Concert Preview: 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival (Friday, 7/13/12 - Sunday, 7/15/12 in Union Park)

Concert Preview: 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival (Friday, 7/13/12 - Sunday, 7/15/12 in Union Park)

Over 40 independent artists grace three stages this weekend on the city's west side as the 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival takes over Union Park Friday, Saturday and Sunday...

Chicago's live summer music schedule has become dominated by festivals.  Since 2006, the Pitchfork Music Festival (since 2005 if you count Intonation) has brought some of the finest independent artists to Chicago, annually ending up as one of the highlights of the summer festival season.

And with headlining artists like Feist, Purity Ring, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Vampire Weekend, the 2012 incarnation is no exception.

But the Pitchfork Festival experience is about more than just discovering new music.  Always two of my favorite parts of the fest, Flatstock and the CHIRP Record Fair return this year.  Rare is the festival that allows concertgoers to add both artwork and more vinyl to their collections and it's just one of many aspects that sets Pitchfork apart from other festivals by fostering a sense of community amongst concertgoers over the course of three days.

Set on the city's west side, Union Park is easily accessible via the CTA Green or Pink Lines to the Ashland station (Ashland and Lake) as well as the #9 Ashland bus.

Great local restaurants like Wishbone, Big Star and Goose Island offer affordable and delicious food options.  But my favorite aspect of the festival might just be the fact that they don't oversell it and it never feels overly congested.  It's always easy to find a spot in the shade and neither concession nor bathroom lines are ever unbearable.  In fact, my only real complaint in years past has been about beer selection.  Set in a city with an amazing craft beer scene, it seems like a crime for a festival with such an independent spirit to foist a Dutch lager upon the masses... Though to be fair, by hour five or six in the sun, just about anything will do.

So there's a lot to like about the Pitchfork Music Festival... But let's not forget that first and foremost, it's about the music.  There might not be a better festival in the country when it comes to discovering great new music.  Punk, rap, metal, acoustic, electronic?  There's something for everyone.  Last year, No Age, OFF! and tUnE-yArDs were the acts that had me texting everyone I know and I can't wait to see who it is this year.

Here are the bands I'm looking forward to at the 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival.

Photo of Feist by Mary Rozzi
Photo of Feist by Mary Rozzi

Friday, July 13, 2012

Headliner - Feist (8:20PM, Green Stage)

Purity Ring (8:20PM, Blue Stage) - Their debut full length Shrines doesn't even come out until after the festival (July 24th on 4AD) and yet the buzz around the electro-pop duo is immense.  Cool beats, the playful vocals of Megan James and I'm curious to see how it comes across live.  Playing at the same time as Feist, the good news here is that neither act should drown out the other.

Japandroids (6:15PM, Blue Stage) - I can't get enough of garage-rock duos lately so after missing them several times in the past year, I'm excited to finally see Vancouver's own Japandroids.  Their second album Celebration Rock came out last month and is chock-full of arena-ready hooks, buzzsaw guitar and shoutable anthems (seriously, good luck getting "The Nights of Wine and Roses" out of your head).

Willis Earl Beal (4:15PM, Blue Stage) - I honestly have no clue how to begin describing Willis Earl Beal.  "Evening's Kiss," from his debut album Acousmatic Sorcery seems to be influenced by everything from Elliott Smith to old Alan Lomax recordings and on it, soul-baring vocals over an eerie bass are delightful.

Photo of Grimes by Raphaël Ouellet
Photo of Grimes by Raphaël Ouellet

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Headliner - Grimes (8:40PM, Blue Stage)

Hot Chip (7:25PM, Red Stage) - Quirky, new wave influenced, highly danceable pop from this London band of eight.  Electronic elements combine with psychadelic guitar riffs and catchy vocals on "Over and Over."

Wild Flag (5:15PM, Blue Stage) - I'm kind of surprised to see the acclaimed indie, all girl supergroup playing this early in the day.  Punky guitar/vocals courtesy of Sleater-Kinney alum Carrie Brownstein and poppy keyboards from Rebecca Cole, this four piece is supposed to be outstanding live.

Cults (3:20PM, Red Stage) - Girl group influenced vocals often play out over creepy organ backing and actually feature spoken word from cult leaders like Jim Jones.  An interesting dichotomy taking place between the sweet and sour.

Liturgy (2:50PM, Blue Stage) - Artsy, black-metal.  What else is there to say?

Cloud Nothings (1:45PM, Red Stage) - There's always a reason to get to Pitchfork early.  Never forget that.  This is one of them.  When power-pop is done right, it's infectious... and this music is most certainly that.  I hear The Lemonheads at their best though with a slightly punkier spirit and a higher vocal range.  "No Future/No Past" is clearly quite influenced by Nirvana.

The Atlas Moth (1:00PM, Blue Stage) - Let's hear it for local!  Three guitars and a highly melodic brand of metal.  This music reminds me of the slow churn of the Deftones as well as both Pantera and Mastodon.

Photo of Vampire Weekend by Napoleon Habeica
Photo of Vampire Weekend by Napoleon Habeica

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Headliner - Vampire Weekend (8:30PM, Green Stage)

Chavez (5:15PM, Red Stage) - Not unlike Dinosaur Jr., both soaring and frenetic guitars mark this brand of low-fi, indie rock that occasionally borders on power pop (check out "Top Pocket Man" from 1996's aptly titled Ride the Fader and throw in a dash of Pavement for good measure).

The Men (3:45PM, Blue Stage) - What started out as punk has grown to embrace a wide variety of musical genres.  Check out the Brooklyn band as it moves deftly from Neil Young inspired licks to more churning, Afghan Whighs like territory throughout the eight minutes of "A' Minor."

Thee Oh Sees (2:50PM, Blue Stage) - Combining elements of punk and garage rock, the San Francisco quintet's sound is truly most notable for it's psychadelic influences.  "The Dream" (from 2011's Carrion Crawler/The Dream) even features hints of surf rock.

Iceage (2:30PM, Green Stage) - Danish punk rock.  Their debut New Brigade came out in January of 2011 and its twelve songs clock in at just twenty four minutes (five of the tracks are under two minutes).  I really like the relentless drumming on "Never Return."  Think along the lines of Wire but much faster.  Powerful stuff.

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2012 Pitchfork Music Festival

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Friday, July 13th - Sunday, July 15th

Union Park (Ashland Ave. and Lake St.)

Gates open at 3PM on Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday

Click HERE for the full three day music lineup and schedule

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Three day passes are SOLD OUT

Single day passes for Saturday, July 14th are SOLD OUT

Single day passes for Friday, July 13th and Sunday, July 15th remain available for $45 per day and can be purchased HERE

No Outside Food Or Beverage Except 2 Sealed Bottles of Water (Get more details HERE)

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    Jim Ryan has written about music in print and online for a variety of Chicagoland publications for over fifteen years. In addition to duties filling in as Traffic Anchor on CLTV or in the helicopter on NBC 5, you can also catch him Sunday nights at 6PM central as host of "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" on AM 1420 WIMS and AM 1060 WHFB (streaming at wimsradio.com and via the TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet). Jim has also worked locally for WXRT-FM, lives within walking distance of the Metro and is an avid White Sox and Blackhawks fan whose first live concert experience came at Comiskey Park in 1984 during the Jacksons' "Victory" tour.

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