R. Kelly, Bjork, Belle & Sebastian Headlining Pitchfork Music Festival

When you assemble a summer musical festival in a tiny park in an affordable city, you’re already doing something right. When you manage to nab R. Kelly, Bjork, and Belle & Sebastian as headliners, you’re basically suggesting that every other musical festival just go ahead and give up. The Pitchfork Music Festival, which was arguably already the best summer festival our nation had to offer, has just announced its three amazing headliners. The festival will take place July 19-21 in Union Park in Chicago. [via Pitchfork]

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Olivia Tremor Control Embrace Their Inner Jellyfish for a Full-Scale Reunion

As one of the founding members of the Elephant Six music collective and the band behind the neo-psychedelic classic Dusk at Cubist Castle, The Olivia Tremor Control was quietly one of the most influential bands in the mid- to late-’90s indie music scene. After a prolific four-year run that saw the release of two double albums, an instrumental album, and a singles compilation, however, the group parted ways, leaving current and future fans to wonder if they had seen the last of the Olivias. Luckily in 2011, after some tentative signs of life in 2005, the band started playing numerous shows around the country and even released their first single in over ten years, "The Game You Play Is in Your Head, Pts. 1, 2, & 3," that August, letting the world know that the reunion was in full swing. This past weekend saw the band playing one of their last scheduled gigs at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. There i caught up with Bill Doss, John Fernandes, Will Hart, and AJ Griffin and talked to them about reconnecting as a group, the possibility of a new record, and what would make a great band mascot.

You’ve been out of the public eye for a while now, at least as a group. What prompted you to come back?
Bill Doss: We got invited to play All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2005, and it kind of seemed like it was time to do it, too.
John Fernandes: Everyone was missing playing together.
BD: It just seemed like the perfect catalyst for it and, if I can get a little deeper into it. I was on tour with Apples in Stereo at one point and we got a phone call that said Will was in the hospital and had been diagnosed with MS and what happened…it’s what alcoholics would call a moment of clarity and it was just…why haven’t we been playing together for the past five or six years? This is ridiculous. The thing I enjoy most in the world is playing with this group of guys. So all of those things kind of converged; for me personally and it just worked out perfectly.
JF: We did some tours, The Elephant Six Holiday Surprise tour, where it was a variety show where we played some Olivia songs in there. It felt really great. More offers kept coming in for certain shows and we thought, let’s keep doing this.
BD: Starting with the whole ATP thing in 2005, Will and I started getting together and just hanging out because we had been broken up for a while, not only as a band also as friends. Just over bullshit stuff, none of it really mattered in the end. We started hanging out again and rekindling a friendship and then all the sudden the four-track came out, sat on the floor like high school, playing around with stuff, and then some of the other guys heard it and were like, we should be working on this stuff. So we got together and started playing at somebody’s house and just started jamming and recording, and all the sudden we had this whole catalogue of music we’d been recording. And it was like, maybe we should just work on a record now?

In the years since you broke up, a lot of fans have discovered your work and have been waiting a while to see you live. Do you ever worry about meeting the expectations they may have?
Will Hart: I’ve thought about that a couple of times, actually, and I thought, as long as we’re happy and good, which I think we’re just as good. I don’t really read reviews, but I kind of did, at first, and they were good!
BD: You always have that in the back of your mind a little bit, at least I do, but you can’t really let it get in there and fester. You just have to do what you do, and if it’s fun and you enjoy it and keep doing it and people like it, great.
WH: If we’re happy then it shows.
BD: Yeah, if we’re having a good time it comes across, people respond to that.
JF: There’s a certain chemistry that we all have together . We all played in a lot of different projects and stuff, but once we all got together again it’s like…
BD: It’s like the time had not even passed. And of course, we’ve known each other for like twenty years. We come from a similar background musically, we all grew up listening the same records, worked at the same college station.
AJ Griffin: I’m the one young who hasn’t known everyone for twenty years.
BD: But the thing about AJ is, he’s sort of a similar soul in the way that he grew up listening to the same albums we listened to, maybe at a different time, but it’s obvious he comes from the same background.
JF: He’s the youngblood. He’s like half our age, can play anything. And it’s funny because when we’re working on arrangements for some songs, we have to ask him like, what was this like on the record?
AJG: That’s my job: I’m the guy who remembers the songs. They’re like, look, basically you tell us this chord progression to this song that we wrote or we’re going to dunk your head in this toilet.

