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It always seems like the time Chicagoans wait for Pitchfork Music Festival goes by too slow. Those zero degree weather days with horrible wind chill seem to take over for so much of the year when we can’t fathom why anyone in her/his right mind would venture outside. And, then, as if an imaginary power peeled all the frigidity away, we are left with a warmth that hails an opportunity to not only be outside without shivering but to experience amazing music while we are.
This year, Pitchfork Music Festival has arguably the best lineup it has ever had. For fans of a wide array of independent music, the festival boasts a variety of musical styles and genres to suit your fancy as well as some incredibly substantial headliners. The trend is such that many of the bands that play earlier on in the day end up playing the next year at Lollapalooza, so it behooves the music fan to get to the festival at the start of each day, which also might secure a good spot for experiencing the headlining band’s set of the night. It’s also clear that now perhaps more than ever, Pitchfork is making a concerted effort to represent creative women in music as well as men, which helps make the overall lineup for 2013 rather exquisite, not to mentioned well balanced.
At the current time, all weekend passes have sold out but single day passes are still available here Ticket prices are unbelievably reasonable at $50 a day, which is far less than a day at Lolla will run you. Besides, when we’re floating on a glacier in January, we’ll likely remember our time at Pitchfork as the most fun we had all year.
As far as the Pitchfork Music Festival schedule goes, it’s posted here to help you plan your days out accordingly. Here are some recommendations for bands to check out each day.
BJORK: (8:30PM Green Stage)
It would be strange to not include Icelandic sweetheart Bjork in these recommendations as she hasn’t come to Chicago in over six years “when she played the Auditorium Theater so for even the casual or the curious Bjork fan, this is an event not to be missed. Additionally, Bjork has created some of the most innovative and intriguing sounds that have helped shaped the current sounds of music for decades. Her 8 releases span over 35 years and represent within themselves a wide range of styles that often leave the listener quite breathless and unable to predict what she will do next. Her set is bound to make you feel creative and inspired, even if you don’t know any of her previous songs by heart. Chances are, considering how well known and successful some of her songs have been, you won’t be the only Dancer in the Dark on Friday night.
JOANNA NEWSOM: (7:20PM RED STAGE)
If glorious harp playing is your thing, Joanna Newsom is your new angel. Her sometimes eerie vocals centered around her wondrous plucking are in many ways otherworldly. It would be impossible to deny the talented woman that is Joanna Newsom and, though her career doesn’t span the breadth as Bjork, she’s created nearly a decade of music with her three albums and has been steadily crafting her art.
WIRE: (6:25PM GREEN STAGE)
Wire may be the only other band whose music that carries as much historical weight as Bjork. The British rock band is well known for their first three albums especially (Pink Flag in 1977, Chairs Missing in 1978, and 154 in 1979) but, though the band took a hiatus from releasing music that lasted over a decade, they re-emerged in 2003 and have released four albums since then, proving that they aren’t merely temporarily reunited. Their music is challenging, yet interesting and at times also quite catchy to the ear, especially if you enjoy edgier songs.
MIKAL CRONIN: (6:15PM BLUE)
Of course, the one downfall of seeing Wire is that you’ll likely have to leave Mikal Cronin’s set quite early and his live presence continues to get more impressive (touring and playing with Ty Segall probably also helped somewhat in terms of that). When Mikal Cronin recently played The Empty Bottle, for a sold out early and late show on June 11th, this author attended his early set and it was nothing short of inspired, not to mention quite fun as well. His newest release, MCII (2013) is absolutely stellar, with fuzzy rock garage songs composed by the man who seems to be the hopelessly lovable dreamer. He’s also accompanied live by the very talented drummer for Ty Segall, Emily Rose Epstein and she never misses a beat! Best recommendation: check out some of Mikal Cronin’s new songs on youtube and if you are digging them, try to see about half of their set and half of Wire to experience both. It’s more likely that Cronin will be back before Wire, though.
