The second day of Pitchfork Music Festival Paris offered everything from artpop glam-rock to Afro-beat jazz to electronic pop to straight-up funk.
The spacious room filled quickly as the crowd pressed themselves to the barrier in anticipation for the first act of the evening: the indescribable, glamorous HMLTD. Known for their unique sound and their individualistic theatrical commitment to their art, the London band is nothing to miss.
Despite a few problems with their guitars and the tumble of a speaker (a near-death experiences for us photographers in front), the six-piece left nothing amiss. Various influences become apparent with a dynamic range of glam-rock, early experimental R&B/hip-hop, electronic and goth, among others. Whatever the sound, HMLTD got Friday’s attendees real and ready for the night with danceable, stompable songs.
Cigarettes After Sex are almost jarring in their difference from the previous set. The sweet and slow molasses of the noir dreampop band drifts over the crowd like a light breeze, soothing the crowd’s ears and hearts.
Lit simply by streaming orange and white lights, the set is stripped-back and raw, much like frontman Greg Gonzalez’s songs about love and relationships in real life. The sultry crooning backed by lingering basslines, delicate cymbals, and ethereal synth chords is a heavenly combination that sends the crowd into a blissful dream-state.
Electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso opened with a bit of trouble; “Sometimes, you just gotta eat shit, guys,” singer Amelia Meath said with a laugh after a small crash-and-burn on producer Nick Sanborn’s looped beginning for “Hey Mami.” A second attempt produces results that concisely explains their set; on the beat drop, both members dance wildly around the stage with an enthusiasm to be reckoned with.
The crowd matches the wild movements with bobs and weaves, both on upbeat tracks and smoother tunes. “Radio,” a song off the pair’s newest album, features a sparkling synth backed by a sharp, hollow beat, and closes the set with its scathing review of being crushed by the elites of the music industry.
Andy Shauf has a full stage; six people crowd the platform, toting a wide array of instruments, including two clarinets. The Canadian singer-songwriter’s breathy vocals, breezy guitar, and emotive clarinets meld quintessential British pop and gentle folk for a complex framework of beautiful arrangements.
“Eyes of Them All,” off his most recent release, the narratively-built The Party, proves the clarinets are a smart choice as they showcase their ability to be both light and twittering, but switching to sad and slow at the drop of a hat. Backed by a culmination of deep beats and overlaid lighter notes, Shauf’s songwriting and performance is not something to miss.
Offering a melding of dream pop and soul, French quartet Isaac Delusion break into the set with funky guitar and a poppy synth. “Midnight Sun,” a release from the band’s debut EP, is classic pop broken by crisp drums, looping chords, and choppy vocal harmonies to create a bright-eyed and wistful atmosphere. Newest single from album Rust and Gold “Isabella” shines with a sparkling synth and layered vocals, sending listeners into a new dimensional wonderland.
Irish rapper Rejjie Snow (aka Alex Anyaegbunam) enters the stage next after his emcee starts the crowd going, opening with earlier single “All Around the World,” chanting along to the chorus. Lucky crowd members receive a full bottle’s worth of water to the face before the rapper dedicates “Fashion Week” to the festival as a whole. With sparse and echoey production, Rejjie Snow’s expert rapping is the focus. He stops the music to get the crowd jumping for “Blakkst Skn,” the song that “gives [him] energy.”
Taking the scene by storm, it’s no surprise why there’s such an excitement surrounding the release of his next album Dear Annie, scheduled to drop later this year.
The man, the myth, the legend of Kamasi Washington (and his talented touring band) graces the festival next with his unique take on jazz. Psychedelia, Afro-beat, and funk influences aren’t hard to find in the tenor saxophonist’s impressively big sound, and it’s not hard to see why he’s been described as something of a “jazz savior.” It seems to run in the family as well; during “Leroy and Lanisha,” a song off his (appropriately) epic 3-hour 17-track album The Epic— written about Charlie Brown, no less–Washington brings up his father, Ricky Washington, to join in on oboe, adding another aspect to the heavily crowded stage.
An upright bass joins the mix during a rendition of a song off his newest EP, Harmony of Difference, which explores the metaphor of diversity among human beings through the mixing of five different melodies at once. “Diversity shouldn’t be tolerated,” Washington says, “it should be celebrated.” With a tickling piano, soulful saxophone, and uptempo drums, the dissonance that should be expected from such a feat completes itself in a beautiful portrait that, as Washington desired, brings the people of the crowd together under admiration for such a talent.
“I think I hear two sirens approaching,” is the opening to the set of the French electronic duo Polo & Pan as they invite their two singers onstage to sing about traveling to a land aquatique during “Aqualand.” The girls gyrate wildly about the stage in floral kimonos, singing about an underwater world while Polo (Paul Armand-Delile) and Pan (Alexandre Grynszpan) work their magic on synthesizers in the back.
The pair take pride in creating fantastic worlds fit for the most imaginative of kids, backed by ethereal and eccentric beats. They know how to have fun; Polo invites the crowd to play the French version of Simon Says (“Jacques-A-Dit”) and gets the whole crowd to dance with their partner to their own radiant electro-pop as they continue their travels through space, the jungle, and many other destinations.
Straight-up funk closes the night out as Jungle (a duo in practice, seven pieces here live tonight) teases the crowd with an illuminated sign of their name before their sounds even grace the air. Falsetto harmonies and pulsating beats exemplify “The Heat” as sirens wail and synth chords explode in midair like summertime fireworks. Jazz isn’t lost on this lot, however, as the pulsating beat and clear guitar of “Lucky I Got What I Want” emerges melancholically soulful, with an off-kilter, dreamlike feel. Closing with ear-pleasing “Busy Earnin’,” synthesized horns and swirling swaths of synth shower the crowd, now heaving like a stormy ocean as they fade into the darkness of another night at the Grande Halle de la Villette.