PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Un-Abridged)

A tradition unlike any other… the Pitchfork Music Festival (Chicago) Primer


It has been awhile since my last musical missive. Why? Did I stop listening? Turn away from the sound?  Find my way into some ostensibly more mature passion, like wine or crotchet? No. Nothing of the sort. If anything, 2014 has been the year most filled with juvenilia and regression to adolescence than ever before. Perhaps attending too many rock shows (62 to date) combined with needing to maintain some semblance of a sensible work/life balance and sleep has cut into my writing.  Scratch that… it most definitely has. The nerdy music obsessive gene has not left the body; it’s just strolling around the venues rather than on the interwebs. Hopefully this will mark a return to form. But, let’s cut to the core.

Pitchfork Music Festival begins today (tomorrow as of this writing but when you read…) and the lineup is filled with an exciting array of acts from legends of my youth (e.g., Beck and Neutral Milk Hotel) to the next generation of musical visionaries (e.g., St. Vincent and Tune-Yards). Pitchfork’s annual festival has always been one of my summer highlights. In three music-and-sun-drenched days, you can legitimately see almost every performer on a bill that spans a wide range of upcoming musicians and heroes of yesteryear from almost every genre (indie to hip hop to electronic to experimental/indie electronic/[fill-in-the-genre) and there will always be at least a couple of killer dance party worthy moments (e.g., LCD, Robyn, Major Lazer, Cut Copy, B&S, MIA, to name a few…). Okay enough with the extended-LP intro… here is what I’m excited about by day, hour, and (stage). (For a condensed/abridged version of this go here.) (For the full lineup go here.)

But, while you read listen to this playlist as prep: PitchforkFest 2014 (Playlist)

Friday, July 18th

3:30 – Hundred Water (Red) (Indie-Experimental Electronic)

I saw HW open for Julia Holter a couple of years back at Schubas and they blew me away.  And, their newest record. The Moon Rang Like a Bell, is easily one of my ten favorite records of 2014. It is a sensual embrace of angelic vocals and lush electronic compositions. This should be a moment of afternoon beauty.

4:15 – Factory Floor (Blue) (Electronic-Downtempo)

After one listen, I was totally entranced.

5:30 – Sharon Van Etten (Red) (Indie)

Sharon Van Etten’s music will to the attentive ear cut you to the quick. She speaks the emotional truths and questions we all contemplate in our search for understanding and meaningfulness. Her voice has the haunting beauty that will lull you to a euphoric reverie. And, she’s got an amazingly endearing stage presence. Don’t Miss!

6:25 – Sun Kil Moon (Green) (Lo-Fi Folk-Rock)

…aka Mark Kozelek. His music I’ll admit is an acquired taste. It is a mix of storytelling and/or speak singing monologues over Lo-Fi folk-rock (think Neil Young but more poignant). SKM tell darkly comedic and disarmingly heartfelt stories from Mark’s personal life and observations of the world.

8:30 – Beck (Green) (Genre-Potpourri)

El Perdidor!  To be honest, I want to hear Beck play Morning Phase, his new record, from start to finish.  It is just that amazing and gorgeous of a record.  But, he won’t do that because many folks will want to hear the songs from Odelay and Midnight Vultures, admittedly not my favorite albums, and he should because life-long fans deserve that.  Regardless of what he plays, he is such a brilliantly talented musician and I’ll just sit or perhaps lay and revel in awe at the quirky and odd mix of mellow and psych folk mixed with soul and disco that he has cobbled together over the years.

Also worth checking out: Haxan Cloak @ 5:14 (Blue) – Meditative and introspective downtempo; Giorgio Moroder @ 7:20 (Red) – the 70s Dance/Disco avant-garde composer that inspired the Daft Punk song of same name  (and arguably a lot of what they did/do).

Saturday, July 19th

2:50 – Empress Of (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

I saw her at the Moog Showcase at SXSW and was pleasantly surprised. She combines a Grimes experimental groove vibe with an M.I.A. like presence.

3:20 – Cloud Nothings (Red) (Punk/Indie Rock)

Get ready for some fist pumping and adrenaline churning punk infused indie rock! If there is any band that has found the way to channel and replicate the unique sub/urban-ennui punk and indie-rock/pop sensibilities of the Replacements, Cloud Nothings is my pick. There are angsty dirges, anthemic epiphanies, and heart-on-sleeve proclamations throughout, which is basically what growing up feels like.

4:45 – The Range (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

The Range’s Nonfiction was one of the most exciting revelations of 2013. His music is a throwback to the early days of electronic dance music that is filled with rich, intricately layered grooves and samples.  Another performer I saw at SXSW, who totally captivated me.  Plus, post set, we chatted and he is a really smart and genuine dude.  Check him out!

5:15 – Tune-Yards (Red) (Dance/Indie-Folk)

Dance party alert!!! Merrill Garbus writes with a keen, critical, and comical vibrancy. Her music exudes life and energy and will infect even the dourest of listener.  While you groove to the beats listen to her keen wit.

6:15 – Danny Brown (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The mirthful and quirky maestro of Detroit descends on the Chi. XXX was the first rap record in years that completely captivated me. His rhymes float and flutter with a lyrical ease and his beat will keep you grinding.

