Boogie Chillen

By Emily Schmidt


Lately Chicago has become a center for summer music festivals: those sunny, sweaty multi-day events that cram thousands of strangers into a park to see dozens of bands they adore, or at least bands that they can name drop to have seen live. While Lollapalooza, the formerly punk-music focused festival that re-created itself in 2005, is the biggest draw of the summer, its closest Chicago rival would likely be the Pitchfork Music Festival. While I was not willing to shell out up to $150 for a 3-day pass to crane my neck in the hopes of seeing Kanye West at Lollapalooza, $30 for a 2-day pass to Pitchfork was far more reasonable. Especially since it meant compromising personal space with only 18,000 of the aforementioned sweaty bodies each day, instead of the 59,000 that turned out to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the final day of Lollapalooza.

This was the second year of the Pitchfork Music Festival, curated by the online daily music magazine Pitchfork (–the pretension of the group is evident even in how they phrase their role in the festival: they don’t host or sponsor, they “curate”). After curating the much more cleverly named Intonation Music Fest in the same location in 2005, Pitchfork split with one of its partners and two festivals were born: the second Intonation, a more hip-hop oriented event run by new sponsors, and Pitchfork, an expansion of the original Intonation.

This past summer’s fest consisted of three stages loosely organized around the genre of indie rock music, yet included hip-hop group Aesop Rock with Mr. Lif, Brazilian psychedelic rock headliners Os Mutantes (making a comeback after a heyday in Tropicalia in the late 1960s), and an entire stage dedicated to more experimental or underground groups.


This is the point that I’m likely expected to name the act I can’t believe you missed, or the moment that forever changed the way I listen to music. Yet I’m not able to do that, precisely because I was at a music festival. These events are comprised of dozens of hours of live music often over multiple days, which means appreciation of individual groups is lost among the constant stream of performances. Attendees (and I include myself in this group) concentrate too much on who is playing next and how they’re going to get close to the stage for that upcoming artist to really listen to who is currently onstage. (One great feature of Pitchfork was that the two main stages alternated performances, meaning no two groups were on at the same time, but even so, there was always a crowd at the empty second stage even when a group on the first stage had just begun a performance). Top that off with the bad acoustics of a public park, a mediocre sound system, a lack of intimacy that is unusual for bands that normally play small venues instead of arenas, and the outdoor swimming pool taunting from just beyond the gated festival grounds, and a festival meant to celebrate music just seems a bit irrational. While I bought my tickets for Pitchfork months in advance, excited about the chance to see some of my favorite groups, be exposed to new music, and enjoy a day outdoors, the whole event seemed more like a great theory than a great experience when it was all over.

Now that I have sufficiently bad-mouthed both Pitchfork and all music festivals past and future, I would like to say that I did have an excellent weekend: my opinion of The Silver Jews escalated after seeing them live (and I was lucky, as they are notorious for rarely touring); I now consider Ted Leo (of Ted Leo & The Pharmacists) a complete badass, as he banged his forehead against his microphone while singing and was visibly bleeding from my position approximately fifty feet away, but he was so into the performance that he didn’t even notice; I discovered my hatred for Danielson and the matching outfits they wear; and I enjoyed Chin Up Chin Up enough to steal their CD off the file-sharing network.
The adjacent poster fair was pretty impressive as well. The experience was well worth the $30 and the potential heatstroke, but the energy of a typical concert was lost by the barrage of groups, which many of the thick-framed glasses wearing crowd was content listening to from blankets in the grass, politely sipping beers

Day One

Main stages:

  • Hot Machines
  • Chin Up Chin Up
  • Man Man
  • Band of Horses
  • Mountain Goats
  • Destroyer
  • Art Brut
  • Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
  • The Walkmen
  • The Futureheads
  • The Silver Jews

Other Stages:

  • 8 Bold Souls
  • Flosstradamus
  • Chicago Undergound Duo
  • Tyondai Braxton
  • Ghislain Poirier
  • Spank Rock
  • Matmos
  • Matthew Dear
  • A-Trak

Day Two:
Main stages:

  • Tapes ‘n Tapes
  • Danielson
  • Jens Lekman
  • The National
  • Liars
  • Aesop Rock w/ Mr. Lif
  • Mission of Burnma
  • Devendra Banhart
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Spoon
  • Os Mutantes

Other Stages:

  • Jeff Park / Nels Cline Quartet
  • Bonde Do Role
  • CSS
  • Cage
  • Tarantula A.D.
  • Ada
  • Glenn Kotche
  • Dominik Eulberg
  • Diplo

it is actually fun to be on music festivals because i love music so much “

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:jawdrop: I’m speechless… I can’t beleive you pulled this off. In conclusion I think this is great!

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