I'm in Chicago right now, sweating and sticky and gross, and feeling pretty awesomely washed out by the past three days of music and partying that was my first year attending Pitchfork Fest. Seattle was represented at Pitchfork this year entirely by Sub Pop, which is either a sign of sinister back-room indie-corporate collusion or that Sub Pop has been running shit right lately, with local acts as distinguished (and disparate) as Fleet Foxes and Shabazz Palaces, both of whom hit the fest on the heels of Best New Music-awarded albums.
Fleet Foxes headlined Saturday night, and they played to what looked like the single biggest crowd of the entire weekend, certainly the biggest crowd I've ever seen them perform for. Even from the speaker-deficient side of the stage and with two guys yakking over every minute of their set (literally doing like a play-by-play of the parts of the songs they were talking over), Fleet Foxes sounded fuller than I've ever hear them, their high harmonies buoyed by some considerable bass and drum push from the rhythm section. When they played the gently rising "Battery Kinzie," right at dusk, I saw my first-ever firefly, and I have to say it felt pretty goddamn idyllic. "White Winter Hymnal" never fails, either.
Shabazz Palaces had a tougher time of it on Sunday, for a few reasons . . .For one thing, they were scheduled against Odd Future (OF at 3:25, SP at 3:40)--which gave a real-life test to my positing Shabazz Palaces as a more grown, thoughtful alternative to 2011's great hip-hop hype, but with the result that most of the crowd opted for OF. Hell, even Shabazz Palaces were watching Odd Future (Tyler saw Tendai Maraire on the side of the stage and briefly mistook him for Lil Wayne), to the point that they were 20 minutes late starting their set, sound-checking for a full third of their allotted hour-long set time. I had planned to watch a little of Odd Future and then head over right in time for SP, and that 20 minutes of standing around watching a sound check, hearing "Yonkers" in the background on the other side of the park, was an enthusiasm-dampening start.
To their credit, Shabazz Palaces sounded solid as ever once they got going, slowly building momentum from unreleased live staple "Were You There Tonight?" (which almost certainly has a longer, more complicated title than that) to the triumphant rush of "Blastit" over the course of their abbreviated 10-song set. Shabazz might not have ousted Odd Future in the popular consciousness, but that doesn't seem like the point: Shabazz are running in an intentionally different lane, business-wise as much as musically or philosophically, and they run that lane with style.
So, Seattle's cred: secured.