The 2017 edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival is now officially in the history books. It’s been three incredible days of music, and arguably one of the festival’s best years in recent memory. Sunday brought another fair share of surprises and delights, though one truly disappointing piece of news created a minor hiccup in an otherwise smooth day (and weekend). That disappointing news was that experimental electronica duo The Avalanches were forced to cancel their set at the very last minute due to a serious family illness. These things happen, and of course wish nothing but the best for the group and those they care about. It would have been their first-ever show in Chicago, so hopefully they’ll make up the date at some point in the near future (though that would likely be at a separate venue for a separate ticket price). The cancellation resulted in a minor schedule change, moving Jamila Woods from the small Blue stage over to the much larger Green stage to take The Avalanches’ place. More on her performance in the recap below. Please join me after the jump for further details about all the various performances that took place on Sunday. And if you missed the recaps from Friday or Saturday, just click on the links and you’ll be transported directly there. Keep an eye out for photos posts here within the next few days.
Here’s the portion of the preview guide where I provide sound and sane advice on how to make the most of your Pitchfork Music Festival weekend. Advice such as: wear lots of sunscreen and drink lots of water. The current forecast isn’t particularly hot, but that doesn’t mean you won’t wind up dehydrated. Try not to drink too much alcohol either, because as fun as that might be for you, most large crowds don’t like drunk people all that much. Plus, it’d be a big help if you wound up remembering everything you did and all the music you saw. To put it another way, drink all you like, just maybe don’t do it to blackout levels. Don’t forget to take a seat at least a couple of times each day. I’d recommend about 15-20 minute sit breaks every 3-4 hours if you’re going to be there all day long. There are some good, grassy spots in the shade at Union Park to hang out under, where you can at least hear, if not see the stages. Your body will thank you for the breaks, and you won’t wind up all sore and aching by the time Sunday rolls around. Make sure to explore! There’s a lot of really cool stuff happening just a short walk away from the stages, so if you’ve got a break between bands be sure to investigate some of the tents. There are posters, books and records all for sale, some companies give out free snacks to anyone passing by, and if your phone battery winds up drained there are some charging stations just in case. Everybody’s friendly and there to have a great time, so I hope you enjoy every aspect of your festival-going experience! Good luck!
So there’s your non-music advice column. Let’s get to the nitty gritty for Sunday, shall we? At this point in the weekend you’re probably a little worse for wear and just want to have a pretty chill final day. The great news is that this can be achieved with relative ease. Follow me after the jump, and we’ll break that schedule down by the hour.
Welcome to the beginning of Pitchfork Music Festival Week 2017! It’s become tradition here on Faronheit in the last few years to spend a full seven days celebrating the three day blissful orgy of music that descends upon Chicago every July in the form of the Pitchfork Music Festival. In my opinion, you won’t find a better curated or more diverse festival lineup anywhere other than Pitchfork. They put their brand and reputation on the line to celebrate great and innovative artists across backgrounds and genres. If you’re unaware or ignorant of the festival, perhaps a glance at some past coverage will provide an accurate impression of how things go each year. We couldn’t be more excited to bring you a complete festival guide all week long on Faronheit, which includes day-by-day previews, day-by-day recaps, plus a whole bunch of photos and other media along the way. Whether you’re headed to Union Park this weekend and are unsure about what bands to see, or are interested in the lineup and are looking to vicariously experience the festival without actually going, the hope is you’ll make this site one of your stops for key information and on-the-ground reporting. It’s a pleasure to put this guide together every year, and I hope it’s reflected in the content posted.
Let’s get started by providing a proper introduction to all of the artists set to perform at Pitchfork Music Festival 2017. After the jump you’ll find a Spotify playlist featuring two songs from every single artist on the linup, along with individual links to websites, music videos and more. The Spotify playlist is ordered by day and set time, while everything else is sorted alphabetically. There are plenty of ways to get to know these artists, but obviously listening to their music is the most important of all. So click some links, stream some songs, and begin your education!
Here’s a selection of photos that I took during Day 2 of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Click past the jump for photos of Belle & Sebastian, Solange, The Breeders, Savages, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Phosphorescent, Ryan Hemsworth, Parquet Courts and Metz. Check out more photos, day-by-day recaps, and a whole lot of other stuff related to the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival by clicking here.
