Pavement Tour Diary: Pitchfork | Bleader

Pavement Tour Diary: Pitchfork

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The Pitchfork Music Festival. The big gig in my hometown with Pavement. We've all been looking forward to this for a long time. I've worked this festival a few times for bands and once as an employee of the fest itself. They've been some of the hardest shows I've ever mixed, actually. In 2007 I did monitors for Sonic Youth on Friday, mixed the first eight-piece Iron and Wine show on Saturday (with no sound check), and then did Stephen Malkmus solo (with Bob Nastanovich on a few numbers) on Sunday. In 2008 I mixed every band on the small stage with 15 minutes between sets and didn't have time to eat. My only break was to go over to one of the big stages and do monitors for Jarvis Cocker (with no sound check). That show went like this:

Me to Jarvis Cocker: Hello Jarvis, my name is Jeremy. I'll be doing monitors for you tonight. What do you like to hear?
Jarvis to me: I like everything really loud.
Jarvis to drummer: OK, here we go! One, two, three . . .

The set begins and I age three years.

I did two more shows with Jarvis in New York. After closing Pitchfork down Sunday at 3 AM, I took a 6 AM flight on Monday straight to sound check at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Each show I did was better and smoother than the last, and that's what I'm looking for every job I do. Jarvis and his band are wonderful folks, by the way.

I've got all kinds of crazy memories of Pitchfork. Practically every sound person in Chicago works the festival all weekend, what seems like the entire free-jazz community works on the stages, and all my touring buddies are in my town for a change.

Friday

For weeks I've been trying to get a food weekend ready for all the Pavement guys. I've long thought that Chicago might be the greatest food town on earth, and I'm always trying to convince other people of that. Rob Pope from Spoon told me that his band had an amazing time at Graham Elliot a few weeks ago when they played at the Aragon. I figured I'd look into that for starters. (I guess Elliot used to be a punk rocker and likes bands to come in.)

But my favorite place in town (other than Irazu) is Wicker Park's Big Star, so I contacted them about getting a table too. For 14 people. On Saturday night at 8 PM. You'd be amazed what restaurants will do for you if you send them an e-mail and say, "I want to bring [famous band] to your place, can you bend all the rules for me?"

Most of the band members were flying in Saturday and out Monday, so there were really only two chances for big meals.

And then there's coffee . . .

Setting up the machine first thing in the morning
  • Setting up the machine first thing in the morning

I'd started writing the Intelligentsia folks and the Pitchfork organizers a few months before the fest with the idea that they should meet, and before you know it two of the three previous world barista champions were working backstage making coffee for the bands. God, that made me so happy. I can't believe it actually happened, but it did. Sorry to all you coffee fans that didn't have band passes, but there was a serious throwdown backstage all weekend.

World champion Michael Phillips
  • World champion Michael Phillips

Friday was so busy with all my friends in town, amazing coffee (the best iced coffee I've ever had), Intelli baristas, and texting Oliver Strand and Heather Shouse all day that I didn't get to see many bands.

I did see Broken Social Scene, and their festival set was fantastic. John McEntire was sitting in (he does that a lot) and the Sears Tower was in the background while the sun set. Pretty good day one of the festival!

Broken Social Scene vs. the Sears Tower
  • Broken Social Scene vs. the Sears Tower

John McEntire sits in
  • John McEntire sits in

Everyone was going to see Vacations at the Hideout that night, but I wanted to check out the Art of Touring exhibit opening at Johalla Projects.

Weeks ago they'd asked White/Light to do an installation and we couldn't make it happen, so Andrea Jablonski (one of the exhibit's curators) wanted to make an art piece from the results of my hearing tests and a list of the bands I worked with. I had no idea what she'd put together and had to check it out. By the time I got there it had already sold! They hung it next to the album art Nathan Baker shot for our record. The rest of the show was great, and it stays up through August 7.

Hey, it's me!
  • Hey, it's me!

To end the evening I went with some wonderful people (Sanford Parker and friends) to a horrible place (the Flat Iron) and stayed out way too late.

