Chicago was a balmy 95 degrees on the last day of Pitchfork Festival. The weekend was full of must-see acts like Animal Collective, Curren$y, Twin Shadow, and Fleet Foxes. Sunday, however, was something special.
Doors opened at noon while festival-goers were greeted with a warm welcome (both figuratively and literally) as well as free water. I had my own agenda in mind, deciding to check out UK’s Yuck!, Kurt Vile & the Violators, controversial rap collective Odd Future, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Deerhunter, and TV on the Radio. With only 3 stages taking over Chicago’s Union Park, there was plenty of time to see everyone and do a little shopping at the various tents.
At 1:45, Yuck! took the Red Stage. The quartet shined with their indie-pop at an all-time high. While technical difficulties messed with the latter end of their set, the crowd was still showing them mad love. Definitely check them out if you’re a fan of bands such as Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Matt & Kim. Across the way playing the Green stage was Kurt Vile & the Violators. As I watched, I wondered if there was some type of hair-length requirement to be in Vile’s band. They brought a certain “down home” atmosphere to the festival. Vile took up an acoustic guitar at the end of the set, almost sounding like Bob Dylan. The band is definitely worth checking out.
Back at the Red stage, chanting began: “Wolf Gang, Golf Wang!” and “Swag!” were amongst the calls from the crowd anxious for rap collective, Odd Future. Surrounded by hype as well as animosity, the group had a lot to live up to…and they did. Odd Future’s fearless leader Tyler, the Creator hobbled on stage with his broken foot and all, only to jump head-first into the crowd later in the set. Hodgy Beats, Mike G, DJ Syd the Kyd, and Domo Genesis also joined Tyler on stage, contributing their own tracks to the set as well as revving up the crowd. It was dangerous and glorious in all of the sweat and heat during the mid-afternoon. The protesters outside of the park did nothing to sway listeners and it seemed to me that the newcomers had one of the largest crowds of the day. While nothing the collective raps about should be taken seriously, these kids (all around the age of 20 or younger) have a serious talent and are oddly loveable.
After the tornado that was Odd Future, nothing else really seemed to matter. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti played only half their set, before lead singer Ariel Pink left the stage and angered crowd behind. The sound void was quickly filled by metal band Kylesa, who tore up the Blue stage. While the mostly mellow, indie rock seemed to lose its luster, there was plenty else to do. Posters created by local artists were being sold and local record store, Reckless Records was selling off some of their inventory at obscenely reasonable prices.
Veteran indie-pop rockers Superchunk played before a cool breeze fell over Deerhunter at the Green stage. The music seemed to cool everyone off as the festival was drawing near a close. Singer Bradford Cox seemed happy to back in the States, let alone the festival, saying, “Don’t let anyone tell you that this isn’t the best country in the world!” Patriotism aside, the band was a distraction from the heat and lack of standouts for the day.
Sadly, that’s where my Pitchfork experience ended. While I would have LOVED to see TV on the Radio, the hydration and sanity of the people I was hanging out with ultimately won out in the end. My new friend Charles, however, said that TOTR absolutely KILLED it, despite the recent death of bassist Gerard Smith.
This was my first Pitchfork, but it definitely won’t be my last. Like any festival, it’s always a good time and there’s always a chance to meet new people and discover new interests. There’s a certain community feel Pitchfork has that other larger festivals don’t. The organizers managed to make Union Park feel like its own city and that alone is a sign of major success.