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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Sunday Recap

Phew, what a weekend! As usual, I’m feeling quite a bit drained from three long days of experiencing the dizzying highs and physical tolls of attending a music festival. It doesn’t get any easier as you get older, I can tell you that. Judging by the average age of the attendees this year, I’m beginning to fall on the older half of the spectrum. In spite of this, I’m never less than excited to attend the Pitchfork Music Festival each year, as I consistently claim it is my favorite weekend of the 52 that take place annually. So I may be tired and writing about the festival in a timely manner has brought its own set of unique challenges, but I’m not anything less than satisfied with how everything turned out. I’ll have my final set of thoughts on how I think the festival went this year, along with a massive photo set from the entire weekend, coming up in the next few days. In the meantime, please enjoy this summary of all the acts I saw perform on Day 3 of the festival, aka Sunday.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Saturday Recap

It always bothers me when things don’t work out according to plan, and the start/end to my Saturday at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival was one of those times. In what was supposed to be an early arrival to catch sets from White Lung, Pissed Jeans and Julia Holter, bad traffic turned a short drive into an extraordinarily long one. Thank goodness I finally made it in time for Phosphorescent. Then of course there was the weather. On checking the weekend forecast on Friday afternoon shortly before heading out on Day 1, it said a chance of severe storms on Friday night, then partly cloudy for the rest of the weekend. All was going according to plan until about 9 p.m. on Saturday when it started to pour. Of course it would. Let’s hope the park stays dry enough for Sunday that there’s not mud/sand pits everywhere like last year. As for the music itself, most everything on Saturday was an improvement over the somewhat shaky or mediocre sets on Friday. Let me break things down for you, band by band.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Friday Recap

Most things about Day 1 at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival could be considered challenging. Or, perhaps described a little differently, most things except the performances. The main factor on Friday was the weather. A glance at the temperature would tell you the heat index was in the upper 90s, and therefore it bordered on oppressive. Then again, it’s nothing particularly new for this festival or mid-July in Chicago. Still, the volunteer staff could be credited as doing a fair to good job of distributing bottled water to the sweaty masses, even walking around with cases of it through the crowd during sets. Yet if you went to one of Union Park’s few water fountains, the lines were long. The same could be said for all the beverage tents. Everyone was in need of some fluids. And while outside of the heat it was a nice and sunny day, it became less so when severe storms rolled in during the evening hours and effectively shut down Bjork’s set 30 minutes early. It hadn’t rained a drop when organizers pulled the plug on the evening, but there was a pretty great lightning show that could hypothetically have put people in danger. The actual rain, as it was reported to me, started about 30-45 minutes after the park was cleared. Hopefully it won’t be a soggy mess for the rest of the weekend. Beyond weather and lines though, let’s talk about the music itself. Here’s a recap of the artists I saw:

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Sunday Preview

I’m pleased to say that we’ve arrived at Day 3 of the Pitchfork Music Festival preview guide. This of course falls during Pitchfork Music Festival Week here on the site, which kicked off on Monday with an Artist Guide, and featured a preview of Day 1 on Tuesday and a preview of Day 2 on Wednesday. So yes, we’ve covered quite a bit of ground so far, and there’s plenty more to go. After today’s preview guide of Day 3, I’ll have day-by-day recaps of all the festival action, and we’ll wrap things up with a final look back at the weekend, plus look at a whole bunch of photos. This is going to be fun! If you’re headed to Union Park this weekend, please remember to dress for the weather (it’s going to be HOT, but will get progressively cooler with each day, and with the potential for severe storms all day Friday). Sunscreen, bug spray, etc. will be your best friend. Also remember to stay safe. Drink plenty of water, and if you’re moshing at any point, keep an eye out for your neighbor. This is one of the friendliest, nicest music festivals you’ll ever go to, so please don’t be “that guy/girl” and take away the enjoyment factor for so many. Sit back, relax, and party with great music and amazing vendors. Here’s your preview guide to all the artists you’ll see on Sunday at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival!

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Saturday Preview

If you’re headed to Union Park this weekend, I sincerely hope you’re following along with this 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival preview guide. There’s a lot of great and interesting artists playing the festival this year, as there are every year, and I just want to make sure you have the absolute best time possible. That’s why I try my hardest to educate you on all the artists on the lineup and try to help you make choices about what bands to see during what hour of each day. Yesterday we previewed Friday, and that’s a shorter day than Saturday and Sunday. So now here’s the guide for Saturday, which is longer and ideally more compelling. I think much of the day on Saturday is beset with fascinating conflicts, so you may want to skip around and catch pieces of different sets all day just to get a fully rounded experience. Now then, without further ado, let me present to you a guide to Day 2 at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival!

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Friday Preview

Welcome to Day 1 of the preview guide to the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival. In this guide, the purpose is to take a look at the artist schedule hour by hour and recommend the which acts to see when. I’ll be doing this for each of the three days of the festival, for the next three days leading up to the festival. That will be followed by daily recaps of all the action happening in Union Park in Chicago each day. In case you missed it, yesterday I started off Pitchfork Music Festival week with an Artist Guide, providing web links, audio streams, mp3s and even a Spotify playlist to help get you more familiar with the full lineup of this year’s fest. It’s gonna be a great one, I suspect. Now then, let’s get right into this preview of Day 1 (Friday) at the Pitchfork Music Festival. If you’re going, I hope you find this guide helpful!