Two more days to go!

Saturday

Apparently if you are with Sanford Parker and he orders a drink for you at the Flat Iron they think you want a glass of gin with some ice instead of something that resembles a "mixed" drink. So it's a rough morning. I've been reading a lot of Kingsley Amis lately, and for better or worse I've been channeling him while choosing my drinks. I bet Sir Amis would agree that a cocktail at Lula might make such a morning better. We had a wonderful breakfast and an even better cocktail. So good we almost forgot that they raised their prices again. I hope it's only on the weekends that two eggs are seven dollars.

The drink is nice too.
  • The drink is nice too.

Headed back to the festival site right away to see the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (a friend is mixing them) and hang out. (Read: drink coffee. Who's going to say no to the best iced coffee that they're just giving away?)

Charles from Intelligentsia was making them for me three at a time.
  • Charles from Intelligentsia was making them for me three at a time.

Blues Explosion!
  • Blues Explosion!

Wandered over to check out Dam-Funk for a few songs and floated around delivering iced coffee to the poor souls working onstage all day. There weren't really any other acts I wanted to check out, frankly. LCD Soundsystem is one of the tightest bands I've ever seen (Pavement has already done some shows with them), but I already had plans. I had a table for 14 at Big Star!

We had the corner tables outside and were there for hours. Everything from hundreds of dollars of margaritas (half of that was from the Broken Social Scene folks who stopped by to say hello) down to one calf-brain taco. I don't remember much of the subway ride home, to be honest with you.

LCD Soundsystem ship their disco ball everywhere.
  • LCD Soundsystem ship their disco ball everywhere.

Sunday

Oh boy. Got home from Big Star at 3 AM, alarm went off at 6 AM . . . this was becoming a trend. Sound check was at 8 AM and I still had to run by my studio to get Bob's wireless mike! Jumped in a cab and certainly felt those margaritas while the driver used both feet to drive the entire way to the park. Was it going to be that kind of day?

I actually arrived ahead of the rest of the Pavement crew and got a little time to talk to my buddies working onstage. I felt guilty that I was tired from having so much fun the night before and they were tired from packing LCD Soundsystem's truck. I made a mental note to bring them as many iced coffees as possible. We line checked (meaning the band wasn't there) and it was uneventful. The drum sub was pretty much useless, but I thought Steve would be OK. (The only subwoofer that has ever done anything for me is the L-Acoustics DV-sub, but good Lord don't blow it up! It's one of the most difficult cabinets to replace a speaker in. Three 15-inch drivers all pointed inward?) I got a few text messages during the line check, because I guess I was in the streaming webcast on Pitchork's site while I was working. Too bad it would be the only thing the festival got to stream from Pavement!

Went over to get some breakfast at Handlebar, and I forgot how killer the biscuits and gravy and cheese grits are there.

Thought about going home to get some rest, but Stephen Morrissey and Michael Phillips are most definitely not in my kitchen brewing perfect Kenyan pourovers, so I decided to head back to the festival.

So, did you see Major Lazer? After the first three songs I thought I was going to collapse and Skerrit Bwoy was freaking out for the entire set! That may not have been real Hennessy onstage (or was it?), but that guy knows how to party. I can't even imagine what their Reckless in-store was like!

Major Lazer owned the place
  • Major Lazer owned the place

Thats not Hennessy . . .
  • That's not Hennessy . . .

They had dancers, dragons, and ballerinas
  • They had dancers, dragons, and ballerinas

Then Major Lazer were done, and I had an hour to tweak things out over Big Boi on the other stage. Then it was finally time for Pavement. My least favorite time of day is when I've got everything ready to roll and I have to wait another half hour until the band comes on. Would Bob like his new wireless microphone without a sound check or is he too old-school for that sort of thing?* Should I check that vocal one more time?** Was Rian from Drag City really going to introduce them? (Oh boy, did he ever.)

The show went well, I guess. I did hear the two things that every monitors guy hates to hear from the singer. "I think it's feeding back, can I have more?" Oh boy . . .