You guys have a pretty dense, complex sound. What’s the process to recreating that live?
BD: It takes quite a few people!
AJG: Before I started playing with you guys, I was really curious as to what it was going to sound like. I had never seen the band live obviously, I had only heard the records. I was really interested to see how they go about playing this live.
JF: I try to play some violins and clarinet stuff and originally, when Bill asked me to play in the band, he showed me some bass lines and was like here, play this and play this.
BD: Yeah, before [John] came in I was playing bass. I love playing bass, it’s my favorite thing to play ,but I wasn’t coordinated enough to play bass and sing at the same time.
JF: And when we can, we try to bring our horn players. On one of Bill’s songs in particular, there’s a horn part. They couldn’t come with us overseas on our last trip, but they came up here [to Pitchfork].

What’s the oldest instrument you guys are playing that you guys are still playing right now?
JF: The violin that I play is the same violin I grew up practicing with. I started when I was seven so I had littler ones, but the first full-size violin I got is still the one I play. It’s got cracks in it from that unfortunate incident at the Filmore when our drummer went crazy and threw drums everywhere. But it still plays!

What animal would be your mascot for the band, like if you can’t pick an elephant?
BD: I was trying to think of the one in Napoleon Dynamite. What did he draw?

A liger?
BD: Yeah, a liger!
AJG: Well, you know, Derek’s middle name is Griffin, and my last name is Griffin, so maybe a Griffin.
BD: See, that’s something else you bring to the table, the mascot! I also like the jellyfish because it morphs and moves, and I feel kind of like that’s what our live thing does.
AJG: And it has no brain!

What’s the status of the new record? Any time frame or just “it’ll be done when it’s done”?
BD: It’s definitely coming!
JF: We don’t want to say it’s going to be next year because it’s still up in the air. Will’s like, we gotta do another double! But at the same time…I work at record store, I hang out with a lot of younger kids, and I realize not many people these days listen to a full forty-minute record, much less a seventy-minute record in one sitting.
BD: It’s kind of all about singles right now. But we just have to do what makes us happy and make the records we want to hear and then if people like it great. If not, they don’t, you know? But years from now we can pick up the records we made and go, yeah, we’re still proud of this. JF: No matter what people are expecting these days, we’re going to do what we do. I mean, even the single we just released is a three-parter.
BD: We turned in an EP one time and it ended up being forty minutes. It happens, you know?

Pitchfork Recap: The Clouds Part for Sunday’s Jams

Finally: a day in which the weather wasn’t actively working against us. Well, other than the fact that it was 95 degrees, which after two days of rain and heavy foot traffic led to Union Park smelling like the world’s most depressing petting zoo. Nevertheless, if you’re going to spend the day at an outdoor festival, “hot” beats “rainy” ten times out of ten. And as long as you followed John Dwyer’s (of Thee Oh Sees) advice to “stay hydrated, goddamn it”, it was a solid day to catch some great performances from Milk Music, Thee Oh Sees, The Field, and The Men. Oh, and Lady Gaga was there, if that’s your thing.

Best Set: The Men
Near the beginning of The Men’s set, someone in the crowd kept shouting, “Play some Springsteen!” at the band. It’s unclear if this was meant sincerely or as a joke, but a little bit of The Boss wouldn’t have sounded out of place. From the moment in their sound check when they played the opening riff to Van Halen’s “Jump” to the end of their outstanding set, the Brooklyn four-piece seemed like they were on a mission to prove that all of those people who say Pitchfork doesn’t care about rock music anymore don’t know what they’re talking about. They even had one person skanking! (Maybe he thought he was going to see Mustard Plug and just decided to roll with it? Whatever. He was happy, so right on, buddy.) The audience-led clap-along to “Open Your Heart” was just the cherry on top of an awesome performance.

