Pitchfork Highlights

The last night of the festival I was with two of my good friends at Lincoln Hall, watching the new Chicago buzz band Yawnopen for Local Natives. The sold-out show was brilliant–my brother’s best friend from high school was working the bar, the crowd was friendly, the venue carried the music well. Bear in Heaven were among the attendees of the show, having also played the venue the previous night for an after party.

Pitchfork happened. It’s over now. The beer, the heat, the park, the trains, the people…

It was my first time visiting Chicago, and I really enjoyed the city. I’d recommend it to any Bostonians who are looking for something bigger, but not ass crazy as New York.

For someone who has never been to Pitchfork Music Festival before, it’s a festival of musical acts chosen by the kind music enthusiasts at Pitchfork. The festival spans three days and includes big indie acts like Pavement and small diamonds in the rough, like Sharon Van Etten. The festival is outdoors at Union Park in Chicago. If you don’t like thick crowds in scorching heat, you probably wouldn’t enjoy Pitchfork.

I’m a person who deeply appreciates and prefers intimate venues for indie-rock shows. I don’t really understand the concept of arena shows, especially when the sound is compromised. I have gone to arena shows for bigger artists I’ve loved though, and I used to work at a huge arena in my hometown. Pitchfork was even more different than an arena, though, because it was outside on a stretch of grass and baseball fields.

Settings aside, Pitchfork is interesting in that a variety of locals attend the festival, along with people from across the county, of all ages and backgrounds. The festival is family-friendly; parents even bring their infants along. It’s not as much about networking at Pitchfork as it is at South By Southwest, which incorporates panels, workshops, and shows of all kinds on a much larger scale and in many more venues, both inside and outside. Pitchfork is more about the “fan” experience and seeing bands as a spectator.

Photo Courtesy of Chicago.com

This year’s festival included acts like Modest Mouse, Big Boi, Major Lazer, Local Natives, Sleigh Bells, Bear in Heaven, Surfer Blood, St. Vincent, Pavement, and LCD Soundsystem. I was surprised at how young Surfer Blood was. When I saw a couple of the guys up close in the press tent, I thought they were some little brothers of a journalist or someone working at the festival. Obviously I was wrong.

Here We Go Magic was my personal favorite of the festival. Luke Temple just won’t give up with his ever-growing musical pursuits. I saw the band play at an after party and then during their festival performance. Although they had just flown from London and hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, they nailed their sets flawlessly and it was impossible to tell that they had only been together for two years; each member of HWGM performs with such great strength–there is no weak link. Check out their female bassist if you get a chance. She. Is. So. Good.

Pavement was, by far, the coolest to see live. Drag City Records‘ Rian Murphy introduced Stephen Malkmus and the guys to a packed field of eager fans. The band opened with “Cut Your Hair” and it was as if they had oozed out of a 90’s dream, ready to charm the audience with all their old hits. I was slightly weary of the performance, having heard from many people in the industry that “Pavement sucks live,” but the guys did a great job and the whole crowd appeared pleased.

A cool note for Bostonians: the local band Hallelujah the Hills joined Titus Andronicus on stage for a few songs…lead singer of Titus, Patrick Stickles, thanked the band members individually for helping out with the performance.

There weren’t any real lows of the festival. All of the acts went on at the right times, in the right places. Things were pretty well organized, although I did run into a couple guys who had photocopied some VIP passes and were apparently having no problem accessing the VIP areas–something that would never happen at SXSW, because everyone is electronically scanned into every separate location. It was also sort of difficult having the festival outside of the city instead of at a place like Grant Park where Lollapalooza is, but that’s more of a preference and the location probably brings attention to the outskirts of Chicago, which I imagine is a good thing.

Learn more about Pitchfork at pitchfork.com. Stay tuned to the Quad over the next couple weeks to read an interview with a Pitchfork writer about what it takes to write for the publication…

The following are three interviews I put together from the festival, including Here We Go Magic, Bear in Heaven, and Sharon Van Etten.

Here We Go Magic at Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 from Jennifer Brown on Vimeo.

Bear in Heaven at Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 from Jennifer Brown on Vimeo.

Sharon Van Etten at Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 from Jennifer Brown on Vimeo.

Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown (COM '10) is a music writer for the Quad. She started working with national indie music acts and booking shows/interviews during her sophomore year of high school at Penn State's WKPS. She then traveled to Germany and explored the techno/HAUS scene and her love for all-things German. After that she worked at WKPS some more before finding her "home" at Boston University where she was a music director at WTBU. She has since added to her resume Pirate Promotion and Management, On A Friday, and the Cambridge Chronicle. Jen is now in Germany, taking some classes and booking shows.

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