ANGEL OLSEN (5:15PM BLUE)
Another heart wrenching decision on Friday is choosing between Angel Olsen and Woods. While it’s technically possible to see half of each (Woods play Red Stage at 5:30pm), it’s also likely you won’t want to leave Angel’s set once she gets started. The good news is that if you do miss Angel Olsen’s set, you can catch her later on this summer when she plays at Lincoln Hall on August 16th, 2013 . Here’s why, at the very least you should check out her set, though: she’s one of those musicians that make living in Chicago an incredible experience. Her most recent release, Half Way Home garnered a much deserved 8.0 rating on Pitchfork’s site (Big Takeover review for her album can be found here) and if her voice alone doesn’t feel you with a timeless sense of longing, I don’t know what would. Olsen has helped support Will Oldham (or Bonnie Prince Billy) but she is an astounding musician in her own right whose very genuine presence will make your musical heart go all a flutter.
MAC DEMARCO (4:35 PM GREEN)
This reviewer has never seen Mac DeMarco live but did find the Safe for Work Pitchfork Live Stream of him playing rather intriguing. This quirky Canadian’s personality is what seems to make any live set (as well as his music videos) work. It’s definitely different than straight ahead garage rock and has moments of glam and swagger. And in the middle of a warm sounding chord progression, DeMarco will sometimes belt out a fun scream. Mac DeMarco’s full length album 2 was also another featured Best New Music with some tracks that can be played here
DAUGHN GIBSON (3:30 PM RED)
Daughn Gibson’s deep resonating voice channels a young, throatier Morrissey in many ways. He seems very sincere as he sings across the beats and his sense of melody and timing is different than either bands that tend to fit into a pop genre or those that hone in on their folkiness. Nonetheless, Gibson possesses a little bit of each. There are also times the music recalls a lo-fi Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields) kind of sensibility. Listen/see a bit of all 10 videos on Youtube here
FRANKIE ROSE (3:20 BLUE)
Here’s the first conflict of the day if you make it there early and it’s it seems like the only way to see both Frankie Rose and Daughn Gibson is to unfortunately see half of each set starting with Frankie Rose. Both musicians seem to offer an interesting sound to the festival. Frankie Rose has been associated with a few stellar indie rock bands such as Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, and Dum Dum Girls but it’s nice to see her coming into her own and getting some recognition not just as a part of a whole but as her own artist. She has a great sense of capturing melodies and, though her pace might (at times) be more slowed down than some of the bands she’s performed with in the past, there’s a captivating nature to the way her songs evolve that is quite fulfilling. Frankie Rose has a couple of releases out but one can definitely get excited about her further progression as a female musician in the future. You can check out some of her work in a great Youtube mix here to see if you are interested in venturing further.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN (8:30 PM GREEN)
The incredibly reasonable one day ticket price seems even more inexpensive considering this reviewer paid nearly this much to see Belle and Sebastian at the Chicago Theater in 2010. The Scottish group has put out some of the most insightful songs that vary between melancholia all the way to catchy pop. Live, with a full band, they are incredible, with perfect timing and fantastic female/male harmonies that are sure to please even the most tired out Pitchfork attendee. On a nice summer’s evening, there just aren’t many bands that are more preferable to listen to than this one. Throughout their eight full length studio albums, these Scots have captured such a keen sense of indie pop style that makes them unforgettable and the kind of band you long to hear to reassure you that everything will be all right.
ANDY STOTT (7:45 PM BLUE)
Andy Stott has been producing forward thinking dub/techno since 2006. His 2 recent EP’s (“We Stay Together” and “Passed Me By” both 2011) and his 3rd LP “Luxury Problems” (2012) have garnered him much widespread attention outside of the niche electronic world and are helping advance the genre as a whole. His set is especially recommended if you’re not already planning on getting to the GREEN stage early for a good spot for Belle and Sebastian and prefer electronic music to indie pop. For the rest of the evening, the BLUE side of the park might just become a full on dance party perfectly segueing into Rustie’s headlining spot on the same stage.