Biggest Surprise: Araabmusik
This was more of the bad kind of surprise, but I’ll take some of the blame for it. My familiarity with Araabmusik stems exclusively from from last year’s fantastic Electric Dream album, which was closer to the house music genre. I was unprepared, then,  for his brostep-heavy set that evening. To his credit, he’s certainly a lot more fun to watch than most DJs, as he constructs songs on the fly by pounding on his MPC at speeds that seem almost superhuman. But in the end, my low tolerance for wub-wubs beat out my fascination with his technique. Kudos to whomever scheduled him before Beach House, though, as that is a Pitchfork Festival trainwreck transition for the ages.

Biggest Disappointment: the stage assignments
I’m sure there’s some kind of logic to who plays where at Pitchfork, but I’ll never understand it. For example, Thee Oh Sees drew twice as big a crowd as Iceage, yet they were relegated to the smaller Blue stage. The same thing happened on Friday with Japandroids, though in their case I wonder if it was a conscious decision to make sure the crowd was bananas. This is a nit-picky complaint, I know, but it would be nice if more established acts got to play on the bigger stages, since they’re more than likely going to bring in more people. Sure, it was nice being able to watch Thee Oh Sees and The Men in the shade at the Blue Stage, but I’d be willing to stand in the sun a little bit if it meant more people got the chance to actually see the bands they wanted.

Pitchfork Recap: Japandroids Blast Off on Friday Night

I arrived a little after the gates had opened and after almost an hour of hard rain had fallen on Union Park. The schedule was already fifteen minutes behind, and no one had started playing yet. Not the best way to begin a three-day festival. The weather seemed to make an impression on a lot of potential festival-goers, too, as it was the sparsest crowd I’ve ever seen, even for a Friday. But for those who did make it out, acts like Japandroids, Clams Casino, A$AP Rocky, and Dirty Projectors did Their best to make sure it was worth it.

Best Set: Japandroids
After a soggy start, these guys are exactly what we all needed: a shot of straight-forward, fist-pumping rock’n’roll to get everybody excited about seeing live music again (so, basically the opposite of Lower Dens). They kicked it off with “Adrenaline Nightshift” and, I know this is going to sound like hyperbole, the clouds started to part and the sun was shining before the song ended. The band didn’t let off the gas until they were done. It was glorious. It’s amazing to see how big a band with only two guys can sound. The only thing that bothered me was seeing a kid that couldn’t have been older than 17 sing his heart out to “Younger Us.” I’m not sure if he really gets what that song is about. Oh well; he’ll know soon enough.

Biggest Disappointment: the sound
Festivals in general have a reputation for spotty sound. Pitchfork seems to draw a lot more criticism than other festivals, partially because they book a lot of acts with complex sounds that end up having problems, but mostly because every year it really does seem as bad or worse than the year before, leading to complaints about prices going up but the sound not improving. This year the weather at least gave them a reason for much of the problems, causing equipment malfunctions and postponing or even canceling important sound checks. Still, a legitimate excuse for the issues doesn’t make them easier to deal with, and acts like Olivia Tremor Control definitely suffered. There’s nobody to blame, really, but it certainly put a damper on things.

Biggest Surprise: Willis Earl Beal
Because of the previously mentioned sound problems, I left Olivia Tremor Control a few songs early just in time to catch the last ten minutes of Willis Earl Beal. All I really knew about this guy was that he was from Chicago and that he used to post flyers with his phone number, telling people that if they called he’d sing them a song. I’m glad I made it a point to see him because he really was incredible, mixing elements of soul, blues, and lo-fi with a stage presence that’s exceedingly rare at this festival. He was as passionate and intense as he was self-effacing, telling the crowd, “Thanks for coming to my poetry reading. There’ll be real songs coming up after me,” before leading them in a sing-along about keeping the tears (and in this case, the rain) at bay. Only the most cynical music fan wouldn’t have been won over.

Pitchfork Recap: Saturday’s Biggest Moments

Saturday started out rough. The weather was very uncooperative, with rain coming down hard off and on for the first few hours of the fest. It even got so bad that Cloud Nothings shorted out their PA during their set. I arrived a little later than I planned in hopes of missing most of this, only to show up right in the middle of a downpour and to find there was no power in the press tent, which was extra steamy with no fans running. The only band playing at the time was black metal band Liturgy, which didn’t help much, either. Still, around 4:00 things started to turn around, and after the Murderer’s Row of Flying Lotus, Wild Flag, Sleigh Bells, and Hot Chip, Saturday turned out to be probably the strongest day of the festival.

