Bitchpork Music Festival Review: Saturday (7.16.11)


Bitchpork is an annual Chicago music festival that occurs the same weekend as Pitchfork. It’s been held in warehouses around the city, and usually features a large number of local bands in addition to a handful from around the country. Occasionally larger bands make their way through; Lightning Bolt performed under a pseudonym last year. This year the festival kept up with Pitchfork and added a third full day of bands and performances.

The second day of Bitchpork Festival 2011 kicked off with a handful of veteran acts, much buzzed about bands, and Animal Collective.

First up, Brooklyn freak folk outfit A Cloud Becomes Your Hand. Though the pitch-distorted violin and marimba fused together to create polychromatic musical pieces, the drums and bass were buried deep in a muddy mix. We overheard audience members agreeing that this was not “a live band” and they simply could not recreate live the magic of their latest record. Grade: C-

Next, noise drone act Brain Paw. Two slightly aging former metalheads made squealing and squelching noises with guitars, a toy keytar, and at one point one of them played two recorders at once. While the audience appreciated the first half of their piece “Untitled Improvisation #338,” many were understandably disappointed that Brain Paw refused to play the second more complex half of that movement. Grade: D+

Between sets, a performance group took the stage and entertained the audience with food smashing, fantasy battles, and blackface sadomasochism. But you know, we’ve all seen Gallagher, Game of Thrones, and Forbidden Zone. There’s nothing especially new on offer here. In the end, we simply didn’t feel much more aware that we have Sexual Issues with our mothers, and that seemed like the whole point. Grade: D-

A musical venture called Ono blended falsetto vocals, trippy textures and some jam-band excursions into a thoroughly pleasant, pastoral set, but stuck to one amiable tempo for the most part. Before it was too late, they cut loose, doubled the pace and finally achieved lift-off. Next time, don’t wait so long, guys. The old man in the wedding dress sang “My girl loved me so much it made her daddy angry” and then pulled off his veil. Grade: B

We heard LA natives Castle Freak from the alley behind the venue, and they sounded as loud as a band should sound from the alley. There we spoke with the author of I Hate William Howard Taft about living the Writing Lifestyle. “When I make something good, it freaks me out and I can’t make anything else for a while,” she told us. She also admitted to belonging to the demographic of people who are “bored at work and generally sad.” Grade: B-

Then we voyaged over to the side stage to see what sludge noise punk-rockers Mayor Daley were up to. To our dismay, they were subpar and lacked the same driving power and tenacity they possessed during their 2010 Bitchpork set. Maybe it was where we were standing or that after 20 years, Daley is no longer the mayor of Chicago. But, sound/ political issues or not, a good band should be able to make you feel at least something with their set, no matter where you’re standing or who is in office. Grade: C+

Chandeliers is true DIY. In fact, they recorded their first album with a handheld recorder and released it on cassette tape. This time around they used a more traditional means – a production studio in Oakland, CA. Chandeliers told NPR’s All Things Considered “We love to see how we can stretch using limitation to its farthest reaches of musicality.” They certainly did that at Bitchpork. Chandeliers used a ukulele and drum beats and looped it all under their own sky high vocals to create polychromatic musical pieces. Their vocals shouted above flute-like keys and slightly afro-pop feel on chorus, lifted by lightness of looped noises. Grade: A-

There was a firebreather/ dancer in the alley. She was short and deformed in the face. She did a good job both fire dancing and fire breathing. Some people walked in front of her while she was performing, and later she complained about them getting in the way and disrupting her show. She seemed excited and happy to be there with people and breathing fire and dancing with fire. NO GRADE

The disappointment of the evening had to be Fat Worm of Error’s lack of Giant Worm Costumes, which had been a staple in the veteran noise band’s stage performances. That coupled with the restriction of roof access gave the proceedings a somber air. The host opened the set with the story, “So I’m Down in Wal-Mart, Sucking my Dad’s Pussy” and fans waited for the hip hop jester trio to start. One mischievous, albeit timely fan, led the charge screaming “I say Harry, you say Potter!” and all the other fans followed suit laughing as we all shouted back and forth. Grade: A-

The culmination of the evening had to be Mahjongg’s final set. They opened with a contemplative piece, then swung quickly into banging lo-fi dance territory. To close their set, Mahjongg thanked the various sponsors they’ve had through the years, including a major beer corporation and a car manufacturer. Vocalist Hunter Husar described a new model of Luxury Van as a “breakthrough in restructuring your travel spaces” and “the next step forward for bold restraint.” The lights burst and he spoke evenly into the darkness. He said, “You can either have a child or be a child, you can either have a child or be a child.” From behind the recreated Price is Right set, women emerged holding babies. The babies wore what looked like hearing protection meant for the shooting range. RIP+

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images – Daniel Evans