A P’Fork 2012 Primer – Recs & Suggestions

When I posted a couple of weeks back that I was selling my three day pass to this weekend’s Pitchfork Festival, a number of friends reached out to me, concerned about what might be keeping me away. I guess my unbridled enthusiasm for Chicago’s best music festival (sorry Lollapalooza, not only is your lineup weak but the setup and ticket prices make you uninspiring to this one) raised an eyebrow or two. The reason was quite simple: a very good friend was getting married this weekend. Although I love live music, friendship comes before concerts. Always. And, I am very excited and eager to celebrate with my friend and forego three days in Union Park.

That being said, I still have lots of thoughts and opinions about the bands performing this weekend. So, for those descending upon Union Park for the finest weekend of music in the City, here are my “quick” thoughts on which bands to check out. (‘Cause let’s be honest, I’m not always good with being succinct.)

Note: The following is organized according to acts that I’d be most excited to see (and in backwards order). I’ve also included some additional bands to consider adding or subbing in.

Friday July 13th, 2012

  1. Purity Ring (8:30 on Blue Stage) – A downtempo and dance electronica duo who offer the perfect combo of groovy beats and chill wave to ease out the night. (They conflict with the headliner Feist, but see my thoughts below.)
  2. Dirty Projectors (7:20 on the Red Stage) – Either you love their esoteric and experimental melodies and rhythms or you find them pretentious and difficult to listen to. Clearly I’m of the former camp and would love to hear the ladies and gentlemen of DP croon “Stillness is the Move” and “Temecula Sunrise”. [Can’t Miss!!!]
  3. Japandroids (6:15 on Blue Stage) – Hands down one of the best live acts I’ve seen in the past decade in terms of precision and power and from just two dudes! [Can’t Miss!!!]
  4. Wills Earl Beal (4:15 on Blue Stage) – A unique and spellbinding performer that mixes Memphis Blues, gospel vibrato and American Folk into a strange and brilliant concoction.
  5. Lower Dens (3:30 on Red Stage) – If you enjoy a great 90s sounding guitar rock band with a penchant for long instrumentals, then you should totally check this Baltimore group out. I saw them earlier this year and was captivated.

Additional Great Stuff

  • Olivia Tremor Control (4:35 on the Green Stage)
  • Feist (8:20 on Red Stage) – I adore Feist’s recorded material, but I tend to avoid solo acts at these outdoor venues especially on the large stage because their vocals get lost in the mix and the performance feels underwhelming. See Destroyer’s set last year. Not his fault. The mix was awful.
  • A$AP Rocky (5:30 on Red Stage) – I think he’s got really great beats and rhymes.

 Saturday July 14th, 2012

For the record, there is just too much good stuff on Saturday.

