There should be no doubt in your mind that Pitchfork knows how to put on a ridiculously hip festival. The media company currently has its annual Pitchfork Music Fest, Pitchfork Paris, and lends a hand in curating events like Primavera to make sure all the best bands play a meticulously crafted bill. So with such perfection already guaranteed on a worldwide stage, how does the fest do in its hometown of Chicago? Well, for starters, it pulls off one of the most effortlessly cool events of the year for a town where everything got started.
Pitchfork is a company that is unapologetic about its identity. The festival entrance is almost hidden away under an above ground metro line. Trees shade side stages, grandiose old world churches tower over the cityscape, lightning bugs flicker as hype men and dancers rile up the crowds; the event seems more like the best version of a big family gathering than a corporate happening.
Therein lies the charm of Pitchfork though, and to a greater extent, the city of Chicago. Pitchfork and the festivals they throw are a success because they make you feel like you fit into a city, a mentality, and a moment in time where you can just relax and enjoy a good weekend without much fuss.
One of the best parts of Pitchfork Music Fest is the fact that you can effortlessly float from one stage to another, without missing particular sets or strategizing your day zealously to not miss a specific performance. It’s rare that you get to attend a fest where you have gaps of time that allow you to actually explore the festival grounds, check out the unique merch booths or pop up shops, and not have to worry about rushing to get generic event food.
Pitchfork always pairs with the perfect vendors, restaurants and sponsors to offer some of the most unique options for food, fun and fashion, and this year was no different.
Some of the best places to eat in Chicago all had booths at the fest. Chicago Diner, for example, had a vegan corn dog so good that people bought it not even knowing if it was real (whatever hot dogs are made of) or not. Piece Brewery & Pizzeria had boxes of every kind of pizza stacked high backstage and in the media tents, Wow Bao offered just about anything you could imagine stuffed in little balls of joy, and we’re just realizing now how Pitchfork should clearly plan a food festival at this point. They did an amazing job picking the city’s best bites.
Corporate vendors can easily be a huge drag on festivals, but companies like OK Cupid kept marketing tongue in cheek all weekend with emoji stickers and “lots of festival connections.” Additionally, alcohol companies worked with bands such as SURVIVE and the festival itself to sponsor and create special drinks for eager fans braving long lines for a taste of the craft concoctions. Corporate involvement and sponsorship on this level made the event fun rather than an effort to engage in millennial targeting. When you get the entire festival and bands in on branding, you can really make for a much more engaged event. Oh, also, the amazing bands really helped too.
Solange had one of the most thrilling sets of the weekend as an entire group of backup singers and dancers grooved, twerked and sang like angels across the stage.
Tribe Called Quest dedicated one microphone stand to the fallen Phife Dawg and brought the most excitement and old school cool to an adoring and hardcore crowd.
Jamila Woods straight up looked like a princess.
Angel Olsen and Mistki brought glamorous slacker cool style to the forefront of the relaxed weekend and made us all cheer for more.
Vince Staples and Danny Brown rocked the mic and showed us effortless style and stances that’d make Greek God statues jealous.
Thurston Moore doesn’t even need to do anything other than show up and transform his sound into the most beautiful, chaotic and mesmerizing noise imaginable, so for that, we were very happy.
Then, there was the audience. Well, the audience and attendees were so cool, we’re dedicating an entire article to them, which you can read here.
And there you have it folks. We really love Pitchfork. We want them to do more festivals. They bring some of the best lineups, vendors, audiences and experiences to festivals all over the world and we hope they continue because they always knock it out of the park, regardless of where they are in the world.
Words (and a few photos) by Phillip Gutgesell, majority of photos by Katherine Wilburn