(Note: JR, this is just going to be one big disappointment for you as I really don't have a ton to say about your favorite bands. When I was working, I couldn't really pay much attention to Sebadoh, and I don't know enough about Dinosaur Jr. to produce a competent review of their show. You're just going to have to get tickets next time your dream lineup all plays together, hon. Or you can check out Pitchfork to read about the festival from people who know what they're talking about.)
I wasn't even initially planning on attending the Pitchfork Music Festival this year. I had gone once before with a good friend and found the whole affair rather dull; they normally book obscure indie bands that I've never heard of before, and the whole park is filled with the world's most unfuckable male hipsters. Not that I need to fuck any male hipsters, as I'm married, but if I'm going to be outdoors on a hot summer day, exposed to the elements, in the middle of a large crowd, I'd rather look at fuckable people. Male hipsters seem to be purposely attempting to repel the opposite sex. They tend to have poor hygiene and bad facial hair, and half of them are skinnier than the average supermodel, and they're wearing girl jeans. Swear to God.
Earlier this spring, I received an email from a local pro-choice organization that offered members a chance to volunteer at Pitchfork. In return for my labor, the pro-choice organization would be able to staff a table at the festival and possibly get a donation. And volunteers would get free admission. So I thought, why not? I don't mind listening to obscure music if I don't have to pay for it, I generally enjoy hanging out at festivals, and I would be working for a good cause. I looked at the lineup and was excited to see that there were quite a few good acts playing this year. I mean, it was basically like JR's wet dream! And besides Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. and Public Enemy, there was also Jarvis Cocker and Apples in Stereo (who I don't really know that well, except they do that cute Powerpuff Girls song) and,most exciting for me, Spoon.
So I arrived at the volunteer booth, despite the fact that the workweek had me really tired out and the weather was threatening. Fortunately, the skies cleared up and I gained my second wind as I donned my volunteer shirt. The volunteer coordinator asked who, among a group of us, would like to work the stage? "I like stages," I replied. So then I was told that I would be assigned to Public Enemy, which had me chuckling all evening, as I contemplated this highly acclaimed, controversial, pioneer hip-hop group relying on the least formidable white girl on the planet for protection.
I was stationed outside of the artist check-in area with two other security guards, "Michelle" and "Jason." It was a little lonely, as Michelle and Jason obviously knew each other very well and weren't terribly interested in getting to know me, this dorky older white woman. You see, I like to walk through life assuming that everyone is at least 30, but sometimes you meet actual 21-year-olds and discover that this isn't the case. And beyond some chit-chat about The Dark Knight, I felt really awkward until later on in the evening when we bonded over the free Chipotle I brought them with my volunteer privileges. (Apparently Chipotle fed volunteers for free, but not the security staff, which sucks, imo.)
But I didn't have a lot of time to contemplate my lack of charisma because even though we were stationed away from the main entrance, we still had a lot of people to direct. People looking for Will Call, people looking for the press entrance, people who paid extra for their tickets looking for the VIP entrance, people looking for the vendor entrance...I cheerfully guided them all, except for the vendors...I still don't really know where the hell they were supposed to go. (Training for this event consisted mostly of "Stand over there by those security guards.") So that's what I was doing when Mission of Burma and Sebadoh was playing: "No, you can't come in this way; go around the corner to Ashland and Lake...Nope, you have to go to Ashland...the VIP entrance is at the end of the block to your left...I don't know where you're supposed to go, sir, but it's not here..." I just couldn't really concentrate on the music that much. But apparently Mission of Burma played "VS" in its entirety, and Sebadoh played all of "Bubble and Scrape."
As far as people who actually wanted to enter the artist check-in, they were supposed to have a laminated pass and matching wristband, which I was prepared to enforce in a brutal totalitarian manner. However, security is a more subtle business. Consider, for example, the crewmember who says, "But my pass is inside"? I would look helplessly at my security guard companions, and a lot of times, they would just let the person through. Other times, they were ready to tackle the person. Basically, whatever I was doing was wrong. If I was giving a person the third degree, then that was typically someone very important who was personal friends with _____ and should be let in immediately without question. If I was ready to wave someone through, Michelle and Jason were at Defcon 1. I felt rather incompetent at moments like these and turned to what I knew best. "The main entrance is on Ashland...the press entrance is by the volunteer booth on Ashland and Lake..."
