The sun that had for the last two days turned Chicago’s Union Park into something of a schvitz started its fiery descent at a moment so precise it could hardly have been a coincidence –precisely, that is, at the start of Devendra Banhart’s performance. With the day in its tawny final hour and the night not yet settled in, it was easy to imagine Banhart and his band slipping through some careless crevice of the space-time continuum, straight out of 1972, a few molecules still scrambled. It would certainly help to explain the singer’s bizarre banter. He opened the act by explaining that, inspired by a tour stop in Greece, the band would be henceforth known as “Bathhouse of the Winds”: “where the winds go for anonymous sexual encounters.” Then he said something about sperm being wet and life being made out of water.
It wasn’t that the music was quite so moving. It was just that the musicians, in tight denim flares and gauzy shirts, all lanky and angelic with long locks and beards, looked so handsome in the amber light. It was the bottle of Maker’s Mark that the lead guitar player took swigs from when he wasn’t using its neck to play slide. It was the young man alone who stepped in next to us, muttering, “Sweet! Open spot!” –then, ten minutes later, stomped away after offering his review: “Boring!” It was because it was not just the sun that was going down but the temperature, and we had all survived one of the hottest weekends ever recorded on the planet. And it was because we knew that as much as we liked Devendra Banhart, as much as we would like Yo La Tengo after him and Spoon after them, and as much as we were all about to puke with anticipation for the legendary once-in-a-lifetime Os Mutantes final one-time only reunion tour extravaganza, we also knew that it was all about to be over. And we were all pretty damn tired.
I was so tired, in fact, that I wandered away from the Devendra Banhart show and bought a popsicle and fell asleep while I tried to eat it, the sounds of Yo La Tengo coloring my dreams. I had slept through Aesop Rock that afternoon, too, just as I had the day before during The Walkmen’s show, though I did wake up when I recognized that one song from the Saturn commercial.
“Well, I guess you did get in for free,” a friend said after I’d told him how many bands had provided soundtrack music for my snoozes. That was true and it wasn’t true. I bought my thirty-dollar two-day whammy ticket in April, the day after the Os Mutantes announcement, in a fever of impulse. It was mailed to me a week later. Of course I lost it. But someone I met at an after-hours coffee shop party in Evanston the night before the festival offered me a spare ticket she didn’t plan on selling. I got in on a free pass, but I’d paid my thirty dollars, and I wasn’t looking to waste it.
Besides, it’s not like I was sleeping because I was bored. It wasn’t that I even regretted falling asleep. Pitchfork, the baby brother of runaway child Intonation, was technically a first-annual festival, but it felt like something we had all been attending for years. Friends I knew from college were there, friends from Ann Arbor and friends from Milwaukee. I ran into at least two dozen people I knew, including a quorum of ex-boyfriends.
Of course the music was good. Jens Lekman, with his shiny brass instruments and the white-frocked Swedish women who played them, proved to be the only act I watched from start to finish, although that may have been because his act lasted a tragically brief twenty-five minutes. (“I’ll find a park somewhere and play more songs if anyone wants to come,” he promised, and I would’ve gone, too, if it weren’t for Pitchfork’s no-reentry policy.) Mission of Burma was there to remind us that we youngsters with our irony and our asymmetrical haircuts still have lots to learn from our rockingest elders. Danielson –evangelical members of the Sufjan Stevens International Friendship Society* –made fools of us all by braving the heat in full-out handmade navy blue uniforms and playing the xylophone.** There was a tent with a full slate of DJs from Sao Paolo to Detroit so we could take a break from making snobby faces and dance for a while.
I just don’t think that the music was the whole point. I don’t think it was an affront to the spirit of Pitchfork, or to my thirty dollars, that I didn’t want to throw elbows and camp out in the stuffy throngs to be Right Up Front when it-band number seventeen strutted on stage.
I’ll admit even this:
I was nowhere near the main stage when Os Mutantes started to play. In fact, I was barely inside the park. My caravan had reconvened in a dark corner, between the poster tent and an armored truck, and we were waiting for our last stray member to wander out of the Diplo show. We picked at damp blades of grass and ate Clif bars and vegan chili. We decided who was riding home with whom. I was singing along to “Baby” under my breath and thinking about how sad I was to be missing the concert of the century for the sake of some fickle and antsy friends –then I was thinking about why it was I wanted to see Os Mutantes anyway, and how much time I had really spent listening to Os Mutantes. And it wasn’t too long after I realized that it was really two songs –and the two charming men who had loved those songs and introduced them to me –that I really cared about at all, when one of those men walked right by the fence, looking lost and stoned. I called his name, he asked if I had any Ibuprofen, and we awkwardly hugged.
And that was that. It was music festival magic.
And I don’t want to hear how many kids in reconstructed t-shirts and sad worn-through chucks would’ve killed for the chance to see Os Mutantes. I don’t want you to tell me that I dumped a plate full of cheesecake into the garbage disposal in plain view of some seriously hungry people.
I don’t care. I had a good time at Pitchfork. And next year I want to play some kickball with John Darnielle. I want to eat a popsicle and let David Berman and the Silver Jews sing me to sleep in the shade. And I want to relive the moment, leaving the festival, that I danced in the street to “A Minha Menina” and listened to the strains of the festival’s final song as it followed us onto the El and westward into Chicago’s steely heart.
*I do not think a Sufjan Stevens Friendship Society actually exists.
**It may also have been a glockenspiel.