I’m pleased to be wrapping up this week-long adventure into coverage of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival with a quick look back at the weekend that was. Having attended the festival for the last few years, you really get used to how things are run and where you need to go for everything from water to food to restrooms. So as you return in a sense it’s like coming home, and that’s comforting. I never once felt out of my element or like I had no idea what I was doing over the three days. Of course I didn’t quite see everything I wanted to see and hear everything I wanted to hear thanks to traffic delays and one too many hits of the snooze button, but what I missed was miniscule compared to what I saw. Hopefully you’ve read all about those adventures in my daily recaps (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). That should give you a pretty good idea of the best and worst of the music side of things this year. But just for fun, I put together a little list of superlatives, helping to highlight some of my favorite and least favorite musical treats from the weekend. Check that out:
Most surprising set: Killer Mike
Most disappointing set: Yo La Tengo
Set that best lived Up to the hype: Savages
Band that sounded better live than on record: Parquet Courts
Most openly fun set: Solange
Most likely controlled the weather during their set: Bjork
Set that proved punk rock is alive and well: Metz
Veteran act that still has “it”: Wire
Veteran act that has lost “it”: The Breeders
Band whose set would have been far more popular in a different decade: Chairlift
Band that felt so right in the middle of a sunny afternoon: Phosphorescent
Quietest set (artist + crowd): Joanna Newsom
Funniest set: Mac DeMarco
Most gratuitous use of the word “SWAG”: Lil B
Flashiest performance with the least amount of genuine substance: M.I.A.
Most pathetic attempt to attract attention: Foxygen
Outside of those superlatives, I want to talk for a brief minute about how things went overall. Since we’re on the topic of music, let me say a few words about this year’s lineup. To me, it felt just a little bit weaker than in the last few years, though all of the headliners were certainly nothing to sneeze at. Perhaps that’s where most of the budget went this year. I suspect it was telling that unlike the last couple years, the festival wasn’t a total sell out this year. Sunday was sold out, most likely due to obsessive R. Kelly fans who camped out at the Green stage for much of the day just waiting for him. But Friday and Saturday didn’t sell out, as far as I’m aware. I did keep hearing that there were a “very limited number” of tickets left for Friday, so maybe that eventually sold out too. When I look at it, I like most of the artists on the lineup for this year, but I’m not overly passionate about a lot of them. It made for another fine festival overall and I’m glad I saw what I did, but for whatever reason it sometimes felt like something was missing. Not a whole lot of artists really jumped out and grabbed me by the ears, so maybe that’s what it was. If I were put in charge of naming one act each day that was my favorite, the list would be the following: Friday – Bjork, Saturday – Savages, Sunday – Killer Mike. Of all the days, I’d classify Friday as my least favorite, primarily because many of the artists that performed that day were either relatively bland (Woods, Mikal Cronin) or didn’t quite feel like they belonged at an outdoor festival (Angel Olsen, Joanna Newsom). Perhaps I should have made it to Union Park in time for Trash Talk, I heard their set was crazy.
Music aside, let me comment on the amenities this year. Considering the capacity of Union Park every year, festival organizers have gotten everything at just about the right levels to make things comfortable. The restrooms are plentiful and you’ll never wait too long for one. The food booths offer a wide variety of cuisine for even the most sensitive of palates or dietary restrictions. I had some amazing tacos on Sunday. The return of Goose Island as the provider of alcoholic beverages was an inspired move. The availability of key beers like 312 and Green Line was nice, but even nicer was the special Goose Island booth that had a rotating cast of different beers from the brewer’s catalogue, not to mention two beers crafted exclusively for the festival. I tried both of the fest-exclusive beers, and they were delicious. The singular gripe I have, and it’s basically always been a problem, is with water fountains. Union Park has a distinct lack of water fountains, and therefore the few it does have resulted in long lines. There’s nothing that can really be done about that, but I’ve got to hand it to the volunteer crew at the festival for often walking around with cases of bottled water, handing them out to anybody that wanted one. A lot of people were likely spared a trip to the medical tent as a result of such gestures, though I did see at least a few people go down due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. On the whole, this year’s festival went rather swimmingly, where the sets all started on schedule and the lines were never astronomically or annoyingly huge. It’s a sharp reminder that no matter what the lineup might be, this is one of the best-run music festivals in the country. As I stated in my earlier coverage, Pitchfork Music Festival weekend is my favorite weekend every single year I attend. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true again by the time we reach the end of 2013.
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.
Do you remember our last summer of independence? Kevin Barnes apparently does, and spoke about such on the last Of Montreal album “Skeletal Lamping”. That was the band’s ninth album, and charting their evolution since the very first one in 1997 has been a highly interesting adventure. As part of the whole Elephant 6 collective, Of Montreal began as a very twee pop, innocent bedroom adventure. That sound was a great part of the band’s early appeal, though after a few records things naturally began to get a little tired and stale. So like all good artists do, Of Montreal evolved and the new phase was one of wackier, more spaced out hyperpop that owed great debts to 70s disco and funk while continuing to push the boundaries of modern music. Kevin Barnes and his merry band of misfits worked hard to essentially become Prince 2.0, and with a record like “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” they damn well succeeded at it. But “Skeletal Lamping” was a sharp move in the wrong direction, to the point where Barnes created a transgendered alter-ego known as “Georgie Fruit” who took over on a handful of songs. Not only that, but lyrically things evolved to the point where everything became hyper-sexualized and explicit to the point of making even the most liberal people cringe just a little bit in disgust. Combine that with a collection of songs that only a child with ADHD could love (because they often began and ended with such speed and complete disregard for whatever came moments prior) and ultimately it was a mess – the first moderately bad Of Montreal album in quite awhile. How does one recover from such a musical misfire? If you’re Kevin Barnes, it probably means re-enacting the “Goodbye Horses” scene from “Silence of the Lambs”, but to each his own. But appearing to be just a little bit smarter this time around, Barnes enlisted the help of legendary producer Jon Brion to help with the next Of Montreal album, and also recruited friends such as Solange Knowles and Janelle Monae to spike up his punchbowl just a bit. All of these things are put together in the brand new Of Montreal album “False Priest”.
