Five things we really, really liked about Pitchfork Festival
Another sublime year
The annual European edition of Pitchfork Festival touched down in Paris last weekend, with a line-up that managed to move seamlessly between alt-rock heroes like Spiritualized and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and dance music heavyweights like Laurent Garnier and Roman Flügel. Here's five things we really liked.
Playing directly after a rare Thom York solo outing might not be the kind of slot that screams peak-time party set to either a crowd or a DJ. But such is Four Tet's deft touch and versatility as a DJ, that he literally had, what might otherwise be considered a hard crowd to work, eating out of the palm of his hand from the off. When he dropped his beyond epic remix of Eric Prydz's 'Opus' 30 minutes into his set he must have had the organisers regretting they'd not bothered hiring ice cannons.
Pitchfork Festival takes place in Paris' Grande Halle De La Villette, a cavernous former slaughterhouse turned cultural centre near the banks of the Seine. Rather than split the action into different arenas based on music type, organisers plonk two massive stages at each end of the room and one act starts at one end within five minutes of one finishing at the other. While this removes the element of choice and the ability to curate your own experience at the festival, it also means you never have to miss a thing. And frankly, why would you need to curate your own experience when you're managing to see such a diverse array of acts that you'd probably have to walk 15 miles a day to see at Glastonbury? Where else can you manage to catch Run The Jewels, Hudson Mohawke, John Talabot, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Ratatat without ever having to move more than 20 metres?
Ross Birchard's career has been dramatically rising year-on-year since he dropped his debut album 'Butter' back in 2009. But while recent years have seen him sharing the limelight with Lunice as part of TNGHT, or in the background producing for Kanye, the release of his long-awaited second album 'Lantern' has seen Hudson Mohawke fully take centre stage in 2015. Playing on a raised platform surrounded by an icy sculpture that looks suspiciously like Mr Freeze's crib in Batman and Robin, HudMo's set at Pitchfork Festival was a seriously well oiled machine. The addition of a live drummer and keyboardist to his set-up has made his already colossal sounding back catalogue sound even bigger, and after little over half a decade in the public consciousness, HudMo already has enough fire in his arsenal to mean there's not one second of filler. Oh, and watching 5,000 Parisians in Halloween fancy dress go bonkers to 'Higher Ground' was one of our favourite things ever.
Run The Jewels
There's no denying the line-up at Pitchfork Festival can tend towards the down-tempo sometimes, so having hip hop supergroup Run The Jewels in a peak-time Saturday night slot certainly helped amp things up. The duo have been one of the standout acts at festivals across the world in 2015, and with this being their final European show of the year, they were certainly in a celebratory mood. "We're drunk as fuck and we're high as fuck" said Killer Mike at the outset, "but we're going to do our best to put on a huge show for you." And that they did, eliciting massive back and forth chants from the crowd, with a quick fire run through the choice cuts from their two albums. They even got a few crowd surfers. We didn't see that at the Rhye set.
The usual problem with rooms as big as the Grande Halle hosting dance music is that the soundsystem usually falls a bit flat, acting as a constant reminder that you're basically in an airport hanger, listening to something that sounds suspiciously about as powerful as a car stereo. Thankfully at Pitchfork Festival this wasn't the case and the event had a system that really kicked. This meant that when they reeled out the DJs after the main headline acts on Saturday night, everyone stuck around rather than disappearing off to the city's clubs. A John Talbot and Roman Flügel back-to-back set the bar but Garnier smashed through it with a big room masterclass - that included the likes of Maceo Plex's 'Solar Detroit' and his own 'The Sound Of The Big Babou' - in front of an adoring home crowd.