LOW (6:45 BLUE)
Low has often been mislabeled as something of a slow-core band, which ignores the intensity that guitarist and singer Alan Sparhawk channels when he gets going. This Duluth band is no sleeper and the turbulent tension that is sometimes worn on Sparhawk’s sleeve and, at other times, lurks just below the surface level demands the active engagement of the listener. Sparhawk and his wife Mimi Parker have created some of the most melodic songs but also have written quite a few tormented lyrics to accompany their lovely harmonizing. They have a bare honesty that takes the breath away and fans might not know quite what to expect considering their recent performance at Minnesota’s “Rock the Garden” Festival. Their set left new or casual fans a little bemused while the die hard fans treasured the unique experience of the band playing a nearly 30 minute version of “Do You Know How to Waltz.” Their newest album, The Invisible Way (2013) was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy but those curious about Low should prepare themselves for anything and everything. Personally, the opinion of this reviewer is that this will only make the live set more exciting. These chair kickers often help the listener relish in their own beautiful anguish and insights on life.
THE BREEDERS PLAY LAST SPLASH (6:15PM GREEN)
There are some bands that didn’t have the relatively lengthy careers that others playing this festival have had but still managed to put out something spectacular in their short span as a band. The Breeders is one of those bands and 1993’s Last Splash was one of those albums. The Deal sisters working together created something quite different than what Kim Deal created with Frank Black in The Pixies. Arguably the best Breeders album (this reviewer still has quite a fondness for their debut Pod), the second full length Last Splash is both indulgently poetic and deliciously girly. It would probably be dating oneself to admit that she/he spent hours sprawled out over bedcovers listening to the lyrics of No Aloha while staring at the ceiling and repeating over and over again “Saw it on the wall. Motherhood means mental freeze” so I’ll spare you any more details. More than the performance of any other singular album, let’s just say this set will be brimming with nostalgia. If you were too young to hear it when it came out, it’s also stood the test of time. Needless to say, this set is highly anticipated and recommended.
SWANS (5:15PM RED)
Seeing Swans is a bizarre intense experience often involving the contemplative aspects of experiencing music itself. Lead Michael Gira is precise and demands the full attention of his audience and it’s challenging to pull away once you get started on listening. Sometimes the music features a sort of escalated rhythmic intensity and often the quality of each piece becomes increasingly apparent as the songs progress. Swans is also a band to see for the historical aspect. Gira has been writing songs for Swans nearly as long as Wire has, since 1982 with 12 albums to show for it.
SAVAGES (4:15 PM GREEN)
More than ever, Pitchfork has made an effort to pick women than create music that is more challenging and edgier than ever before to play their festival and Savages is a quintessential example of this. One might have to leave Merchandise a little early to catch their set but it will likely be well worth it. They’ve been touring Europe opening for Portishead most recently and have received heaps of praise for their 2013 release Silence Yourself Out of all of the Pitchfork bands that are newer on the scene, Savages appears to be the one most swept up with fame and success at the moment so getting a chance to see them at Pitchfork before paying to see them at much larger venues seems ideal. This London female based band has punchy punk that at first might seem abrasive but then seems wholly addictive. You can also visit the band’s official Youtube site here
MERCHANDISE (3:45 BLUE)
This reviewer is really not sure what to expect from Merchandise whose philosophical leanings and reverb make songs at time seem Joy Division inspired and at other times more Smiths. They have changed their sound a bit even within their short career to keep fans and critics attentive and guessing what they’ll do next and it seems a little strange that they would come from Tampa, Florida (If I had to guess, I might actually say Bristol or at least somewhere in the UK). Either way, this reviewer feels the band is worth listening to and checking out. You can read Pitchfork reviews of their releases here
PHOSPHORESCENT (2:30 PM GREEN)
Phosphorescent is a little bit country (older style of country) and with notes of both pop music and orchestration on recordings. Lead singer, Matthew Houck, originally from Alabama, is the real deal of the American South even though he’s since relocated. He presents as genuine and sensitive and he sings like he’s not over his heartache with the slight crack in his voice at times of a deep feeling soul that takes every experience in life and carries it with him always. See the live KEXP performance here
JULIA HOLTER (1:55 BLUE)
Radically different than White Lung, Julia Holter’s music is usually quite pleasing to the ear so if you come from White Lung’s set, you might need to calm yourself down a little on the walk over. Holter shows a different kind of ingenuity but one that should be greatly appreciated. She is always subtly and, at times, not so subtly pushing the experimental envelope and is one of the most interesting experimental female musicians out there today. Her last two albums, Tragedy (2011) and Ekstasis (2012) are ones you can easily put on and get lost in very deeply. Fans of her work should make a special effort to check out her set as it’s possible she may play songs from her upcoming work Loud City Song (to be released August 19th, 2013).
