The Pitchfork Music Festival, now into its third year, is the best event of its kind happening in America right now. In fact, it is kind of a disservice to call Pitchfork a “music festival”—given the bad connotations associated with the term (drunken idiots, mud and garbage baking in the hot summer sun, ughh). However, Pitchfork is different, due to its laid-back atmosphere, good-but-inexpensive food and drink, rock-poster vendors, craft tents, record booths and the less-than-crowded (but nevertheless sold-out) concert grounds. Oh yeah, and the music. Unless you’re a total music fiend, you likely haven’t heard of half the bands, but the organizers make it quite easy to take in new music. Intimate, but expansive.
Held on July 17-20 at Chicago’s Union Park, tucked away in a low-key neighborhood, this year’s event resembled the 2007 festival in many ways. Friday night featured three artists each playing one of their classic albums in full—including post-punk icons Mission of Burma doing 1982’s Vs., sad-sack indie rockers Sebadoh performing 1993’s Bubble and Scrape, and the mighty Public Enemy, who did a blistering take on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, a game-changing album that turned 20 this year. Augmented by bass, guitar, drums and turntables, frontman Chuck D and loose cannon Flavor Flav rocked the crowd with air raid sirens, walloping drums, and revolutionary rhymes.
Over the next two days, roughly 30 acts performed on three stages staggered throughout the park, ensuring that a millisecond didn’t lapse without music soaking the air. Up-and-comers Fleet Foxes massaged the crowed with layered harmonies, British rapper Dizzie Rascal killed it—especially on “Fix Up, Look Sharp,” which samples Billy Squire’s “Big Beat”—and Animal Collective disoriented the audience with its percussive song poems and psychedelic stage show.
On Sunday, The Apples in Stereo coated the audience with this band’s brand of sweet bubble-pop (catchy melodies, harmonies and all), The Dirty Projectors bent minds with their eccentric girl-boy vocals, and The Hold Steady delivered a Springsteen-worthy crowd-pleasing set.
However, Brooklyn rockers Le Savy Fav owned the crowd with an over-the-top spazz-out by half-naked, pot bellied lead singer Tim Harrington—who spent quite a bit of the set in the crowd, rolling around in the mud. Tight, powerful, and loud-as-hell, Le Savy Fav converted this non-believer.
Long live rock, and long live Pitchfork.