I suppose I could go into the backstory of my <24 hour sojourn to the city of romance and talk about how terribly confusing the Paris Metro is and how I ended up slightly lost in a foreign country, or how I threw up in a corner of the venue because I felt like complete shit for the entire night but I wont, because those are minor details, distractions if you will. Aside from me feeling absolutely awful the music itself was actually very good, so let’s talk about that a little.
I arrived just as Jessie Ware was taking to the stage; must admit I wasn’t expecting too much from her, I’d listened to her recent Devotion album but didn’t think too much of it but she did have a really good stage presence and a bit of sass and earnestness (“I can’t believe you’ve all come to listen to me!”). Certainly inspired me to go and relisten to the album today at any rate.
Wild Nothing were on fairly shortly after at the oppposite end of the venue; I should explain that the Hall was rather long with a stage at either end. You know that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where Cpt. Jack gets the crew to rock the boat by running from side to side? It felt like that every time an act finished, just a mass of people migrating from one end to the other. Anyway, that was tangential; these guys were definitely one of the reasons I was going, Nocturne has had some fairly steady plays from me since it dropped a few months ago and I was curious. They actually didn’t sound that good, disappointingly; the vocals (at least the tracks from the new album and not the Gemini tracks) didnt have the same floatyness and the guitar was all a bit buried in feedback. They closed with “Paradise” though, which was lucky since it’s possibly my favourite off the album; have to say they nailed that, the “interlude” in the mid-section with its crescendo of noise was brilliant.
A new discovery for me was up after Wild Nothing, Tallest Man on Earth. I’ve been meaning to get around to listening to him since forever and his set really convinced me to do so ASAP. Honestly, very powerful Indie Folk, from what I could tell it was just him and his guitar alone on stage (I was sitting in the wings at this point) and he really filled the venue. Despite him saying his voice was knackered (it was the penultimate gig of his tour) it was absolutely not to his detriment; I don’t know how he sings normally but I’d imagine it wasnt with quite as much coarseness as he did, but I think it added to the character of it.
Not going to say too much about The Walkmen, I didn’t rate their album and I wasn’t paying too much attention to their performance. These guys were the lead up to Chromatics though, who I very, very nearly omitted from this post (how?!). While I wasn’t massively convinced by Ruth’s vocals Johnny Jewel was absolutely tearing it up, he was a machine up there, an electronic wizard. A very brief clip of “Tick Of The Clock” introduced the band, followed up with “Lady”, “Night Drive” and “These Streets Will Never Look The Same”, plus a few others probably (with “Into The Black” finishing it off). The synths were super danceable and improved on the fly by Jewel, they were excellent. I wont talk too much about Robyn either, aside from saying that she was merely a generic house/electro stop gap
having seizures on the stage dancing a lot before for the show-stealing set of the night, Fuck Buttons.
Jesus christ, those two. I saw Blanck Mass a few weeks ago (written briefly about here), but that was simply a side project with member Ben Power on his own. Together as a duo with they produced what I am listing as the best act I’ve seen to date, bar none. Chemical Brothers were my previous #1 but they’ve been demoted, this tops it (sorry Jacko, if you’re reading). Right from the off they were utterly mesmerising, both the incredible light show with lasers on a disco ball (simple yet effective) but also the fucking gargantuan walls of noise underpinned by strong electronic beats. They played the evocative “Olympians”, one of my absolute favourites, and I swear I had goosebumps on top of goosebumps, hell, goosebumps where its not possible to get goosebumps, when those shining electronic shimmers starting coming through. Then an improvised track with some manipulated live percussion (which was engrossing) and they finished with a track I’d never heard before with the strongest bassline I’ve ever encountered. The frequency was absolutely perfect and it just kept going and going, rattling every bone in my body. Pretty sure I could feel my hair blowing back with every pulse (I kid but it was fucking loud as hell). All of it was so raw, so loud, so all consuming, absolutely astounding music.
And then of course was the all important closers Animal Collective, the only ones with a real and proper stage setup with inflated teeth and stuff. I can’t for the life of me remember what they opened with (goddammit what was it?!) but they segued via a 5 minute free folk interlude into Deak’s “Wide Eyed” (one of the more underrated tracks of Centipede Hz I feel) with “New Town Burnout” and recent single “Today’s Supernatural” chasing it quickly up. Bit of a surprise throwback after that with “Lion in a Coma”, I was pretty much expecting them to play purely Centipede tracks but it did fit in really well, probably one of the closer tracks from MPP to their latest. They also played the brilliant “Moonjock” and this got everyone singing with its easier pop chorus. Oh, and they also played “Applesauce” at some point within all that, I think it followed “Lion…”(?), I don’t remember precisely, I was feeling pretty unwell by this point and sadly I did leave the set early just to get some fresh air and make my slow way back to the airport. I will say that when people say that AnCo are a “studio band” they are pretty accurate; that’s not to say that they weren’t good, because they certainly were, it’s simply that their sound live is a lot more, shall we say, lo-fi and experimental, it’s a bit harder to get into and nowhere near as crisp and compelling. Nevertheless, still an excellent closer to what was an excellent night of music.
I seriously cannot overstate just how good Fuck Buttons were though, I’m not kidding. When people think of them and their Noise and Drone and Power Electronics roots their is something of an automatic repulsion but there was a tonne of really compelling, almost danceable, beats and the sheer scale of the music was mindbending. Unreal. If you get the chance, gogogo see them.
So there you have it, a semi-brief overview of Pitchfork’s Music Festival Paris 2012, Day #2. I will end on this point though; if you’re going there from the UK (or anywhere else that’s not France/the host country) I would say don’t do what I did and do one night, book it up for 2 days minimum, or even the full 3. It’s a tonne of effort and money to go down just for one day so you may as well make the most of it and just go whole hog. I enjoyed it by and large though, and now it’s time for me to take a nap, this post has drained the last of my energy reserves.