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Artist Guide

Welcome to Pitchfork Music Festival Week! For the next seven days, you can count on more coverage of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival on this site than you can shake a stick at. What does “shake a stick at” mean and how does it apply in this context? It doesn’t matter! Just go with the flow. Anyways, as a grand introduction to this whole week’s worth of coverage, I wanted to help you get fully acquainted with all of the artists performing at this year’s festival. There’s somewhere around 45 or so (I’m too lazy to count), and depending on your tastes there’s a chance you might fall in love with all of them. Of course you’ll never know unless you listen to all of their music and judge for yourself. With that in mind, click past the jump to see a listing for every artist on the lineup, complete with links to their websites, songs you can stream on Soundcloud or Spotify (depending on your preference), and in some cases mp3s or full album/mixtape downloads. It’s quite comprehensive, and I hope you’ll discover something new and great as a result. The listings are ordered by day and (technically) set time, though I haven’t listed the set times here. Additionally, if you’d like to find almost every artist put together in a handy playlist that’s organized by genre (for flow purposes), look no further than this Spotify mix that I put together. Check back tomorrorw for the start of the day-by-day preview guide, where I’ll suggest what bands to see each hour of each day. And I promise that WILL include set times.

Lollapalooza 2012: Preview Guide

Hey friends! I’m happy to present you with Faronheit’s Guide to Lollapalooza 2012. Whether you’re headed to the festival this year or would just like to learn a little more about the artists performing on this year’s lineup, hopefully this guide will point you in the direction of the acts you won’t want to miss. Before we get started, I should go over a few details to help you interpret this properly. The purpose of this guide is not to analyze every act on the lineup and weigh who you should go see at what particular time. Simply put, I picked 10 acts from each day, irregardless of what time they are playing, and attempted to explain why they’re worth seeing. It’s a very good lineup this year, so choosing only 10 from individual days was tough, but I like to think this is distilled down to help you have the best possible Lollapalooza experience. I should note that some of the small side stages and Perry’s go largely ignored in this guide, because I think if you want to know where to go for dance parties or American Idol runner-ups, you can find them yourselves. Speaking of finding things, make sure you look at the festival map before going to Grant Park, if you’ve never been before. Knowing where the stages are located and that it’s a 15 minute walk from one side of the park to the other is very, very important. In the guide below, I’ve indicated when and where the acts I’m recommending are performing, and they’re ordered by time slot to help plan out your day. Additionally, if you’d like to hear music from the artists I’ve mentioned below, along with a bunch of other acts, there are links to individual day Spotify playlists for your enjoyment. I’ve structured those playlists thematically rather than by time slot to provide you with the best possible listening experience. All that said, I hope you’re ready to have a lot of fun this weekend. Drink plenty of water, dip yourself in sunscreen, and try to rest whenever possible. Those are my tips for surviving the weekend. Without further ado, click past the jump to view my Guide to Lollapalooza 2012!

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Photos

Okay, friends. Here’s a selection of photos that I took all this weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival. In this set I’ve included one photo from each artist, edited down from over 400 photos total. If you’d like to see the complete set of edited photos (4-5 photos from each artist), please visit our Facebook page for all that. Their uploader is easier to use and the pictures look nice in that context. I’ve also given my final thoughts about this year’s fest, in case you missed it. Read 100% of my Pitchfork Music Festival coverage via this link. I think that about wraps things up. Starting tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled programming of album reviews and mp3s. Until then, click past the jump to glance at some photos from the festival.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Final Thoughts

Before I start posting the many, many photos I took this past weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival, I want to take a moment to reflect with some words detailing the best and worst things that happened over the three days. If you haven’t read my detailed day-by-day recaps of the music I saw, here are links to Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Best

There are many great things about the Pitchfork Music Festival, and those things expand even beyond the music being performed there. It’s held in Union Park every year, which might not be the absolute safest neighborhood in the city, but the space is ideal for its size and the parking is pretty ample if you need to drive. They spent the first couple years of the festival perfecting some of the issues that plagued it early on, such as the stages not being loud enough and a lack of restrooms. Vendors, sponsors and other features have come and gone too, but the last three or so years have seen a serious consistency develop with the festival and the atmosphere as well that works extraordinarily well given its size. Organizers have also done well with ticket prices, ensuring it’s still one of the most affordable festivals in the world to attend. They didn’t even raise ticket prices this year. Where they did falter a bit though in 2012 was with the lineup. I’m not trying to suggest that this year’s batch of artists was bad, just not quite as strong as years past. They can’t all be winners, and this year will probably go down as one of the more muted affairs. Overall ticket sales were a little weaker than normal, as Friday was a couple thousand tickets short of selling out, though Saturday sold out and Sunday came very, very close to doing the same. If you looked at my daily recaps and compare them with the schedule, you’ll notice that I did a lot of skipping around from stage to stage, not often taking in full sets. My issues either involved a restlessness out of sheer boredom with who I was watching at the moment, or a panic because there were too many good artists performing at the same time. A great example would be on Saturday, when I really wanted to see Sleigh Bells, Chromatics and Hot Chip. They were ploaying at 6:15, 7:00 (listed start time delayed due to soundcheck issues), and 7:25, respectively. I ran between stages and caught as many songs as possible from each. On the opposite end of the spectrum, on Sunday I wasn’t particularly excited about seeing Kendrick Lamar, Chavez and Oneohtrix Point Never, yet I went to two out of the three just to see if they’d surprise me somehow (they didn’t). While we’re on the topic though, let me give credit where credit is due and hand out some praise for the artists that did inspire me over the weekend.

