Pitchfork Music Festival at the Roundhouse, 13 November 2022

 

Pitchfork, if you don’t know, is an online music publication, founded in 1995 by writer Ryan Schreiber in Minneapolis, as an independent music blog. It’s grown from those beginnings and is now based in New York and owned by Condé Nast. If you want in depth reviews of new music, it is probably the best place to go. It has been sponsoring music events for some time, particularly in the US. The London festival first took place in 2021, and this year there have also been events in Paris and Berlin. The festival takes place over five days in a range of venues and has involved over 50 artists. Jon and I went along to the Roundhouse on Sunday afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, to see a line-up of eight bands, all led by women. The main attractions for me were the first and last acts of the event: Gretel Hänlyn and Courtney Barnett. I also got to see Big Joanie, Samia and Cate le Bon.

The concerts were held in two venues at the Roundhouse: the main hall and the Roundhouse Studio, which I’d not come across before. I think it’s probably used during the day, for drama and other arts – there’s an extensive educational and development programme at the Roundhouse. Gretel Hänlyn was first on in the Studio at about half past five. I’d say it holds around 200, and by the end of the show it was full. Gretel’s EP Slugeye, released in May this year is one of my favourite records of the year. It’s got seven tracks, and is full of great rock’n’roll riffs and catchy melodies, the best of all being the infectious Motorbike. There’s a touching ballad too, Connie, which brings out the best in Gretel’s distinctive, deep voice. A recent single, Drive, continues the high standard.

Jon and I saw her play her first headline show at Bermondsey Social Club in May. That was excellent, and this evening’s was even better. For a start, the sound quality in the studio was really good – for once I could hear the lyrics clearly throughout the show – helped I’m sure by knowing quite a few of them.  All the main songs from Slugeye featured, with the title track kicking off proceedings. It’s the Future Baby and Apple Juice were singalong highlights, and Connie was greeted warmly by the crowd. Drive had a frenzied power, and there were two or three new songs which really rocked. And then there was Motorbike, closing the show. A great celebration, indie rock’n’roll at its best. Gretel Hänlyn got the festival off to a brilliant start.

That was the last time we saw any of the artists in the Studio. When we gave it a try midway through a set by Fake Fruit (which sounded quite punky) there was a big queue of people waiting to get in. I would have liked to see Léa Sen, a French singer who has worked with Joy Orbison amongst others, as well as releasing her own material – Hyasynth is a good song – and doing a lovely cover of Bowie’s Golden Years for a tribute compilation called Modern Love which came out in 2021. No matter, there was an enjoyable run of artists in the main hall. We caught half of Big Joanie’s show – some good rocking there. I liked Samia a lot – classic melodic American pop/rock with some country-tinged melodies and some lively dancing from Samia herself. For some reason I had it in my head that she was a jazzy soul singer; later I realised I had listened to her 2020 album The Baby when it came out, having heard some tracks on 6 Music.

Big Joanie

Samia

Next up, and one of the best known artists in the line-up, Cate le Bon. I like her music – a jumble of folk, psychedelia and pop. I particularly enjoyed her 2013 album Mug Museum, featuring the tracks I Think I Knew and Are You With Me Now? To be honest though, I didn’t really get a lot from tonight’s show. Maybe it was the sound, but I found it a bit samey. Jon was more impressed and she got a good reception. So, just something that didn’t work for me on the night.

Jon had to go after that. I was briefly tempted, having had gigs five of the six preceding days. But I’d only ever seen Courtney Barnett in the broad daylight at Latitude, so I thought I should stay. I’ve always liked her music: a fairly traditional rock sound, but with interesting, discursive and self-analytical lyrics. Her best album is probably 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, which featured two of her best songs, the rocking Pedestrian at Best and the wistful, folky Depreston. Her biggest tune is Avant Gardener, a song about getting a panic attack while gardening – you get the picture! You can find that on the 2013 Double CD called A Sea of Split Peas, which has my favourite Courtney Barnett song on it, Canned Tomatoes Whole. It has a driving beat and a great guitar workout. I’ve slightly lost touch with her music in recent years, though I did like her 2017 collaboration with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice.

Well, I’m glad I did stay, because she and her band were terrific! A three piece, keeping it fast and loud for the most part. I didn’t recognise all that much of the set, but I loved the rocking sound, and Courtney’s guitar playing was really punching. Depreston midway through was a moment for the crowd to sing along, and towards the end, Pedestrian at Best was incendiary – the highlight of the show for me.

A fine evening of music, with rock’n’roll to the fore. Memorable sets from Gretel Hänlyn and Courtney Barnett, and some enjoyable moments in between. Let’s hope the Pitchfork festival is here to stay.

***

Some more photos.

Roundhouse view

Gretel Hanlyn

Big Joanie

Samia

Cate le Bon

Courtney Barnett

 

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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