The Pitchfork Music Festival has been around a dozen years—or a baker’s dozen, if you start with 2005’s Pitchfork-curated Intonation Music Festival. In that time it’s become one of the most renowned events of its kind in the U.S., in part because it insists on an aesthetic of its own rather than simply following trends on the contemporary festival circuit.
But while Pitchfork doesn’t tend to book the same acts that make so many other big fests look similar every summer, it does have its own comfort zone. Eight of this year’s 41 acts are repeaters—or 11, counting Vince Staples (who missed his set two years ago due to a delayed flight), Madlib (who’s appeared with Freddie Gibbs), and Hamilton Leithauser (who’s performed with the Walkmen). Thurston Moore and the Dirty Projectors play almost exactly the same days and times as they did on their previous appearances. Headliners LCD Soundsystem and Solange are returning too, and Solange has climbed to the peak of the festival’s hierarchy since topping Saturday’s Red Stage schedule in 2013—she’s now the Sunday-night closer, a spot previously occupied by FKA Twigs (2016), Chance the Rapper (2015), and Kendrick Lamar (2014).
Ticket prices, like practically all other prices, continue to increase—single-day general-admission passes are $75 (a $10 jump over 2016). The new VIP option, called a +Plus pass, costs $365 for the whole weekend; among other things, it allows you reentry to the fest and gets you access to premium food vendors and cocktails (courtesy of Land and Sea Dept.) and air-conditioned bathrooms. The groundlings still have access to lots of exciting nonmusical attractions, though, including Flatstock, the Book Fort, the CHIRP Record Fair, and Renegade Craft Fair (replacing the Coterie Chicago Craft Fair, whose loyal Chicagoan vendors might not all return). As usual, local nonprofits also have a seat at the table, among them the Chicago Area Peace Corps Association, Girls Rock! Chicago, and reproductive-rights advocates Illinois Choice Action Team.
Pitchfork Music Festival
Fri 7/14-16, music from 1 PM-9:50 PM each day (gates open at noon), Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph, single-day passes $75 (Friday and Saturday sold out), regular three-day passes sold out, three-day +Plus passes $365 (+Plus upgrade to regular three-day pass $195), all ages
Pitchfork has historically done a fine job showcasing local artists, but this year’s bill features relatively few. A record-setting nine Chicagoans performed in 2016, but only four will appear this weekend—five including American Football, who have two of their four members in the area. (I’m not counting Angel Olsen, who moved away to North Carolina in 2013.) But Pitchfork is still distinctively Pitchfork: few other festivals would book Brooklyn indie-rocker Mitski alongside George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. And it’s the one Chicago fest to feature Australian collage artists the Avalanches, emo-country standard-bearers Pinegrove, and Oakland hip-hop stylist Kamaiyah all in the same weekend.
Pitchforkmusicfestival.com has plenty of information about the layout of the grounds, the location of bike parking, and what you can and can’t bring into the park. It’s usually best to take no more than what will fit in your pockets, plus ample cash for food, but you can also rent an on-site locker via the festival’s website before you arrive. If you can’t bike or walk to the park, your best transit options are the Green and Pink Lines, which stop right by the Ashland entrance. Avoid driving if at all possible. The crowd tends to create more of a crush on the el at the end of the night, so you might want to try the number 9 Ashland bus if you’re heading north (there’s usually a fleet of them waiting) or even walking east to catch a train on a less congested line in the Loop. v
Chicago summers according to the Chicagoans at Pitchfork
Jamila Woods, Derrick Carter, Mike Kinsella, and more on the city’s best summer music
Pitchfork loves TV, so Pitchfork loves Survive
The retro horror-synth group from Stranger Things get a boost from the site’s eagerness to court the prestige-television audience.
In praise of Pitchfork’s Blue Stage
The festival’s shady corner lets you see the likes of Arca, Dawn Richard, Mitski, Survive, and Pinegrove before they’re too big to get close to.
DIY gadfly Jeff Rosenstock climbs into the belly of the Pitchfork beast
What is the guy who led Bomb the Music Industry! for a decade doing at a festival that costs $75 per day?
Pitchfork wants you to party without ignoring gun violence
The Beats Over Bullets partnership uses the festival to bring new converts to Everytown for Gun Safety, Mothers Against Senseless Killings, and the Wear Orange campaign.
Lee V. Gaines
Solange supports black Chicago creatives at Pitchfork and beyond
Her Saint Heron collective’s festival installation and off-site events show off the depth and richness of the city’s black cultural expression.
Pitchfork’s veteran acts confront the trap of the crowd favorite
LCD Soundsystem, PJ Harvey, and Ride have had mixed success evolving past the sounds that made them famous.