When I saw A$AP Rocky back at SXSW in March, he and his A$AP Mob showed up an hour late for their set time. When they did finally arrive, the place went nuts, though I was only able to see part of the set because I had to be at another show. This past Friday, not only was he on time, but I was significantly impressed with how he and his crew handled every aspect of their show. They got the crowd fired up, ran through all the hits and more, broke up a fight in the crowd, stage dived and performed in the rain like it wasn’t even an inconvenience. In other words, they did everything a great live performers are supposed to do. When he finally hits the big time, and buzz is saying he will, hopefully he doesn’t change a thing about his live show. It was really enjoyable. Japandroids are arguably one of the best rock bands performing today, and they write and record their songs specifically to get the most out of their shows. They are like a two man tornado trying their hardest to lay waste to everything and everyone in their path. The best part is they succeed with flying colors. Brian King isn’t afraid to bang his head or move around the stage should the mood strike him, as it does often. David Prowse hammers the drums with such violent urgency he probably breaks sticks more than other drummers. He actually broke his kickpedal early on in their Pitchfork set as a testament to that.

I think my overall favorite moment of the entire festival came when I first arrived on Saturday. Cloud Nothings were playing, and a few songs into their set it began to drizzle. That drizzle slowly developed into a full-on downpour – one of the heaviest of the weekend. It was right around then that they launched into their nine minute opus “Wasted Days” from their latest album Attack on Memory. With the crowd getting soaked to the bone but not moving to seek shelter, the band played to the storm like they were looking to pick a fight. This went on for several minutes, during which it was quite likely the band members were risking their lives being out there. Eventually the rain won though, shorting out the main set of speakers and leaving only the on stage monitors active. They kept going even if only the people closest to the stage could hear them. When they finally finished, they threw down their guitars and left the stage. Watching it all happen sent an excited shiver down my spine. If only every artist was so dedicated to their art and putting on a great show. The main goal of Nicolas Jaar was probably to put on a great show too, which is why he took an extra 20 minutes for his soundcheck. I stood there during that time, panicked because I was only going to be able to see 30 minutes of his set and the longer he took the less time I had to see him. When he finally did start playing, it was nothing short of excellent and transcendent. At least that’s what I took from the 10 minutes I was able to stay. I wish I could have stuck around longer and seen the whole thing, but Wild Flag beckoned me across the park. I had almost the exact same problem for Chromatics, who were also delayed by Jaar and whose four songs I was able to hear were even better than their recorded versions, which I already love. I hope to see both artists again soon, should they come through Chicago.

Sunday presented a similar great artist vs. great artist predicament, and the best part is, both of them knew it. John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees asked how many people in the crowd were planning to see Ty Segall’s set, who was starting 30 minutes later. Some cheers went up in the crowd, but Dwyer then explained that he and the rest of the band really wanted to see Segall too, and as soon as they finished their set, they were planning to run over there to catch him. A short time later, they dedicated a song to Segall. Having never seen Thee Oh Sees before and only going by their recorded output, I probably should have guessed how their live show would go. Everybody in the band bounced and moved around to the songs, and Dwyer kept alternating between spitting and sticking out his tongue in between some intense guitar riffs. I’ve become a much bigger fan of the band now that I’ve seen their live show, and that’s sort of why bands do play live. A short bit later Ty Segall would rock harder and faster than any other band on Sunday. Not only was the fuzz and reverb completely in check, but Segall’s scream is just about perfect – loud, piercing and not too throaty. About halfway through his set he asked the crowd to shout out, “Dwyer!” as sort of a kind message to the Thee Oh Sees frontman. A short time later, the band covered AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” which was straightlaced but gloriously appropriate. If only all of Sunday were so exciting. And finally, I’d be wrong to not include AraabMuzik as one of the festival’s best sets. I’m not a fan of DJs or producers performing live, mostly because I think sitting behind a laptop or turntable your entire set isn’t exciting to watch. It’s a big reason why the Daft Punks and Deadmau5s of the world have intense light shows to distract you. AraabMuzik had none of that in his late afternoon set, but surprisingly enough just watching him put music together was exciting. His weapon of choice was an MPC drum sampler, and his hands moved across that thing so fast they were often a blur. But even if you weren’t watching what was happening, simply listening was intense too. I’m not the biggest fan of the dubstep genre of EDM, but I consider AraabMuzik to be one of the only performers to have won me over in that respect.

The Worst

This section should be a lot shorter than the above one, if only because so much went right at the festival this year. All the staff and volunteers were professional and did their jobs well. I got a bunch of free stuff simply by wandering the grounds at the right time, and elements like the Flatstock poster section, the CHIRP Record Fair and the Book Fort were fun things to do if you felt like the music wasn’t very good. Speaking of which, there were many artists over the weekend that gave very good performances but didn’t quite make my highlight reel. Some unfortunately did make my lowlight reel though, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. The worst thing to happen over the three days was the weather. Mid-July is typically not the time for rain, and the last few years at Pitchfork it has either not rained at all or sprinkled for under an hour. So when severe storms came rolling through on Friday afternoon, the hope was they’d be light and brief. The forecast said there was about a 20% chance of an isolated thunderstorm, but apparently they meant 100%. The rain was not light, and if you want to call a few 20-30 minute sessions “brief,” then so be it. Sets were affected, times were shuffled, and people exposed themselves to potential pneumonia after standing in the rain without an umbrella or poncho. The Saturday rain was just as bad, though happily the skies cleared around mid-afternoon and stayed that way through the end of the festival. The grounds of Union Park were a bit muddy from the rain as well, and I saw more than a few people covered in the stuff, most likely on purpose. But the swampy areas in some of the fields made it difficult to navigate, though thankfully crowds would surround them so you knew where they were and where not to step. Crews did do some nice work cleaning up as best they could, as quick dry, wood chips and platforms were thrown down to either dry up or cover up soggy sections. And you know what? The rain was nobody’s fault but nature’s. It’s a blameless crime with many victims, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Musically speaking, I’m going to try not to pick on too many artists that didn’t do so well in their sets. Atlas Sound is so good on record, and his last two albums have represented huge jumps in songwriting and melody development abilities. The first “mistake” was booking Bradford Cox solo at an outdoor festival. Atlas Sound is best experienced in a small, dark theater on a stage. Outside and in the sunlight just don’t quite work for his version of sleepy psychedelia. Cox is a nice guy with good intentions, but even he looked a little bored with what he was playing (or not playing, in the case of a few formless compositions). I tried to stick around for as much of his set as I could, but after 15 minutes just couldn’t take any more. Ironically, that pushed me into going to see Liturgy, a band I’ve only heard a few times and only on record. Their version of heavy metal resonated with me far less than I hoped it would. They were excruciatingly loud, which I’m okay with, but for the 10 minutes I stuck around watching them I couldn’t make out anything beyond ear-piercing screams. I know they have lyrics because I’ve heard them before, but I sure wasn’t hearing them during the performance. That’s okay though, I’m still pleased I went and watched for the time I did. You’ll never truly know how much you don’t like something until you try it. On Sunday there’s only one band in my rifle’s eyesight: Iceage. I feel horrible for promoting them in my preview coverage and saying it was going to be a “wild time.” The only thing wild about their set was when they blew out an amp. Even that probably connects back to having their gear stolen just a couple days prior. They probably borrowed the amp that broke. But yeah, listening to their album of speedy punk rock songs, and seeing footage of live shows where they crowd surf and somebody “accidentally” gets hit in a mosh pit makes me wonder if it was all just propaganda to generate some hype for the band. They absolutely looked like they didn’t want to be there, and their overly lackluster performance pretty much confirmed it. Rarely has a band disappointed me so much or sounded so unlike their records.

