Watching my 61-year-old father dance to songs like “Birthday Sex” never gets old.
I haven’t watched him gyrate to “Birthday Sex” before this weekend, but I have watched him shimmy to A$AP Rocky’s “F—kin’ Problems,” Björk’s “Crystalline,” iLoveMakonnen’s “Tuesday” and Grimes’ “Oblivion” over the past five years, as he and I have attended every Pitchfork Music Festival since 2012 and have unabashedly danced like goons at all of them. This year I got to witness a lot of dad-dancing at Jeremih, especially when Chance The Rapper graced the stage; my father, a lawyer from New Jersey, knows Chance’s music very well now, after watching him headline in 2015. The older student, once unfamiliar and curious with this scene, is now the expert.
I’ve been writing Pitchfork Music Festival recaps with my dad for a half-decade now because getting his take on some of the more promising artists within the indie world is always more fascinating to me than reading (or writing) a standard festival recap. What does my dad think of Savages’ live show? Does Car Seat Headrest impress him like they impress me? And did Brian Wilson dazzle him since they’re from the same generation? Each act we see represents another potential agreement or argument, as he and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of Pitchfork acts, while some, he or I just don’t get.
For this year’s father-son opus, I asked my dad to simply rank every performance he watched at Chicago’s Union Park this weekend, from worst to best. I give some quick takes below his just to show how often we did and did not see eye-to-eye, but the rankings belong solely to David Lipshutz, Pitchfork veteran, new Jeremih fan club member, and Best Old Musichead. Click on to get started! - Jason Lipshutz
DAD: She has superb vocals and her effort is all-out, but, for the second time seeing her, I couldn’t get any kind of handle on this performance. The songs are monotonous and screechy to me, and I was obviously too thick to understand the meaning of the various dance arrangements. She’s quite popular, so this was clearly me just not getting it.
SON’S TAKE: Don’t mince words: You really, really don’t like Twigs! Her weirder musical impulses remain pretty thrilling, but yeah, her current Broadway-ready stage setup is pretty inscrutable. Maybe this would have panned out better if Miguel and Twigs had switched spots on Sunday night, and the headliner was a little more accessible…
DAD: I couldn’t find any melodies in this group’s music, just frenetic noise. I give the group kudos for being high-energy and for the best refrain of the festival: “Don’t let the fuckers get you down.” Worthwhile advice for anyone.
SON’S TAKE: The frenetic noise is the best part! Savages’ studio material has always underwhelmed me, but Jehnny Beth rules as a high-wire live performer. Thanks to her, the fuckers, in fact, did not get me down.
DAD: Garage rock with a too-driving beat that I found to be repetitive. Some decent melodies, but I hope they’ll learn to turn it down a notch in future performances.
SON’S TAKE: A hometown show with lots of style and not enough substance. I was amped for Twin Peaks, but the songs bled into each other too rapidly, and the crowd rapport was bro-tastic. Down In Heaven still worth checking out, but this was maybe the most forgettable set of the weekend for me.
DAD: It’s touching when an older performer plays his or her old hits, and Brian deserves a tribute to his storied career. However, I was never a big Beach Boys fan, even back when I had hair. I still think the songs are too silly (like “Fun, Fun, Fun”), and I’m sorry, but Brian’s voice is not what it was.
SON’S TAKE: Whoa, am I a bigger Beach Boys fan than my 61-year-old father? Hearing “God Only Knows” performed live was a privilege, but yes, Wilson’s voice was not there, and he relied heavily on his good pals to power through. A performance I was happy to catch part of, but didn’t feel bad about jetting early from.
DAD: Really well-crafted, dreamy soft rock. I can’t criticize the vocals, but I found the songs just too laid-back, and my concentration starting to wander. Poor choice for a finale for a festival. I wanted something that blew the crowd away!
SON’S TAKE: Not much to add here. Seeing Beach House live is deeply rewarding under the right circumstances; on a Friday night, capping off an exciting opening day to a festival, is not the right circumstance.
Empress Of has come a long way since I saw her open for Braids at 285 Kent (RIP). pic.twitter.com/WYqC2ybZQ7— Luis Paez-Pumar (@paezpumarL) July 17, 2016
DAD: She scored immediate points in my book by saying “Sorry to keep you guys waiting” after her set started late. No performer ever does that, which irritates the hell out of me! Nice electronic R&B that didn’t have the bite of someone like Grimes, and good-but-not-great vocals—but then she seemed to find her footing in the last 20 minutes, picked it up a notch and got the crowd going.
SON’S TAKE: My dad: always about the manners. It’s a shame that Lorely Rodriguez’s set was plagued by poor sound during the first third, because otherwise, I found her one-woman show to be mesmerizing. I can’t wait to see her again and watch everything go right for her.
DAD: Dumbest name for a band ever, but they showed some talent, although it’s raw. Some good guitar-driven rock, and the lead vocalist was pretty good, despite looking about 15 years old to me. The crowd really liked “Unforgiving Girl.” Definite potential.
