words by Derek Wright
When Apples in Stereo front man Robert Schneider joked that he had been preparing for the heat of his July 20 afternoon set by staying in the dark for six weeks, it didn’t matter. When he assured those at that Pitchfork Music Festival gig that the jumbo screens’ color wasn’t off, and that he was, in fact, turning that red, nobody noticed. Even when he took a break to chug a bottle of water, it drew caution from only die-hard Apples fans.
After two days of rain and manageable open-air temperatures, the Athens, Ga., band found itself playing a 45-minute set in almost 90 degree weather, starring directly into a cloudless sky, at 3 p.m. The odds were stacked against the psychedelic pop band: taking the stage during the most unbearable time of this year’s festival would be tough for any act. However, sandwiched between Japanese metal act Boris and the visual-audio experience of shock performers Les Savy Fav, a quaint guitar-pop act stood little chance of making its mark.
It didn’t matter that the Elephant 6 founders have built a reputation for unadulterated hooks, or that last year’s New Magnetic Wonder is one of the ensemble’s best records. All that mattered was the heat. Certainly, it took a toll on the crowd – with noticeably fewer causal viewers, people only left the tree-cover on the fest’s final day to see the bands that they specifically bought tickets to see. But the climbing thermometer was also evident in The Apples in Stereo’s energy. Despite running through one of the longest sets of the weekend – 13 songs, what you get when your catalog is chock full of 3-minute ditties – Schnieder and crew seemed emotionally and physically drained throughout the day.
From the first notes of opener “Can You Feel It” through the ironically titled “Energy”, from 2002’s “Please” through the appropriately titled “Sun is Out”, the act played their instruments with the type of excitement of people who had just finished a hike. Except they only had to walk up a flight of stairs to get onstage.
The complimentary beach balls provided by one of the fest’s advertisers couldn’t even liven up the performance. The same yellow-and-black spheres that had bounced around the crowd all weekend now laid untouched on the lawn. When somebody did try to volley them about, no one else wanted to bother raising an arm to poke it back up in the air. The band didn’t even seem interested in the summer festivities, only in finishing their set.
Which is exactly what they did, but few bothered to notice that, either.