7:25 – St. Vincent (Red) (Baroque Indie)

There are talented artists and their next level visionaries. Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) is the latter. Perhaps her art and commentary fly over the heads of many (see post SNL internet comments), but her self-titled 2014 album is on another level of genius (which is not to say her previous records weren’t great, which they were, see Strange Mercy).  But does her “art-rock” translate?  Hell, yeah.  I saw her perform earlier this year and it was a truly brilliant orchestrated piece of stage craft that blended authentic and carefully styled thematic tableaux.  In St. Vincent you will trust.


8:30 – Neutral Milk Hotel (Green) (Psych-Folk-Indie)

For a generation of kids, NMH was “the band that got away”. We heard them as they were hitting their stride and then they disappeared.  It was young geek love lost. In the Aeroplane Over Sea is a masterpiece of dream-like hallucinatory imagery and heart-wrenching emotional brutalism. Jeff Mangum is a mystical poet and his return is a delight to all us geeks and weirdos that believe life is filled with every day magic.


Also worth checking out: The Field @ 615 (Blue) (Chill-Downtempo-Electronic)

Sunday, July 20th (aka marathon day)

1:00 – Mutual Benefit (Green) (Folk) or Speedy Ortiz (Blue) (Indie-Punk)

Ahh… such a struggle!  I’m going to see MB because they sport a multi-member band of exceptional musicians with angelic vocals that play mesmerizing melodies. Prepare to be seduced by sirens…  But if you want to start your day with an adrenaline kick, Speedy Ortiz are just the musical hair-of-the-dog your mind/body ordered.

1:45 – DIIV (Red) (Indie-Shoegazer)

DIIV (pronounced “Dive”) blend the melodic Brit-Pop of the Stone Roses with the sprawling expansive Shoegazer rock of Slowdive (see below).  Although on record they sound precise and composed, their live set is dynamic.

1:55 – Perfect Pussy (Punk/Hardcore)

I saw maybe three minutes of these guys at SXSW and found that aural amuse-bouche electrifying. They are loud, brash, aggressive, and captivating.  Yes please!  Don’t get there late or you’ll miss their set.

3:45 – Dum Dum Girls (Blue) (Dream Pop)

These ladies spin dark-black seductive dreams with hints of new wave, 60s girl group pop, and Smiths-like ecstatic dreariness. For those with a penchant for (David)Lynch-esque moments of devilish anachronism, check out the Dum Dums and their spellbinding sounds. I will swoon if they play “Trouble Is My Name.”  Is it your name too?

4:45 – Jon Hopkins (Blue) (Dance-Electronic)

JH is a phenomenal electronic composer that produces pieces that go from folk-tinged meditations to floor thumping bangers.

5:15 – Real Estate (Red) (Jangle Pop)

Their sound is evocative of a West Coast surfer/slacker rock with the pleasant and mirth inducing whirl-in-the-grass jangle pop perfect for a summer festival.

6:15 – Slowdive (Green) (Ur-Shoegazer)

Yes!!! The band that to me epitomizes Shoegazer…. extended jams of ethereal and distortion-laced soundscapes. Sit back and take in the sprawling “wall of sound” that Slowdive weave… The Return of the Shoegazer Kings! Reclaiming the sound that has bred so many disciples.

7:25 – Grimes (Red) (Experimental Electronic)

Another… Dance Party Alert. Finally!!! I’ve been dying to see Claire Boucher for way too long and keep missing her when she passes through Chicago. Her blend of experimental upbeat electronic jams and performance art –like compositions get the body grooving and the mind wandering. #theperfectblend

8:30 – Kendrick Lamar (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The good kid brings his backseat freestyle to the W.I.N.D.Y. city.  Start up that Maserati…   End of the fest/night smooth beat and grooves to relish and remember three days of musical brilliance. #dontkillmyvibe

Also worth checking out: Earl Sweathshirt at 3:20 at Red Stage or Schoolboy Q at 4:15 at Green Stage or Majical Cloudz @5:45 at Blue Stage.

…can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all. – Jeff Mangum

Over and out,


p.s. Aftershows?  Seriously?  Okay…

  • Friday Bottom Lounge – Deafhaven, Perfect Pussy, Pink Frost;
  • Saturday Bottom Lounge – Dum Dum Girls, Ex Hex, and Speedy Ortiz
  • Sunday Lincoln Hall – Majical Cloudz and Hundred Waters
  • If you can get in… DIIV at Empty Bottle Friday (currently sold out) or Cloud Nothings at Schubas, Friday (also sold out).

2 thoughts on “PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Un-Abridged)

  1. Wow! I only know a handful of these and am asked to check out the rest now! Can I tell you how jealous I am that you’re seeing Jon Hopkins?? If I could make music myself (hoping to try shortly) I would hope to be even half as good as he is. Enjoy!

    • Jon Hopkins’ set was one of my festival highlights. He was just hypnotizing and the crowd was completely invested. Hopefully, you enjoyed some of the bands you hadn’t heard of. Definitely a very well balanced array of artists this year. a.a.

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