No. 9: Jarvis Cocker At Pitchfork Festival, July 2008

While watching Jarvis Cocker command the crowd at Chicago’s Union Park this summer, I knew I was watching an old pro at work, and I was glad. I’d already seen plenty of young bands—the Dodos, Fleet Foxes—strum and harmonize their way into indie-rock hearts with maximum earnestness. All fine and dandy, but I felt like they lacked gravitas. They didn’t own the big stages; they just rented them for a while. Despite some early troubles, Public Enemy had that weight, that importance about them during their Friday-night set; Jarvis had it tenfold. The minute he snaked his way onto the stage, right at sunset on that Saturday of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, he held everyone in his sway, despite not playing a single Pulp song.

“Running the World”

Jarvis emotes with his entire willowy body, which flails around like a bundle of wires, twitches with each phrase. And he’s still a fabulous singer; he knows his material inside and out, how each phrase can be contorted for maximum effect. After seeing Jarvis (as well as fellow old pros Dinosaur Jr. and Spiritualized), n00b bands like Vampire Weekend came off looking like they barely knew their own songs.

Everything he did was charming. Between songs, he read facts about Chicago that’d he’d printed off Wikipedia. He writhed around on the ground, Marty McFly-style. He took off his sportcoat only using his shoulders, to the delight of my female companions. He made Tim Harrington’s admittedly hilarious antics the next day seem rather dopey by comparison. I appreciate youthful energy and enthusiasm as much as the next guy, but watching Jarvis, I realized that as I get older, I appreciate the old pros more than ever.

Running the World [YouTube]
Jarvis Cocker [MySpace]
80 ’08 (and heartbreak)
[Pic: Getty]

  • Anonymous

    Second best act of the whole weekend, for sure

  • Lucas Jensen

    @tim_loves_cats: Who was the first in your opinion? I’d put Spiritualized up there.

  • dyfl

    Saw him in Brooklyn shortly after this and it’s true, the man puts on a phenomenal show. He’s on the “must see” list every time he comes to town now.

  • Eugene Langley

    While it may not have been the best of the weekend, the Hold Steady’s set was probably the best I’ve seen them play. They do very well with huge crowds. As for Jarvis, watching him on the Jumbotron was better than even being a member of Fleet Foxes.

  • baconfat

    @Lucas Jensen: not that anyone asked for my opinion, but i’d have to say that public enemy ruled the festival. jarvis was fantastic, too. and i thought times new viking did pretty great considering they were playing in the hot noontime sun and had just gotten in from the siren festival in nyc.

  • Anonymous

    @Lucas Jensen: I liked The Hold Steady, but that’s probably just because I like them more in general, have all their records, etc.

    But still, Spiritualized were PHENOMENAL. I wasn’t expecting them to be that good for some reason, they were in my favorites for sure.

  • Whigged

    Isn’t this the show where Flavor Flav showed up late and was roundly booed by the crowd when he began to pimp one of his VH1 embarrassments…only to respond with the killer comeback: “What’re ya’ll – a bunch of ghosts?”

  • Lucas Jensen

    @Whigged: It was, and it was still a great show.

  • moomintroll

    Jarvis and Spiritualized were my favourites of the weekend. Jarvis has some sort of unique ability to take things that Granddads do; blurt out random facts about things, speak in comforting northern British dulcet tones (maybe that’s just my granddad), wear charity shop suits, etc… and make them all seem really cool.
    My granddad probably wouldn’t sing “Running The World” though, I just can’t see it.
    I have to admit I can’t really remember anything else from Pitchfork except Jarvis and Spiritualized, oh, and Dizzy Rascal.

  • MayhemintheHood

    2008 was the year I found out who Jarvis Cocker is. I mean, I had heard some Pulp before, but every time I saw “Jarvis Cocker” I had no idea who he was. I changed that, though.

  • Poubelle

    This would probably be my #1 musical moment (event?) of the year.

    I really loved the part where he started talking about how Chicago was one of the places where the blues got started and ended up apologizing for Eric Clapton.

    Also, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with Pitchfork otherwise, and then I never would have seen Dizzy’s awesome set.

  • moomintroll

    @moomintroll: Erm, I meant Dizzee Rascal, obv. And he was glorious.

  • Dick Laurent is dead.

    “Could I love him any more?”

  • moomintroll

    @Poubelle: Sorry :) Actually, it was only after reading your post that I saw my mistake. I was thinking it looked weird, then I read mine and was all like “aww blerg”. Good lesson though, never use a moomintroll post as reference :)
    @cookiedough: It was awesome. Even that song with Calvin Harris sounded good when he did it live.

  • cookiedough

    @moomintroll: Haha this is kind of embarrassing, but I watched Pitchfork’s live internet feed of Dizzee’s set.

    On second thought, I’m really not ashamed because it was that awesome.

  • Poubelle

    @moomintroll: I was going to spell his name Dizzee, then I looked at your comment and thought I was remembering it wrong. That’s what I get for being too lazy to open iTunes, or something.