Pitchfork Festival was the music highlight of many Parisians during the last week of October. Stereofox had the chance to cover the event, so Félix and I have headed to the block party in Bastille for Pitchfork Avant-Garde and to la Grande Halle de la Villette for the main event.
As good thing comes in pairs, stay tuned on the following weeks to discover the artists we managed to interview along the way.
So, my festival adventure started on Tuesday with Pitchfork's Avant-Garde - two nights of gigs in 7 venues disseminated in the Bastille neighborhood where upcoming artists were showcasing their talent.
TUESDAY (as seen by Noémie)
After hanging out with Cleopold, I headed to La Loge to catch the first gig of the night - Faroe. La Loge is a small hidden venue, set in a charming interior yard. Despite the early hour (7:30 PM), Faroe created a very intimate atmosphere around him. He was playing without his drummer, but still managed to englobe everyone in the dark room into his own world. Special heads up for his last and upcoming song, that marked a shift from his Words EP and sounds really promising.
A complete change of atmosphere awaited me at Le Café de la Danse with a fully booked venue excited for London rapper Loyle Carner. I discovered the artist on stage, and what a discovery it was! The guy was really thankful, happy to be there and surprised by the overwhelming amount of people knowing his own music. He exerted incredible energy on stage and developed a friendly complicity with the crowd - joking about a song he did with Tom Misch which he had to modify because his DJ had lost the production files.
From hip hop, I jumped into rock at La Mécanique Ondulatoire, catching the end of Hoop's show. The young English rock band with its own fashion sense was OK, but I somehow did not manage to get into the mood. Who knows.
Later on, I walked back to Le Pop-Up du Label to catch Connie Constance, who was already performing on stage. I struggled a bit to make my way through the crowded venue as many people seemed to expect her. I was surprised by the power of her voice and quite amused to hear some of her fans telling her “she made them forget about Beyoncé” at the end of the show.
The final gigs of the night put me in quite some dilemma - Alex Cameron or Cleopold. An Aussie fight at its finest. On one hand there was Seekae's frontman going solo and its freak-tasty pop songs; and on the the other hand Chet Faker's friend and protégé with its infuriating electro-pop.
Well, the fight ended up in a drawback - too tired I decided to go back home and keep my energy for the upcoming Pitchforkian nights.
Day 2 - this time I wasn't alone. Félix joined me on my music adventures and we kicked off with a gig of Pi Ja Ma - a promising French band that has received a lot of attention this summer. The energy was there, drawn by the candid and touching jokes of the lead singer Pauline. From 70’s rock to folk influences, the guys crafted a regressive pop working instantly on the crowd.
Later on, we went to check Thom Sonny Green's live performance. Unfortunately, the electro band was not as lucky as Loyle Carner the previous night. Their atmospheric and limbic electronic music were simply not fitted for a venue where most of the space is made of sitting space. It created a contemplative atmosphere that did not manage to catch me. Instead, we headed to Le Badaboum to contemplate the crazy pop-rock of French band Requin Chagrin. If I have to describe their sound, "surf rock meets French variety, reverbs and non-understandable lyrics" should do the job. People were dancing and having heaps of fun - an experience amplified by the absurdity of seeing a giant shark "swimming" all around the venue.
THURSDAY (through Félix’s eyes)
Thursday night marked the beginning of the actual Pitchfork festival which took place at La Grande Halle de la Villette. This was my first ever Pitchfork experience, while Noémie had already attended previous editions. After going through the list of artists who were going to play during the next three nights, we were especially excited by a few - Nick Murphy and M.I.A were some of the names who made it on our "must see live" list.
One of those names was Floating Points. Powered by captivating visual effects, Sam and co put us in the perfect mood to kick off the whole Pitchfork experience. Fun fact - he's also a neuroscientist.
Another two acts, which probably need no introduction, DJ Shadow and Chet Faker (Nick Murphy) were some of the highlights that night. The American producer definitely knew how to shake things up with its punchy The Mountain Will Fall tracks. In addition, the visuals were simply flawless!
