See our reviews and live coverage of the bands playing on:
1:00 DJ Rashad
Venerated juke producer DJ Rashad plays the dreaded 1 PM slot, when the gates have just opened and the weather always seems to be either blazing heat or pouring rain—I don’t imagine most festival attendees will have made it to the stage of their choice by 1 PM, or imbibed enough to start dancing to a mix of juke, ghettotech, and house. Likely issues with the crowd aside, this ought to be a good glimpse of what the man’s set sounds like, though I’d still recommend catching him at a headlining gig or listening to Rashad’s mesmerizing, freewheeling 2012 mixtape Teklife Volume 1: Welcome to the Chi. Also Sat 7/20 at Constellation, 21+. —Tal Rosenberg Blue stage
DJ Rashad is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader digital content editor Tal Rosenberg.
Local rapper-producer Tremaine Johnson, aka MC Tree, is an anomaly in a hip-hop scene that has its share of anomalies. Raised in Cabrini-Green, the 29-year-old builds beats out of oddly chopped and warped soul samples, lean percussion loops, and the occasional synth pattern, and his raw, banging tracks sound like they’re trying to fall apart. Johnson calls his style “soul trap,” and his grainy voice has the emotional heft of an old-school soul singer’s. For the recent Sunday School II (Closed Sessions/Creative Control) he’s polished his sound but kept his charming strangeness intact; on “The King” he pulls off a ballsy move—rapping over a distorted, sped-up sample of Elvis Presley—with cool swagger. —Leor Galil Green stage
Tree is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader music critic Leor Galil.
A modern-day band pursuing a grab-bag sound that comprises much of the popular rock ‘n’ roll, psych-flavored folk, and theatrical flower-child music of the 60s and 70s is treading a slippery slope. Skidding off the road into trippy early-Sesame Street musical programming is a very real risk, and it happens more than once on Foxygen‘s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (Jagjaguwar). But while so many other revivalists obsessed with that era come off as convoluted and self-indulgent, forcing together bits of Elton John, Dylan, Springsteen, and the travelin’ hippie who plays acoustic guitar on the street corner, the bicoastal duo of Jonathan Rado and Sam France are skilled enough weirdos that they can wield multiple instruments (accordion, piano, xylophone) to combine all those elements in fun, gnarly melodies. Also Fri 7/19 at Schubas, 18+. —Kevin Warwick Red stage
1:55 Autre Ne Veut
Autre Ne Veut main man Arthur Ashin rescues the slick, cheesy sounds of 80s adult-contemporary slow jams by recontextualizing them in moody, elegant, and sometimes stark arrangements. On his second full-length, this year’s Anxiety (Software), he uses delicately layered sci-fi synths as a canvas for unusual pileups of vintage drum machines and spacey, swelling vocal loops, which he cuts with contemporary-sounding percussion and bits of harsh noise. Anxiety is sleek and intoxicating, and Ashin’s earnest falsetto gives the album a grand luminosity—”Counting” is a funky R&B banger streaked with dance-punk sax squeals, but his dynamic vocals and improvised lyrics about his dying grandmother propel it into the heavens. Also tonight at Lincoln Hall, 18+. —Leor Galil Blue stage
Autre Ne Veut Autre is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader music critic Leor Galil.
The world first heard Killer Mike in 2000, trading verses with his mentor Big Boi on Stankonia. More than a decade later, he’s making better music than either former OutKast—or anyone else in the Dungeon Family, for that matter. The catalyst for Mike’s late-30s renaissance was New York underground fixture El-P; their collaboration has been as perfect as it was unexpected. El-P’s explosive industrial beats are the only proper match for a voice this big and rowdy—you can’t claim to “pummel punch a pumpkin-head punk in his pimple face” to the accompaniment of jazz samples. The duo’s June debut as Run the Jewels may be the best rap record of the year. —Tosten Burks Green stage
Killer Mike is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader music critic Leor Galil.
