Here it is, your guide to Day 3 of the Pitchfork Music Festival. This is arguably the absolute best day of the three, and currently the weather forecasters are predicting the possibility of scattered showers in the afternoon and evening hours, but let’s hold out hope there’s zero rain. It’s gonna be hot though, with temperatures at around 90 degrees and with other factors added in it might feel like 95 or higher outside, so staying hydrated will be not only important, but essential. Just a little tip for you. But getting back to the music, in addition to the stellar lineup, you also get a fair share of diversity too, from the psychedelic to the lo-fi to the glo-fi to hip hop and straight up indie rock. There’s something for everybody, if you catch my drift. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the artists playing or are just struggling with who to see when, I hope this little guide helps you out. I’ve broken the schedule down into pairings with artists playing within the same hour or at least close to the same time as one another to help out, and my personal picks for each matchup are indicated with an asterisk (*). Best of luck to you this weekend in choosing your music, and if you’re looking for more Pitchfork Music Festival preview coverage, just follow the links below. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be bringing you daily recaps of all the weekend’s proceedings, so check back here to find out what you may have missed!
SUNDAY MUSIC GUIDE (Gates open at 12PM):
Allá [1:00pm, Aluminum Stage]
*CAVE [1:00pm, Balance Stage]
Two Chicago bands are set to bring a highly interesting start to your Sunday. Both have their quirks, although there are some close similarities in sound between them. Allá makes, as you might suspect from their name, music with a decidedly Hispanic influence. The band members are Mexican-American and pay tribute to that via their songs. They also go for a moderate psychedelic angle that’s present all over their debut album “Es Tiempo”, one that should go well with the hot weather and a crowd that will probably still be hazy from too much fun the day before. Speaking of hazy, CAVE is probably the most legitimately psychedelic band playing the entire festival. Their songs are mostly derived from instrumental jam sessions they have, and between their combination of guitars, synths, organ and drums, their melodies swirl around on themselves and are catchy often thanks to their repetitive nature. They’re also very much on the rise. Their early material isn’t their best, but lately with last year’s debut album “Psychic Psummer” and the new “Pure Moods” EP this year, they’ve been on a hot streak. Considering they’ll be heading off on an international tour soon, now might be a good time to start giving them proper attention. When choosing between these two groups, I can testify that Allá are pretty damn good live, having seen them last summer. CAVE I have yet to see, but there’s a very strong word of mouth about their shows, so I say take a chance on these guys.
Cass McCombs [1:45pm, Connector Stage]
*Best Coast [1:55pm, Balance Stage]
Best Coast is the essentially one woman project of Bethany Cosentino. Her early music is almost exactly what you’d expect in that the songs are poorly recorded and typically only feature Cosentino’s electric guitar and vocals. Call it a very lo-fi listening experience in the vein of a Vivian Girls or Wavves. The melodies have a very heartening tone to them, with shades of both New York and L.A. influences pulling them in different directions. The hotly anticipated debut album from Best Coast, “Crazy For You”. comes out in a couple weeks and it’s of better recording quality and features fuller instrumentation than all of her earlier material. Word just came across in the past couple days that Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler has left that band to join Best Coast, so she should add some great percussion to the great songs on stage. And be on the lookout for Bethany’s now famous cat, Snacks! On the other side of the park you’ll have the option of seeing Cass McCombs, whose latest album “Catacombs” was one of my favorites from last year. The guy’s been around making music for quite awhile, and while he can be a little difficult to pin down, affixing the singer-songwriter tag to him works just fine as a generalization. His songs tend to border on the edges of folk and alt-country in an almost Wilco sort of way, but with less electric guitar and tendency to avoid extended jam sessions. Actually, perhaps the best comparison is to say he sounds like early Ryan Adams, in a time before he started to suck. What makes this choice more difficult than it should be is how quiet Cass McCombs’ songs are. They’re not exactly the sort of things you want to be standing in the hot sun listening to, whereas Best Coast has a much more rocking, California hot feel. Cosentino’s upcoming album is still pretty untested, but trusting that the new stuff is as decent as the old, Best Coast could make for one of the better sets on Sunday. So despite the beauty and brilliance of the music, Cass McCombs can’t quite deliver when it comes to the live department, otherwise he’d be getting the seal of approval in this matchup.
