Festival season isn't really a thing anymore, you can find one pretty much any weekend somewhere in the country, but this July, one of our favorites kicks off, when Pitchfork Music Festival takes over Union Park in Chicago.
Last year was my first time experiencing the fest, and I was instantly won over; the weekend was one of the highlights of my summer. After being to multiple festivals with the same problems: over-crowding; over-priced food & drinks; lack of resources like water during the incredibly hot days; lackluster line-ups especially during non-peak hours... you get the point. PMF offers cures to all of these, not to mention you're not breaking open your bank to attend - 3-Day Passes went for $130, and single day passes are available here for $60.
The festival also features reasonably priced beer and food, which is an absolute must if you're planning on surviving three days on a budget. Beer is provided locally by Goose Island, and they actually make some delicious beers, at a reasonable price too. Food providers include Chicago Diner (which is all vegan, and super delicious - and I'm not even a vegan), Chicago Homemade Pizza, Chubby Weiners, O'Brien's, Puffs of Doom, and Wishbone, amongst others.
Pitchfork Festival houses some other super cool vendors, like places for local arts & crafts suppliers to sling their goods, and a Record Fair featuring local record shops selling vinyl for super cheap; I scored a 7" of Prince's "Purple Rain" on all purple vinyl last year. There's also an entire strip of walkway that I referred to as "The Danger Zone" last year - actually called Flatstock - where the country's best show poster artists set up booths where you can purchase posters they've made over the years. Literally thousands of amazing pieces of artwork are available for purchase here, and had I come with $50,000 to the festival last year, I'm certain 99% of it would have been spent here.
But what's more important to a music festival than the music, right? Let's get down to it.
Pitchfork is packed with so much wholesome goodness, that I need to split this preview piece into three separate pieces. Let's start with Friday. If you don't feel like reading, you can check out our Spotify Playlist on your own device by clicking here.
Death Grips (3:30 @ Red Stage)
Just like last year, I'll be starting off the weekend with a punch in the face. Last year I rushed to Trash Talk as one of the first sets of the fest, and this year Death Grips will be the first set I won't want to miss. The experimental hip-hop/hardcore group is breaking down barriers with each new album they release (er--leak, themselves), and their live show is a force to be reckoned with. Oh, and the group is only two members... which is insanity considering how much "noise" they make in a single song: check out "Hustle Bones" - a video which features a POV of money and weed being tumbled in a dryer.
EDIT: DEATH GRIPS HAVE BROKEN UP, THUS WILL NOT BE PLAYING AT THIS YEAR'S PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL
Factory Floor (4:15 @ Blue Stage)
Next up, I aim to check out Factory Floor, an artist off one of my favorite labels of all time, DFA. Their sound is a fresh take on "post-industrial" music using plenty of live drums and synths to accompany the stirring vocals.
Sharon Van Etten (5:30 @ Red Stage)
Ah yes, I get to be reunited with one of my favorite female singer-songwriters, Sharon Van Etten. One of indie music's favorite female voices, Sharon (as she lets me call her) is sneakily a fantastic musician as well. Her music comes across as down-tempo, acoustic rock, but her live shows will never bore you. And if you get the chance to talk to her around the festival grounds, you'll be blown away by how genuinely nice and caring she is as well. Fresh off the release of her latest album, Are We There, she'll be sure to dazzle you with new music, as well as some old favorites like "Serpents" and "Warsaw". Check out "Taking Chances" from her latest album.
SZA (6:15 @ Blue Stage)
One of my sleeper picks for 2014 is SZA, although it's difficult to call her a sleeper pick, with the amount of favorable press she's been getting... not to mention the amazing acts that collaborate with her on her latest album, Z.
SZA has the potential to be a great pop star, her electronic beats back a fantastic voice with an immense amount of glimmer (I'm sure someone said that about Lorde at one point as well, and look how far she's made it).
I'm surprised she'll be playing the fest's "small" stage, but I'm not complaining. Don't miss her set, even if it's the tail end of it after checking out another act. Her track "Babylon" features Kendrick Lamar, Sunday night's headliner. It's a shame the acts aren't sharing the bill on the same day, because I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up collaborating onstage with her for the track... nevertheless, I wouldn't put it past Kendrick to show up, Pitchfork has a recent history of bringing together their acts (much like last year's Sky Ferreira x Blood Orange's Dev Hynes version of "Everything is Embarrassing").
Giorgio Moroder (7:20 @ Red Stage)
I'll be the first to admit, I hadn't really heard much of Moroder before Daft Punk's latest album, which relied heavily on Moroder's production and pure-funk guidance. The results were a Grammy Award-winning album for best album in 2013, and probably more importantly, many bloggers and critics placed Random Access Memories in the upper echelons of their year-end lists. Whether or not you agree with that album's heavily lauded acclaim, it's difficult to deny Moroder's place in music history.
I may not have heard of Moroder, the proclaimed "Father of Disco," before 2012, but I'd definitely heard his influence. Active since 1965, undoubtedly longer than 98% of the crowd at PMF has even been alive, and working with such infamous acts like the aforementioned Daft Punk, but also Donna Summer, Freddie Mercury, and helped score films like Top Gun, Flashdance and Over The Top. If this isn't a dancing hipster's wet dream, I'm not sure what is.
If you're like me, you're a sucker for Italian-bred synth disco, and if you're also like me, you wouldn't be found anywhere else at 7:20 p.m. (Central Time) in the world. This will be a set not worth missing, and one that will undeniably get you to move your ass.
Here's Moroder at his finest, with "Too Hot To Handle" from 1977.
Beck (8:30 @ Green Stage)
Alright, alright, it wouldn't be a music festival worth attending if you weren't somewhat excited for the headliners. I dipped out of last year's opening headliner, due to my fear of thunderstorms and previous overkill on Björk from working in an Urban Outfitters from 2004-2006. But this year, it's all different.
Beck headlines the opening night of PMF, and it's difficult to deny there's ever been an artist that has consistently put out good music, for as long of a timespan as Beck has. It'd be cliché for me to say something like "it seems like only yesterday that Beck released 'Loser'" and to be honest, I'd be lying. I was nine years old then, and we've all grown up since that track was released, Beck included.
Not only has his music stayed good, but it's maintained relevancy. He has released twelve albums. TWELVE. All of which have stayed true to Beck as an artist and a person, never changing his style to conform to a record label or the industry's demands. That has to be worth something. Go see Beck.
Also performing on Friday: Hundred Waters (3:20-Blue), Neneh Cherry - performing in her second EVER U.S. show (4:35-Green), The Haxan Cloak (5:15-Blue), Sun Kil Moon (6:25-Green), Avey Tarey's Slasher Flicks (7:15-Blue)