Ville Kilpeläinen was in the right place to cover Pitchfork Music Festival Paris for OQM. Read his report to see what he made of the somewhat eclectic line-up and surroundings.
The sixth edition of Pitchfork Festival Paris took place at La Grande Halle de la Villette last weekend (27th-29th Oct). The Grande Halle is a great location for a festival like this with its relative centrality and being just the right size so you can really see all the shows without the need for screens. There are two stages directly opposite each other, which means that the timetable has to run exactly on time, because two acts can’t play at the same time, not even for a short while. The atmosphere at the festival is very pleasant, there are no bottlenecks in the area and hardly any queuing. The hall is big enough that you can sneak in the front row without much elbowing but also small enough to enjoy the shows from the back or from the several balconies.
One would expect the festival’s audience to consist mainly of Paris bobos (“bourgeois bohème”) or the Fashion Week set but this is not the case. No 900$ Vetements t-shirts were in sight. Instead the festival is full of Parisians wearing their uniform of all black everything coupled with stylishly messy hair and minimal je ne sais quoi accessories. No one (at least no French person) is visibly drunk or acting badly, there is no bumping, spilling beers or shouting, no cat calling, and most importantly no shirtless bros. There was a rather limited food court, nice arts and crafts market, a vinyl shop and even a booth where you could record a karaoke duet and have it carved on vinyl right there on the spot. The lineup this year wasn’t perhaps as star-studded as the previous years, but provided several excellent shows and very few disappointments.
…the festival is full of Parisians wearing their uniform of all black everything coupled with stylishly messy hair and minimal je ne sais quoi accessories.
Parquet Courts had the honour and disadvantage of being one of the first bands at the festival, which meant playing to an audience of a few hundred people. The band delivered a solid set of slacker indie rock that was pleasant but perhaps nothing to write home about (or on an online magazine). Next up were Canadian math-indie band Suuns. The audience seemed to warm to Suuns’ slow burning, pulsating music that shifted the mood to the beat oriented acts that dominated the rest of the evening. The evening’s highlight arrived with a set from Floating Points’ 5 piece live band. The band played in a semi circle with Sam Shepherd (aka Floating Points) off to the side, a formation that literally put the music itself front and center. The set was jazzy and kraut-like, something that would not have been out of place at the Montreux Jazz Fest in 1976. The lighting engineer was a bit heavy on the strobe light, which left a part of the audience – myself included – watching the floor as much as the stage. Apparently this was the band’s last gig of 2016.
The lighting engineer was a bit heavy on the strobe light, which left a part of the audience – myself included – watching the floor as much as the stage.
DJ Shadow played a set that included actual scratching and some drumming from the man himself (funny how scratching can seem so old school already, like a classic rock guitar solo). He seems to keep the set interesting for the audience and himself by playing slightly different versions of old favourites: for example, the crowd favourite ‘Midnight In a Perfect World’ (based on the track ‘Sekoilu Seestyy’ by Pekka Pohjola) started out with the original intro but segued to a fresh-out-of-the-oven Hudson Mohawke remix. Shadow’s breakthrough album Endtroducing… turns 20 years this year, so it would have been nice to hear more tracks from that era. Mount Kimbie have taken their sweet time to prepare the follow up to 2013’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. There was a stark contrast between DJ Shadow ending his set with the iconic ‘Organ Donor’ and Mount Kimbie starting their set with their delicate and sophisticated IDM. Their new tracks sounded promising, and the band’s live set up keeps things interesting and versatile. The duo take turns on different instruments with a live drummer and a mystery female vocalist/keyboard player bringing depth to the sound. James Blake used to be a touring member of Mount Kimbie, so clearly the duo are good at spotting talent. Perhaps we’ll hear more about this new female member in the future.
Porches played their set to a smallish crowd early on Friday night. The band’s show was a nice start for the evening and frontman Aaron Maine seemed to enjoy and appreciate being there. The tracks from their new album Pool sounded sensual and lovely. It doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that Porches were formed in a town called Pleasantville, New York. Flavien Berger seems like France’s Jaakko Eino Kalevi, a long haired character manning the electronics and singing alone on stage. He showcased the semi-detached, at times playful and/or dramatic romanticism that only the French do so well. Explosions In The Sky were perhaps the polar opposite of Berger with their wide screen post rock. The band produced an impressive wall of sound coupled with a nicely executed light show. By the time Bat For Lashes started the Grande Halle was filling up nicely, Natasha Khan and her band delivered a pleasant yet unsurprising set.
He showcased the semi-detached, at times playful and/or dramatic romanticism that only the French do so well.
Whitney released the most charming indie pop album of 2016 earlier this year, and perhaps delivered the most charming show of 2016 as well. Whitney seem to like to describe themselves as “country soul”, which at first I thought was an inside joke but it turned out to be exactly what the 6 piece live band sounds like live. At times Whitney sounded (and even looked) like The Band with their singing drummer and surprisingly groovy and soulful delivery. To further emphasize their rootsy leanings, the band played covers by Bob Dylan (Tonight I’m Staying Here With You) and NRBQ (Magnet).
Newcomers Shame from the UK mixed things up by alternating between punk energy and laddish indie rock, and the audience got to see some crowd surfing and beer throwing, both of which are always refreshing after a few nights of sophisticated electro. Minor Victories, the post rock/shoegaze superband consisting of Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), guitarists Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai) and Justin Lockey (Editors) were perhaps a little less than the sum of its parts, although the set did have its high points. There are very few (if any) super bands that are better, or even as good as the members’ original bands (Audioslave, Them Crooked Vultures anyone?) and Minor Victories seem to be no exception unfortunately.
….the audience got to see some crowd surfing and beer throwing, both of which are always refreshing after a few nights of sophisticated electro.
The last act of the festival (for me) was L.A. art-rock band Warpaint, who drew the biggest crowd of the evening so far. They’ve shown some real staying power after finding worldwide success already with their debut album The Fool (2010). The band has a unique sound, a kind of skeletal groove accompanied by two great vocalists. Their understated and classy set provided a great ending for my weekend.
Special thanks to Juha Nurminen for photography.
You can see more of Ville’s gifs and live shots from Pitchfork Festival Paris via OQM’s Instagram