In Conclusion

So there you have it, my final thoughts on this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. In a short bit I’ll be posting a selection of the photos I took over the weekend for you to browse through. The best place to see everything though is through the site’s Facebook page, where I’ll have 100% of the pictures available. If you’d like to read all the pieces I wrote as part of Pitchfork Music Festival week last week, all of them will come up if you follow this link. I hope you enjoyed reading and seeing things about the festival this year, and if it were up to me we’d do it all again next year. We’ll have to play a little wait-and-see on that one though. In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me, and we will return to our regularly scheduled music programming in the next day or two.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Day 2 Preview

How are you getting to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival? There’s a whole world of options out there for you to explore beyond simply driving yourself. Take a train, bus, bike or even walk if you’re close enough. Union Park is easily accessible via whatever form of transportation you choose. If you bike there, make sure to lock it up inside the Chicago Reader Bike Village, or risk returning to a stolen or unrideable bike. The neighborhood around the park isn’t super dangerous, but it’s not the safest in the city either. If you absolutely feel like driving is your only way to get there, maybe try and carpool with people that live near you. Amovens Ridesharing is a viable option too if you don’t mind traveling with a stranger or two. I’m not saying you have to take these options, I just wanted to make sure you were aware of them as a way to reduce your carbon footprint. Doing that, along with dropping any aluminum and plastic you see into the designated recycle bins placed throughout the park can really help make the festival green. That little environmental piece out of the way, let’s talk about what’s going to be happening in Union Park on Saturday. Like yesterday, I’ve broken down the bands performing hour-by-hour and designated my own suggestions with the double star(**). It’s a great day with some tough choices, so make sure you see what you can when you can! For music selections not only from artists playing Saturday, but the entire weekend, be sure to look through this post or stream things via this Spotify playlist.

**The Atlas Moth (Blue Stage, 1:00)
The Psychic Paramount (Green Stage, 1:00)
Saturday at Pitchfork Music Festival starts out HEAVY. By heavy, I mean LOUD. The Atlas Moth is a Chicago band that makes what’s consistently and accurately described as “doom metal.” Put a different way, it’s the soundtrack to your nightmares. Now just because nightmares have a negative reputation doesn’t mean The Atlas Moth should. These guys are more than just a metal band, because they do an excellent job trying to incorporate other elements from genres such as blues and psychedelia into their sound. You may want to bang your head and get inside of a mosh pit for their show, but if you can pay close attention to what’s happening on stage while you’re doing that, you’ll notice a band with a great ability to turn their guitars into an effective weapon. Similar things could be said about The Psychic Paramount, an instrumental trio out of New York. The sort of music they make is best described as experimental, but they certainly don’t know much about the word “silence.” There’s a ferocity to their songs that’s exciting and engaging, and even in the absence of lyrics there’s a sort of post-rock transcendence that shines through and can grab hold of your emotions. Their latest effort II is a very widescreen affair best experienced in an arena…or maybe even a music festival? The choice is tough between these two loud bands, but ultimately I think The Atlas Moth will put on the crazier show, giving your Saturday the wild start it deserves.

**Cloud Nothings (Red Stage, 1:45)
Lotus Plaza (Blue Stage, 1:55)
Choosing between Cloud Nothings and Lotus Plaza is the first of a few real challenges that Saturday presents in scheduling. Cloud Nothings are fresh off their critically acclaimed new album Attack on Memory, which is filled to the brim with fun, catchy and energetic punk tunes. Frontman Dylan Baldi may not seem like the type of guy who will tear his throat to shreds for a song, but he does it both on record and when performing with the utmost conviction. It’s definitely a site to behold, and also worth watching if you want to stay amped for the rest of the day. Lotus Plaza is the side project band of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt, and they carefully balance the genres of psychedelia, shoegaze and dream pop to the point where all of those descriptors fail to fully capture what the band actually sounds like. That’s a good problem to have, and one of the reasons why their latest album Spooky Action at a Distance earned quite a bit of praise from critics and fans alike. Listening to them perform such well-structured and breezy tracks might actually make it that much more enjoyable to be hanging out in the shade near the Blue stage. Still, I can’t help but think that since it’s not supposed to be blisteringly hot on Saturday, fun in the sun is where it’s going to be at. Keep some Atlas Moth energy going and jump around for Cloud Nothings.

