12:52 AM EDT, July 16, 2012
By the time Vampire Weekend wrapped up 25 hours of weekend music Sunday at Union Park, the Pitchfork Music Festival had weathered rain, heat and some migraine-inducing scheduling dilemmas.
Pitchfork is the type of festival where fans get particularly vexed about cruel overlaps in the schedule. The audience for the Ty Segall Band and Thee Oh Sees is essentially the same.
Both bands have played on each other's shows and records. They come from the same San Francisco garage-punk scene. And yet here they were Sunday playing within 20 minutes of each other on opposite sides of the park. To an indie-music fan, that's the equivalent of being forced to choose between two of your children.
"Hey, I want to see their set but I have to play at the same time," Segall said with a laugh before the festival.
On stage Sunday, Thee Oh Sees showed their mastery of dynamics, working the quieter end of the spectrum as deftly as the loud. Their psychedelic-garage rock came in all shapdes and speeds, and it made the peaks resonate more forcefully. Singer-guitarist John Dwyer fired up junk-yard solos, elemental riffs morphing into interstellar shards of noise and melody. Segall's quartet had a bit more metallic edge, as emphasized by a rowdy cover of AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds."
The two bands were part of a string of thumping rock bands in the Sunday afternoon heat, including young Danish punks Iceage, who pretended like it was the dawn of the hard-core era all over again, and The Men, a Brooklyn outfit that jumped in the Southern boogie van for some tranced-out highway rides and country-flavored ballads.
Fans were inundated with hype all weekend, which built to a fever pitch late Sunday afternoon when Lady Gaga was rumored to be in the house, ready to join Southern California hip-hop MC Kendrick Lamar. But Gaga stood to the side of the stage while Lamar did his gangsta spiel over mellow, almost jazzy beats, accompanied by billowing clouds of smoke from the audience.
Lamar was the rare rapper who performed with only a DJ – no hype man, no guest MCs, no dancers. But for solo turns, nobody outdid Willis Earl Beal. With just a reel-to-reel tape machine as accompaniment, Beal put on a powerhouse display of singing Friday, filled with pathos and against-all-odds resilience.
"I am over-indulgent and sappy," he said. "I take pride in it."
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