The annual trip to Chicago for Pitchfork Music Festival is a weekend marathon that I look forward to each summer. This time around was no different as I spent three straight days with friends and music that I love. Pitchfork is all about relevancy. Hot Chip, Beach House, Ty Segall, and Dirty Projectors all provided memorable moments while playing favorites off their releases this year. The Union Park getaway offers an expedited introduction to records that Pitchfork coins “Best New Music”. While I spent last weekend checking off a majority of bands that I planned to see this year, it was the intimacy of the aftershows that struck me as I attempt to wrap my thoughts together. Three separate Chicago venues played host to Pitchfork festival snubs, which proved to be some of the most memorable moments of the weekend.
7/13/12: Dent May and Lotus Plaza at Subterranean
Subterranean sits right inside the Wicker Park neighborhood that has been used as a backdrop for such movies as High Fidelity. An immediate feeling of progressive culture hits me every time I head to the Subterranean. As I walk the streets of Wicker Park, I continue to look around and hope that Indy’s Fountain Square neighborhood can continue to grow to reflect the growing cultural shifts. Persistent redevelopment efforts and a push for new bands to stop through venues such as Radio Radio and White Rabbit Cabaret could allow for Fountain Square to grow into one of the Midwest’s most prominent scenes.
Subterranean’s two floors provide plenty of room and optimal vantage points. Oxford, Mississippi’s Dent May was the first to take the stage and offered a pick-me-up for fans feeling lethargic after day one of the festival. As I looked around during Dent May’s set and noticed many pockets of concertgoers dancing in their own respective worlds. I was impressed as the audience was highly engaged and offered Dent May plenty of praise to keep up the pace throughout the set. Dent May spent a majority of his set playing songs from his latest release Do Things, but also dropped old favorites like “Eastover Wives”, which garnered a significant reaction from the crowd.
Lotus Plaza took the stage shortly after Dent May wrapped up and leaned heavily on the reverb throughout their set. I enjoyed the first few songs from their 2012 release Spooky Action At A Distance, but lost interest as the set progressed. After Dent May’s dance party, it was hard to take a step back into chill mode, especially based on the circumstances.
If you have not given Dent May’s Do Things a chance then listen and do not look back. I promise you are in store for some easy going southern summer fun. If you are really digging it go back and grab his debut release The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele. I bought this one on vinyl at the show and it is fantastic as well.
7/14/12: Father John Misty featuring Gal Pal and Night Moves at Schubas Tavern
Schubas Tavern provided the stage for the Yuck/Unknown Moral Orchestra aftershow during last year’s Pitchfork weekend, and it was the last time I had set foot in this magnificent venue. As I got reacquainted with my surroundings ,I immediately made a promise to myself that my next visit would not be as delayed. The show was completely sold out, however, I never felt crowded and the sound was brilliant. After a night in Schubas it is easy to see why critics call it one of the best spots to see a show.
I will begin by saying that both Gal Pals and Night Moves were acts that I was unfamiliar with before entering this show, but certainly worthy of exploration. Both acts were able to embrace the crowd excitement around Father John Misty’s upcoming performance and use it to their advantage. After both sets, I looked over to my fellow Thought on Tracks contributors and noticed a nod of approval. Well done.
Father John Misty was one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend and he completely delivered. Readers of the blog have come to know J. Tillman as one of the most captivating acts of this year because he continues to produce material for us to talk about. Father John Misty went down the list and played the shit out of his debut release Fear Fun. Song, “Nancy from Now On” offered an open invitation for a sing-along amongst a sun burnt, half inebriated set of music lovers looking for one last chance to rock out on Saturday night. I will continue to keep a close eye on the spontaneity of Father John Misty and I am completely thrilled that he verified his great absurdness in his live performance.
7/15/12: Tanlines featuring California Wives at Lincoln Hall
The Sunday sting had settled in and the legs were tired as I left Vampire Weekend to see Tanlines in the final act of a long weekend of fun. Tanlines is coming off their debut full-length Mixed Emotions released on True Panther Sounds and is one of my favorite new artists of 2012. I have simply not been able to put Mixed Emotions down since I reviewed the album in March. Songs like “All of Me” and “Brothers” could both be identified as summer anthems, which help lead to a final burst of energy as Pitchfork came to a close.
Chicago natives, California Wives set the stage and laid down several dance happy hits to begin the show. This was my first exposure to them and I will be sure to keep an eye on their progress, as they will be releasing their debut on September 4th. As Tanlines took the stage it was apparent that festival goers were looking for one more moment of fun and the Brooklyn duo delivered. Tanlines was very personable in between songs and offered the crowd one last optimal opportunity to jam before coming down off a long weekend. The duo offered one last hit to send the crowd buzzing as they closed their set with “All of Me”. The energy inspired one final beer for the weekend and a benchmark moment of the weekend.
In last year’s review of my experience at Pitchfork Music Festival, I praised the event for it’s convenience and I continue to take the same stance with another year under my belt. Not only are the festival easily accessible, but the aftershow venues are easy to tackle. A short cab ride away led me to three of my favorite moments of the entire festival and I will continue to urge festival goers to take part in the additional experience. My goal is to make sure that it is not another year before I step foot in these three amazing venues. If you are looking for a midwestern live music escape, Chicago has it all to offer. From consistent band stops, to amazing festivals like Pitchfork, Chicago sits as the premiere midwestern musical stop for fans looking for a quick live thrill…c’mon Indy.
Written by Brett McGrath
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