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Pitchfork Music Festival cage match: Tobias Jesso Jr. vs. Panda Bear

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.


Tobias Jesso Jr.

Friday, 6:15 PM, Blue Stage


Panda Bear

Friday, 6:25 PM, Green Stage

Tobias Jesso Jr. is an old-fashioned piano balladeer from Vancouver making his Pitchfork debut in support of his first album, Goon (True Panther). In 2012, when he was suffering from a breakup and failing to make it as a songwriter in Los Angeles, a car knocked him off his bike, tearing open his hand with its hood ornament. Days later he learned his mother had cancer, so he returned home to Canada. Unable to play guitar due to his injury (and with his gear in storage in LA), he began writing songs on piano. He's been compared to Randy Newman, but his sweet voice and hooky melodies remind me more of Harry Nilsson, Todd Rundgren, and Eric Carmen. He plays opposite Panda Bear (born Noah Lennox), a member of Animal Collective; he and his bandmate Avey Tare have appeared, alone or together, at five of the past eight Pitchfork festivals. On his lovely new album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino), he creates pretty melodies by layering Beach Boys-grade vocal harmonies within grimy, pulsing electronic textures and murky beats. Reviews suggest Jesso is still learning his way around the stage, while Panda Bear has always liked to hide behind a bank of keyboards—as good as these guys will sound, in neither case will there be much to watch. It's a toss-up, but I'd go with Panda Bear—if only because he's got more experience working the great outdoors.

Pitchfork's call: Panda Bear, 8.8 > Tobias Jesso Jr., 8.5

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