  1. GodSpeed You! Black Emperor (8:30 on the Green Stage) – One of the most amazing, mind-blowing live sets I have ever seen. I am prone to hyperbole, but, in all honesty, it was a show that left a very memorable impression on me. For those unfamiliar with this band, they are a musical collective from Montreal composed of some of the finest musicians in North America. The whole set is instrumental with some recorded “found sound” interspersed throughout. Grab a drink, pick a spot in the grass, sit back and just enjoy a live music experience unlike any other. [Can’t Miss!!!]
    1. Grimes (8:40 on the Blue Stage) – Okay, so here’s the thing. I raved about GSYBE above, but if I were going to be there I think I’d run over to see the first ten or 15 minutes of Grimes’ set and the head back to GSYBE. I adore Grimes’ record and fascinated to see her turn it into a live performance. Plus I would probably need to come down a little from my Hot Chip dancing high and she has a far mellower dance groove.
  2. Hot Chip (7:25 on the Red Stage) – This is the perfect lead up to GSYBE! Get ready for an upbeat and dance focused set from this group of indie dance music maestros. They’ve got a DJ mixing it up on the turntables. They’ve got Alexis Taylor in crazy outfits pumping up the crowd. And, they’ve got music to get your hips and feet a stompin’. [Can’t Miss!!!]
  3. Sleigh Bells (6:15 on the Green Stage) — This NY city duo put out one of the most riveting and invigorating rock records of 2012 to date. Alexis Kraus’ vocals will both lull you a pleasant state of euphoria and pierce your side. So definitely don’t miss out. And be ready to jump, sway, and get sweaty. [Can’t Miss!!!]
  4. Wild Flag (5:15 on the Red Stage) – …and speaking of rocking.  Love these ladies. I’ve seen them three times in the last year and each set is better, tighter and more expansive. It’s very likely they’ll play new material and some fun covers. But it’s most certain they will ROCK your socks off. [Can’t Miss!!!]
  5. Youth Lagoon (3:45 on Blue Stage) – Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) blew me away with the subtle and precious power of his record, The Year in Hibernation. If you are worried about whether it will get lost in the live performance, have no fear, his live set is stellar.
  6. Cloud Nothings (1:45 on the Red Stage) – From lo-fi power pop to pristine produced pop and dirge punk, CN are a young and exciting band that will infuse your post brunch/lunch mellow with a much needed shot of adrenaline. In other words, this is your P’fork caffeine jolt of the day. (And in case you are wondering what to do between CN and YL, walk over to Flatstock Poster Festival and check out some of the great poster and print artists on display. Look in particular for the Bird Machine and Crosshair. Or bid on the Rock for Kids auction items!)

Additional Great Stuff

  • Chromatics (6:45 on the Blue Stage) – Dreamy Fuzz pop and Shoegazer electornica outfit out of the Northwest who evoke shades of My Bloody Valentine and pre-Technique New Order. Given all the heavy hitters surrounding them, it might be hard to squeeze them in, but in case this is more your scene, I’d definitely check them out.
  • Danny Brown (7:40 on the Blue Stage) – Undoubtedly one of the best new rappers on the scene and evoking the word and beat heavy still of the mid 90s. He’s got swagger and a unique vocal talent.
  • Nicholas Jaar (4:45 on the Blue Stage) – If you need an afternoon mellow melt, go check out Nicholas who offers up great downtempo and ambient textured work.

Sunday July 15th, 2012

  1. Vampire Weekend (8:30 on the Green Stage) – Although this is a band that inspires a great deal of ambivalence among the music fans, I absolutely adore what they do and are great live. They will leave you feeling on high note. [Can’t Miss!!!]
  2. Beach House (7:25 on the Red Stage) – Amusingly enough, I actually saw BH open for VW a couple of years back. In 2012, they are clearly the band with a great claim to Indie-Rock buzz power. Bloom is one of my favorite records to date and I believe they will be ready to impress. [Can’t Miss!!!]
  3. Kendrick Lamar (4:45 on the Blue Stage) – Section 8.0 was one of the best hip-hop/rap records of the past year that went under the radar. Kendrick is part of the growing wave of young artists that are helping to bring Hip-Hop/Rap back to its mid 90s glory days by placing clever rhymes and topical narratives ahead of over produced “guest appearance” laden tracks. He might be an “unknown” to many but he’s about to blow up. [Can’t Miss!!!]
  4. Ty Segall (3:20 on the Red Stage) – Loud and aggressive fuzzy, punk infused rock. A perfect compliment for a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon.
  5. Thee Oh Sees (2:50 on the Blue Stage)
  6. Milk Music (1:50 on the Blue Stage)

Additional Great Stuff

  • Oneothrix Point Never (5:45 on the Blue Stage) – If you want a change of pace to something a little more of the hardcore electornica scene, shimmy over and get your groove on with OPN.
  • Real Estate (4:15 on the Green Stage) – I’ll admit I don’t “love” this band even though they make music I should like. I think it’s pleasant and worth checking out, but I’d put them on my backburner.
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra (1:45 on the Red Stage)

At the end of the day(s), when you have this many talented and exciting musicians gathered in one space over the course of three days, you can’t go wrong. For your reference, here is the full lineup with times and locations.

For those attending, have a great weekend and make sure to keep yourself hydrated!


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