*2:30 Girls [2:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
2:50 Washed Out [2:50pm, Balance Stage]
Sadly, in the past year there’s been more talk about Girls frontman Christopher Owens’ past than there has been about his band’s music. He grew up in a cult, and now that I’ve mentioned it, please promptly do not ask about it again. But Owens and J.R. White are the duo known as Girls, and they make sunny, jangly guitar pop that’s got a very West Coast feel to it. You listen to it and are transported to beaches and bright locales where people are having nothing but fun. This is sort of the ideal sound for a festival atmosphere, and given how well their debut record “Album” was received last year (it was one of my personal favorites), there’s not much reason you shouldn’t go see Girls. Unless Washed Out strikes your fancy. The musical genre sometimes referred to as glo-fi or chillwave has an originator, and Washed Out’s Ernest Greene is largely regarded as the guy who started things. So much so that sometimes the genre is referred to as simply “washed out” instead of glo-fi or whatever else. The genre basically involves taking electro-beats and sometimes samples, and mixing them into moderately quiet, laid back arrangements with a lo-fi aesthetic. In other words, it’s slower dance music that sounds cheaply recorded. It’s also got a huge following right now. Washed Out notably doesn’t do many live shows, so his appearance at Pitchfork could be called something special. There’s also a very real possibility that his set will be tons of fun to dance to. The cards might be pointing in favor of Washed Out, but I honestly think that Girls will put on a better live show. Of course you might not realistically have the chance to see Washed Out again. Maybe go with your gut, and whichever artist speaks to you more in a case of guitars vs. electronica.
*Beach House [3:20pm, Connector Stage]
*Local Natives [3:45pm, Balance Stage]
This, for me, is the most difficult choice of the entire festival. The supremely talented Beach House have released 3 critically acclaimed albums, each new one being better and attracting more attention than the last. The duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally make warm melodies that come from the heart and occasionally soar with grace. Not meaning to diminish Scally’s role in the band, but Legrand’s sparkling synths and emotionally bare voice bring added richness to the already gorgeous songs. Beach House is also one of the few bands that can say they’re veterans of the Pitchfork Music Festival, having played two years ago. The challenge when it comes to watching Beach House live in Union Park is the setting. It’s Sunday afternoon and you might be dead tired, in which case a subdued and fully relaxed set from the band might bring you the rest you need to finish things strong. On the other hand, the gracious lullabyes Beach House have to offer could slow you down to the point where you might not recover that energy. Fear not, for should you be looking for music that’s got uptempo vibes and a whole lot more, Local Natives have you covered. Their debut album “Gorilla Manor” was released earlier this year to widespread praise, and it’s filled with insanely addictive songs that will stick in your head for days. Not only that, but they’ve got some incredible 4-person vocal harmonies that sound just as good performed live as they do on record. When it comes to riveting sets, Local Natives might just deliver the punch in the arm you need for the time and place. I’m calling this one an official “no decision” in that the choice you make here should be determined by how you feel at the exact moment, though given the 25 minute difference in the set start times, you could probably see a healthy amount of both bands. That’s my actual recommendation.
