Brazil’s Os Mutantes made its long-anticipated Chicago debut at the Pitchfork Music Festival last night, and I can’t honestly say it was worth the wait. I’m very happy to say I’ve seen them—which is to say all ten of them, though only three original members were on hand. But as my companion Michelle pointed out, if I didn’t know the band’s old recordings or its colorful backstory I would’ve been utterly perplexed that this group was playing an indie-rock festival. They played a bunch old classics, including “Baby” and “Bat Macumba,” but they sounded strangely toothless. Weirder still was the presence of two throaty back-up vocalists—who, paired with brothers Arnaldo Baptista and Sergio Dias, and new lead singer Zelia Duncan, gave many of the tunes a strong whiff of early-70s peace-and-love musicals like Hair and Godspell. The amazing thing to me was how many people stuck around to catch the headliners on Sunday—I’d guess about 90 percent of the crowd hadn’t heard the band before. The Pitchfork brand is nothing to sneeze at, I guess.
Earlier in the day I caught good sets by Mission of Burma, Yo La Tengo, and Glenn Kotche. I didn’t attend the last year’s Intonation Festival—which Pitchfork curated—but I have to say that as much as I dislike these sorts of outdoor music festivals, I had a great time. The vibe was terrific—people seemed to enjoy themselves without getting wasted and the staff was laid-back.