Start to finish, she sent surges and throbs through the communal heart and mind of the crowd. Fan faces flashed grins of pleasure, bodies swayed, shoulders and heads kicked back in oblivion. It was all proof that Garbus’ emotive incantations and beautiful afro-pop-meets-indie-rock-meets-soul ballads “Powa” and “Bizness” had us all in the palm of her hand tugging full force on our heart strings.
Next on my “Best of” list was Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow). He started his Saturday night set with a gracious hello to fans and then set up shop inside in a giant rotating ball that was illuminated by two projectors on either side. Before he started, Davis admitted that it was a bit too light out still to really see the stunning visual spectacle he’s created for us. I instantly agreed with him and started wishing that I could pull down the setting sun faster so I could enjoy the cinematic visuals along with Shadow’s masterful set mix of songs from his classic albums and new tracks from the forthcoming The Less You Know, The Better.
Knowing that he couldn’t overcome the sunlight, he eventually spun the ball around and continued playing so we could all watch him work his magic. As the creator of Endtroducing and other instrumental hip-hop masterpieces, Davis is a true pioneer and legendary live performer and he deserved a better showing than this.
In hindsight, I’m not sure of the logistical decisions that might have caused Pitchfork to close with Fleet Foxes when DJ Shadow would’ve been a much better closer on Saturday night. Heck, DJ Shadow would’ve also been better than Friday night headliners Animal Collective, who unfortunately got invited back for a second time at Pitchfork to perform another scattered and snooze-inducing 60 minutes of live semi-melodic electro-muzak. Animal Collective is definitely the poster child for bands that are releasing solid albums, but not delivering the same goods live. I’m still not sure why Pitchfork thinks that Animal Collective is worthy of being a headliner.
On record and even more so live, TV on the Radio is a palpable force of post-punk, rock and jazz to be reckoned with. And as they took us to the Pitchfork finale on Sunday night, I thought about how it’s been an emotional year for them too. Earlier this year they announced that bassist Gerard Smith was battling lung cancer, and shortly after the band released their new album, Nine Types of Light, Smith lost his fight. TVOTR then took a short break from touring and then returned to the road.
And as they burned their way deeper into our hearts and minds I got the feeling that they were profoundly channeling their loss, grief, and mourning into the music. It was a non-stop emotional crescendo as the NY-based quintet brought Pitchfork to a glorious end with a revitalizing and fist-pumping cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room,” the always epic ballad “Young Liars,” and new gems “Repetition” and “No Future Shock.”