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.