When Pitchfork curated the Intonation Music Festival in 2005, the concept was relatively novel: a big, multiday outdoor festival dedicated to indie music. But in 2018, outdoor fests of all stripes (a few of them significantly more esoteric than Pitchfork) clog concert calendars all over the country. Some similar events have gone belly-up—this summer’s FYF Fest, for example, was canceled in May—but Pitchfork has continued to evolve and thrive, becoming one of the most respected festivals in the country.
Pitchfork Music Festival
Fri 7/20 through Sun 7/22, box office at 11 AM, gates at noon, music at 1 PM, Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph, $75 per day, three-day pass $175, +Plus pass $375, all-ages
Of course, when a fest is run by a website that prides itself on covering cutting-edge music, you’d expect it to understand the value of booking unconventional artists. As good as Pitchfork can be about seeking out acts that don’t play every other major festival, though, its organizers also appear to have a Rolodex of their own—eight of the 42 artists on the 2018 lineup have appeared at the festival before. Among them are Fleet Foxes, who headline Saturday in the traditional “veteran indie rockers” slot (in a break from precedent, last year it was filled by A Tribe Called Quest). And Pitchfork seems to be developing a new tradition for Sunday’s headlining slot: when Ms. Lauryn Hill performs the 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill that night, she’ll be the third woman of color to close the festival, after Solange in 2017 and FKA Twigs in 2016.
Happily, this year’s lineup also includes a record number of locals—I count 14, though I’m fudging a little by including LA rapper Open Mike Eagle (who grew up here), New York singer-songwriter Julie Byrne (who cut her teeth on the local DIY scene), and Saint Louis-born rapper Smino (who built his career here but continues to rep his first home like the city depends on it). Pitchfork continues to present fans with highly unlikely choices: Saturday evening, for instance, Blood Orange (aka pop sophisticate Dev Hynes) overlaps with This Is Not This Heat (a partial reunion of experimental UK postpunk group This Heat).
The cost of three-day passes climbs once again this year—up $10 for general admission (now $175) as well as for a +Plus pass (now $375), the latter of which buys you the right to reenter the festival, use special air-conditioned bathrooms, and pay for food and drink from Fat Rice. (Single-day tickets are still $75.) Thankfully most of the festival’s nonmusical attractions remain open to everyone, including the CHIRP Record Fair, the Flatstock poster show, the Renegade Craft Fair, and the Book Fort. Pitchfork will donate a portion of this year’s proceeds to the nonprofit Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which has partnered with the fest to raise awareness about sexual violence. Professionally trained counselors will be on-site at a resource and response center for attendees who encounter violence or harassment in the park.
Pitchforkmusicfestival.com has most everything else you’d want to know about the festival: the layout of the grounds, the best routes to take to Union Park, what you can and can’t bring to the park, et cetera. And yes, you can bring a factory-sealed vape pen, if you feel like making a spectacle of yourself. v
Irreversible Entanglements, Circuit des Yeux, Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society, and This Is Not This Heat don’t sell tickets like Fleet Foxes, but they help keep Pitchfork interesting.
by Peter Margasak
The MC shares some of the research behind his album-length love letter to the Robert Taylor Homes.
by Leor Galil
Ravyn Lenae, Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Nilüfer Yanya demonstrate the depth of the young female talent pool.
by Katie Powers
Veterans of Chicago’s multifaceted DIY scene talk about the community that shaped them.
by Leor Galil
(Sandy) Alex G, Girlpool, and Japanese Breakfast refresh the indie tradition of foregrounding emotional development, not just musical evolution.
by Anna White
All kinds of Chicago music—AM radio pop, free-spirited R&B, bold Afrocentric jazz, soulful funk—came together to shape her incredible voice.
by James Porter and Jake Austen
Every set listed in order, from the Curls on Friday afternoon to Ms. Lauryn Hill on Sunday night
Ravyn Lenae by Jingyu Lin,
Lucy Dacus by Dustin Condren,
Julien Baker by Nolan Knight,
Nilüfer Yanya by Hollie Fernando,
(Sandy) Alex G by Tonje Thilesen,
Girlpool by Anti- Records,
and Japanese Breakfast by Ebru Yildiz