Monday, December 03, 2012

Pitchfork Music Festival Paris 2012 Wrap Up

Pitchfork Music Festival at La Grande Halle. | Photo by Oliver Peel (

The Pitchfork music festival in Paris took place at La Grande Halle nestled on the edge of the Parc de la Villette. Guiding audiences to the festival, the concert hall’s large neon letters bathed the plaza and fountain in front of it in red. Past the gates was a long pavilion with food and drinks outside and two stages inside. The venue was a great location for the festival, complete with vegetarian food options and a photo booth or what the French call a “photomaton.” It was funny to overhear comments from French concert goers about how there were so many Americans and English speakers in attendance, as it was an event sponsored by an American webzine. Ultimately, it probably speaks to the new international reach of the publication. 

The best thing about the festival was the lineup that collected a ton of great artists from 2012. The best performances are highlighted below. In addition to the major highlights, there were also some surprises. Twin Shadow’s set had an inexplicable energy that is missing in the more tame ’80s sound of the record. Putting John Talabot’s music in the context of a more discotheque-like setting made it make much more sense and illuminated all the little details. The one artist who I missed but wished I could’ve seen was The Tallest Man on Earth. He stuck out on the bill as an acoustic musician in a sea of electro and garage rock; it’s always amazing how he can captivate an audience with just a guitar and a chair.

John Talabot. | Photo by Oliver Peel

Pitchfork Festival tokens. | Photo by Oliver Peel
There were a few downsides to the festival. The most obvious being the typical American bureaucracy of forcing people to spend at least 10 euro on Pitchfork tokens in order to buy anything. Friends would say, “I’m going to go get something to eat,” to which the only response was, “Okay, I’ll see you in a few hours.” After waiting in line for the tokens, waiting in line for a burger was just as long. 
The two stages inside the main building allowed a quick change between set times, which was good, but it also made it very hard to get to the front of the crowd once the stages switched. It was easy to get lodged in the back when some musicians went “over” their allotted time, like Sébastian Tellier’s set that had a long, long decrescendo. 
There were also a lot of technical problems. Purity Ring’s hanging catoninetail lights failed, James Blake and Animal Collective had gear issues, Death Grips was unintelligible at times amidst the noise, and the most glaring problem was a few seconds during M83’s set when all of the sound completely cut out. The festival is in its second year in Paris, so it seems like they’re still working the kinks out.

October 31 – Pitchfork Halloween Party at Trabendo with Lotus Plaza

Lotus Plaza at Trabendo. | Photo by Lee Stepien
La Grande Halle’s next door neighbor is a decent sized rock bar called Trabendo. It seemed like a cool place to catch music any night of the week or to even go for a drink. There was even an outdoor patio decorated with hanging lights. The concert was a Halloween show and the concept of the holiday is still growing in France, so the place was spotted with people dressed as spooky things like vampires, skeletons, and zombies. Although, it might've been appropriate since the highlight of the show was Lotus Plaza who released an album called Spooky Action at a Distance. There were two costume highlights, which were the rather tall dude dressed as a confused clown skeleton in an obscenely plaid red sport-coat and a girl dressed as Lady Rainicorn from Adventure Time. The best part about Lotus Plaza’s set was how their live music allowed them to explore the noise and melodies that expanded in the middle of an in between songs. Everyone in the band was dressed up too, as shoegaze indie rock musicians.

November 1-3


Japandroids rocking out. | Photo by Oliver Peel
Japandroids played an intense show as always, and it was comically appropriate to hear “Let’s get to France so we can French kiss some French girls,” from the song "Wet Hair," playing for actual French girls. After having seen the band a few times, it’s a little disappointing to confirm that singer Brian King usually takes the vocals an octave down from the record, but it’s understandable for how hard they rock and how many French girls they must’ve kissed the night before while they were trashed partying.

A close-up of Japandroids. | Photo by Oliver Peel

James Blake

James Blake’s set. | Photo by Oliver Peel
The best thing about the sound for James Blake’s set was the bass. It flowed from the speakers with a density that seemed to fill every empty space around the crowd with a deep, low vibration. The songs that seemed to veer toward sadness took on a more calming effect as the sound waves massaged your whole being. The set was a mixture of Blake’s songwriting and DJ-ing, and the crowd was actually dancing and jumping around for “CMYK” immediately as soon as the first sound byte “look I found her…damn!…red coat…” kicked in. Blake said that he was really thankful for the support of his last record and announced that he would have a new one coming out soon. The last song was a jam, potentially from the new album, with lyrics centering around peace and laying down weapons.


M83‘s Pitchfork set followed an amazing show at Primavera Sound earlier in the year. Compared with their records which are dream-like and soothing, they have so much energy live that you just can’t help but move with them. However for this festival, the band was joined by a whole orchestra set up in the back, which added a beautiful subtlety to the music. Also, the guy who has the best job in music is the saxophonist, who only pops out for one minute at the end of “Midnight City.” Well, this time he actually made another appearance for song at the end.

Animal Collective

Animal Collective’s colorful set. | Photo by Oliver Peel
Considering that it was a Pitchfork event, it was hard not to get curious whether or not there would be any tension between Avey Tare and Panda Bear as the website clearly plays a favorite. However, with the Bear Noah Lennox behind the drum kit, the band started in with him singing “Rosie Oh” from their latest Centipede Hz and everything seemed to clickAt Primavera Sound a couple of years ago, Animal Collective was still in the writing process for this record and most of that set was one long jam with a couple of songs strung in somewhere. However this time around, most of the set was made up of new material. One could notice the effect on the crowd when the band switched back and forth between new and old songs. Immediately after the first blip in “Brothersport” popped, the crowd switched from standing quietly and nodding their heads to jumping around gleefully. A great surprise during their encore was “Peacebone” from Strawberry Jam and they closed out the set with a crowd pleaser, “My Girls.”

Purity Ring

It’s not clear if Purity Ring’s charm would be lost on someone who wasn’t so enthralled by their record, Shrines. The music is typical of French electro at its core, but there are plenty of moments that pleasingly drag. Seeing them live confirmed just how much work electronic musician Corin Roddick commits to the band, producing thousands of little noises. Roddick’s substitute for a drum pad are a bunch of Japanese-like ball shades that light up when hit with a drum stick. Singer Megan James was providing the glitz, beating a large drum that glowed brilliantly when struck.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear. | Photo by Oliver Peel
Grizzly Bear was by far my favorite set of the festival. It’s hard to say much else than that they are just a group of talented musicians. Every member except the drummer switched instruments constantly; Daniel Rossen between guitars and keyboards, Ed Droste between guitars and his electronic instrument that looked like a toy. Bassist Chris Taylor also manned the clarinet and bass saxophone. The vocal effect on his mic for songs like “Cheerleader” was really addicting and he wielded it well. Grizzly Bear played everything perfectly and they were backed by jelly fish made out of lights inside what seemed like large jars with wispy tentacles. The lights rose and swooped, making patterns and visualizations along with the music. The band played mostly songs from their most recent release, Sheilds, but didn’t forget to throw in “Two Weeks” from Veckatimest and “Knife” from The Yellow House, which they said that they had to play every time they were in ParisThe set was surmised by the closer, “Sun in Your Eyes,” which sounded more grandiose than ever and swam between gleeful to meditative to trippy–just enough to ease the audience out with a pleasant goodbye.