Sliding through even a couple of quick tracks at the beginning of “False Priest” brings an interesting idea of how things have changed in the last two years for the band. To start, Kevin Barnes has found his focus again. Somebody must have put him on a prescription of Ritalin because there’s no more bouncing between songs that are only halfway finished. Instead, songs expand and contract as they should and as they have on most other Of Montreal records. Additionally, the he/she character known as Georgie Fruit seems to have disappeared, though if Barnes merely singing in falsetto indicates he’s in character, then perhaps Fruit is still kicking on a few tracks. But the oversexed wordplay is toned down as well to make way for less cringe-worthy lines. The themes are still sexual in nature, but more on a PG-13 level than an NC-17 one. Relationships tend to be the topic of choice, but instead of sleeping with everything that moves, songs like “Our Riotous Defects” and “Coquet Coquette” are about the inability of men to understand women as Barnes echoes his confusion over why his woman is yelling at him or is withholding sex. As generally engaging as this might be, it does feel like territory that Of Montreal has covered before, albeit from different angles. Barnes doesn’t have quite as many interesting one-liners as he’s had on more recent albums, but he’s still without a doubt the chief architect of this band.
The way collaborators are used on “False Priest” is one of its strengths. Jon Brion acting as producer pulls the mostly minimalist arrangements that seem to dominate Of Montreal’s sound and dresses them up a little bit to give them a fuller and overall stronger feel, like the skinny kid that built up some muscle by working out. That said, Brion doesn’t nearly do enough to mess with what’s already a trademark band sound. You can throw lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. How much of an influence Brion had on this final product is officially unknown, but one gets the impression Barnes might have been a little sensitive about messing with songs he’d probably been working on for awhile. As for the vocal turns from Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles, both add a little bit of extra spice to the record. It’s nice to hear vocals other than Barnes and more Barnes harmonizing with himself. Monae’s work on “Enemy Gene” is simply wonderful, and the already good song only gets better when she steps up to the microphone. Monae also does a little vocal part on the second half of “Our Riotous Defects”, and it turns a very plain Of Montreal song into something far more worthwhile. Put together that makes the track just a little better than average. As for Solange, her work on “Sex Karma” is less inspired and more according to script. It plays like a back and forth dialogue between boyfriend and girlfriend, and the move is so cliched that even a fascinating melody can’t scrape off all the cheese. That along with the poor innuendos don’t necessarily make the track worth yoru time. Barnes is hit and miss when he’s on his own too, sometimes holding steady in old patterns that have become a little too comfortable to the point where they’re bordering on boring. Other times he pushes boundaries, such as on first single “Coquet Coquette”, where guitars really up the ante and hint towards a potential future in that heavier direction. There are moments of digital trash that pile up in some of the gaps between vocals on “Like A Tourist” that feel highly fascinating and innovative for Of Montreal as well. And a song like “Famine Affair” has a remarkably 80s new wave vibe to it that shifts past the funk and into a more rock direction, especially when the chorus comes around. If there’s going to be a next sonic evolution for this band, that might be the track to use as a future model.
Ultimately “False Priest” comes off like a transitional record for Of Montreal. For a band that’s been around for so long, continuing to come up with new and interesting ideas has to be a significant challenge, which is why a number of songs on this album feel like retreads of where Barnes has gone before. Should Of Montreal continue down this path, the band will wind up stuck in the same cliches and the fans will suffer. Of course it also hasn’t been easy trying to adjust to all the many whims that Kevin Barnes seems to have from album to album. But he does the right thing by putting the train back on the track in the right direction, most notably by rendering out complete songs with less offensive lyrics than the poor “Skeletal Lamping”. The collaborations on this album turn out mostly positive, but they do leave you wondering how much personal influence Barnes placed on top of things like Jon Brion’s suggestions. A spirit more open to collaboration can only help to diversify Of Montreal’s sound even more, and that’s exactly what’s needed at this point. Still, there are moments of greatness on this record, providing a road map for just what might be next for this band. Should Barnes actually choose to pursue one of these new directions, and past evidence suggests he might, it could mean the continued love and critical acclaim for a band that has proven its resilience time and time again in the face of difficult odds. “False Priest” may be a little bit of a recovery from the tumble they took last time around, but there’s still a whole other set of challenges that lie ahead. How they face them will determine their future as a one of today’s most brilliantly oddball bands.