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Pitchfork's Grid Wars 2009

Got schedule anxiety? Leave the decision-making up to us.
Monday Jul 13, 2009.     By Ben Rubenstein
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

You might think that with only three stages of music, the Pitchfork Music Festival (July 17-19 in Union Park) wouldn't present many difficult choices over the course of the weekend. You'd be wrong. The serious music buffs who attend this fest are familiar with the pains of choosing between two of their favorite under-the-radar acts. But as always, we're here to help with the toughest choices on Saturday and Sunday (thankfully, Friday is conflict-free) - and if you can't take our word for it, you can check out what Pitchfork had to say.


The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (C, 3:20 p.m.) vs. Bowerbirds (B, 3:35 p.m.)
Advantage: Bowerbirds
We imagine that it'd be kind of annoying to be friends with Beth Tacular and Phil Moore, the core of Bowerbirds. They'd always be making you feel bad about how much you're hurting the earth, but instead of doing it in a mean way, they'd sing you beautiful, folky songs about nature (Upper Air: 7.2). On the other hand, the members of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (self-titled: 8.4) would just be constantly trying to convince you of how great My Bloody Valentine is. And no one needs that.

Yeasayer (C, 5:15 p.m.) vs. Wavves (B, 5:30 p.m.)
Advantage: Yeasayer
Pitchfork said a lot of great things about Yeasayer's debut LP, All Hour Cymbals (7.8), calling the Brooklyn group "one of the better bands to put a new spin on [David Byrne's] polyrhythmic convulsing." We weren't quite convinced of the band's genius after a few listens, but there's a good chance the cosmopolitan sound will come through well on stage. We can't say we have the same hopes for Wavves' fuzzy noise-pop, no matter how much the 'fork loves it (8.1).

Doom (A, 6:15 p.m.) vs. Lindstrom (B, 6:30 p.m.)
Advantage: Lindstrom
With his deadpan delivery and ridiculously smart/clever rhymes, Doom (aka MF Doom) packs some major appeal for the indie crowd, and his latest release, Born Like This (8.0), is a definite return to form. But who can be sure he's actually going to show up? (There have been several accusations of the rapper sending lip-synching impostors to perform in his place.) Lindstrom - perhaps the biggest reason that disco has made a comeback in recent years - is the safer bet. Have a listen to his latest release, Where You Go I Go Too (8.6) or one of his many addictive remixes for a sampling of his extended grooves.

Beirut (C, 7:25 p.m.) vs. Matt and Kim (B, 7:30 p.m.)
Advantage: Beirut
If you've ever been to a Matt and Kim show, you know that the two are some of the most endearing live performers out there. Seriously, you might think the wind changed just as the husband and wife were grinning the world's biggest grins, because those things appear permanent. But the keyboard-and-drum duo (Grand: 7.3) appears in Chicago regularly. You don't get quite as many chances to hear the internationally inflected sounds of the precocious Zach Condon (aka Beirut), who branched out beyond Balkan horns for his last LP, The Flying Club Cup (8.0).

The Black Lips
The Black Lips (B, 8:30 p.m.) vs. The National (A, 8:40 p.m.)
Advantage: The Black Lips
We love The National, but well, the band can be a little depressing live. Not bad, mind you, but actually depressing (you'll be crying in your beer by the time the lonely mumbling of "Fake Empire" kicks in). Add on the fact that the band's only new material since 2007's impressive Boxer (8.6) is the somewhat lackluster Virginia EP (4.3) and you've got a good case for heading to the other stage to see one of the finest garage rock groups around right now. The Black Lips' latest, 200 Million Thousand (7.3), has inspired quite a few Velvet Underground comparisons (see "Starting Over" for explanation) - ideally, this show will be a good primer for Lou Reed's Lollapalooza appearance in a few weeks.


Pharoahe Monch
Pharoahe Monch (C, 3:20 p.m.) vs. Women (B, 3:35 p.m.)
Advantage: Pharoahe Monch
We were tempted to say that Women's weirdly melodic psych-rock, as showcased on the group's self-titled debut (7.9) would be perfect for an outdoor fest, but then we remembered that Pharoahe Monch is one of the most impressive lyricists in the game, and that sealed it. Don't worry if you didn't think much of Monch's song concepts on 2007's Desire (7.9); this performance will be all about his considerable rapping prowess.

The Thermals (A, 4:15 p.m.) vs. DJ/rupture (B, 4:30 p.m.)
Advantage: DJ/rupture
The last time we saw DJ/rupture live (at the Hideout with The Ex's Andy Moor in 2006), it was a huge disappointment. Instead of delightfully distorted dancehall, we got an hour of seemingly pointless knob-tweaking. We don't expect to hear that again, but we're not quite sure what to expect, given the eclectic nature of his latest mix, Uproot (8.8). We'll take the uncertainty, but if you want something more straightforward, the Thermals' punk-informed pop offers blunt declarations on life, religion and politics in a catchy package (Now We Can See: 7.8).

M83 (A, 6:15 p.m.) vs. Vivian Girls (B, 6:30 p.m.)
Advantage: M83
Hmm, anthemic, '80s-inspired French pop or lo-fi Brooklyn garage rock? Both acts in this slot have benefited from huge buzz, but we're going with the one that's lived up to it with a string of solid albums, including last year's Saturdays=Youth (8.5). The Vivian Girls do the garage thing well, but their only album (8.5) is 22 minutes long. What will they do for the rest of the hour?

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear (C, 7:25 p.m.) vs. Mew (B, 7:30 p.m.)
Advantage: Grizzly Bear
We are actually very interested to see how Mew's over-the-top Danish rock (Pitchfork compares the band to Queensryche in the best possible way) goes over at this hipper-than-thou fest, but you just don't bet against Grizzly Bear. Even if you're not totally into the often drowsy meanderings of the band, word has it that it's one of the tightest live acts in the indie scene. Sure, this year's Veckatimest (9.0), is a challenging listen, but those who give this set a chance will be rewarded with something beautiful (and yes, a few pop songs, too).

The Flaming Lips
The Very Best (B, 8:30 p.m.) vs. The Flaming Lips (A, 8:40 p.m.)
Advantage: The Flaming Lips
In an age where nothing is safe from remix or mashup (not that we're saying it should be), The Very Best (Radioclit and Esau Mwamwaya) appears to be the cream of an often crappy crop. But while we're definitely intrigued by the internationally minded reworkings of everything from Vampire Weekend to the Beatles on the collaborators' sole official release (8.6), it's gonna be hard to say no to The Flaming Lips. Long known as one of the best live rock acts around, Wayne Coyne and co. will win your heart with its bombastic spectacle, if not with its psychedelic pop leanings.


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