**Atlas Sound (Green Stage, 2:30)
Liturgy (Blue Stage, 2:50)
It’s almost a sure thing that the Lotus Plaza and Atlas Sound sets will overlap. For those that don’t know, the irony is that both Lockett Pundt (Lotus Plaza) and Bradford Cox (Atlas Sound) are bandmates in Deerhunter. So it’ll kind of be battle of the side/solo projects. Atlas Sound made headlines last year for the drifting and beautiful record Parallax. Atlas Sound made headlines THIS year for agreeing to a fan request and performing “My Sharona”…for an hour. It was shocking, weird and kind of cool. Let’s hope he doesn’t repeat that though for his Pitchfork set, otherwise we’d miss such gems as the poppy “Mona Lisa” and the guitar rock of “My Angel is Broken.” Like The Atlas Moth earlier in the day, Liturgy is poised to deliver their own set of earth-scorching metal, though like most bands performing at the festival, that’s only part of their story. See, Liturgy is an anti-metal metal band. Translation: they make metal music, but everything about them suggests the opposite. They wear t-shirts and jeans instead of black leather get-ups and face paint. They sing about exploring religion instead of worshipping Satan. It still has all the heavy guitars and menace, just in a cleaner package. Liturgy may be outsiders to the metal community, but indie kids have a soft spot for them. So which of these two options is the better choice? Personal taste factors into it a little, but in terms of the overall quality of the music, I vote for Atlas Sound, even if his set might lack the energy and intensity Liturgy’s will definitely have.

**Cults (Red Stage, 3:20)
Youth Lagoon (Blue Stage, 3:45)
Cults are a fun band. They do indie pop right, and perhaps the best single of 2011 (or 2010 if you count the 7″ version) was their song “Go Outside.” It sparkled in all the right ways. Their self-titled debut album kept that train rolling and introduced new gems like the racing “Abducted” and the bouncy “Never Heal Myself.” They’ve been on tour for what seems like forever in support of that record, so it stands to argue that they’ve come up with a few new songs along the way. Perhaps they’ll introduce a few of them during their mid-afternoon set. Youth Lagoon also has a highly loved debut album that came out last year called The Year of Hibernation. Trevor Powers is the man behind the name, and he made a record of bedroom pop in his actual bedroom. There’s a hushed intimacy to his songs that evokes the mental image of sunlight streaming through the slats of some window blinds. Glorious and soaring as many of his songs may be, their subdued vibe might not fit well with the outdoor festival crowd. Still, playing on the Blue stage with some tree canopies can make for a nice break. I saw both Cults and Youth Lagoon perform in the same 24 hour period earlier this year, and while neither show was perfect, Cults were just a little bit better, which is why they earn my recommendation here.

Flying Lotus (Green Stage, 4:15)
**Nicolas Jaar (Blue Stage, 4:45)
If you really love experimental electronica, this point in your Saturday is going to be a tough one. Flying Lotus, also known as Steven Ellison, probably considers himself more of a producer than an actual musician. He takes sounds from various different music genres including jazz, hip hop and IDM, and swirls them all together to create something wholly unique and engaging. Sometimes that means songs are bouncy and upbeat and endlessly danceable, but other times a tangent will take over and you’ll be entranced by some slow motion saxophone or other disparate elements. By contrast, Nicolas Jaar plays sets that are a little more freeform. While he does have albums and mixtapes, which are collages of sounds and styles (very similar to Flying Lotus), he refuses to stick to a script. Depending on where and when he’s performing, he will customize that set with very little officially mapped out. He played a set in a church at SXSW this year and it was dark, respectful and introspective, with only brief flashes of danceable beats. In the space of an outdoor afternoon festival, he’s likely to go lighter, breezier and poppier. You still might not be able to dance to it, but there’s something exciting about the unpredictability of it all and the hope he might just stumble onto something truly transcendent.

**Wild Flag (Red Stage, 5:15)
Schoolboy Q (Blue Stage, 5:45)
Not many people, especially musicians, like to throw around the word “supergroup.” Yet when your band is formed out of members from other important bands, it becomes like the Avengers or Justice League, because with their powers combined shall come something greater than they can do on their own. With members Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, Rebecca Cole of The Minders and Mary Timony of…Mary Timony, Wild Flag was born to rock. And they do, all over their self-titled debut album. Their songs are vigorous and punk-strewn, and it’s even more impressive to watch them perform. Sleater-Kinney obsessives may be just a little disappointed, as the wail of Corin Tucker is missed, but everything else about this band is spot-on and really what rock and roll should be. On the opposite end of the park and sonic spectrum, Schoolboy Q brings his dark tales of hip hop to a late afternoon set. The cover for his album Habits & Contradictions features a masked person licking his very serious face. It brings up the idea of having a “dark passenger” on your shoulder, tempting you and telling you what to do. Schoolboy Q is definitely in his own world, and in that sense it’s always exciting to hear what he’ll do or come up with next. Make your decision about which of these acts to see based on your own tastes.

