Taking it All In: The Pitchfork Music Festival 2012 Challenge

From July 13th to the 15th, the Pitchfork Music Festival returns to Union Park in Chicago. Going on its 7th year, Pitchfork Fest has earned its keep, alongside deep-dish pizza and gang crime, as a Chicago institution: 40-plus bands spread over three stages for three days of hot fun in the summertime. The line-up is a cross-section of indie rock’s latest movers and shakers: from obscure noise to hip-hop, electronic to rock.

The best thing about the Pitchfork Festival is that everybody goes home with a new favorite band. Sometimes, literally. With a manageable schedule, you can check the pit in your stomach at the gate (I spent $250 to miss Iggy Pop?) You also won’t be losing any friends because you secretly came to see Metallica, but now suddenly everyone wants to see Eminem. Under the hot sun, it’s easy to convince yourself that a lifetime of regret awaits the one who misses [insert erstwhile artist]’s purported LAST SHOW EVER.

Not at Pitchfork. This festival is about taking it all in: one six-minute fuzz-guitar interlude at a time.

Pitchfork is the only major North American festival where you find headliners described as “witch house” (Grimes), “ancient” (Feist), and “well read” (Vampire Weekend). If you feel like a novice because you can’t name a single song from the above three, rest assured that beneath the aviators and lycra fabric, most Pitchfork-goers are catching up on the music that fell below their wintertime, work day radars.

So this year, catch up with PopMatters. We will give you all the coverage, photos, and opinions you need for this Midwestern musical adventure. You won’t have to scarf down your gourmet hot dog in the Sleigh Bells mosh pit (we will do that for you.)

Like all things PopMatters, we are spicing up our critical approach. Last year, we threw down the indie gauntlet Battlestar-style: pitting human (’90s rock bands) against Cylon (electro bands). This summer, in the spirit of the Olympics, we divided the teams by geographic origin:

Team East Coast: Dirty Projectors, Clams Casino, A$AP Rocky, The Men, Nicolas Jaar, Oneohtrix Point Never, Chavez, Vampire Weekend, Cults, Liturgy, Sleigh Bells, AraabMuzik, The Psychic Paramount.

Team West Coast: Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Flying Lotus, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Wild Flag, Chromatics, Milk Music, Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Team South: The Olivia Tremor Control, Big K.R.I.T., Atlas Sound, Lotus Plaza, Beach House*, Lower Dens*

Team Midwest: Willis Earl Bean, Outer Minds, Danny Brown, Cloud Nothings, The Atlas Moth, Youth Lagoon, A Lull.

Team Euro-Canada**: Feist, Japandroids, Purity Ring, Tim Hecker, Grimes, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Dirty Beaches, Hot Chip, The Field, Iceage, King Krule.

Sure, the numbers are a little uneven, but how else are we supposed to entertain ourselves until Game of Thrones Season 3? Like the Lannisters, or the Yankees, Team East Coast seems like it has the clearest advantage. The fierce rap-rock combo of Harlem’s A$AP Rocky and Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors alone is almost unfairly awesome. Rookie, Team South, will need to strike their opponents’ Achilles’ heel with psychedelic sounds from Beach House and Lotus Plaza.

Will the indie veterans of Wild Flag paint the stage with the young punks from Iceage? Will infinity guitars be enough for Sleigh Bells to hold jukebox juggernaut, Willis Earl Bean, on his home turf? How cruel is King Krule? Cruel enough to decorate the Canadian border with the heads of Nicolas Jaar and Danny Brown?!

If you haven’t bought your tickets for Pitchfork, single-day passes are still available. Join the fight fun! As Tyrion Lannister might say: “Those are brave bands knocking at our door – let’s go hear them!”

*Baltimore is technically on the Mason-Dixon line.

**We combined European and Canadian acts to even the numbers.

Three day passes are sold out but you can still pick up single day tickets here.

Lineups by Day:


A$AP Rocky

Willis Earl Beal

Big K.R.I.T.

Clams Casino

Dirty Projectors


Tim Hecker

Lower Dens

Olivia Tremor Control

Outer Minds

Purity Ring


The Atlas Moth

Atlas Sound

Danny Brown

Cloud Nothings


Flying Lotus

Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Hot Chip

Nicolas Jaar


Lotus Plaza

The Psychic Paramount

Schoolboy Q

Sleigh Bells

Wild Flag

Youth Lagoon


A Lull


Beach House


Dirty Beaches

The Field


King Krule

Kendrick Lamar

The Men

Milk Music

Thee Oh Sees

Oneohtrix Point Never

Real Estate

Ty Segall

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Vampire Weekend