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Pitchfork Music Festival cage match: Perfume Genius vs. Courtney Barnett

What to do when the festival drops two of your favorite acts into the same time slot?



Like most festivals with more than one stage, Pitchfork sometimes books two great acts to play overlapping sets, forcing fans to make a painful choice. Reader writers found quite a few of those conflicts on the fest's schedule, and thought long and hard about who they'd go to see. These write-ups compare those decisions with the "winners" as determined by Pitchfork itself, via rounded averages of the ratings the site has given to each artist's releases.


Perfume Genius

Sunday, 3:45 PM, Blue Stage


Courtney Barnett

Sunday, 4:15 PM, Green Stage

Perfume Genius, aka Seattle's Mike Hadreas, went big on his third album, last year's Too Bright (Matador), using rich full-band arrangements to support his silken voice. The LBGTQ community has won some great victories lately, but Hadreas knows how far away true equality remains—his songs, even when they're tongue-in-cheek, bring to light the hate he sees all around. On "Queen" he sings about using the fierceness of a queen to push back against the discomfort he feels when people treat him like a freak. (The line "No family is safe when I sashay" is simultaneously triumphant and self-­consciously silly.) Australian singer-­songwriter Courtney Barnett conveys her unique vision by observing life's most quotidian details. On her first proper album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop), Barnett tells one gripping story after another in a kind of rhythmic talk-­singing cadence. She demonstrates a playful love of language even when she's describing her contempt for an ambiguous "you" on "Pedestrian at Best," hollering, "Give me all your money / And I'll make some origami, honey / I think you're a joke / But I don't find you very funny." Driven by her no-nonsense guitar-­heavy quartet, her rants burrow deep and should have no problem connecting with an audience outdoors. I'm sure Perfume Genius can grab listeners by the neck too, but late afternoon is probably too early for Hadreas's kind of transcendence.

Pitchfork's call: Perfume Genius, 8.4 > Courtney Barnett, 8.2

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