Best Set: Hot Chip
I worry that people are taking Hot Chip for granted. They put out a pretty good/great album every other year and always put on a fantastic live show, yet I feel a lot of people just forget about them. It’s the curse of being consistent. If the band feels like people are sleeping on them, however, they didn’t let it show. They kicked off things with a more soulful rendition of “And I Was a Boy From School,” then tore through a set of old hits (“Over and Over,” “One Life Stand”) and new ones (“Flutes,” “Don’t Deny Your Heart”). They even tossed in a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” for good measure. They did their best to remind people that they’re still around and that they’re still great. Let’s hope it worked.

Biggest Surprise: Flying Lotus
If Hot Chip had the #1 set on Saturday, Flying Lotus had #1A. I’d given his albums a listen a few times, but they’ve never connected with me. But seeing him live, where he could mix in things like Portishead’s “Machine Gun” with songs off his last album Cosmogramma, finally made it click. He was definitely responsible for two of the day’s best moments. The first was when he dropped “Simon Says,” which made me and every other right-minded individual lose their shit. The second was when he stopped three-fourths of the way through the set to tell everybody how drunk he was and that he was “going to switch to normal shit, unless you want to hear more of that drunk shit.” He closed out the set with a seriously beefed-up instrumental version of “Hard In Da Paint,” and he found himself with at least one new fan.

Ballsiest Move: Godspeed You! Black Emperor as Saturday’s headliner
Before Saturday, I probably would’ve considered myself a GY!BE fan. After Saturday evening, when I stood there for ten minutes listening to the same note, wondering if they had even started playing yet, I realized that my fandom was really based on the fact that they were the go-to band for me to play during my 3-6AM shift at my college radio station when I needed to go to the bathroom or just didn’t feel like doing anything. Having said that, hats off to the person/s who fought to have these guys close out the day. People who spend a lot of time on the internet like to think that Pitchfork is basically the mainstream, even if most of the rest of the world only know it as “that hipster music site” (if they know about it at all). Ending the biggest day of your festival with an experimental ambient act is a good way to show that you’re still pretty much outside the mainstream.

Chromatics, Flying Lotus, More to Play Pitchfork After-Shows

In addition to insane humidity and mediocre baseball, for many Chicago residents, summer also means meticulously planning an itinerary of which of the far-too-many neighborhood and music festivals to attend. One that’s on everyone’s radar and coming up pretty quickly is the diverse and heavily-anticpated Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park on July 13-15, featuring Feist, Grimes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Danny Brown, Japandroids and many, many more. Today, festival organizers announced a pretty exciting crop of aftershows, beginning Thursday night the 12th with a celebration of the weird and brilliant in visual arts. The Show ‘n’ Tell Show at Lincoln Hall, in partnership with the Flatstock poster art festival and the American Poster Institute, features some of the finest poster artists in the country swapping stories, making you laugh and overloading your senses, including Silent Giants and Sonnenzimmer, as well as an appearance from Burlesque of North America. The same venue will paly home to an aftershow on the 14th featuring festival acts Chromatics and Baio, a.k.a. Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend.

 
The most insane (and probably the most entertaining) late-night talk and variety show on television, Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show, goes live at the Bottom Lounge to round out the festival shenanigans Sunday night the 15th. Eric Andre and his less-than-enthusiastic co-host, Hannibal Buress,  will bring their antics to the audience with interviews, surprised guests, and lord-knows-what-else, along with musical co-headliners Flying Lotus. 
 
If sweating in Union Park for a weekend doesn’t sound like your bag, many of the fest’s biggest acts are also playing aftershows around town, including Father John Misty (J. Tillman of Fleet Foxes), Liturgy, BlackBook favorites Purity Ring, Hot Chip (who released a great new album last month) doing a DJ set and Ty Segall playing two shows, one with The Men and one with Japandroids. One of the most exciting aftershows is a comedy-type arrangement, featuring hilarious former Saturday Night Live writer Hannibal Buress and another Chicagoland native, Kyle Kinane, alongside Anticon rapper Serengeti. Rad. Here’s the rest so you can start planning now. 
 
