Here comes Pitchfork
Annual show in Union Park remains a rock mecca
07/08/2009 10:00 PM
Since the summer of 2006, the trapezoid-shaped Union Park on the Near West Side has hosted what has become one of the most important indie rock events in all the land: the annual Pitchfork Music Festival.
Associated with the influential arbiter of the indie genre, pitchfork.com, the festival draws tremendous crowds from across the country and greater Chicagoland eager to rock out.
Past festivals brought luminaries whose place in the rock pantheon is well established — Sonic Youth, Yoko Ono and Public Enemy come to mind as standard bearers in this category; electric newer bands like King Khan and the Shrines and fuzz-rock hippie sensation Brightblack Morning Light; and plenty of talent culled from the neighborhoods of Chicago, including The Cool Kids, Chicago Underground Duo and the ever-so-talented DJs known as Flosstradamus.
This year’s festival runs over three days starting Friday, July 17 and ending the following Sunday. As usual, the event will showcase an eclectic concoction of musicians, headlined by veteran acts with large fan bases and near-cult followings.
Friday night’s set, for example, starts with the legendary Chicago group Tortoise, whose blend of jazz, electronica and rock puts them into a musical category of their very own. Later, Yo La Tengo takes the stage; whether they rock the crowd out with one of their faster paced songs or mellow the collected mass out with reverb and hypnotic melodies remains to be seen.
That decision, in fact, has already been decided — by the fans. One of the additions to this year’s festival is that fans, in a promotion called “Write the Night,” voted online to create the headliners’ set lists, adding a specificity to the music this year’s top acts will play. Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill and the Jesus Lizard all participated (here’s hoping Yo La Tengo’s “Little Eyes” got picked). Fans also chose portions of Sunday’s top billing, the incomparable Flaming Lips, according to the festival Web site.
Other artists not to miss include three terrific options on Saturday. In the afternoon, the performance by the rapper Doom, known for his transmogrifications in and out of personalities like MF Doom, Viktor Vaughn and King Geedorah (a three-headed monster from outer space), is not to miss.
On Saturday night, meanwhile, try to catch Beirut, whose Zach Condon mesmerizes with eclectic orchestrations that include various stringed instruments, horns and an accordion.
And don’t miss the Black Lips, the Atlanta-based band known for their unhinged shows and fun garage rock-inflected songs music. Their set could prove to be the 2009 Pitchfork’s craziest, perhaps on par with the frothy King Khan set last summer.
Sunday’s bands include the estimable Scottish group Frightened Rabbit, long time rapper Pharoahe Monche and the powerful Japandroids.
But: can you still get in?
As of Skyline’s deadline, $35 one-day passes for July 17 and July 18 were still available.
They’ll surely move fast. And if they do, listeners can always camp outside of the show on Ashland Avenue, craning their ears toward the stage.
Trust us. It works.