2:50 Blood Orange
Dev Hynes has his fingers in a whole bunch of pies. The 27-year-old Brit has performed and recorded as Lightspeed Champion, played in Test Icicles, written material for the likes of Florence & the Machine and the Chemical Brothers, and produced songs for Solange Knowles (see Saturday). His current solo project is called Blood Orange, and it’s minimal, funky electro-pop topped off with a whole lot of guitar shredding. He sounds sorta like Prince, only a little less sexy. —Luca Cimarusti Blue stage
Blood Orange is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader reader Ireashia Bennett.
“Pump this shit like they do in the future,” goes the chorus to the caustic, quasi-industrial “The Full Retard,” the first single from El-P‘s most recent album, last year’s Cancer for Cure (Fat Possum)—and just last month Kanye West rode a similar but somewhat more blown-out sound to the top of the Billboard charts with Yeezus. I’m not saying that El-P somehow predicted Kanye’s success, but he is great at staying ahead of the curve. The MC and producer’s bone-rattling boom-bap is often claustrophobic, but it can also make for a hell of a party song—and I think that’s partly why he works so well with political Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, who performs earlier today. The two of them just released their self-titled debut as Run the Jewels via Fools Gold, and it’s nasty, pointed fun. —Leor Galil Red stage
Katie Crutchfield’s debut album as Waxahatchee flew under the radar, so this year’s Cerculean Salt (Don Giovanni) was her grand entrance. Crutchfield’s befuddled-sounding yelps skip across a landscape of sloshy guitar and haunting reverb as she ruminates on growing up and the bullshit that comes with it. With her woozy sonics and visceral lyrics, Crutchfield can turn a ballad into a mesmerizing account of a moment of weakness. She doesn’t quite transport you into her world, instead keeping you at arm’s length—as though saying that when it comes to the sometimes-tragedy of everyday life, it’s better to be a spectator than the star. Also Sat 7/20 at Schubas, 18+. —Shannon Shreibak Blue stage
Waxahatchee is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader music critic Leor Galil.
The first time Yo La Tengo appeared at the Pitchfork festival, in 2006, they played a bracing cold shower of a setI’ll Be Around” (from their excellent new Matador release, Fade) that features an imposter lip-syncing the song, fake on-screen lyrics, a startling police action, and a delicious-looking soup recipe. Or they could dig into one of the deepest, strongest back catalogs in rock ‘n’ roll and play it straight. Either way, we win. —Bill Meyer Green stage
Yo La Tengo is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader digital content editor Tal Rosenberg.
4:45 Sky Ferreira
New York-based singer-songwriter Sky Ferreira is a pop chameleon. On the 2012 EP Ghost (Capitol) she cycles through sun-bleached folk (“Ghost,” “Sad Dream”), straightforward grunge (“Red Lips”), robotic new wave (“Lost in My Bedroom”), and somber, neofuturistic synth-pop (“Everything Is Embarrassing“). Just about the only constant element is her talk-singing vocal style, and even that alternates between a soft sigh and a restrained snarl. Also Fri 7/19 at Lincoln Hall, 18+. —Leor Galil Blue stage
5:15 Lil B
Lil B is the Tao Lin of hip-hop, an Internet cult hero whose personal brand threatens to eclipse his art (even though the appeal of his output is inextricably linked to his persona). The Based God is positive, eccentric, and prolific—at age 23 he’s released seven albums and more than 40 mixtapes. His approach to rap is almost childlike, and his absurd charm makes even the borderline unlistenable parts of the recent mixtape 100% Percent Gutta work. Mostly. —Leor Galil Red stage
After their song “Bruises” nestled itself into the zeitgeist by appearing in a 2008 iPod commercial, it would’ve been easy to write off Brooklyn pop duo Chairlift as a frivolous flash in the pan. But they proved their staying power with their sophomore album, last year’s Something—its rich, atmospheric music incorporates elements of yacht rock (“Take It Out on Me”) and synth-wave (“Amanaemonesia”) with winning results. —Drew Hunt Blue stage
6:15 Toro y Moi
It’s a relief that Toro y Moi has outlasted the chillwave bubble. Chaz Bundick’s music was always more interesting than the drifty beach pop of Neon Indian or Washed Out anyway. January’s Anything in Return (Carpark) is as deliberately dancey as Toro y Moi has ever been, and Bundick sounds more and more confident in his singing—he’s letting his melodies rather than just fuzz carry the songs. —Tosten Burks Green stage
Toro y Moi is on the Sunday itinerary of Reader reader Ireashia Bennett.