Thursday, July 12:
Beat Connection, Teen Daze, White Arrows – Schubas
Delicate Steve – Subterranean
Death Cab for Cutie, Calexico – Grant Park (Taste of Chicago)
Japandroids, Ty Segall – Lincoln Hall
 
Friday, July 13:
Lower Dens, No Joy – Empty Bottle
Hannibal Burress, Kyle Kinane, Serengeti – Lincoln Hall
Lotus Plaza, Dent May – Subterranean
The Psychic Paramount, Human Eye – Cobra Lounge
Purity Ring – Schubas
Simian Mobile Disco – The Mid
 
Saturday, July 14:
The Coathangers, White Mystery, Heavy Cream – Cobra Lounge
Dawnbringer – Reggie’s Rock Club
Father John Misty – Schubas
Hot Chip (DJ set) – Beauty Bar
Liturgy – Hideout
Ty Segall, the Men – Empty Bottle
The Atlas Moth – Ultra Lounge
 
Sunday, July 15:
King Tuff, Jaill, Natural Child – Cobra Lounge
Tanlines – Lincoln Hall
The Olivia Tremor Control – Reggies Rock Club
Thee Oh Sees – Empty Bottle
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Dirty Beaches, A Lull – Schubas
 
Multi-day passes for the festival are sold out, but you can still get single-day tickets at $45 each here. If you don’t want to shell out or are too far away, you can host a viewing party in the comfort of your home when Pitchfork.tv streams the festival on YouTube. 

Pitchfork Music Festival Finalizes Lineup: Beach House, Wild Flag & More Join the Fun

Today, Pitchfork added the final batch of bands to its 2012 music festival lineup, well ahead of the July 13-15 weekend where the excitement will go down in Chicago’s Union Park: Beach House, Wild Flag, Real Estate, Atlas Sound, Big K.R.I.T., Nicolas Jaar, Cults, Chavez, Ty Segall, Oneohtrix Point Never, Youth Lagoon, Thee Oh Sees, King Krule, Lotus Plaza, Dirty Beaches, Lower Dens, Milk Music, the Psychic Paramount, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Outer Minds, and A Lull. The festival might not ever be as fun as the year when they sold Sparks at the beer tents, but sometimes life forces you to make sacrifices for sanity’s sake. You can look at the final lineup, which is looking pretty healthy, after the click.

Pitchfork, in my opinion, is the best deal in national music festivals. For the cost of a one-way plane ticket, you get to see dozens of relevant, high quality bands at varying points in their life cycle: buzz acts finding their live presence, indie veterans who’ve settled into a comfortable set list, and the random top-shelf name brand gifted with a headlining set for a crowd that’s absolutely reveretial of their presence. And the people watching! The people watching is absolutely superb. Three-day passes are sold out, though you can still purchase individual one-day tickets if that weekend is still looking free on your schedule.  

Friday, July 13:

A$AP Rocky
Willis Earl Beal
Big K.R.I.T.
Clams Casino
Dirty Projectors
Feist
Tim Hecker
Lower Dens 
The Olivia Tremor Control
Outer Minds 
Purity Ring

Saturday, July 14:

The Atlas Moth
Atlas Sound 
Danny Brown
Cloud Nothings
Cults 
Flying Lotus
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Grimes
Hot Chip
Nicolas Jaar 
Liturgy
Lotus Plaza 
The Psychic Paramount 
Schoolboy Q
Sleigh Bells
Wild Flag 
Youth Lagoon 

Sunday, July 15:

A Lull 
AraabMUZIK
Beach House 
Chavez 
Dirty Beaches 
The Field
Iceage
King Krule 
Kendrick Lamar
The Men
Milk Music 
Thee Oh Sees 
Oneohtrix Point Never 
Real Estate 
Ty Segall 
Unknown Mortal Orchestra 
Vampire Weekend

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012 Lineup Includes Vampire Weekend, Grimes, Feist & More

The annual Pitchfork Music Festival is always a doozy, full of bands you probably want to see before they blow up even bigger. This year’s event takes place at Chicago’s Union Park from July 13-15, as it usually does. Pitchfork has also announced the initial lineup: Among others to come, Vampire Weekend, Feist, Hot Chip, Grimes, Cloud Nothing, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Kendrick Lamar, Tim Hecker, AraabMUZIK, A$AP Rocky, The Field, Liturgy and Willis Earl Beal will appear over three days. As is typical by now for the six-years-old festival, it’s a nice blend of artists who got big in the last year, respectable indie veterans, experimental acts, and big tent headliner types.