**Sleigh Bells (Green Stage, 6:15)
**Chromatics (Blue Stage, 6:45)
The last time Sleigh Bells performed at the Pitchfork Music Festival, it was 2010 and they were up against Pavement’s headlining set and their first Chicago show in over a decade. In other words, it was tough to actively make the choice to see them. They were riding a huge wave of buzz too, thanks in no small part to their smashing debut Treats. The duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss bring high octane energy to their shows, as he plays heavy riffs backed with electro beats and she bounces and sings along in her schoolgirl-like voice. That combination of hardcore and sugary sweet elements was bound to fizzle out sometime, but they proved resilient on their sophomore album Reign of Terror earlier this year by going deeper and more refined. The hype may have died down a bit, but Sleigh Bells’ live show is more engaging and dynamic than ever. And hey, they’re not playing against Pavement this time. They are playing against Chromatics though, an electro-pop group built by dynamo producer Johnny Jewel. Here’s an act that has the sort of buzz Sleigh Bells did 2 years ago. That’s mostly bolstered by the long-awaited release of their 90-minute opus known as Kill for Love earlier this year. It’s a glorious patchwork of dark alley instrumental electronica and synth-pop of the highest and catchiest order. While they lack the fire of Sleigh Bells, Chromatics make up for it with intensity. I’m calling this 6pm face-off a toss-up, and thanks to their sets starting 30 minutes apart from one another, you can see most of both. I recommend that you do.

**Hot Chip (Red Stage, 7:25)
Danny Brown (Blue Stage, 7:40)
On Sunday of last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, dance band Cut Copy had the privilege of performing right before that night’s headliners TV on the Radio. With the sun starting to set and the crowd surprisingly riled up (maybe they were all at just the right level of drunk), Union Park became a massive dance party. Right around the same time but on Saturday instead, Hot Chip will take the stage. I expect an almost identical result. While the band’s previous album One Life Stand was a bit mellower and more serious than anything they’d done previously, Hot Chip’s latest record In Our Heads feels like a course correction with more mature songs you can dance to. Bring your green hat and we’ll get the party started. Danny Brown, meanwhile, is like many of the hip hop acts on this year’s lineup: operating on his own plane of existence. His screechy and weird vocals are unlike anything else in hip hop, to the point where many people turn his tracks off without giving him half a chance. They’re missing out though, because Brown’s words tend to tell of his own hardships in life (of which there are MANY), while also peppering in plenty of humor. Not many rappers are able to pull off that delicate balance, but Brown does it while wearing skinny jeans and a haircut best described as “distinctive.” He’s not exactly for me, which is why I’m handing this match-up to Hot Chip.

**Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Green Stage, 8:30)
**Grimes (Blue Stage, 8:40)
When you think about some of the polar opposite acts playing against one another in the same time slot, there’s probably none that sticks out more than Godspeed You! Black Emperor vs. Grimes. Here’s how it breaks down. Godspeed makes post-rock. It’s less the Sigur Ros or Explosions in the Sky sort of post-rock and more the art movie soundtrack sort of post-rock. Single tracks can go on for 20 or 30 minutes and roll over you like waves of emotion as violins mourn one minute and guitars rage the next. They project films onto a screen during their performances, functioning as visual aids to help pull you further into their progressive and oft-heartbreaking melodies. If people can actually shut up and pay attention to the music, GY!BE’s performance could be the weekend’s most revelatory and powerful set. The problem is you’re outside in the grass with your friends, one of whom is likely to say they’re “bored” before starting up a conversation. If it doesn’t happen to you it’ll happen to somebody near you, and the meaning of it all will likely be ruined. So maybe you take note and go see Grimes’ set, Her latest album Visions is futuristic pop of the highest order. Her entire goal when performing live is to get you to dance. She’ll be dancing while twisting knobs, playing keyboards and building vocal loops, and if she can do 5 things at once, you can do that one thing with her. The two times I’ve seen Grimes perform this year contained some of the best and worst moments I’ve ever seen at a live show. One of those times she was really sick though, so hopefully her health will be fine on Saturday night and things will proceed brilliantly. Coming off the dance party high Hot Chip will likely provide, Grimes will be the exceptional cap to what could be a very fun Saturday.


Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Day 1 Preview

Okay, so you’re headed to Union Park this weekend for the Pitchfork Music Festival, but are either confused or conflicted about who or what to see during your time there. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us, even those that are familiar with 95% of the artists performing. Don’t fear, however. I’m here to help. Starting today and wrapping up on Thursday, we’ll take a day-by-day look at the “essesntial acts to see” at this year’s Pitchfork Fest. If you’re looking for some additional music education on these artists, make sure you have a look at this post, in which you can download or stream a song from every single artist on the lineup. Take a taste, and if you like what you hear, you can invest in a full album or maybe just go see that particular artist perform at the festival. That said, let’s get started with a look at your best bets for Friday. My personal picks are affixed with stars (**).

Outer Minds (Blue Stage, 3:20)
**Lower Dens (Red Stage, 3:30)
This year’s Pitchfork Music Festival starts off local. Chicago’s own Outer Minds have the designation of playing the first set of the weekend, and if you’re fortunate enough to get there early, there’s plenty to love about these guys. Their core sound is garage rock, but thanks to some fun harmonies and a few blistering guitar passages you could say there’s a psychedelic influence in there too. The band’s self-titled debut album came out in March, and you can stream or buy it digitally here. If their live show is anything like their record, it should be a really fun and energetic time. Facing off against Outer Minds will be Lower Dens, the Baltimore soft pop band whose latest record Nootropics is one of 2012’s finest offerings so far. Excellent as these songs may be, and as engaging of a frontwoman as Jana Hunter is, Lower Dens might best be described as “sleepy.” In other words, with the summer afternoon sun beating down on your face, it could be tough to enjoy the band’s darker yet slowly gorgeous melodies. You might be best off with the cutting energy of Outer Minds to start things right, however I’m giving the official recommendation to Lower Dens based solely on the strength of their material.