WHITE LUNG (1pm GREEN)
If you wake up Saturday morning with little to no sleep and you just don’t know if you can drag yourself to Pitchfork early, DO because White Lung will do you the honors of waking you up. Anyone familiar with frantic riot girl bands will recognize their energy. This Canadian band might be one of the vigorous things you’ll see all day and will help get you excited about the rest of it. Pitchfork album review of Sorry here , Youtube videos on Pitchfork TV here You can also read the interview Stephanie Dubick of The Big Takeover did with White Lung here
GLASS CANDY (7:45 BLUE)
If you want to end the festival dancing and in probably one of the best moods of your life, seeing this west coast duo is highly recommended. The night they headlined a smaller stage of Coachella in 2009, Ida No was absolutely radiant and brimming with energy as she danced with a balloon adorned stage. Glass Candy creates interesting electronic pop music with No’s haunting vocals giving the tracks a real boost. Their sound is positively triumphant for those who want to dance but prefer something a little more interesting and creative than mainstream pop. You can check out some of their youtube videos here
YO LA TENGO (4:15 GREEN)
Yo La Tengo is no stranger to Chicago or Pitchfork lineups. The three piece has been kind enough to visit Chicago many times over the course of their 23 year career. Yo La Tengo is gentle but Ira Kaplan can be just as frantic in his guitar playing as Alan Sparhawk of Low. Another similarity is the alternating and sometimes co-occurring female/male harmonies that Kaplan and Hubley provide which proffers the songs a deep and rich texture. James McNew’s bass playing also helps give the band that characteristic sound that has developed over the years. But probably best of all is the sense of humor the trio often have on stage. They’ve done various tours which emphasize their Bob Dylan loving Freewheeling style. 2011 had them spinning a wheel and re-enacting an episode of Seinfeld on stage at the Cabaret Metro. Though this set will probably be more of a standard indie folk-rock show, it’s unusual for the Yo La Tengo fan to be displeased after hearing a band that’s been a favorite for over 2 decades.
WAXAHATCHEE (3:45PM BLUE)
If fuzzy guitar rock from a female perspective is something you find wholly inspiring, look no further than Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee whose 2013 debut album, Cerulean Salt” earned her an 8.4 and Best New Music from Pitchfork Takeover album review can be found here) Crutchfield has been a part of the indie scene for a few years, playing in various indie rock bands and at loft shows and record stores but never quite getting the recognition she deserves until now. Live, Crutchfield seems to come off as meek and modest between the songs but completely within her own element when she plays them with a band on this last tour that proved adept at supporting her lyrics. In order to get a better sense of their live presence, you can view the live youtube recordings Sei Jin Lee took at Permanent Records earlier this year
FOXYGEN (1:45 RED)
Foxygen is probably your best reason to get to Union Park earlier on in the day. The 60’s drenched pop music has some psychedelic aspects and is about as fun as indie bands come these days. In some ways, it recalls a swankier Donovan. It makes complete sense that the band is from California as many of these songs are as sunny as the sun itself and so fun to sing along to. Watch their youtube video San Fransisco to get more of an idea of what the band sounds like. Live, the reviews have been a little more mixed, with rumors that at Solid Sound Festival recently, things may have gotten a little out of hand. But you can’t help but forgive youth a little when the music they make is so swimmingly bright.