Tickets go on sale March 9, costing you $45 a day or $110 for the whole weekend. Be ready with that credit card; the festival typically sells out quickly, so move fast lest you be stuck attending your local bluegrass festival (although it will probably have better food so whatever, do what you want, everything is great). There are more than 30 acts left to be announced over the next few weeks, but why wait to commit?

An Exhaustive Review of the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival

The hipster gradation begins on the subway. You know you’re getting closer to the Pitchfork Music Festival as the crowd on the El, Chicago’s famed elevated subway system, begins to shade from downtown office workers and tourists coming in from O’Hare to twentysomethings in cut-offs, neon, and free-range beards. Unlike other music festivals in more remote locations – Coachella, Bonnaroo – the caravans to Pitchfork aren’t composed of Subaru Outbacks, but rather the Green Line, the Ashland bus, and bikes. Indeed, one of the best things about Pitchfork is the extent to which it identifies with the city of Chicago, home to the e-zine’s headquarters (there’s also an office in Brooklyn, of course).

"It feels good to have established Pitchfork here in Chicago. It really is, I guess, an institution at this point," says Ryan Schreiber, founder and CEO of Pitchfork Media (author’s note: no relation). Chicago pride is on display throughout the weekend–vintage Bulls jerseys abound, and more remarkably still, you can catch glimpses of naked arms displaying Chicago-flag tattoos.

The three-day fest, held in Chicago’s Union Park, provides that rare combination of big-name talent (Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes and TV on the Radio were this year’s headliners) with an intimate, community vibe. Compared to larger behemoths, Pitchfork only sells 18,000 tickets per day; to put that in perspective, the attendance at Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza each hover between 70-80,000 fans. Rather than having every sensory organ pummeled – competing guitar chords, the musky scent of sweat not your own pervading your nostrils – Pitchfork allows its attendees a high-quality experience, where you can actually take in and be aware of your surroundings rather than be overwhelmed by them. Incidentally, it also makes finding your friends and bumping into people you know easier.

"We’ve done it in this park for seven years, and there are many other opportunities to move it to a bigger park or do something different with it, but I just like this. I feel like this is the perfect size. Get much larger and you have to walk for miles to get to where you’re going," says Schreiber.

Because it’s sponsored by the influential online music magazine rather than a big marketing firm, there can be, at times, a distinct ‘industry vibe’ (the ratio of industry-to-non industry folks is higher than at bigger fests, even if overall numbers are low). You can’t go more than two feet without seeing someone prance by in a "VIP" pass, "Artist" pass (which managers, agents, and publicists may wear in addition to the bands), or "Press" pass. All of this is a long way of saying that this festival has cred, both geeky and cool.

In addition to the previously-mentioned headliners, buzz-worthy acts like Das Racist, James Blake, Odd Future, Toro y Moi, Deerhunter, Ariel Pink, and Cut Copy were joined by veterans such as Guided By Voices, Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth), Off!, and DJ Shadow. The process of choosing the lineup is "about booking the artists we really love," according to Schreiber. "We [the Pitchfork staff] come up with sort of a dream list, collectively." image Twin Shadow image Das Racist

Battles was one of the first acts to kick off Friday, playing a high-energy set that included LED screens of Gary Numan and Matias Aguayo singing in the background. Perhaps it was the heat, but the crowd, though receptive to the show, seemed to be conserving its energy, failing to match the moxie onstage. Towards the end of the show, guitarist Dave Konopka shouted "Afterward, everyone’s invited to my house, 857 Marshfield. We’ll have a party there." (A quick and stalker-y perusal of Chicago’s White Pages was unable to verify if the Battles guitarist had actually just invited thousands of people to his house.)

