Sunday at Pitchfork Music Festival was all about the rock. As if responding to the relative flaccidity of Saturday's guitar-slinging population, a brigade of the world's best garage bands descended on Union Park for a marathon that could have doubled as a "rock 'n' roll is alive and well" infomercial. Starting with the Dinosaur Jr.-gone-party rock sludge of Milk Music, they spent the ensuing hours deploying one by one, each act seemingly intent on one-upping the last. Snotty Danish kiddos Iceage snarled their way through technical difficulties to deliver rousing and genuinely scary post-punk. Bay Area blasters Thee Oh Sees chimed in with airtight surf-rock sprints that hit like a punch to the face. Their neighbors Ty Segall Band instantly answered with breakneck garage nuggets of their own, Segall screaming and swinging around his guitar with breathless exhilaration. In swung The Men, Brooklyn cowpunks who ought to be from the Midwest, to rumble through working class guitar burners replete with harmonica and lap steel.
(The fact that these bands all overlapped in part was almost as perplexing as pitting two Deerhunter side projects, Atlas Sound and Lotus Plaza against each other Saturday. Whoever schedules this festival must be a sadist — or at least harboring a cruel grudge against the vinyl-collecting, dive bar-frequenting punk fans who love these groups.)
After all that bombast, Real Estate's lazy afternoon indie-pop was in order, and it sounded as effortless as ever. Consider it the exact opposite effect as Dirty Beaches, whose nauseating noise dirges started Sunday on a sour note. At least A Lull was nearby unrolling brainy, bubbly art-rock that blended Northwest pop experimentalists Menomena with jagged tropical punks Abe Vigoda.
The biggest headlines out of Saturday probably came from Kendrick Lamar, whose audience included Twitter pen pal Lady Gaga watching from the wings. I skipped most of 90s indie-rock heroes Chavez in anticipation of a monumental performance from the most exciting young rapper alive, but Lamar let me down a bit with lengthy banter between songs and a disjointed performance that lessened rather than strengthened his best songs. I still think his album "Good Kid, m.A.A.D. City" is going to be a revelation.
Pitchfork Music Festival is the only place where a rising rap star like Kendrick Lamar opens for an intellectual sound collage artist like Oneohtrix Point Never, but that's what happened Sunday. His headphone-oriented brand of electronic music is — as I've complained about several acts this weekend — not physical enough to be suitable for this setting. I much prefer the Millennium Falcon ride that was The Field or the schizoid drum machine manipulation of AraabMuzik, who invited Chicago teen rap prodigies Chief Keef, Young Chop and Lil Reese on stage to perform their stupid-good breakout hit "I Don't Like."
What else? Vampire Weekend returned from a hiatus to perform a new song plus a generous helping of hits. Unknown Mortal Orchestra performed quirky indie pop with a slight hip-hop twist. British teenager King Krule was like Jandek without the mystique. Beach House's super-serious music nearly put me to sleep.
And THAT was Sunday at Pitchfork.