[photogallerylink id=88414 align=left]Look, nobody’s going to dispute that Chicago-based festivals in the summer are always ungodly hot. It could be a street fair celebrating the culture of Antarctica hosted by Mr. Freeze and it there would be a 104 degree heat index. As unforgiving as Chicago winters are, the summers are just as cruel, with a humidity that chokes the very life out of even the most hydrated of men. Now imagine standing the middle of a giant crowd of sweaty, drunk, dancing individuals on a cloudless day. Congrats. You’re at Pitchfork. You can also simulate the experience by trying to make out with a plastic bag in hell, but that’s considered SLIGHTLY more of a health risk.
[photogallerylink id=88554 align=left]Don’t get it twisted, though. Pitchfork is always well worth bearing the heat. Very few events can expose you to the variety of up-and-coming artists that Pitchfork does, and this year was no exception. Kicking off Friday was EMA, fresh off of releasing her first full-length album two months ago. Displaying a passionate yet unpandering girl-power ferocity, EMA powerfully stalked the stage, guitar slung around her, stepping to the mic only to howl her incredibly personal lyrics.
[photogallerylink id=88229 align=left]Across Union Park’s signature baseball field was tUnE-yArDs, a small three member set led by Merrill Garbus. Garbus live-shows are a sight to behold. Not because of any lights or effects, but because of Garbus’ talent. Recording and looping her own voice multiple times on site, she plays her wails over a drum machine, creating a style of music comparable only to Reggie Watts. Unlike Watts, however, Garbus is joined by a bassist and a sax man. Watch and listen to the trio for long enough, and you might find yourself saying, “How do they DO that?!”
Taking over the Green Stage was Battles, a trio that is much more than meets the eye. While they look like a common rock group (guitar/bass/drums/keyboard), they incorporate an avant-garde style in the form of altered vocal effects, merging the two worlds of prog rock and experimental rock to create a sound that drove the Pitchfork crowd wild.
James Blake has established himself as one of the biggest acts in dubstep, pounding the crowd with a thick, rapid beat, and the crowd was more than happy to come back for more. Blake’s star is rising faster than you can say WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB-WUB, and his reputation is sure to grow even larger after his performance.
Rounding out Friday were college-rock legends Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) and a newly-reformed Guided by Voices, giving the young crowd a taste of OG alternative rock. Neko Case and Animal Collective also drew huge crowds, and proved they were more than worthy of their headlining spots.
[photogallerylink id=88437 align=left]Cold Cave performed on Saturday, and continued the fest’s tradition of giving up-and-coming experimental bands exposure to a larger audience. Cold Cave took full advantage of the opportunity, hypnotizing the crowd with their synthpop stylings. Keep an eye out for them to make it big on the indie scene sooner than later.
Twin Shadow has been bumming around the indie scene since 2000, but his style is right out of the 1980s. Though it was a little too hot for his usual “Canadian Tuxedo” (jean pants with jean jacket”, he still managed to make the crowd hot with his lush new wave sound headed by delay-driven guitars over a rhythm section dripping with opulence.
[photogallerylink id=88656 align=left]Fleet Foxes were the big act of the day, and they delivered. Just two years ago they drew a small but devoted fanbase to their sidestage at Pitchfork, but this year they secured the full-attention of festival-goers, showcasing how they got so big so fast: by playing damn good music.
Displaying a sound as distinctive as drummer Jonny Rogoff’s afro, Yuck has brought the college-rock stylings of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth into the new century, bringing with them a certain sweetness that comes with their youth and nostalgia. The audience was abuzz after their performance, safely ensuring they’ve gained a few new fans at the end of the day.
[photogallerylink id=88761 align=left]Continuing with a more old-school 90s alt sound was Kurt Vile and the Violators. It’s no surprise Vile’s lo-fi sound has found the attention of indie rock legends Kim Gordon and J. Mascis. The audience found him just as appealing, his sound much different from the experimental acts that were showcased the previous two days. Mark him down as another artist to keep an eye on.
[photogallerylink id=89044 align=left]One of the few alternative acts to stay intact throughout the 90s, Superchunk has been chugging alone for 22 years and counting. The fans showed their appreciation, giving strength to an already high powered set from the band. Never taking themselves too seriously, they got the crowd rocking with their classic indie-punk antics.
On the opposite end of the intensity spectrum was chillwave artist Toro y Moi. For those of you unfamiliar with chillwave, imagine sitting on the back porch with a cold beverage and without a care in the world. Toro y Moi is that oasis, keeping the crowd in a cool groove despite the otherwise punishing heat.
Cut Copy returned to Pitchfork with their tail between their legs. Having been well over an hour late the last time they came to the fest, the band further enraged fans by performing for only 20 minutes. This was not the case in 2011. They trilled a massive crowd with their upbeat post-new wave rock sound, performing singles old and new. It was a flawless performance that returned the band into Chicago’s good graces.
TV on the Radio was the final performance of the fest, and for good reason. Their performance was arguably the finest of the fest, leaving the loyal fans who braved the heat all day happy. You can’t ask much more from a headlining act.