SON’S TAKE: Yup, Will Toledo is a special songwriter, and I can see his newly full-band project sticking around for a very long time. The slight drizzle on Friday didn’t dampen “Vincent,” which is almost eight minutes long but still too short. Bring ‘em back next year, Pitchfork!
DAD: Disappointing set. This performer is a gifted songwriter, and I’m familiar with his catalog of brilliant, emotional ballads… but he chose to take us instead to the circus. Outlandish outfits that belonged on Sesame Street mixed in with mediocre electro-pop was just frustrating, all the more so when Stevens tossed in gems from Michigan, Illinois and Carrie & Lowell. The band was excellent, and I loved his rendition of “Should Have Known Better”—which was immediately followed by dancing balloon people.
SON’S TAKE: Full, similar take here.
DAD: Smooth pop that transported me back to the ’60s, especially with the Dylan cover. The lead vocalist with the high voice was quite good, and I enjoyed the horns and string quartet that came out for a few songs. Interesting and varied arrangements, with “No Woman” being the top song. The shout-out to the frontman’s parents was a nice touch.
SON’S TAKE: Light Upon the Lake is one of my favorite albums of the year so far, and Julien Ehrlich is a vocalist I’m actively rooting for after seeing Whitney perform their throwback indie-pop on Friday. Plus: mid-set same-sex smooching forever!
DAD: Fascinating performance by a real talent. It’s not easy to stop singing a smooth R&B song with a driving beat and show off some sexy dance moves for a full minute, but Miguel pulled it off with flair. He also stopped his entire performance to deliver an impassioned plea: “How many black lives turned into flatlines? We need action, action, action. I don’t want to hear ‘We have to pray’ anymore.’” That’s my searing memory of this set—daring and beautiful, eclipsing some great material, but much-needed.
SON’S TAKE: Great show of activism, spectacular performance… but no “Adorn” at the end? That’s gotta knock this one down a few pegs.
DAD: Funny thing: I loved everything about her set—her excellent vocals, top-notch band, her smiling and dancing around and obviously enjoying herself—except I thought her songs could be a little stronger. I never understood why “Call Me Maybe” was the mega-hit it was, and “I Really Like You” is nothing special. A real pro who needs better material.
SON’S TAKE: “Needs better material”?!? Dad, I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with you more on anything, in my whole life. This deserves to be four spots higher; I explained why here.
DAD: Wow, what a powerhouse performer! This lady blended knockout vocals that could slay like Minnie Riperton and then belt out like Aretha or Patti, with joyous dance moves and a funky backing band. She needs more great songs, as her set sagged a little in the middle, but I (and the crowd) absolutely loved her upbeat material and the soaring pipes on the slower numbers.
SON’S TAKE: Totally agree. NAO is going to be a star, and I’m so happy she chose to play her Mura Masa collab “Firefly.” She had the entire crowd—including you, and your sillier dance moves—in the palm of her hand within five minutes.
DAD: This set had everything, including a master performer—pounding rap, silky R&B, crowd favorites, a surprise guest appearance by Chance The Rapper, Jeremih jumping into the crowd, a short dance with his mother on his birthday (sweet!), dancers with skintight bodysuits proudly wiggling their rear ends, and a crowd that sung along to “Birthday Sex.” Later we were told to chant “Fuck you all the time,” which sounds exhausting to me. Very playful, enjoyable set.
SON’S TAKE: Why doesn’t Jeremih play more alternative festivals? He has a ton of hits, swagger to spare and an easy rapport with sprawling crowds. Fun fact: Watching your dad watch Lil Herb come out for a special guest for “I’m Rollin” is a life-altering experience.
DAD: Easily the most interesting group, musically, of the entire festival for me. A remarkable variety of styles, with excellent horns, keyboards, guitars and vocals weaving in and out of long, dreamy sequences. I heard everything from dance to arena rock to ska. The best song was “Fire Eye’d Boy.”
SON’S TAKE: Well, the best song was “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl,” but your choice is up there, too. Who knew the world needed Broken Social Scene to come back in 2016? Everyone moves a little slower and has gotten a little grayer, but the songs remain as worthy of adoration as ever. Great, great set.
DAD: What a pro this performer is—he sings, dances and plays an excellent guitar and keyboard. Silky-smooth funk numbers laced with political commentary and grown-up lyrics. I liked how his ego didn’t get in the way of deferring to his band at times, as well as bringing out Carly Rae Jepsen to share a song. Just a fine set on a beautiful afternoon. Loved it!
SON’S TAKE: Watching Dev Hynes work his magic over a larger crowd has always been a unique pleasure of recent music festivals, but the Freetown Sound songs add a whole new depth and dimension to his dance moves and democratized presentation. This wasn’t my favorite set of the festival, but it was beautifully rendered, and I’m glad I got to watch my father play air-guitar along to it. Blood Orange: Pitchfork-tested, Dad-approved.
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