6:45 Evian Christ
UK producer Joshua Leary, aka Evian Christ, makes rap-influenced electronic tracks that meld cavernous soundscapes with claustrophobic pileups of samples. The woozy dance number “Thrown Like Jacks” is pop-song length—a little shy of four minutes—but Leary can adapt his style to much more substantial pieces, such as April’s Duga-3 (Tri Angle), a haunting ambient 20-minute composition inspired by a gigantic Soviet antenna array. The dude also has a dark streak so gnarly that Kanye tapped him to work on Yeezus. Also tonight at Lincoln Hall (DJ set), 18+. —Leor Galil Blue stage
If M.I.A. wanted to call a mulligan on her third album, 2010’s // / Y /, I’d give it to her. The record is disorienting and sloppy, an unfocused collection whose songs meant to rage against the machine instead falter under the weight of her iconoclastic but bass-ackwards sloganeering. It’s a shame, because as convoluted and self-contradictory as M.I.A.’s agitprop pop vision can get, it can also produce killer global dance-rap tunes that stick in your head for years and all but force you to consider the meaning behind their hyperaccessible beats and rhymes. She lined everything up just right on 2007’s Kala, and one of the two songs she’s released from her forthcoming Matangi (Virgin)—”Bad Girls,” with its Middle Eastern pop hook—gives me hope that she’s still got it. —Leor Galil Red stage
7:45 Glass Candy
One of the many projects overseen by synth-pop whiz kid Johnny Jewel, Glass Candy is among the vanguard that prepared the ground for dance music’s current ubiquity. Despite their sporadic output, the Portland duo—the Nico-esque Ida No on vocals, Jewel on everything else—stand out wherever they go. Look no further than the recent After Dark 2 compilation from the Italians Do It Better label, which opens with Glass Candy’s glittering “Warm in the Winter.” —Drew Hunt Blue stage
Whatever you think of R. Kelly, just look at the set list from his “Love Letter Tour,” which featured all or part of 42 (!) songs—including a Ja Rule cover and a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” The stage also had a fully stocked bar (with cigars) and cocktail waitresses pouring champagne for lucky members of the audience. I don’t know how or even whether Kelly plans to bring his traveling bar and boudoir to a park full of Pitchfork readers, but it is the festival’s most obvious talking point. Well, that and whether or not WBEZ music critic Jim DeRogatis will take in Kelly’s performance. DeRo, a constant presence at every Pitchfork fest, is Kelly’s most outspoken critic—while at the Sun-Times in 2002, he broke the singer’s underage-sex scandal. —Tal Rosenberg Green stage
Hip-hop producers Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, aka TNGHT, recently received perhaps the most coveted cosign in the contemporary pop world: Kanye West sampled their elaborate track “R U Ready” on his even more elaborate “Blood on the Leaves,” the centerpiece of the polarizing new Yeezus. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?) It’s a maximalist track on an otherwise minimalist album, but not even Yeezus himself could deny the cinematic opulence of those horns. TNGHT’s sound is adequately described as “busy,” but its chaotic quality is precisely what makes it great. Indeed, everything about TNGHT’s self-titled EP is elaborate to the point of disorientation: the pounding drums on “Goooo,” the relentless bass on “Bugg’n,” whatever the fuck is happening on “Easy Easy.” —Drew Hunt Blue stage