Performances from Sonic Youth, the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA and Slint kicked off the Pitchfork Music Festival last night (July 13) in Chicago’s Union Park. In conjunction with ATP’s Don’t Look Back series, each act played one of its seminal albums in its entirety, with Sonic Youth playing “Daydream Nation,” GZA performing “Liquid Swords” and Slint running through “Spiderland.”
Slint played first but its set was plagued by sound problems, lessening the impact of singer Brian McMahan’s ominous narratives about fortune tellers and Dracula. McMahan was also frequently drowned out by the band’s distorted guitar attack. Slint sounded best as the set drew to a close with the mostly instrumental “For Dinner” and “Good Morning Captain.”
GZA raised the energy level considerably with his delivery of the 1995 East Coast hip-hop staple “Liquid Swords.” Having missed a Wu-Tang show in Amsterdam to make it in time for his Pitchfork set, the rapper was flanked by Wu associate Cappadonna for abbreviated versions of most of the album tracks. There were also samplings of Wu-Tang tracks like “Triumph,” from the album “Wu-Tang Forever.” “It was a very free spirited performance,” Ghostface said afterward. “We were feelin’ the crowd.”
But Sonic Youth was by far the evening’s highlight, despite admitting from the stage that its members had no idea how many years had passed since they’d played every song from “Daydream Nation” at a U.S. show. Throughout, numerous tracks were extended with jams (“The Sprawl,” “‘Cross the Breeze”) and added guitar work (“Silver Rocket,” “Total Trash”). Sonic Youth also played several songs from its most recent studio album, “Rather Ripped,” including “Incinerate,” “Reena” and “Jams Run Free.”
The Pitchfork Music Festival continues today with performances by Iron & Wine, Cat Power, Mastodon, the Clipse, Girl Talk and Yoko Ono.