Despite the fact that they didn’t humor the audience by playing "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," Das Racist provided some on-stage rowdiness, enhanced by their hype man, Dap, deliriously jumping and running around onstage. The crowd erupted and girls were hoisted onto dudes’ shoulders when the three rappers came onstage and played "Who’s That? Brooown!" The energy (both that of the group and of the crowd) dipped a little towards the middle of the set (at one point, a rapper named Danny Brown from Fool’s Gold hopped onstage, and although his performance promised a talented new MC, the crowd was just hankering for more Das Racist). Finally, towards the end of the show, hands were back in the air when Das Racist launched into "You Oughta Know" before ending the set with "Rainbow in the Dark."

James. Blake. James Blake is perhaps the most buzzed-about artist to play Pitchfork this year and, perhaps, one of the must buzzed about new artists anywhere. Let’s not mince words: Blake did not disappoint. Whereas, after listening to the slow and sparse songs on his debut self-titled album, it can sometimes be tricky to see how his music is affiliated with dubstep, his pitchfork performance was a new (and exciting) experience entirely. The powerful, heavy bassline that’s so characteristic of dubstep came across more clearly in his set than I’d ever heard it before, yet the enveloping beats still left space to enjoy Blake’s haunting vocals. Blake’s stage presence (much like his demeanor in person) was charming and mild-mannered, most clearly evidenced by the fact that he chose to sit off to the side of the stage rather than front-and-center. When he played "CMYK," the crowd turned wild, getting down to the lighter and dance-ier track. Before a rapt audience at dusk, he closed the set with a great rendition of one of his album’s signatures, "The Wilhelm Scream."

After Animal Collective’s Friday night closing set, the crowds dispersed, many en route to any number of "Official" and "Unofficial" after shows and parties. One of the most cleverly marketed parties proved to be a fête hosted by Patron XO Cafe, Spin Magazine, and Superfly marketing group. Invites had been emailed to guests a few days before, revealing only the date and time of the party and vague instructions about finding a food truck parked near the festival grounds, where more information and directions would be dispensed. By 10pm, a small crowd was gathered outside Mama Green’s Gourmet Goodie Truck eager to continue the party-meets-scavenger hunt. We were given cups of iced coffee with the secret address of the event written on the coffee sleeve, which turned out to be the site of Chicago’s Prairie Studios. We party-goers ended up being a funny mix of media folk a little grungy from hanging outside at the festival all day and some of Chicago’s most beautiful people decked out in cocktail dresses and heels. Once inside, you could pose for professional photographs with models dressed in 20s-inspired burlesque costumes, sip any number of Patron-inspired cocktails, and chomp down on classic Chicago-style hors d’oeuvres such as "mini deep dish pizzas" or mini Italian sausages. Walking around the beautiful inside-outside space, sipping Patron margaritas, we could also listen to a live band and watch a magic show. Even if some of it was a little gimmicky – and more than a few people wished the live band could have been replaced by a DJ (of which there are many in Chicago, like the Hood Internet and Flosstradamus) – the party was a success. image Fleet Foxes

Saturday’s uncomfortably hot temps didn’t stop people from getting down during Gang Gang Dance‘s set, which provided a raucous blend of their unique multi-instrumental, percussion-heavy dance music laced with electro. After feverishly jumping and jolting onstage during instrumental breaks, lead singer Lizzie Bougatsos took the mic and told the audience, "If you can’t act crazy onstage, there’s no reason to live. If you see me humping a monitor, you just know."

As it grew later and became just a touch cooler, crowds coalesced before the Green Stage to see Fleet Foxes, who played one of the best sets of the weekend. Given the usual amount of delays in between set changes, people were visibly impressed when the band hopped on stage to begin their show a mere seconds after DJ Shadow ended his at an adjacent stage. Playing mostly songs from their first album led a guy next to me to remark, "They’re just putting on a big show. That’s what they’re doing." Yes, sir. The sound quality was stellar, such that you could actually distinguish between the various instruments onstage. The hushed crowd broke out into cheers when the first chords of "White Winter Hymnal" reverberated out across the crowd–a song that can evoke feelings of wintry tranquility and Christmas tidings even during the peak of summer. In a smart move, they brought the crowd out of their trance with a rocking rendition of "Ragged Wood" before ending on a song from their new album, the titular "Helplessness Blues."

