker (i.e. The Face EP) what with how busy they’ve been production-wise – Settle has more than its fair share of fillers in its prolonged running length. The duo’s set itself was reasonably fun, as the less electronic-minded fans were able to hear what they wanted to hear and still see the artists play instruments, whether it’s playing the bass live or just inanely tapping along the snares on a drum pad. We didn’t stay until the end, as things were heating up at the after-party at The Trabendo

Concealed amidst the trees in the park not far from the Grande Halle, Evian Christ DJed in an at-capacity Trabendo. Of course he played his own productions such as the ruthless “Fuck It None of Ya’ll Don’t Rap”. Of course he confused with Jam City’s “Her”. Off course he followed up Chiraq auto-crooner Lil Durk with the outrageous Assassin vocal on Yeezus’ “I’m In It”, which Christ had worked on. What came as a surprise was when “I Am a God” swung in and Christ looped the croissant line over and over to the Parisians, pitched up, down, all over the place for several minutes with nothing else until a manic trance beat invaded the space. Jon Hopkins’ live set did little to alleviate the daze, dragging us through an flourishing, impressive reinterpretation of the powerhouse Immunity. To round off the evening, Jacques Greene whipped up that blend of R&B and electronic which undoubtedly paved the way for the success of the Hemsworths and Hahns of today, cuts from Kelela going down well and climaxing at his own rework of Ciara’s “Body Party”.

Majical Cloudz

Majical Cloudz

Sunday started tenderly, but I was anxious to discover how the past fourteen months might have impacted Majical Cloudz’ live performance having last seen them supporting Grimes. Bashfully pointing out this was the largest crowd they’d ever played to, the pair — singer Devon Welsh and keyboardist Matthew Otto — delicately laid themselves on the line. Welsh awkwardly wore his heart on his sleeve only to be met with cheers in the face of vulnerability, though he’d developed a heightened level of confidence in his own voice — enough for a cappella, even. Next came Sky Ferreira, tamed by a black wig (that took little convincing to remove) for a look and sound that Kurt Cobain may have loved or hated but certainly felt strongly about.

Baths

Baths

Youth Lagoon sounded pleasing, however I’d forgone the chance to see him play in favour of going shopping for records at stalls from the likes of Rough Trade and the Parisian revelation Balades Sonores. I enjoyed the latter enough to visit the actual shop a few days later — it’s a quaint, compact store that sits in north Paris, with nice staff that offer coffee, musical trinkets and tidbits on display and material from all corners of the world, plus plenty from the local scenes too. Back to the festival at hand: Baths followed on from Youth Lagoon, looking comfortable in vest and shorts to lead us through “Miasma Sky” at the leisure of his own pace. A curious buzz reached boiling point as festival goers aimed to catch Omar Souleyman next. The fascinating thing about Souleyman is that, astonishingly humble he may be, he was but a face for the music as he veered around the stage like a wind-up toy that had specific pre-set mechanical functions: singing, clapping and dramatically raising hands upwards. The excitement comes from the idea of hearing something new — indeed, who knew of dabke before Souleyman came along — and the innovation was done by Souleyman’s exceptional Kurdish keyboardist who tore between styles and songs, dizzying and dazzling listeners with the unexpected.

For the most part, Yo La Tengo impressed however it was only the last ten minutes where proceedings kicked up a notch as their sound uncontrollably whirled out into the cosmos ending on a high. Panda Bear reigned his performance towards Tomboy material that troubled the audience with the prospect of having to sing and dance at the same time. They were free to let go of any physical inhibitions during Hot Chip’s headlining romp — I maintain that Hot Chip are one of the best live bands thanks to their extensive dancefloor-oriented discography matched with how fun it is just to watch them jam all natural, like music’s own Total Football team.

Glass Candy
Glass Candy

Johnny Jewel’s side project with Ida No, Glass Candy, were a fascinating stroll through the red light district in some sort of film noir musical, coloured only with pinks and purples; sexy, classy and with dancers. They worked well to wind things down a little to end the festival for many, but for the rest, Todd Terje was there to carry us through. Terje’s DJing was some of the happiest I’ve ever heard, blissfully serving the finest Scandinavian electronic and modern disco with flawless pizzazz. A-Trak, the man with a finger in every pie possible, took to the decks at the end of things, his electro selections sitting considerably less well with me than his forays into hip-hop — regardless, his turntablist techniques remained irresistible as he scratched Pitchfork Paris to a close.

Pitchfork Paris had a lot going for it, the sheer breadth of the lineup was its strength as it drew so many different people into one place and kept them there, all but forcing acts they perhaps weren’t interested in hearing onto them. Perhaps the most impressive feat of the festival belongs to the sound engineers, as the quality of sound remained consistently excellent throughout the three days while interference with the experience of seeing acts was minimal. Inside, the stewarding developed a reputation of being notoriously heavy-handed and intrusive towards the end, yet that didn’t sour the mood. This side of the Atlantic, Pitchfork Paris certainly seems to be cementing its excellence as far as festivals with this much variety are concerned.

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