Ah, Pitchfork Festival. Although you get bigger every year, some things always remain the same (Port-a-Potty dust bowl, ice cream as a substitute for meals) and some things change, for better (Newcastle!) or worse (Axe Body Spray pimping some kind of "fucked by an angel" cologne). Here's what day one looked and sounded like from Epitonic's perspective…


tUnE-yArDs:
Predictably, "Powa" and "Bizness" killed -- especially the latter's surprise extended sax solo in the middle of the song, not-lame "Light My Fire"-style. Merrill Garbus is a commanding stage presence for sure, but she's equally capable of keeping it light -- and she struck a good balance today, mitigating some of her fire with the super life-affirming "You Yes You". Sorry, if you don't Rusted Root-dance to that one, you're wrong.


Thurston Moore: Oh man, I keep forgetting this is what Thurston Moore sounds like now. Not really feeling the "chamber pop years."


Curren$y: "Honestly? I was really looking forward to Thurston Moore's set. But...this was no Sonic Youth show. While waiting in the fast enough beer line, Curren$y's thumping was hard to ignore. The prolific rapper can back up his rhymes with his charm; Curren$y's between-song-chit-chat with the crowd was in tune and in touch and he managed to keep things light and fun." 

-- fellow attendee Bob Hopkinson.


Neko Case: Neko Case is charming onstage but -- in spite of her powerful voice and the fact that I absolutely adore her music -- I don't find her to be a particularly enthralling performer. I caught a few favorites -- "Fever Dream", "The Pharaohs", and, uh, "Favorite" -- and moved on. 


Das Racist: "Das Racist felt remarkably tame. Fans adore their humorous take on hip-hop while critics feel the group is too funny...almost schticky. The 'funniest' moment of their set came when they walked off stage to Tina Turner belting out 'Simply the best.'"

-- Bob Hopkinson


Guided By Voices: At 28, I'm now starting to occasionally feel old at events populated by "young people," and a little green at 90s band reunion tours stocked with late 30s/early 40s bros. True to this purgatorial feeling, every survey of the Guided By Voices crowd was either craggy faces, greying temples, and Bob Mould t-shirts or eager tattooed college students asking me who this was and when Animal Collective was going to go on.

Piggybacking off that weird displaced feeling, I never thought I'd attend a Guided By Voices show where I'd be able to keep a beer positioned between my feet and have it remained undisturbed while I soaked up the ambiance and the last of the day's sunshine. Even though the crowd was calm, GbV was downright spry, bassist Greg Demos prancing around in the hybrid Willy Wonka/Michael Flatley outfits he's started wearing, Pollard looking wizened but sounding great, brandishing a bottle (I was too far away to see what kind of liquor it was) and leading a set list I might pick out, including "Echos Myron" (with Neko Case on tambourine and backing vocals!), "Gold Star for Robot Boy", "Watch Me Jumpstart", a melodic, beefed-up version of "A Good Flying Bird", "Shocker in Gloomtown", and an inspired version of "Tractor Rape Chain."


James Blake: Traveling from place to place meant I missed a big chunk of James Blake's set, but I caught enough to further cement my notion that he's not just a singular talent; he's a hell of a live performer, too. I was wondering how his music would translate in an outdoor, festival setting -- but he really brought it. He's exceptionally good at recreating his post-dubstep/post-R&B/post-everything live, and (perhaps because he is so good at mixing live) his songs retain that skeletal quality, where you feel as though you can hear right through the song, see all its moving parts and understand what's holding it together.

Also worth noting -- it is pretty hilarious to hear people try to sing along to "CMYK." Guys, it's only going to work if the three of you split it into three parts.


Animal Collective: The first 40 minutes of Animal Collective's set was perfect. I've often said 'I don't get Animal Collective," but I've been sold on that first 40 minutes. The latter half of the set was sprinkled with reminders of why I felt confused, but fortunately I was already on board.


The internet is already abuzz with various jam band/Bonnaroo digs at the set Animal Collective played tonight -- and the set design that accompanied it. It took me a little while to figure out what was going on with those set pieces; the best way I can describe it is that it looked like a Party City-commissioned Dale Chihuly piece, where the only creative direction was "interpret 'A Song of Ice and Fire' literally." In spite of the various "megamixes" Animal Collective did -- featuring little tastes of crowd favorites like "Brother Sport" that unfortunately never materialized into full versions -- this was one of the technically tightest sets I've seen the group play. None of the awkward non-syncing sequencers, no lackluster meandering noise -- they were on their game and the crowd ate it up, rushing the stage, bouncing around during "Summertime Clothes", carrying that energy off into the night.