As Day 2 drew to a close, not everyone had the stamina to keep up with the afterparties, but for those of us who did, many chose to head over to Beauty Bar, which hosted one of the few "Official Pitchfork After Parties," featuring DJ sets by Twin Shadow, members of Deerhunter, and Tim Koh of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. The Pitchfork crew (including Ryan Schreiber) were in attendance, as well as members of the Windish Agency (disclosure: I do some on-and-off unpaid work for Windish), which represents both Twin Shadow and Deerhunter and DJ/local celeb Million $ Mano.

Sunday was the most anticipated day at the fest if for only one reason: Odd Future. Already one of the most hyped new acts, Odd Future’s show at Pitchfork received a particularly large amount of publicity due to the planned anti-violence protest during their set. For better or for worse, it appeared that by the end of the afternoon it was Odd Future: 1, Protesters: 0. Representatives from anti-violence groups were in attendance and handing out fans as first reported, but the ill-conceived gesture didn’t seem to have much impact. Sunday was an inferno and concert attendees were grateful to get a fan–any fan–but hardly anyone gave nary a glance to see what was emblazoned on its side (besides, there had been several different sponsors handing out fans throughout the weekend so any novelty was lost). If anything, the preceding controversy and the insane amount of PR that ensued only upped the ante for Odd Future, increasing what would already have been a huge crowd. image Odd Future

Though it was the first time I’d ever seen the collective, Odd Future’s set was basically exactly as I expected: brash, punky, and a pretty damn good time. As Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah reported in her feature on the group in this month’s BlackBook, the guys understand the role they (and the media) have created for themselves, and they work hard to live up to it. They seem to relish playing the part of the villainous rap group, donning freakish masks during set, strutting across the stage, and chest thumping with the bravado that only a twenty-year-old can possess. Occasionally, the heavy bass drowned out some of their lyrics, but when you could hear Tyler, the Creator or Hodgy Beats, their oft-reported crudeness and offensiveness was in full force ("You fucking bitch, you smell like dick").

One majorly weird thing I witnessed were hipster parents who’d brought their toddlers to Odd Future’s set, the dad bopping around to Tyler’s jams with the tot on his shoulders (there were actually a disconcerting amount of hipster parents who brought their kids–sometimes babies!–to the fest). Neither the baby sightings nor the fact that Tyler had been hobbled by a broken foot and monster cast (he spent much of the set seated but managed to get up and chant "Kill People, Burn Shit, Fuck School" at the end) killed the vibe. As the show ended, Left Brain did a half stage dive/ half body slam, throwing himself projectile-style into the crowd. It was a fitting description of the group itself and their Pitchfork show: aggressive and in your face but openly received by the mainstream.

After that intensity, it was nice to take a breather before heading over to absorb Toro y Moi’s blissed-out, disco-y electronica. Even though the crowd was subdued–maybe still recovering from the heat or Odd Future’s set, or both–their stillness could not be mistaken for disinterest: all eyes were fixed on Toro y Moi, lapping up his every beat.

Finally, as the sun set over the Chicago skyline, TV on the Radio came on and gave everyone a festival-wide second wind. With the ubiquity of electronica or experimental pop at the fest, the explosion of percussion heralding their rock show was a welcome sound. Throughout the set, intensity built up with a steady trajectory but, almost teasingly, would hold out, captured as if like steam pressure in some kind of boiler. That is, until they broke out full-force into "Dancing Choose" ("He’s a newspaper man") and "Wolf Like Me," their crescendos giving the crowd the relief they wanted. The audience ebbed and flowed in a massive wave of dancing and even the industry folk gathered on the VIP risers had their guards down and were seen grooving (one VIP was even maniacally jumping around). Finally, towards the end of the show, hip-hop group Shabazz Palaces joined TV on the Radio onstage, playing tambourine shakers as backup to "A Method."

And with that, another impressive performance ended along with another impressive effort by Pitchfork’s organizers. The festival proved that once again it lived up to much more than the hype of being an "indie fest" or "hipster fest," displaying a diverse line-up and three days of non-stop musical experiences. Combining the cool, industry-ness of SXSW with the grassy, park setting of a large-scale music festival and the intimacy and community vibe of your local fest, Pitchfork has managed to create a unique festival experience. It is sure to continue being a destination for those seeking to hear some of the best acts they know and to be exposed to new ones they don’t.

image James Blake

All Photography by Steve Scap