Pitchfork Music Festival 2011, Friday: James Blake
I guess I just need to get used to it. In the past, electronic music acts that might draw a scant 200 people in Chicago. Tops. Today, those acts resonate with so many more. While standing in line for a beer at the Blue stage before U.K. post-dubstep crooner James Blake went on, I overheard a kid, who I would have guessed was 16, saying he could really go for a Blake T-shirt. If that's not a sign of crossing over, I don't know what is.
But the writing was on the wall with Blake long before his baby-faced fans started craving shirts. In May, for his first-ever Chicago show, he sold out Lincoln Hall. And then proceeded to lull everyone into a trance with his somber digital warbling. People have caught on to his ability to take what can sometimes be mindless club fodder, dubstep, and turn it into something really sophisticated. He kept his rep up tonight. Looking out on the sea of faces that crammed themselves into the Pitchfork fest's side stage, it was as if they were seeing something alien. There was a fair bit of head nodding, but as Blake rolled through highlights like "I Never Learnt To Share," "Lindesfarne I & II" and "Klavierwerke" there was no breaking the trance he had put the audience under.
That is, until he dropped "CMYK," a 12" cut not on his album that is possibly the liveliest movement of his set, if not his entire oeuvre. The clicks clicked and his hands crept across the synth keys like spiders, teasing out twinkling notes until the bass washed over the crowd, shaking them to full attention and reminding us all why James Blake deserves that expanding, T-shirt-buying fan base.