So that aspect of the job was all very tedious, but what made it worth it was being told by Mike, whose precise title I don't know but he was very busy and carried a clipboard so I think he was really important to the festival, that the artists would be driven through our area to the check-in. We were expecting to see Public Enemy (of course), Sebadoh (who I never saw...sorry, JR!), Animal Collective (whom I've never heard of), and Spoon (who was scheduled to play on Sunday but just wanted to watch Public Enemy that evening). The artists were driven in by staff members either in large blue vans with tinted windows or little Zip cars (cars that you can easily rent in the city).
Public Enemy arrived with about 7,000 people in their entourage. Seeing Chuck D left me with a sense of "Eeeeeee!" They were too far away to actually speak to, but I totally gawked. I saw an impossibly tall and skinny blonde guy getting out of another van and realized that this was Britt Daniel, the lead singer of Spoon, whom I have a mild crush on. I cursed my inherent frumpiness and the unflattering bright yellow t-shirt I had to wear.
Flavor Flav arrived separately, as he was getting mobbed in his hotel lobby. Flavor Flav does not travel incognito, btw. I was informed that Flavor always travels with a driver and a personal assistant, and festival organizers seemed concerned that he would show up with other random individuals, a fear that was not totally unreasonable, as I found.
I've decided that Flavor Flav is my new favorite celebrity. You know why? He's not the kind of person who attains wealth and fame and then bitches about how miserable he is and how he wishes everyone would just leave him alone. No, Flavor was BORN to be a star. He clearly loves all of the attention, and more power to him. He was dressed in a loud shirt and of course had the clock around his neck, but no Viking helmet, I'm afraid. My security guard companions were completely starstruck. "I have loved that man since I was born!" cried Michelle. At one point, Flavor left the festival grounds to walk down the block and returned with an even larger entourage than the one he arrived with. I know this because part of his entourage emerged from the artist check-in area giggling and looking at the pictures they had taken. So clearly Flavor just picked these girls up off the street. Anyone can hang out with Flavor Flav!
And I do mean anyone. The highlight of the evening for me was being approached by an older white gentleman, who appeared to be in his 70s or so. He was dressed in a yellow leisure suit and was covered in bling. Platinum and gold rings on every finger...an enormous gold "LA" pendant around his neck. He tells Jason and me, "I need to get in there. I'm a good friend of Flavor's. I've known him for years." Of course, he didn't have a pass. But I looked at him and thought, "He probably DOES know Flavor Flav." Jason took him to the Artist Check-In Table, and apparently he got through. Huh.
After all this, Public Enemy finally took the stage. It was my first time...um...hearing them live (I couldn't see a thing from where I was standing), and I wasn't disappointed. They brought incredible energy to Union Park, energy that never flagged even though their set lasted 40 minutes longer than planned. I suspected they were waiting for the police to dramatically shut them down, but that never really materialized. They apparently played all of "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" and more.
Of course, blogger Bryon Crawford has a dramatically different take on the show than me, but he seems to know a lot more about Public Enemy than I do and could actually see what was going on. And Flavor, you fame whore, I still love you.
As Public Enemy finished up their set, Spoon decided to check out a bit early. I was inches--MERE INCHES--from the entire band as they walked past me. I smiled at them, but they didn't notice me. Alas. But they seemed to be in a good mood and my God, they're all really skinny. Like their legs are skinnier than my arm. It's kind of depressing.
I was really exhausted standing for 6+ hours in the heat, so I took Saturday off. Even though that was technically my "free" day. And by the time I made it to the festival on Sunday (I had some previous plans to attend to), I really just had the chance to see Dinosaur Jr. and Spoon. Like I said, I don't know enough about Dinosaur Jr. to provide a decent review. (I really am the worst Pitchfork correspondent ever.) And when they were on, I was meeting up with friends, trying to hydrate, etc.
Spoon put on an excellent--but SHORT--show. "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" is my favorite album of theirs, and I was happy to hear "Don't Make Me a Target," "You Got Your Cherry Bomb," "The Underdog," "The Ghost of You Lingers" and "Rhthm and Soul" (my personal favorite). Unfortunately they could only play an hour, explaining that other bands had played longer, but Pitchfork was kind of getting in trouble for it. I kind of wish they had been scheduled to start at 8:30, but on the other hand, I didn't mind getting home a little early since I had work the next morning.
So Pitchfork 2008 was pretty much the same as I had previously experienced--a lot of bands I had never heard of before and completely unfuckable men. But I had a wonderful time seeing things from behind the scenes, and I would work as a volunteer again in a heartbeat.
Now that I read this over, I realize that this is the shittiest review ever...but just you wait til Lollapalooza 2008! Not only do I actually know many of the bands, but Iris will be accompanying me and providing us with her fantastic pics and vids, as usual. We'll try to live-blog as much as possible, depending on who's hogging the computers in their air conditioned high-tech tent.