Mark Ibold has no bass face at all
  • Mark Ibold has no "bass face" at all

* Oh, that new wireless mike I got from Shure? Bob loved it. He was running around the stage like a wild man right off the bat. Watch for this one in September!

Bob loves his wireless mike. Welcome to the future!
  • Bob loves his wireless mike. Welcome to the future!

** I'm always worried that if enough time goes by all my mixes will go wrong and all the mikes will break, even though I check them a hundred times. This actually did happen to me the first night I ever worked for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It was in the Logan Square Auditorium, and after I checked everything 87 times they started the show. There was a huge intro while they led Karen through the crowd (the "backstage" is nowhere near the actual stage in that joint), and after a huge flourish of capes and sashes and lights she grabs the mike for the first verse and no sound comes out and she looks straight at me with a crazy look. I should say straight through me, 'cause that's how it felt. It might've been one of the biggest gut-wrenching moments of my life. I always have a spare vocal mike set up, and that night was no exception, but I never did find out what happened to that first microphone on her walk to the stage.

Monday

A normal morning at Wormhole
  • A normal morning at Wormhole

If any of you know me, you probably know that I end up at Wormhole in Wicker park almost every day I'm in Chicago. It's close to my house and has the most consistent espresso in Chicago outside of Intelligentsia. Monday began like many others, here at this cafe, but the one difference was that Steve Shelley was with me. You might know that I'm in a band with him, and I also happen to do monitors for his other, slightly more famous band. He doesn't drink coffee, but he humors me anyway, and it was really close to Reckless Records, where Chris Connellly works (he's also in our band). Our record was coming out on Tuesday, July 20, and Steve flew in so we could all DJ at the Burlington. We spent the rest of the afternoon going to our haunts. Steve is obsessed with Irazu (who isn't?) and we also hit Ipsento for another (surprise!) espresso.

The Publican
  • The Publican

We had an amazing dinner at Publican, thanks to Heather Shouse, and it won't be my last. The company was varied in the best way, and I made sure the seating encouraged maximum mingling. A greeting-card maker, a manager of an Apple store, two promoters from England, a member of Pavement, a member of Sonic Youth, two stylists, and a food writer. The quality of the company was matched by the quality of the food and drinks! Even as a vegetarian, I was able to stuff myself silly (please get the fries and eggs after drinking two Belgian beers) and the pickled watermelon rinds were one of my favorites ever! We were there for hours watching all the meat eaters go nuts on plate after plate. I thought about trying the chicken after everyone couldn't stop talking about it, but I didn't. (My wife had a forkful, though, her first meat since I've known her!)

Pork skin. The others told me it was wonderful. I don't touch the stuff.
  • Pork skin. The others told me it was wonderful. I don't touch the stuff.

The pickles were my favorite thing. I hope they have the watermelon rinds next time!
  • The pickles were my favorite thing. I hope they have the watermelon rinds next time!

They had some pretty great beer too. Imagine that!
  • They had some pretty great beer too. Imagine that!

Fantastic company indeed
  • Fantastic company indeed

Oh wait, we have a DJ set to go to! Steve and I jumped in a cab and left the others to pick up the tab (ah ha!) and sped over to the Burlington to meet Chris and Sanford (bandmate number three), who were happy to see us. A party was indeed had all night. Steve started out with some tasty singer-songwriter "real" music, and then Sanford played (gasp) a few songs from our new record. After four rye whiskeys I was playing some deep cuts (read: Killdozer) and finished out the night with a smile on my face a mile wide. I can't wait until this band plays some actual shows! See you there?

Fantastic company indeed
  • Fantastic company indeed

PS: Tuesday, July 20. Cafe Mustache opened this week in my neighborhood and when I tried it I couldn't finish my espresso! If the owner of the cafe can't pull a decent shot, I don't know what else to say. If you're there, you're close to Ipsento anyway. You should just pedal your way over there.

Jeremy also posts on Twitter and is probably on the road right now. . . .

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