Lightning Bolt [4:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
*Surfer Blood [4:45pm, Balance Stage]
If you were watching Beach House and fell asleep in the middle of the field where the Aluminum and Connector stages are right near one another, you might wake up to find Lightning Bolt blasting their guitars at extreme volume levels next to you. Among other things, Lightning Bolt are a noise rock band, which basically means they get very, very loud and if the speakers go up to 11 they will take them there. It’s almost punishing how loud this band can be, and they like to toy with crowds at shows by setting up at the back of venues while opening bands play on stage, and then hitting them with a wall of noise as soon as that opening band finishes. In other words, Lightning Bolt doesn’t do shows on stage often, perferring instead to play on the floor in the middle of a huge crowd. Now chances are they won’t be able to do this at the Pitchfork Music Festival given the logistical challenges it provides, but don’t be surprised if there’s some stage diving or heavy interaction between the band and the crowd. As fun as Lightning Bolt might be, their music is difficult to like and as I’ve mentioned loud as hell, so be warned that there could be some unpleasantness involved. Surfer Blood, by small contrast, are a slightly less loud rock band whose debut album “Astro Coast” has attracted them all sorts of great attention. Their sound is decidedly 90’s rock influenced, with guitars and vocals layered in reverb and songs that are remarkably catchy. They also make fun, summertime music, which is just perfect for this festival. They’re young guys who may not have the live show experience to be as batshit insane as Lightning Bolt will be, but expect them to bring a positive energy to their set anyways. If you’re making the choice between these two bands, my personal pick has to be Surfer Blood for the music’s sake, but as you may have some time before they start, witnessing 30 minutes of the spectacle that is Lightning Bolt could be highly entertaining.
*St. Vincent [5:15pm, Connector Stage]
Here We Go Magic [5:45pm, Balance Stage]
Annie Clark is my girl. She performs under the moniker of St. Vincent, and she’s basically the patron saint of awesome. Her songs are effortlessly lovely, as she’s proven over the course of her last two records. “Actor”, which is her latest album, was one of my favorites last year and remains something I still listen to on a regular basis even today. It’s a record filled with densely composed indie pop songs that are lyrically deep telling stories about complicated women or the challenges of suburbia. In their live incarnations, these songs lose only a little bit of their magic, and that is replaced by some serious guitar shredding courtesy of Ms. Clark. She is simply too wonderful to miss, which is why at this point my discussion of Here We Go Magic will be something of a moot point. But Luke Temple is the main dude behind Here We Go Magic, and prior to this band he’s been a part of a couple other, less successful projects. Here We Go Magic started to make waves off their self-titled debut album last year, which Temple recorded by himself in his bedroom. The song “Fangela” struck it big among bloggers everywhere, and Temple hasn’t looked back since. He recruited a few people to join the band full time, and a few weeks ago they released their second album “Pigeons”, which features the full lineup and as a result feels like a legitimate full band record rather than just a solo project. Both albums are good in different ways, the first harnessing acoustic guitars and percussion pieces in a remarkably catchy way and the second getting much more beautiful and layered in a way that would make former tourmates Grizzly Bear proud. Though the full band might bring a remarkable bit of life to the much quieter, early material, the songs still probably won’t have the energy needed to maintain the full attention of the crowds at Pitchfork. This is why, as I’ve already mentioned, St. Vincent is your best bet for the 5pm hour.
*Major Lazer [6:15pm, Aluminum Stage]
Neon Indian [6:45pm, Balance Stage]
Why Neon Indian gets a slot so late in the day can be called something of a mystery. Neon Indian is most basically a solo electronica project of Alan Palomo, who prior to this might best be known under the moniker of VEGA. He was inspired to work under the Neon Indian name upon the realization that the material he was creating wasn’t quite the same as the more standard electro and remixes that VEGA did. No, Neon Indian focuses on different themes and sounds, specifically those which might be classified as glo-fi or chillwave. With the emergence of this much-hyped genre of music, pitting low quality bedroom synth pop with found sounds to create something you can both dance and relax to, Neon Indian has struck proverbial gold. Since the release of the debut Neon Indian album “Psychic Chasms” last year, Palomo has recruited a full band to help him play these catchy dance tunes live. I’ve seen Neon Indian live before, and they’re pretty good. What might be a bit more intriguing could be the set from Major Lazer. There’s a fun little backstory about this cartoon character Major Lazer and how he was a Jamaican commando that lost his arm in a war against some zombies in the 80’s, only to be outfitted with by scientists with lazers as a replacement limb. It’s all pretty hilarious, but the reality behind the project is that it’s two brilliant producers and remixers known as Diplo and Switch, who most recently had a hand in the creation of the not-so-highly-regarded new album from M.I.A.. Anyways, there is a Major Lazer album titled “Guns Don’t Kill People- Lazers Do” and the guys recruited a number of Jamaican guest vocalists (and other notables such as Santigold and Amanda Blank) to help them out with these songs designed to get people moving on the dance floor. There’s little to no expectation that any of these guests will appear with Major Lazer at the festival, but Diplo and Switch will presumably be working the turntables with a hype man or two. It has the potential to be a whole lot of fun, as the album seems to suggest that as well. For diversity’s sake, you could do pretty well watching Major Lazer instead of Neon Indian.
