Pitchfork Preview: How It Quietly Became Chicago’s Best Music Festival

It is often said that Chicago provides one of the best landscapes for summer music festivals, giving the attendees the unique experience of the outdoor super-fest while being planted in the center of one of the most fascinating cities on the planet. This is why many music lovers flock to the city each year to see their favorite groups perform in a variety of festivals, including (but not limited to) the “Big Five” major market fests that hit the city limits every summer: Lollapalooza, North Coast, Pitchfork, Spring Awakening, and Riot Fest. Many people look to Grant Park in early August for one of the largest festivals in the country, and manage to overlook the quaint (in comparison) gathering that happens only a mere 2.5 miles west of the Lollapalooza battlegrounds.

The annual Pitchfork Music Festival takes place in Chicago’s Union Park, and this year’s installment runs July 18th through the 20th. The festival has been running officially since 2006, and has been growing in size in popularity consistently in its short history. It quickly established itself as a notable event, selling out multiple years in a row and continuing to raise the bar on its jam-packed indie rock lineups. This year is of course no exception.

Some could say that Pitchfork’s surge as a dominant weekend was shown by the 2009 lineup, capped with bands like festival-powerhouse The Flaming Lips and jaw-dropping performances from Matt & Kim and M83, both of which who were still arguable unknowns. Or maybe it was in 2010, when the festival grabbed Modest Mouse, the reunited Pavement, LCD Soundsystem, and even added a comedy tent. But this year’s lineup in particular, along with a few of the fest’s other storied traditions, show how Pitchfork became the best music festival in Chicago.

The Lineups

Even despite the fact that Pitchfork lineups have always been pretty damn good, this year’s lineup was a shocker after pulling three huge names from the potential artist pool as headliners. The successfully reunited Neutral Milk Hotel, alt/rock legend Beck, and the seven-time Grammy nominated and Billboard Number One Rap Album recipient Kendrick Lamar will all be closing out a night of the festival this year. Backed by the Animal Collective/Dirty Projectors side project Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, St. Vincent, Odd Future rapper Earl Sweatshirt, and many many more, this list of acts is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

The Prices

There always seems to be some method of making a festival seem like it’s a good deal, but there’s no extensive number crunching to be done here. With a lot of acts, a small amount of stages, and cheap prices, there is clearly a solid amount of bang for your buck. And no matter how good or expensive the acts are, Pitchfork has always been very good about not raising ticket prices every year, so the investment has a level of consistency.

All the Activities!

As a past attendee, I have always raved about the amazing atmosphere Pitchfork offers. Outside of the stages, local record stores and labels pack underneath tents to sell shirts, records, and CDs. Local Chicago artists display their works, be it a painting, a poster, or even a homemade purse. Even the local farmer’s markets stop by to sell fresh fruit next to other Chicago-bred food vendors, with both of which managing to get by despite the fact that they actually sell food at reasonable prices.

For more information on this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, visit them online at www.pitchforkmusicfestival.com. Also, be sure to stay tuned to WIUX both online and on social media as we cover all three days of the festival.