Pitchfork Music Festival
The Pitchfork Music Festival (PMF) is a three-day event showcasing over 40 of independent music’s best band and artists on three stages. It took place this year from Friday, July 13 through Sunday, July 15.
The goal has always, ostensibly been to create a reasonably priced summer music festival in the Midwest. This is my third time attending and it has, for the most part, been a positive, comfortable and fun experience. This is Pitchfork’s 7th year holding the festival and it, as in previous years, was held at Chicago’s Union Park at the corner of Ashland Ave and Lake Street.
The Friday line up is usually just an evening affair with bands such as Sonic Youth and GZA performing one of their seminal albums. This year, however, Friday was a longer festival day, beginning at 3:20 p.m. with performances by Outer Minds and Lower Dens.
Lower Dens’ performance was exceptional, as is their latest album, "Nootropics." Jana Hunter’s haunting voice rang out over the crowd and filled the space of the park with Lower Dens’ music and vibe. They were one of the lesser known bands playing on Friday and much of the crowd milled around instead of staring, transfixed, as they did for both Japandroids and Feist, who played later in the evening. I suspect this will change as Lower Dens’ popularity grows.
Saturday, despite the heat, then the rain and the heat again, the festival was packed. Lines for beer (only Heineken was available, as one of the sponsors) were long and lines for beer tickets (a festival quirk that I personally loathe) were even longer. The music started at 1 p.m. with The Atlas Moth and The Psychic Paramount and built throughout the day. The Cloud Nothings at 1:45 p.m. were all but drowned out as Lotus Plaza began playing on another stage at 1:55 p.m.
The crowd finally woke up from the rain and heat stupor that overcame the venue at 5:15 p.m., when Wild Flag played. Starting out with their new material, they worked slowing into their last album’s hits and the crowd began to grow, gather, sing and dance along. Carrie Brownstein’s tremendous voice, talent and enthusiasm pulled the whole park into the orbit of the "red" stage and could be heard for blocks in any direction around the park. They finished their set triumphantly and fully in command of the whole festival.
Unfortunately, Schoolboy Q took it upon himself to school the crowd of mostly white hipsters in what he thought their hip-hop behavior should be like and drained most of the energy out of his performance with long, rambling speeches. He also ran long, which seemed to throw off the rhythm of the staggering of music, forcing Hot Chip, a huge crowd favorite, and Chromatics to play at the same time.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor is an extremely atmospheric band and perhaps a large, outdoor venue is not the best for them. Several people around me kept asking if they had started playing yet at least 10 minutes into their set. The music seemed to bleed away into the sultry night as the crowd chatted amongst themselves and played in the large mud pits caused by the day’s earlier rains.
There was a lot more going on at PMF than just indie music. Chicago literary entrepreneur Jonathan Messinger’s Featherproof Books showcased a number of small press publishing houses in its book fort and had readings throughout the day while selling books and other literary paraphernalia.
Flatstock, almost as much of a draw as Pitchfork itself, is a festival of posters hosted by the American Post Institute. It features stunning designs and hand-pulled prints from some of the most original gig-poster producers in the country. It is a natural companion to PMF. This year’s vendors included Bird Machine, Aesthetic, Landland, Burlesque of North America and many others.
Overall, PMF was another successful marriage of indie music and Chicago hospitality and hopefully will continue to attract discerning crowds and great indie bands for years to come.