The bulk of my review is up at JamBase, but I thought I’d include a few snippets here about artists that didn’t make the main highlight/lowlight reel. There was a lot to see at Union Park this year, and far be it from me to not include somebody.
Robyn, the latest hyper/spastic emopop queen to garner critical praise, put so much raw aggression out on the stage, she kind of made Broken Social Scene seem like a bunch of pansies; their followup set wasn’t bad, but coupled with technical issues and bad sound, they couldn’t muster the kind of energy that was needed. Try as they might, the Scenesters couldn’t escape the too-many-cooks tag for this particular performance. Well-crafted, quirky Canadian tunes couldn’t quite make up for the lack of rhythmic cohesion and Kevin Drew’s excessive yelping. It wasn’t a bad set, just never quite gelled.
People were wearing jackets at last year’s Pitchfork; only the stubbornest devotees poured themselves into skinny jeans in 2010’s stifling heat and humidity. (cargo shorts: the great festival equalizer) It was no wonder that Delorean’s electropop attack didn’t actually get a lot of asses moving, but the tunes also came across as pretty generic. Probably a lot more engaging in a late-night club setting, but not effective here.
Raekwon returned as the year’s token Wu-Tang member, performing plenty of classic Wu material and generally spreading the love without the excessive machismo posturing you might expect. Plus, he brought out Chi-Town’s Finest Breakers, touted as the world’s youngest professional breakdance crew (12 and under), and these kids are no joke. They would return the following evening during Big Boi’s set, providing some unannounced visual star power to the weekend.
I feared Beach House would put me to sleep with its pure dreampop as dreamy as Christine McVie’s dreamiest 80s whim, but the band turned out to be much better than I expected. Yes, mellow; 3-D kite-looking things made of tinsel fluttered onstage, adding to the breezy mood of the Most Aptly Named Band award-winners. But the band’s older material gets a tiny bit energetic and noisy sometimes, and beyond that, this was the perfect steamy mid-afternoon interlude.
St. Vincent has grown immensely as a performer since I first saw her opening for The National three years ago. As her records have gotten busier and more ostentatious, so has her stage show. It’s an invigorating experience, haunting to be sure, elegant and richly dynamic. Here We Go Magic turned out to be more dramatic than its studio work, weaving a tight, pulsing curtain of sound at the crowded Balance Stage, set off from the main grounds. It was tough to tear myself away, but Major Lazer’s reputation alone was enough to make it a must-see. Chinese dragons. Erotic ballerinas. Death-defying dry-humping (“daggering”) that struck most of the crowd dumb. Ace Of Base. This set had it all, and the crowd was largely into it, except the sexual antics of MC/hype man Skerrit Bwoy and his concubines seemed to make the tightly-buttoned crowd a bit uncomfortable. If I didn’t know better, I’d think PC was making a comeback. For those who chose to get down, it was pure entertainment.Big Boi carried the dance party into the following set, plenty of Outkast classics and solid new material. Thankfully, he could still be heard fairly well near the Balance Stage, as the throng waited in vain for Sleigh Bells to come on. But you'll have to read the JamBase piece to see how that turned out.