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Pitchfork Music Festival: Go out, stay in, get things done

A review of the 13th annual Pitchfork Music Festival and a look at what’s coming up next.

By Entertainment

Illustration by Katie Wittenberg.

The 13th annual Pitchfork Music Festival took place July 20–22 in Chicago’s Union Park and featured a lineup boasting mega stars like Chaka Khan and Lauryn Hill (omg-omg) and local favorites like Melkbelly and Japanese Breakfast. The festival is a Chicago favorite and hosted by Pitchfork Magazine. The independently run festival has consistently remained one of the more reasonably priced fests at $175 for a three-day ticket and $75 for a single-day ticket.

Pitchfork is a favorite of mine thanks to fond festival memories made with friends over the years before I called Chicago home. It’s also a favorite of mine because, unlike its EDM-blasting brethren, it’s for the olds. When you stroll into Lollapalooza what do you see, folks? Glitter. Tube tops (no judgement, live your life everyone). Festi-fashion. Effort. Not that everyone at Pitchfork doesn’t look amaze — y’all are out there killin’ it — but it’s definitely more relaxed. What I mean by relaxed is that there are more places to sit.

When you’re in your sixth year of covering music festivals, fighting your way to the front of the crowd so as not to miss the headliner loses a bit of its allure. Just the thought of having to bring an empty water bottle in case you just can’t hold it any longer (totally not speaking from experience here) is enough to force my face into a Grinch-like grimace. Enter: Pitchfork Fest. The laid-back big sister who was cool way before you were and knows how to french braid.

This year I decided to approach the fest in a completely new way. I didn’t go. Now hear me out. I went to the second and third day but for the first day I bought myself a bottle of wine, a block of cheese, and live-streamed the entire thing from the completely dry and air conditioned comfort of my living room. It was bliss. Not only was I not rained on unlike the other festival attendees but I was able to accomplish actual tasks while listening to Lucy Dacus sing her hit “I Don’t Want To Be Funny Anymore.”

Here’s an abbreviated list of things I was able to do instead of get shoved by boys and rained on by nature on day one of Pitchfork.

  1. Do yoga
  2. Drink rosé
  3. Answer emails
  4. Swipe through Bumble
  5. Fold laundry
  6. Drink more rosé
  7. Have a panic attack about my future
  8. Text my best friend
  9. Prepare for the in-person festival experience the following day

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a lame old lady who should have put on some rain boots and gone to see the music live. Well hold your horses because on day two I did, ok. Day two was all about exploring the other essential parts of Pitchfork that in my opinion make it one of the better festivals.

Pitchfork participates in a number of community-based arts fairs that celebrate music, literature, and craft making. The CHIRP Record Fair, for instance, is hosted by CHIRP Radio and features over 40 tables of indie labels, local record stores, and independent dealers for the die-hard vinyl hunters out there.

Similarly awesome, Book Fort is an “interactive book fair that seeks to make a meaningful contribution to communities through readings, performances, and opportunities to connect with a highly curated selection of independent publishers, presses, and literary organizations.” This year I bought “The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” — the iconic Jessica Hopper’s collection of album reviews, essays, artist interviews, etc. — and fangirled out while I stalked her from a healthy distance as she hung around the fort being very cool and influential.

Day three was the big one. The day that everyone had been waiting for. That’s because the one and only Ms. Lauryn Hill was set to headline with the 20th anniversary of her album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and unless you’ve been living under a rock (or she’s not your jam and that’s cool too) you’ve been scream-singing “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” since before you knew what “that thing” even was. People were READY for this. The third day was very clearly the most packed. Personally I was a little put off by how the influx in crowd negatively affected my grass sprawling and lazy sitting ability but I get it, people were stoked.

Ms. Lauryn Hill did not disappoint. She was only 23 minutes late for her set (the artist is notoriously late and has been known to miss shows) and strolled out in a look for the gods. White tulle skirt paired with a boxy blue and pink plaid polo shirt and finished with a giant black floppy hat with an Oakland A’s patch right on the front. It was a power look to be sure. Her performance proved to be just as powerful not only because of her iconic songs and vocals but her use of LED panels on stage to project videos and images to accompany each song.

Festivals are great because they allow you to cram seeing a ton of your favorite artists into a three-day weekend. They can also be exhausting, expensive, and stressful. It’s best to get a good group together and come up with a plan before you go. Know where the exits are. Be sure to stay hydrated and dress for comfort before style — nobody wants to be nursing blistery feet for a full week after raging with your buds in a field. If you love live music and you want to see more of it in the coming months, here are some shows I’m stoked on. See you there!

Riot Fest, 9/14–9/16 at Douglas Park

Get stoked on this fest because the headliners this year are Blondie, blink-182, and Beck to name a few. Other exciting acts include The Jesus Lizard, Cat Power, and Wolfmother.

Jacuzzi Boys, Thelma and The Sleaze, 9/18 at The Empty Bottle

I am deeply in love with Thelma and The Sleaze. They’re fun, they’re raunchy, and they play heavy, sludgy, sexy tunes that you’ll want to dance your butt off to.

Murder By Death, 10/6 at Metro

Adam Turla has an incredibly haunting voice and when paired with Sarah Balliet’s cello theirs is a sound that’s hard to get out of your head.

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