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Pitchfork’s inaugural Midwinter Festival was this past weekend, and it went off without a hitch. Sadly, this reporter was only able to attend Saturday, but that was more than enough. The effect of the music while walking through the exhibits and venues was haunting and surreal; it made you forget the harsh cold lurking just outside the doors.

Saturday’s performances kicked off in superb fashion, with a flawless performance from Tortoise, presenting their much-lauded album TNT in full. The Rubloff Auditorium was the perfect venue to sit and take in the full effect of the music. From there, Deerhunter spiced up Griffin Court with a high-energy set that leaned on their more energetic tunes to shake people out of the ambient fog.

After a couple beers it was back to Rubloff Auditorium for the real high-octane shot in the arm: Kamasi Washington. Right from the start, the two-drum assault, space-age vocals, and wild-eyed, frenetic saxophone work were all-consuming. As is his wont, Washington brought out his father Rickey Washington to augment the sonic assault. An intense, in-your-face performance, Kamasi Washington is writing the jazz of the future right before our very eyes, and his past-set-time performance at Midwinter was a righteous cacophony of swirling fury.

Back in Griffin Court, Panda Bear was easing people in and out of time and space with his distorted, loopy art pop. His trademark meandering vocals echoed throughout the venue, splashes of colorful psychedelia on the projector amplified by the ambience of the room.

Midwinter was a success for everyone involved, and it will only grow if it continues to be managed properly. The Art Institute was the perfect setting for the music on display, and the time of year itself provided a certain otherworldly feel to the whole experience. It was easy to forget where you were while you got lost in the soundscapes playing in the different galleries, let alone during the mind-melting performances from the main attractions. As mentioned above, this reporter missed out on Friday and Sunday, but given the success of Saturday, the rest of the weekend had to have been top notch as well.

Photo credit: Matt Lief Anderson (Tortoise, Deerhunter, Bill Callahan, JPEG Mafia), Kristina Pedersen (gallery)

Andrew Howie lives in Champaign and hides his pretentious music taste behind self-deprecating humor. If you seek radio hits, this is not the column you're looking for. Come here to find the acquired tastes, the obscure albums, the innovative and bizarre.