Willis Earl Beal (Blue Stage, 4:15)
**The Olivia Tremor Control (Green Stage, 4:35)
Willis Earl Beal’s debut album Acousmatic Sorcery is a thing of raw beauty. Another artist with strong ties to Chicago, his life story is as fascinating as his music. He’s been homeless, joined the Army, left CD-Rs of his music in random places, busked on the street, auditioned for The X Factor and posted flyers with his phone number on them encouraging people to call and he’d play a song for them. What do all these things say about the man? Well, in his 27 years you’d say he’s LIVED. The pain and hardship comes through in his powerful singing voice, which goes from a whisper to a gruff howl with very little effort. His set should be one of the most fascinating of the entire festival, and any fan of the blues and soul music should make an appointment to see it. On the other side of the park will be Olivia Tremor Control, and fans of the Elephant 6 collective of the ’90s will have plenty to get excited about. The band released two effortlessly catchy and classic indie pop records in the form of 1996’s Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle and 1999’s Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One before breaking up. Their much heralded reunion in 2009 hasn’t resulted in a lot of large scale touring, so when they do play shows some excitement comes along with it. Also it’s not impossible to think that former band member and close friend Jeff Mangum might drop in for a song or two, simply because he can.

Tim Hecker (Blue Stage, 5:15)
**A$AP Rocky (Red Stage, 5:30)
The five o’clock hour on Friday brings together an interesting paradox of talent. Tim Hecker is a great Canadian producer and electronica composer whose last couple records have been deep and gorgeous soundscapes worthy of the critical acclaim they’ve received. You could also describe them as very serious and often intense examinations of the way technology and digital elements have overtaken traditional and organic instrumentation. What this really amounts to is that if you’re hoping to get some shade by the smaller Blue stage and just sort of relax for a bit on a blanket, listening to Tim Hecker will provide you with a cool breeze, even if nature doesn’t hand you one. As for A$AP Rocky, his star has been on the rise all year long. Fresh off the his LiveLoveA$AP mixtape, he and the A$AP Mob have courted controversy and violence in a way not all that dissimilar from the way Odd Future was doing last year. Of course Rocky has a reportedly three million dollar record deal, which also puts the stakes pretty high for his official debut album LongLiveA$AP when it comes out in September. Expect to hear him perform a bunch of that new stuff while the A$AP Mob riles up the crowd in between tracks. It could be a total disaster ending in some crowd insanity, or it could just be a whole lot of fun to watch. Either way, the guy might be the next Jay-Z or Kanye West, so best to see him now before the rest of the world sinks their teeth into him.

**Japandroids (Blue Stage, 6:15)
Big K.R.I.T. (Green Stage, 6:25)
Have you heard Celebration Rock yet? It is a triumph of an album for Japandroids, and one of 2012’s best rock records. If you like your guitars loud, your drums pounding, and anthems you can shout along with, Japandroids are not only the best thing happening in this time slot, but perhaps for all of Friday. Expect plenty of fists in the air, mosh pits and crowd surfing too. This is a high energy, high octane show, and these sorts of bands don’t come around as often anymore. Not only that, but Brian King and David Prowse are serious about their craft and play as if their lives depended on it. Celebrate life, celebrate rock and try not to get hurt while doing so. It’s quite likely that Big K.R.I.T. will bring a lot of energy and celebration to his set too, though his version of hip hop is a bit more conscientious and introspective than many others. Don’t worry though, that makes him one of the more unique voices in the genre these days, and his talent has been very apparent over his last couple records and mixtapes, most notably Return of 4Eva. You’re not going to get the style and flash of an A$AP Rocky, but he mines the nostalgia of the mid-’90s era of rap when the genre was so much more than that. If the idea sounds appealing to you, his set might have that same effect.

Clams Casino (Blue Stage, 7:15)
**Dirty Projectors (Red Stage, 7:20)
Clams Casino is the second instrumental act performing on Friday. Unlike Tim Hecker though, Clams Casino has made a name for himself by rather brilliantly producing a bunch of hip hop. Everyone from Soulja Boy to Lil B to A$AP Rocky (of course) have used his beats and instrumentals as backing for their own rhymes. Instead of letting those compositions sit behind vocals, Clams Casino has released a pair of free mixtapes and an EP containing pieces he’s worked on for others or just himself, all of it sans vocals (but not necessarily vocal samples). These things stand up so well on their own, he can play live shows with them and get people moving and/or shouting along if they happen to know some of the hip hop tracks the beats originally appeared on. Count on his set to be a good, danceable time. Then there’s Dirty Projectors, a band that has scooped up quite a bit of critical acclaim these last few years for their wildly inventive songs. My thoughts on the band’s latest opus Swing Lo Magellan can be found here, but in a nutshell it’s their most accessible and effortlessly enjoyable record to date. If you’ve heard Dirty Projectors before and didn’t like it, their live show surely won’t do anything to change your mind. What it will showcase are the impressive talents of Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle and Olga Bell, whose vocal ping-ponging must be seen to be believed. Frontman Dave Longstreth is the mastermind behind it all, and though he’s not the warmest or most personable guy in the world, he lets the music speak for him. You should be paying close attention.

