A Rare Beast: Pitchfork Music Festival 2011

Corey Beasley

This summer music festival feels not only manageable but somehow intimate.

From July 15 - 17th, the Pitchfork Music Festival will once again transform Chicago’s Union Park into a sea of sweating and swaying fans, food carts with more delicious than offerings at a festival have any right to be (check the soy ice cream, for real), and an assembly of record and craft vendors to give attendees’ eardrums a rest as neccessary. Over the years, the Festival has become the big event its promoters hoped it would be, drawing audiences from increasingly disparate distances and musical preferences. At this point, backlash is inevitable before you even make it through the first syllable in “indie,” but haters (who, you’ve heard correctly, are gonna hate) should give Pitchfork’s line-up a proper look: where else can you find metal saviors Kylesa sharing a bill with dubstepper-turned-piano-wunderkind James Blake? The folks at Pitchfork know how to curate.

Last year’s Festival brought some major muscle to the headlining slots: Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem (R.I.P.), and the reunited Pavement capped off each successive evening. This year, we’ll get Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, and TV on the Radio; acts that once again blend endless critical acclaim with powerful commercial appeal. In other words, you won’t have to suffer through Kings of Leon patting themselves on their leather-clad backs (sorry Coachella fans), Eminem shooting for the lowest common denominator of pop music (hello Bonnaroo), or any of the other filler that larger festivals have to stuff into their line-ups in order to cater to bigger crowds. Tickets to Pitchfork provide you with access to that rare beast: a summer music festival that feels not only manageable (you will actually be able to catch sets from every band that you’d like to see) but somehow intimate. It’s just you and a few thousand of your closest friends. Be warned that someone will be wearing the outfit you planned all week.

This summer, PopMatters will be covering the event, per usual. However, rather than simply review the Festival at large, we’ve come up with a plan. A glance at Pitchfork’s roster will show a wide-ranging eclecticism, but there are patterns to be found. So, a proposal: like all good things American, a festival should be better enjoyed with an element of bloodthirsty competition. We’ll pit two narratives against one another: electro-or-digitally-minded acts versus guitars-and-‘90s-revivalism. For example, how will James Blake’s programmed beats stack up live against Guided By Voices’s legendary blend of noise and pop songcraft? Will Animal Collective’s synth-heavy newer material be able to get crowds dancing as well as TV on the Radio’s more organic approach? Can guitar hero Kurt Vile possibly compete with bedroom R&B crooner How to Dress Well for Best Smile and Most Crushworthy? Will Odd Future just burn the whole park down, either way?

All right, we’re not getting too carried away. Ultimately, every band here will be interesting to see, on its own terms. But we’ll try to take away a slightly bigger picture from the Festival. You know us - PopMatters is about tying things together, trying to show that our culture and its works of art don’t exist in a vacuum, with each piece existing separately from others. So, join us in Chicago. If you can’t, check back soon for what you missed. See you at Union Park.

Here’s the line-up so far for the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival, July 15 - 17th in Chicago’s Union Park:


Animal Collective, Neko Case, Guided By Voices, James Blake, Das Racist, Curren$y PLUS the newly announced, Thurston Moore, Battles, tUnE-yArDs, Gatekeeper, and EMA


Fleet Foxes, Destroyer, The Dismemberment Plan, No Age, Gang Gang Dance, G-Side, Woods, Sun Airway, Chrissy Murderbot PLUS the newly announced DJ Shadow, Zola Jesus, Twin Shadow, Toro Y Moi, Cold Cave, Wild Nothing, Julianna Barwick, and OFF!


TV on the Radio, Cut Copy, Deerhunter, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, OFWGKTA, HEALTH, Kurt Vile, Yuck, The Fresh & Onlys, Radio Dept., Baths, Shabazz Palaces, Twin Sister, Kylesa, How to Dress Well PLUS the newly announced Superchunk and Darkstar

Tickets available through TicketWeb.

What would you like us to cover at Pitchfork this year? Leave a comment, and let us know!

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