The 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival, which runs from Friday, July 17, through Sunday, July 19, presents 40 acts on three stages and is expected to draw a total audience of 50,000 to Union Park. This is the fifth large-scale Chicago festival Pitchfork Media has curated—the first was under the Intonation banner—and the influential online music magazine is now booking stages for other big fests as well, including Spain’s Primavera Sound.
This year’s lineup includes some of the sort of twee indie pop that people still like to equate with the Pitchfork brand—the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, for instance—but anybody who actually visits the site knows it casts a wider net than that, and the festival does too. Among this year’s non-indie highlights are evil-villain rapper Doom, epic hardcore outfit Fucked Up, border-smashing mashup specialist DJ/Rupture, and electronics-enhanced Afropop group the Very Best. Friday’s bill is a Write the Night event: Built to Spill, the Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise all let ticket holders vote on what songs they should play; after some goading, much of it from bloggers, the Flaming Lips also agreed to bend to the will of the people for their headlining performance on Sunday. The two main stages are Aluminum, in the northeast corner of the park, and Connector, to the northwest; the smaller Balance Stage is to the southwest.
Nonmusical offerings include the American Poster Institute’s Flatstock—basically a massive outdoor gallery of silk-screened gig posters and art, for sale by the artists—and the CHIRP Record Fair & Other Delights, where part of the proceeds benefit the Chicago Independent Radio Project. There will also be a mini-mall with products from crafty DIY types, a merch booth with artist-specific and festival-themed goods, and a charity auction for music-education nonprofit Rock for Kids featuring “unique items from your favorite Pitchfork artists.”
The festival’s organizers are being substantially more aggressive about greening the event this time around. They’ve always encouraged attendees to walk, take public transit, or bike (there’s lots of free, secure bike parking) and made recycling part of their waste-management plan, but now they’re also powering their generators with biodiesel, using hybrid vehicles for all official transportation, and buying carbon offsets. To encourage concertgoers to do their bit, the PMF Recycling Store will trade “sponsor-donated swag” for recyclables like plastic cups.
Union Park, at the intersection of Ashland and Lake, is accessible via Ashland and Madison buses as well as Green Line and Pink Line trains. Gates open at 4 PM on Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday; the festival ends each night at 10 PM. Single-day passes for Friday were still available for $35 at press time, but Saturday and Sunday passes are sold out, as are all flavors of multiday passes. An on-site box office will open at 2 PM on Friday if passes for that day haven’t sold out by the time the festival starts, but it’s a safer bet to buy yours in advance online. Update: On Thursday morning Pitchfork released for sale an additional 300 passes for each day of the festival (but no multiday passes).
The festival is all-ages, and kids under ten are free when accompanied by an adult. The following are prohibited: ins and outs, outside food and drink, “professional” cameras or recording devices, tents, musical instruments, and pets. Cameras with nondetachable lenses are allowed, as are smallish backpacks and bags, sealed bottles of water, and folding chairs.
As usual a selection of afterparties, both official and unsanctioned, keep the music going when the park shuts down. Fucked Up, who play the festival on Saturday, headline Subterranean on Friday. On Saturday the Dutchess & the Duke play the Hideout, Plants and Animals play Schubas, and Cymbals Eat Guitars play the Bottom Lounge, just east of Union Park. The latter two are official afterparties, and the Plants and Animals show is half price for Pitchfork attendees. On Sunday, Frightened Rabbit plays the Bottom Lounge and Blitzen Trapper plays the Empty Bottle. Every venue, with the possible exception of the cavernous Bottom Lounge, will likely be packed, and if past years are any measure the turnout will be equally overwhelming at the shows that haven’t been announced yet, either because there’s a festival act on the bill that hasn’t cleared its appearance with the organizers or because the space is quasi-legal. Keep your ears and eyes open—festival gossip usually does a good job rendering these “secret” shows not so secret. —MR