**Purity Ring (Blue Stage, 8:20)
Feist (Green Stage, 8:20)
Purity Ring don’t have an album out yet. Their debut, Shrines, is set for release at the end of this month. In the meantime, there have been a few singles that have caught the ears of many a tastemaker. What makes this duo so unique is their ability to turn hip hop and electronica elements into compelling pop music. They actually like to describe it as “future pop,” and given the glitchy samples and fun other little tweaks they throw in against Megan James’ smooth vocals, that’s not far from the truth. Perhaps the main reason why they’re “headlining” the small Blue stage on Friday night has less to do with popularity (as that’s still steadily building) and more to do with how their live show is structured. At 8:20pm there will still be a bit of sunlight left, but Purity Ring prefer to perform in total darkness. Their stage setup includes multi-colored lightbulbs that pulsate and pound with the beats. So not only do the songs draw you in and stick with you, but you’ll likely remember the visual elements as well for quite some time. As for Feist, well, she’s simply a delight. Her records Let It Die and The Reminder were strong representations of female singer-songwriter pop. People fell in love with her thanks to cute songs like “Mushaboom” and “1,2,3,4”. Goofy choreographed music videos and a few acting appearances on comedy shows have only made her that much more endearing, which is why it was such a disappointment when her new album Metals didn’t fully follow in those footsteps. No worries though, because her headlining set at this year’s festival has every indication of being highly enjoyable and entertaining. She may even bring a few people from the crowd up on stage to spice things up a bit. She’s great like that. If you watch her set, there’s a high likelihood you’ll end the night smiling, and there’s nothing wrong with that.


Lollapalooza 2012: The Lineup

It’s that time of year, friends: Lollapalooza lineup time. Spring is in the air, but soon enough summer will be here and so will Chicago’s great music festivals. Unless you bought tickets well in advance, I’m sure this year’s Lollapalooza lineup will be the deciding factor as to whether or not you make your way to Grant Park this August 3-5. Ticket prices have risen this year, no doubt in part because the supreme tax deal the festival was getting from the City of Chicago has all but gone away. Early bird tickets have all sold out, and general 3-day passes are currently on sale for $230 (service fees included). Is it worth the cost? Well, that’s for you to decide. The full lineup is listed below, and is headlined by Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys, Black Sabbath, Jack White, Florence + the Machine, and At the Drive-In. Okay, so those last 2 headliners don’t really seem like they deserve the official “headlining” slot. I’d argue that The Shins and Sigur Ros are more deserving of headlining than Florence + the Machine and At the Drive-In are. That said, I’m still excited that reunion acts Black Sabbath, At the Drive-In and The Afghan Whigs will be there. Other noteworthy acts include Passion Pit, M83, The Weeknd, Bloc Party, Metric, Childish Gambino, tUnE-yArDs, The Tallest Man on Earth, Of Monsters and Men, Alabama Shakes, Tame Impala, The Walkmen, Neon Indian, Dum Dum Girls, Washed Out, Givers, Chairlift, Sharon Van Etten, Polica, First Aid Kit, FIDLAR, Bombay Bicycle Club, Bowerbirds, JEFF the Brotherhood, and Chicago’s own JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. If you’re a fan of Perry’s electronica stage, Avicii, Justice and Bassnectar will all be headliners, with others sets from Kaskade, Calvin Harris, Santigold, and Little Dragon, among others. Again, have a look at the full lineup after the jump. If you ask me, this is pretty damn good. Worth the price of admission? I’d say so. Buy tickets here.

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 4-5-12

Well friends, let me use this post to keep you apprised of some of the latest happenings with the good ‘ol Pitchfork Music Festival. The complete lineup was finally revealed today, after two separate doses of acts to try and get you interested earlier. The end result? I’m interested in this lineup but also a bit disappointed. Things are certainly less high profile than last year, even as Feist and Vampire Weekend are still pretty big names. My main concern is how good this is all going to sound in an outdoor, daytime setting. Artists like Beach House, Real Estate, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Clams Casino, among others, don’t exactly make music to be enjoyed under the sweltering sun. Now Sleigh Bells, Iceage, Wild Flag, Grimes and Cloud Nothings – those are acts to get you moving. There’s lots more hip hop this year too, none of which can be considered bad at a festival thanks to heavy beats and guys shouting instructions at you (hands in the air!). A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown at least should be good for some high energy halfway crazy sets. So though I might not be totally thrilled with this year’s lineup, I’m convinced things will turn out well anyways. Even if they don’t, it’s kind of nice just to hang out in Union Park with everyone. You can buy single-day passes to the festival for $45 by clicking here. You can have a look at the full lineup by going here. Come on out to the fest this July with me. We’ll have some fun, drink some beer and see some good live music. Okay, onto the business of Pick Your Poison. Recommended tracks today come from Alexander Tucker, Caltrop, Father John Misty (aka J. Tillman ex-Fleet Foxes), jj, King Tuff, Midnight Magic, MNDR, Ólafur Arnalds and Young Hines.

Alexander Tucker – Window Sill

Beast Make Bomb – Flagpole Sitta (Harvey Danger cover)

Caltrop – Birdsong

Conveyor – Mane

Dubious Ranger – The New Eve

Father John Misty – Nancy From Now On

The Funk Ark – Hey Mamajo

Giant Giant Sand – Forever and A Day

The Grey Area – Ourselves

jj – Beautiful Life

Joshua McCormack – The Phantom King

King Tuff – Bad Thing

Midnight Magic – Psycho For Your Love

MNDR – #1 in Heaven

Ólafur Arnalds – Allt varð hljótt

Paul Barker – reSpite

Wazu – Happy Endings

Young Hines – Can’t Explode


Mr. Fogg – A Little Letting Go

Ny – Music

Lollapalooza 2011: The Lineup

It’s that time of year again, when all the little girls and boys eagerly anticipate exactly what’s going to emerge from Lollapalooza’s secret headquarters in regards to a festival lineup. If you can’t tell from the logo above, Lollapalooza is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Congratulations to Perry Farrell and the whole team behind the festival for making it happen every year in Chicago’s own Grant Park. It has helped craft Lollapalooza into one of the top-tier U.S. music festivals. Okay, so let’s get right to it. I’m not going to offer up any comments in regards to this year’s lineup, but if you’ve got something to say about it yourself, by all means let loose in the comments section. Without further ado, here’s the official lineup for Lollapalooza 2011!

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