Pitchfork Music Festival Day 3: Just try keeping the Lidell on De La Soul

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By K. Tighe

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Jamie Lidell rocks the synthetics. All photos by K. Tighe.

Sunlight danced off of Jamie Lidell's Mylar-embellished headpiece as the Cambridge-born genre-bender yucked it up like only a Brit can. When not encased within his make-shift mechanical perch, Lidell contorted around the stage in a gold-embossed smoking jacket, giving the impression that this fringe-hugging impresario was something of an electro-soul shaman. An old hand at manipulating peripheral noise elements, Lidell pulls from an arsenal that includes a Theremin. He loops and layers. There was even a brief cameo by a handheld gong, though the fire power to reckon with is an achingly soulful, and relentlessly funk-filled croon.

Lidell was proof positive that the solo performers at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival lineup intended to shake things up. Still, no one was more vulnerable on stage than Stephen Malkmus. The former Pavement frontperson didn't have any equipment to hide behind. His was a simple equation: a man, a guitar, the masses. It was a throwback to what festivals used to mean, back in the hippie days when an acoustic guitar could hit harder than a backline full of Marshall stacks. Malkmus delivered a stunning, if sparse, performance that included several Pavement songs. At the end of his set, he was even joined on drums by former Pavement drummer Bob Nastanovich.

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Dressed for indie success: Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal.

It's not a stretch to assume that Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes whiled away many childhood hours playing dress up and performing in front of a mirror. The anti-glam Abba-fetishists served up gimmick after sparkling gimmick, and the crowd ate it all up. A guitarist molting hot-pink wings, an acrobatic ninja flipping around the stage, and the trademark stilts that have brought many an Of Montreal up to the – ahem - next level filled out a disco-perverted performance. Barnes's frequent costume changes culminated in a risqué ensemble of black-leather corsetry that elicited an expected chorus of whistles and shrieks from a starry-eyed audience. The whimsical Georgia group finished with a flourish: an encore of the Kinks "All Day and All of the Night" that sent the crowd into the requisite hysterics.

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"Think pink!" think Of Montreal.

Across the park, the New Pornographers closed out the Connector Stage with their token take on power-pop. Ingratiating themselves to longtime fans by throwing in plenty of tracks from their upcoming album, Challenger (due in August on Matador), the Pornographers did not disappoint.

When the sun started to go down, the vendors were busy packing up, the crew was beginning to strike equipment, and the toilet paper that had been conspicuously absent from the port-a-johns revealed to have been strewn about the now-empty lawns in front of the Connector and Balance stages, I began to wonder how the hell the Pitchfork peeps think they can wrap this thing up. Seventeen thousand people who have just had the shit rocked out of them are clustered around the Aluminum Stage - the gigantic AV screens are all running the same anticipatory feed, and the act to close this fest better damn well live up to the hype.

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The Pitchfork crowd was utterly smitten with De La Soul.

Enter De La Soul. Wait, sorry, enter De La Fucking Soul! This comes as a booking no-brainer in hindsight. How do you impress hoards of elitist music-enthusiasts when you've spent three days hiking up the precedent? By booking a band that doesn't care if it impresses anyone. By booking De La Fucking Soul to get on stage, have a good time, and remind everyone about what sparked that passion for music in the first place. The set largely consisted of well-worn tracks from 1989's 3 Feet High and Rising, and the minute that DJ Maseo started bouncing around stage, all arms were in the air bouncing along with him. With Posdnuos and Trugoy egging everyone on from behind their self-inverted mics, no one stood a chance.

The boys starting chiding each other - quipping about their ages between songs, throwing out sarcastic jabs at A Tribe Called Quest – and it was clear that there was no agenda afoot, save rocking the fuck out of everyone in earshot. The sound-related shortcomings that had been plaguing every stage all weekend must have sparked some kind of karmic fury, because De La Soul was working at volumes that hadn't been present all weekend.

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Lo, De La.

When DJ Maseo stopped scratching and announced that, because of his age, he could no longer hold his bladder and had to take a bathroom break, the crowd didn't seem to get the joke. Then Maseo announced that he had a replacement in mind and brought out Prince Paul - iconic hip-hop legend and producer of 3 Feet High and Rising – and the audience went positively ape. Paul's appearance prompted dozen of normally cooler-than-thou VIP laminate holders to jump the fence into the All Access area and shake it with the stagehands.

During all the commotion, Trugoy came to the side of the stage to ask the hundreds of press, agents, publicists, and artists, "What are you guys supposed to be?" With the over-eager shout of "VIP" he got in response, he laughed into his mic, and repeated it to thousands in front of the stage, which was, of course, answered by a chorus of boos and hisses. "We're just gonna call you guys special fans over here. Now, we know you're the movers and shakers of the industry - but these…," he said, gesturing to the masses, "…these are the hip-hop people." For a brief moment, that old rock ‘n’ roll adage - you know, we've got the amps; you've got the numbers - took over, as the general admission audience screamed their heads off.