Moving on, I guess it's needless to say that we're extremely excited about Chet's performance. After the whole thing was over, we both agreed that his Chet Faker music phase grabbed us more than his newest stuff performed as Nick Murphy. When "1998" started, the crowed went wild!
As we said, these three artists were our main highlight of the first Pitchfork night. Though we really like Suuns, their sound was pretty bad and surprisingly we found Mount Kimbie's set a bit boring.
FRIDAY (in Noémie’s lenses)
To me, Friday night was the best of the festival. Firstly, because I was able to reconnect with my high school years, catching Explosions In the Sky on stage. And gosh, the explosions were real and the feeling intense. To be honest, most of the crowd was caught up in a contemplative trance. After their set you could see so many smiles and that feeling of... pure happiness. If you want to catch up the show, there's a footage from that night below.
The other highlight of the night has to be Moderat. The show was preceded by a message on a giant screen warning us that "Moderat is a dark show, please do not use flash while taking picture". Well, I think the foundations had been layed there. Indeed it was a dark show, but the performance was delighting. Perhaps because it was pretty obvious they were extremely happy to be there, presented and experiencing that exact moment and festival itself. The energy was electrifying, and Sascha Ring's (Apparat) interventions were welcomed show-structuring points. What a wonderful way to finish up the night!
On our Artist To Watch category, we strongly advise you check out French singer and experimenter Flavien Berger. Thought we only caught half of the show, he instantly managed to hypnotize us. His world is pretty high and that's the beauty of his work. Don't be put off by him singing in French - to be quite honest even French-speakers don't always get the meaning of everything he sings. It's this absurdity that is so charming and mesmerizing.
A report of Friday's night won't be completed without mentioning Todd Terje and the Olsen. The show was entertaining and even if it was quite early in the evening, the crowd was very eager to dance. Yet, I was a bit disappointed - probably because last time I saw the Norwegian band, it was late on a summer night and my feet were dancing on sand. I felt that at Pitchfork their energy was not fully loaded - and let's be honest, I missed the VJing.
SATURDAY (as recounted by Félix, and a little help from Noémie)
Saturday was definitely the most hyped night of the Pitchfork.
One of the highlight of the night would be Warpaint's appearance. Even though we came a bit late and missed the intro, the band delivered superb vocal quality and made us fall instantly in love with their tracks ("New Song"). The 4 powerful girls announced an artistic girls' night as ABRA and M.I.A. were to perform next.
Though we also missed most of it, ABRA seemed to be one of the revelations of the Pitchfork festival - energetic and hip, she really gave a 100% of herself. An artist to follow!
After all that build up, it was time for the artist of the night - M.I.A..
Close to the front and surrounded by probably the biggest crowd of the festival so far, Noemie and I were pretty much ready to shout out some lyrics after properly training with a "Paper Planes" karaoke. After a long teasing, M.I.A. and her dancers took over the stage and sang some of her biggest tunes, including "Born Free" or "Bad Girls". While the excitement was definitely there, her gig was after all a bit disappointing. The weird scenography (a big fence which represented a border and the dancers around trying to climb it) and the ill artist were just a strange combo. Despite that, the crowd didn’t seem to care as people were dancing and singing/rapping throughout the whole show.
Our most favourite moment of the night was Motor City Drum Ensemble who brought an amazing clubbing feel to the Pitchfork. The whole venue transformed itself into a massive dancefloor within seconds! He did a better job than his preceder Acid Arab, though the French duet did made some feet shuffle and all. With a slight blasé-kind of face, MCDE managed to push any skeptic into the mood. The atmosphere was sweaty, beer-infused and… sticky (let’s face it, beer + crowd = sticky floor = how the hell do we dance!??).
For us, it was the best way to end our night. Even if catching the beats of Daphni (Caribou's techno alias) was a delight, we somehow did not felt like shifting from disco-oriented house to darker techno. Our hearts belong to MCDE (sorry Daniel Snaith)!