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July 18, 2012


Review: Pitchfork Music Festival 2012

by @thoughtontracks

Three days in Union Park, a few dozen warm Heinekens and Newcastles, and great memories made along the way are what you get with the annual Pitchfork Music Festival. Here are my thoughts on the festival itself.  Be sure to check out Brett’s thoughts on the aftershows we attended for a complete run down on a weekend full of in indie rock.


The day begins with fighting Chicago traffic, a torrential downpour, and a lengthy cab ride to Union Park.  Walking in, the first band of the festival is Lower Dens on the Red Stage.  The Baltimore based band have a highly thought of LP in 2012 called Nootropics and they had a decently sized crowd for the 3:30 time slot.  Despite being delayed due to the rain, it felt like they were given ample time to impress.  Very mellow alt-rock, but not a bad way to ease into the day.

Next up was a few songs from hometown favorite Willis Earl Beal.  An interesting performance to say the least.  Whiskey induced soul music with minimalistic background behind Beal’s voice, more comical was the observation from Brett that he looks like a cross between mid 90’s Wesley Snipes and Deion Sanders.  Up after on the Blue Stage was minimalist Tim Hecker.  I’m not quite sure I can completely get into his music and performance style.  A little too “filler noise” for my liking.

We have arrived at our first highly anticipated show of the weekend: Japandroids on the Blue Stage following a healthy rain.  Wayyy too large of a crowd for the band on the tiny blue stage, but this is probably welcome news to the Vancouver duo.  They really don’t mess around on stage.  The play loud, fast, and with genuine emotion in their songs.  The p4k tweens were certainly awaiting, as this was easily the youngest crowd of any weekend show.

Pretty light crowd on Friday in general.  I’d estimate the place was only 70% full.

The best thing about this festival?  So. Many. Bands.  Immediately after Japandroids I take a quick walk across the field to settle into Dirty Projectors on the Red Stage.  Simply put, I left this set absolutely amazed and dumb founded with their talent.  With the rain cleared out and evening upon us, a ska-like live vibe from Dave and Amber was met with a marijuana haze of dancing twenty somethings.  That and Amber’s voice is absolutely incredible.  Featuring a heavy dose of all the hits from Bitte Orca as well as Swing Lo Magellan, this is a talented band that knows their craft.

The final band of the day at the festival was a dance party with Purity Ring on the Blue Stage.  Despite the volume feeling low, the group delivered a solid set off their debut LP.  Not much in terms of adlibbing or extended far from the each song’s core, it was a fun, lively set to close the day with.  “Fineshrine” was certainly the highlight.  I managed to catch the end of Feist on my way out.  She certainly has become a star judging by the production of her live set.  A full band and soulful chicks from Mountain Man singing back-up really bring out how amazing Laura’s voice truly is.


I am hungover.  I always get too excited on the first day.  It’s my calling card, what can I say?  Cloud Nothings began the day on the Red Stage.  After seeing Dylan Baldi and Co at the MOTR Pub a few months back, I knew what to expect and they delivered once again.  Best memory: the band willing on a downpour with a ten plus minute version of “Wasted Days” that seemed to get louder as the rains fell harder.  I’m soaked from head to toe, but it doesn’t matter.

Bradford Cox, donning a white painted face, a guitar, and a harmonica, plays an odd set on the Green Stage after a break from the rain.  A little too experimental for my liking here.  Just bizarre really.  I need another Newcastle.

Props to the metal head and his girlfriend at Liturgy for sharing their trash bag with us during another downpour.  Karma repaid.

Cults are awfully impressive.  I expected Madeline’s voice to be a little weaker, but she can wail.  Thankfully, the sunny Cults vibe brought the sun back to Chicago and returned the fun to the day.  “You Know What I Mean” stands out the most along with “Go Outside”.  Once again, heavy haze of fun and dancing in the crowd at the Red Stage.

Only was able to catch the last bit of Youth Lagoon.  From what I saw, Trevor Powers turned his album into a completely legitimate live performance.  While The Year of Hibernation brings a definite bedroom pop feel, in person was full of energy and loud beats.  Also caught a bit of Portland girl rockers Wild Flag whom I don’t recall anything memorable from.

Crowd is much more packed today.  Tons of people after the rains end.

I don’t get the appeal of Sleigh Bells.  Do you really listen to that sitting around by yourself?  If you do, please feel free to explain it to me.

Third row for Hot Chip.  Life Moment.  Ridiculously talented band.  Dance party with thousands of my newest friends.  Articulating my thoughts of this is difficult.  This was a sensual and mental experience for me.  I completely left this world of ours for an hour and just lived in the moment with the music.

On to Father John Misty…


I am hungover.  Again.  Father John, you are one interesting person.

Dirty Beaches plays an experimental set to open the day.  I wasn’t really into it.  A little too out there and rag tag for me.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra just kick so much ass.  This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve had the chance to catch these guys in the past year, and every time I enjoy it more.  The guitar has a quality live that isn’t heard much in other current acts.  Their next album to one to watch.

Too much.  I watch bits and pieces of San Francisco psych rock acts Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall but I am struggling in the heat, and its really effing hot, with the weight of the two previous days.  But there’s a long afternoon ahead, so some time on the ground in the shade is needed to rejuvenate.

Real Estate.  The first time I saw you, I made mistakes.  I had too much fun.  I’m sorry.  Thank you for the second chance.  Is there a better, more relaxing music than Real Estate’s Days?  There is a just a certain wavelength this band plays to that strikes me at the soul.  And by the looks of the crowd, I’m not the only one to think this.  Lots of the stoner/working professional late twenties around grooving.

Managed to catch the first few songs of King Krule.  Super young.  Looked a bit overwhelmed in the moment on the first song but got it together on the second.

Didn’t catch any hip hop sets this weekend but the crowds looked young and wild.

Beach House.  Incredible.  And another hazy show on the red stage…we seem to have reached a running theme of this stage from the weekend.  Lots of people, very chill, and extremely great.  Another moment of the experience for me.

Team Vampy Weeks.  You are the mainstream face of Indie.  You play catchy tunes.  I can respect that.


Some people spend their vacations going to the beach.  Others go hang out in a park in Chicago for a few days listening to music.  Whatever you do to check out for a bit, I hope you get what you need.  What did I get this weekend?  Cankles, hangovers, dance parties, and great memories.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Written by Greg Dahman

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Daniel
    Jul 18 2012

    Cults – I was very dissapointed could not hit the high notes that were the standouts on the album versions of “Abducted” and “You Know What I Mean”.
    Youth Lagoon – best sound of Saturday, better than the album.

    • Jul 18 2012

      Thanks for stopping by Daniel-san. I felt the same way about Cults when I saw them in Indy last year.


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