These days you practically can’t walk down the street without stumbling into a music festival. They’re all over the place, in cities all across the country. With all of the festival options available to the average music fan, what makes Pitchfork a worthy prospect?
While other festivals like Bonaroo and Lollapalooza boast dozens of trendy, big acts plastered all over their posters, Pitchfork’s lineup is much more low-key, featuring mostly up-and-coming, lesser-known acts spanning a wide spectrum of musical genres. The festival also devotes some attention to “old guard’ indie acts, such as Yo La Tengo, Belle and Sebastian, and Swans.
This is the main draw for many people at Pitchfork: a large range of artists of all genres and styles means that, no matter how you slice it, you will end up seeing bands that you’ve never even heard of. While this may lead you to the occasional ear-shredding noise rock band or yawn-inducing dude-with-Macbook electronic act that doesn’t appeal to you, you may end up finding a band that you really like that you’d never have come in contact with otherwise. Even for those who consider Pitchfork a bothersome tastemaking website, this festival has a lot to offer. Festival-goers who keep an open mind will find a lot of opportunities to expand and round out their musical taste.
Pitchfork takes place in Union Park, nearly in the heart of Chicago. The park may be a bit small for how popular the festival has become. This seemed especially true Saturday and Sunday nights, when the park was so jam-packed with people that getting around to the various stages was even more difficult than usual.
DAY 1 HIGHLIGHTS
A grinning, disheveled Mac Demarco opened the festival Friday morning with a lot of energy and a healthy dose of lighthearted, upbeat rock-n-roll.
I was surprised by harper/singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom’s rockstar-like reception until I remembered where I was. Her Pitchfork set was a winning combination of old and new songs, played with remarkable technical skill for a spellbound, nearly silent crowd. She performed alone, accompanied only by the soft chirping of locusts as night descended on the festival.
Bjork’s unpredictable, avant garde music was presented with a sort of all-guns-a-blazin’ stage design. Wearing a shimmering, spiky golden headdress, Bjork capered on stage alongside massive projections, a choreographed choir, and even a tesla coil. It was comical and awe-inspiring, in equal amounts.
DAY 2 HIGHLIGHTS
Sturdy, Americana-influenced rock. A vital, compelling set from an instantly appealing band.
Noise-punk band Metz played a jagged, electrifying set, whipping the crowd into a frenzy the way only kool punk kidz can.
Post-Apocalyptic jams. Frontman Michael Gira was quite a spectacle: flailing, cackling, even chanting Latin on stage in the midst of a wasteland of noise.
Low’s ghostly, soft dream pop was a welcome contrast to Swans’ unrelenting terror. They played a cover of a Rihanna song to end their set, which struck me as a bit of a cheeky nod at some of the more uptight, unbearably hip festival-goers.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
These indie rock lifers seemed to be in their element on the festival stage. Lead singer Stuart Murdoch strutted and swaggered on stage to the tune of winsome, jangly pop.
DAY 3 HIGHLIGHTS
Blood Orange’s R&B-influenced indie rock injected a bit of much-needed funk into the punk-heavy festival. This act had even the most devoted head-bobbers moving their feet.
…The closest thing to a personal spiritual experience that I’ve ever had.
MIA’s eclectic brand of hip-hop/pop was a real crowd-pleaser. Everyone was into it, from the screaming die-hard fans jamming out up front to the 60-year-old men in front of me passing around a joint and dancing.
Trap superstars TNGHT brought their skittering, athletic dance music to the stage, closing out the festival on a lively note. A kickass show, but the music was, strangely, a little on the quiet side. I couldn’t even feel the bass rattling my bones.
BUDGET ALTERNATIVES TO PITCHFORK
For those who lack the funds or opportunity to travel to a music festival in another city, here are a few alternatives readily available to simulate the experience a little bit:
- Stand in a crowd of white people bobbing your head
- Eat too much free frozen kefir and develop a bad tummy ache
- Get your sunglasses broken by the fist of a particularly enthusiastic Lil B fan
- Ogle a lot of tattooed indie babes
- Listen to R. Kelly and trap music simultaneously, with R. Kelly just loud enough to be very disorienting
- Smoke weed