Big Boi [7:25pm, Connector Stage]
*Sleigh Bells [7:40pm, Balance Stage]
People love Outkast. The hip hop duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi became one of the best selling rap groups of all time, and it’s pretty understandable why. Together, these two guys came up with highly intelligent rhymes matched to bangin’ hooks that just wouldn’t get out of your head. I’ve fallen prey to many an Outkast song in my day, and perhaps someday soon the two guys will get back together and release something new. In the meantime, there are TV, movie and solo music projects both guys are pursuing. Big Boi released his first official solo album just last week, and it’s titled “Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty”. It took 3 years to record and was delayed for awhile thanks to some record label issues. The good news is that it’s finally out there and Big Boi is touring to support it. Critics seem to have been exceptionally kind towards the album, which I have not heard nor am I particularly inclined to give it a try. It’s nothing against Big Boi personally, I just seem to have trouble listening to hip hop these days. What I have seen are a few Big Boi performances on the late night TV talk show circuit recently, and they’ve all been pretty great. Of course things tend to look even better when you’re on Jimmy Fallon and have his house band The Roots performing with you. But there’s nothing to indicate Big Boi’s set won’t be fun and cool as hell, so if you’re in the mood for some hip hop, check it out. On the smaller stage, with the smaller speakers, Sleigh Bells might have a hard time. The reason I say that is because I’m not sure the sound system is going to be able to support their intensely loud and low-range songs. Assuming it can though, Sleigh Bells should be nothing short of incredible. The duo of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss have made one of this year’s best albums in “Treats”, and not only that but they’ve become widely known for their jaw-droppingly great live show. Krauss is a frontwoman in the truest sense of the word, getting the crowd amped up to the level they need to be, while Miller rips through the melodies on his guitar while being backed by a laptop. As much as I’d like to give a good faith recommendation to seeing Big Boi, Sleigh Bells are going to destroy Pitchfork and you kind of need to be there to witness it.
*Pavement [8:30pm, Aluminum Stage]
As they tend to do, the organizers of the Pitchfork Music Festival like to leave the very best for the very last. 90’s indie heroes Pavement have reunited and are playing shows again for the first time in 10 years, and it’s gotten fans unbelievably excited. For those too young to see Pavement when they were releasing records and touring during the 90’s, now’s finally the chance to get that experience checked off the bucket list. For those who saw Pavement back in the day and are still nostalgic about that period of time, now’s the opportunity to relive it in some form or another. How long this reunion will last and what the future of Pavement will be is still very much up in the air, which is what makes the band’s 2010 tour so special and important. For some, Pitchfork will be the only place they’ll get to see a Pavement show, though no matter where you live the band will probably come relatively close to your town if they haven’t already. So there’s not a whole lot to say. Hopefully you own copies of, or at the very least have heard albums like “Slanted & Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”, which are two of the best things to come out of the 90’s. Though they may not have been fully recognized as such when they were around initially, Pavement is among the most revered indie bands simply because their songs were great and that early 90’s era was also the true beginnings of the college/indie rock scene. Look for a set packed to the gills with some of their greatest “hits” (if you can call them that). Reports from other stops on the tour so far have had nothing but positive things to say about the reunion shows, so skipping out on the band isn’t really recommended. What I do recommend is sticking around and having a fun time. Hopefully if you play your cards right, this year the entire Pitchfork Music Festival will be a really fun time.