On Friday, the Pitchfork Music Festival kicks off its 14th year—technically its 15th, if you count the Pitchfork-curated Intonation Music Festival in 2005. Since late 2015, Pitchfork the website has been owned by publishing conglomerate Condé Nast, but fortunately that hasn’t affected the distinctiveness of Pitchfork the festival. It stands out even in a city where every summer weekend seems to have half a dozen fests—this year, for instance, Pitchfork overlaps not only with the Silver Room’s long-running block party but also the debut of ComplexCon Chicago, a two-day music and fashion event presented by Complex magazine.
Pitchfork Music Festival
Fri 7/19 through Sun 7/21, box office at 10 AM, gates at noon, music at 1 PM, Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph, $95 per day, three-day pass $200, +Plus pass single day $185, three-day $400, all ages
The Pitchfork festival rests its reputation on unconventional lineups, which reflect the editorial site’s tastes and often showcase acts that don’t get love from bigger fests. This year’s bill has plenty of curveballs—where else can you see the venerable AACM Great Black Music Ensemble, assembled by its namesake Chicago avant-garde collective, within a few hours of Maryland rap queen Rico Nasty and Minnesota indie-rock elders Low? For every surprise, though, there’s a familiar face: the 13 returning acts on the 2019 lineup include Philly rocker Kurt Vile, who’s making his fourth appearance (and that 12 leaves out LA rapper JPEGmafia, who played at Pitchfork’s first Midwinter fest in February).
For the past few years Pitchfork has done good work booking locals, and this year I count 12—though I’m including Freddie Gibbs, who’s from Gary, Indiana. (Bitchin Bajas were added late, replacing London singer-songwriter Tirzah.) A little more than half of the 42 acts on the bill are women or fronted by women, including headliners Haim and Robyn. This shouldn’t be a remarkable achievement, but most other festivals have done little to address the gender disparity in their lineups.
This year Pitchfork debuted a more complicated pricing system for general admission tickets and +Plus passes: everything got progressively more expensive between March and the week of the festival, with single-day tickets passing through three price tiers and three-day tickets through four. If you wanted your GA passes to cost what they did last year ($75 per day or $175 for all three), you would’ve had to buy them before May 31. At this point, they’re $95 per day.
Pitchfork Radio will stream live from the festival grounds for the first time, and poets from Louder Than a Bomb will read between sets on the Blue Stage. Otherwise the festival’s nonmusical attractions—including the CHIRP Record Fair, the Renegade Craft Fair, Flatstock, the Book Fort, and the Kids Zone—remain the same. Union Park is within the 50-square-mile zone of the city’s new pilot program for shareable electric scooters, but don’t try to bring one in—even old-fashioned foot-powered scooters are prohibited. Pitchforkmusicfestival.com has everything else you need to know in advance. v
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Every set listed in order, from the AACM Great Black Music Ensemble on Friday afternoon to Robyn on Sunday night