Union Park, Chicago
Friday, July 13 - Sunday, July 15
After several years of excuses, I can emphatically check Pitchfork Music Festival off my bucket list. The three-day event drew thousands to Union Park on Chicago's near west side last weekend, with performances ranging from well-known acts like Sunday's headliner Vampire Weekend to less famous but equally talented indie bands, DJs and rap artists.
The first day kicked off with a thunderous bang, literally. Light rain and thunder accompanied early performances by the Lower Dens and Willis Earl Beal, with the former proving exceptionally better than the latter. Beal, dressed in tight jeans and a dark black shirt, sang and shouted over pre-recorded loops that quickly lost their novelty and sounded like a post-apocalyptic burial march. Following a miserable performance by A$AP Rocky, Japandroids finally got Friday moving. Vocalist Brian King introduced the band and then went on a non-stop garage-punk rampage that energized the damp crowd. I dried off just in time for Dirty Projectors, who proved to be my favorite show of the weekend. With no shortage of talented singers, the band's live show maintains the uniquely layered vocals of its studio albums.
Day two started much like the first: heavy rain in the morning followed by clear skies and extreme heat. My indecision between catching Cults or Youth Lagoon led to the regrettable choice of seeing some of both, but from the back of a much larger Saturday crowd. A couple friends and I perused the records fair tent, sampled food from several Chicago restaurants and then opted for Chromatics at the smaller blue stage. Saturday evening's dance-heavy lineup of Chromatics, Hot Chip, and Grimes all boasted impressive sets.
After spending Sunday morning on the beach, I biked along the Lakeshore path and through the city to the Union Park. This was the first time I had brought my bike to Chicago and I will never go again without it. The city has done an excellent job of integrating paths into the streets, so it's simple to understand why Chicago has been ranked #10 Most Bikeable City on WalkScore.com. Pitchfork should be applauded for valuing this and constructing two temporary bike lots nearby.
Two days of standing had taken a toll, so I spent much of Sunday sitting on a blanket between the red and green stages chatting with friendly neighbors. I had never heard of AraabMUZIK, nor will I likely see him again. But his command over two MPC drum machines was clear. If Milton Bradley ever re-releases its '90s memory game Simon, they should get AraabMUZIK as their spokesperson. Unfortunately, his set ended with a guest appearance by Chicago-based rapper Chief Keef, who was thrust into the national media after his arrest and house arrest in last year. The sixteen-year-old performed his song "I Don't Like" -- I didn't like it.
The large screen between the two main stages gave everyone lounging in back an excellent view of performances by two of the day's most anticipated performances, Beach House and Vampire Weekend. But I was disappointed in the sound quality coming from the red stage all weekend, and Beach House's performance fell somewhat flat because of this. That being said, the intimate setting of Union Park stands in stark contrast to Lollapalooza's epic expansion across Grant Park. It only took a couple minutes to walk from one stage to another, and beer, food, and bathroom lines were never more than ten deep. Overall, the festival struck an excellent balance between music and festival. It is well worth the three hour drive for any festival lover.