As it enters its third year in Union Park, this weekend's Pitchfork Music
Festival has once again shaped up to be the most promising outdoor music
fest in Chicago this summer, with an exciting and diverse roster of cult
heroes and up-and-coming buzz bands; an excellent location; great sound, and
exceedingly reasonable prices -- so reasonable that the fest is already sold
out, with attendance capped at 13,000 tonight and 17,000 per day tomorrow
Here is an hour-by-hour look at the artists performing on the two main
stages, which run consecutively. A smaller secondary stage runs
concurrently; see sidebar. (Almost all of these bands have Web sites or
MySpace pages that enable listeners to sample the music before heading out
to the park; search the Web.)
Led by Barry Hogan, All Tomorrow's Parties is a U.K.-based traveling
festival that approached Pitchfork about playing a role in the Chicago
concert. When the city Park District said it was open to Pitchfork adding a
third day this year, local promoter Mike Reed saw the opportunity to bring
ATP into the mix with its "Don't Look Back" series of underground acts each
playing one of its classic albums in its entirety.
Slint performs "Spiderland," 6:30 p.m.
With this 1991 album, the Louisville quartet created a sonic blueprint for
much of the indie rock that followed in the next decade, highlighting
emotional, poetic lyrics, intertwining guitars and dramatic dynamic shifts.
The group had broken up by the time "Spiderland" was released, but it
reunited in 2005 and has been performing sporadically ever since.
GZA performs "Liquid Swords," 7:45 p.m.
Considered a masterpiece of gritty, street-smart East Coast rap, this 1995
solo album by GZA (a.k.a. the Genius or Gary Grice) featured contributions
from many of his Wu-Tang Clan bandmates, including producer RZA, whose mix
of elements from Samurai films, creepy soundscapes and unsettling beats was
arguably never better.
Sonic Youth performs "Daydream Nation," 9 p.m.
Newly reissued by Geffen Records in an expanded deluxe edition, many fans
consider this 1988 album to be Sonic Youth's finest moment. Personally, I'd
rather hear the long-running New York noise-rockers play all of "Bad Moon
Rising" or "Goo," since this disc's foray into more lush and atmospheric
sounds could work splendidly, or fall flat after the hard-rocking opening
anthem, "Teenage Riot."
The Twilight Sad, 1 p.m.
This guitar-pop quartet hails from just outside Glasgow, Scotland, and
it's touring in support of its first full album, "Fourteen Autumns and
Fifteen Winters," a collection of gorgeous, dreamy songs that bring to mind
the best of New Zealand's Chills.
Califone, 1:30 p.m.
From his days with Friends of Betty through Red Red Meat and on to Califone,
Tim Rutili has been one of the most consistently creative forces on the
Chicago underground rock scene. Though he is now living on the West Coast,
he and Califone MVP Ben Massarella continue to make entrancing and hypnotic
sounds based on warping blues and folk roots whenever they reunite onstage
or in the studio, as they did for last year's "Roots & Crowns."
Voxtrot, 2 p.m.
The pace starts to pick up a bit with this Austin quintet, which alternately
delivers upbeat, driving Britpop (albeit with a Texas accent) and slightly
more twee and affected material a bit too obviously inspired by Morrissey
and Belle and Sebastian.
Grizzly Bear, 3 p.m.
This Brooklyn quartet strikes me as a poor man's Califone, lacking the
twisted melodies that lurk underneath the skewed roots music. But Pitchfork
raved about last year's "Yellow House," and drummer and vocalist Chris Bear
and his bandmates may be better appreciated live.
Battles, 4 p.m.
One of the acts I'm most excited about, this Brooklyn quartet led by former
Chicagoan Ian Williams of Don Caballero has created a thoroughly distinctive
take on progressive rock with their phenomenal new album, "Mirrored."
Watching singer Tyondai Braxton recreating unique voices that evoke Alvin
and the Chipmunks on psychedelic drugs should be even more fun in concert.
Iron and Wine, 5 p.m.
Florida-based folk-rocker Sam Bean is gearing up for the September release
of his third album "The Shepherd's Dog" on Seattle's Sub Pop Records. Think
Nick Drake goes Southern Gothic.
Mastodon, 6 p.m.
This Atlanta metal quartet is the heaviest group Pitchfork has ever booked.
Its 2004 album "Leviathan" was a concept effort inspired by Moby Dick,
and the music did ample justice to the title, as do the sounds on last
year's "Blood Mountain."
The Clipse, 7 p.m.
The recent, long-awaited release of "Hell Hath No Fury," the second album
from Virginia Beach brothers Terrence and Gene Thornton (a k a Pusha T and
Malice) justified the underground buzz that has been building since 2002,
with a stellar production from longtime friends the Neptunes and unusually
smart, insightful and funny rhymes about the harsh life of the hustler.
Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues, 8 p.m.
Indie-folkie Chan Marshall traveled to Memphis to inject a dose of soul into
last year's "The Greatest," but she remains notoriously uneven onstage,
prone to emotional outbursts and cutting performances short. Here's hoping
that the sensitive backing from Dirty Delta Blues will help her keep it
Yoko Ono with special guests, 9 p.m.
One of the most controversial figures in rock history, Ono has been
experiencing a reassessment of her avant-garde solo recordings for several
years now, with underground rockers celebrating the music for its noisy
experiments and electronic innovations. (Witness the recent remix
collection, "Yes, I'm a Witch.") Ono originally wanted to do a rare live
performance with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Cat Power at South by
Southwest last March, but festival organizers blocked the gig because it
wasn't a sanctioned event. It's likely that Ono will finally deliver
whatever she'd hoped to do in Texas here at Union Park.
Deerhunter, 1 p.m.
A self-proclaimed "ambient punk" quintet from Atlanta, this group is
distinguished by its electronic psychedelia and a flamboyant frontman,
Bradford Cox, who suffers from Marfan syndrome.
The Ponys, 1:30 p.m.
These Chicago garage-rockers graduated to Matador Records for their third
album, "Turn the Lights Out." I've never heard the excitement others praise
on record, but Jered Gummere and his bandmates are a rollicking good time
Menomena, 2 p.m.
This goofy experimental/electronic trio from Portland is another act that
can be a bit underwhelming on album, including the recent "Friend and Foe."
But it more than acquits itself with its frenetic energy onstage.
Junior Boys, 3 p.m.
More electronic pop from a Hamilton, Ontario, duo that often expands to a
trio in concert. Their entrancing sounds should offer the perfect
The Sea and Cake, 4 p.m.
Chicago's much-hyped jazz and electronica-tinged lounge act is a love it or
hate it proposition. Me, I adore space-age bachelor pad music, but I'll take
Esquivel or Stereolab any day, since Sam Prekop's anemic vocals have always
left me cold. But it's always fun to watch drummer John McEntire in his most
straightforward role behind the trap kit.
Jamie Lidell, 5 p.m.
A one-man band and talented singer from England, Lidell offers an inspiring
mix of influences old (with a deep love for '70s soul) and new (he creates
most of his music with a sampler and a sequencer, mouthing each part as he
builds electronic loops). Though Pitchfork would be loath to mention it, he
has been broaching the mainstream with songs on the soundtracks for "Grey's
Anatomy" and recent Target commercials.
Stephen Malkmus, 6 p.m.
After Ono, the former leader of Pavement is probably the most revered indie/underground
hero on the bill (though the guys in Slint might disagree). He's said to be
performing alone at Pitchfork, without the band that has backed him on
recent tours supporting solo albums such as "Face the Truth" (2005).
Of Montreal, 7 p.m.
This Athens, Ga., indie-rock quintet is the best of the second-tier bands
that recorded under the Elephant 6 moniker, mixing a giddy dose of '70s
disco with guitar-driven psychedelic pop on the album "Hissing Fauna, Are
You the Destroyer?"
The New Pornographers, 8 p.m.
Though the Vancouver supergroup is always a good time live, thanks to its
effervescent indie-pop anthems, it tends to suffer a bit when alt-country
chanteuse Neko Case isn't on board. She won't be here, but on the plus side,
we should be among the first to hear songs from a new album due later this
De La Soul, 9 p.m.
While it would have been amazing to hear this groundbreaking Long Island
trio play its 1989 classic "3 Feet High and Rising" on Friday night, we'd
have missed out on material from recent albums such as "Art Official
Intelligence: Mosaic Thump" (2000) and "The Grind Date" (2004). Those were
nearly as strong, even if they didn't garner as much attention as when the
group first heralded the Daisy Age of alternative rap.
Though I'm usually covering the acts on the two main stages, many fans
rave about the offerings on Pitchfork's smaller secondary stage, and I
intend to see several of them this year. Here's a quick look at those
Ken Vandermark's Powerhouse Sound (1 p.m.), the hard-hitting combo
fronted by Chicago's avant-jazz sax master
William Parker Quartet (2
p.m.),more cutting-edge jazz from the acclaimed double bassist
Beach House (3:10 p.m.), moody pop from the Baltimore duo Victoria
Legrand and Alex Scally
Fujiya & Miyagi (4:10 p.m.), '70s Krautrock meets early-'90s
Professor Murder (5:15 p.m.), a New York post-punk quartet
Oxford Collapse (6:15 p.m.), more post-punk art-rock from this Sub
Dan Deacon (7:15 p.m.), electronic lunacy from a flamboyant
Baltimore performer, and Girl Talk (8:30 p.m.), high-energy grooves
from genre-blurring mixmaster Gregg Gillis.
Fred Lonberg-Holm's Lightbox Orchestra (1 p.m.), improvised music
from the latest combo led by Chicago's wildly creative cellist
Brightblack Morning Light (2 p.m.), environmentally conscious
psychedelic/folk-rock from New Mexican duo Nabob and Rabob Shineywater
Nomo (3:10 p.m.), free jazz meets world beat in Detroit
Craig Taborn's Junk Magic (4:10 p.m.), experimental electronic
jazz from another one-man band
the Cool Kids (5:15 p.m.), a quickly rising Chicago hip-hop duo
anointed by Kanye West's DJ A-Trak
Cadence Weapon (6:15 p.m.), more promising new hip-hop from former
Pitchfork writer Rollie Pemberton
The Field (7:15 p.m.), electronic noise-rock from Sweden's Axel
Wilner, and Klaxons (8:30 p.m.), New Wave dance-punk from a
much-buzzed English trio.
PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL
• Tonight through Sunday
• Union Park, Ashland Avenue at Ogden and Lake Street
• Sold out
• Public transportation via the CTA's Green Line is encouraged. (The
Ashland stop is only yards from the entrance to the park.)
• Gates open tonight at 5 tonight and Saturday; noon Sunday.
• Non-professional cameras, fanny packs, sealed bottled water,
medium-sized backpacks and folding chairs are allowed. Prohibited items
include tents, flags, lounge chairs, knives or other weapons, video cameras,
audio recorders, pets and outside food or beverages (other than sealed
• For more information, visit pitchforkmusicfestival.com.