Pitchfork Media announced on January 19th, 2007 that they would hold their third music festival in Chicago, IL at Union Park on July 13th through the 15th, having three days of music as opposed to only two at previous festivals. Technically, this was only Pitchfork's second festival using their name. Intonation Music Festival was held in July of 2005 at Union Park, curated and launched by Pitchfork Media. Intonation headliners included Tortoise and The Decemberists, supported by such acts as Death From Above 1979, The Go! Team, Broken Social Scene, Four Tet, Les Savy Fav, Deerhoof, Andrew Bird, Out Hud, and Xiu Xiu, among others.
A few months before the following summer, Intonation was suddenly being held in June and curated by Vice Records and supported by KEXP. The line up was less than thrilling with headlining acts The Streets and Bloc Party (the only notable acts were Boredoms, Jose Gonzalez, and Panthers), but before disappointed festival-goers from the previous summer could decide to go to Bonnaroo Festival instead, Pitchfork Media announced their own festival to be held in July, only a month after Intonation. The story is that Pitchfork Media and independent concert promoter Mike Reed withdrew their support from Intonation after their split with the festival organizers and promotion company Skyline Chicago. Pitchfork outshined Intonation with such acts as Silver Jews, The Walkmen, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Mountain Goats, Band of Horses, Os Mutantes, Spoon, Yo La Tengo, Devendra Banhart, Aesop Rock & Mr. Lif, Liars, and several more. Two day passes and one day Sunday passes sold out by the beginning of July.
Pitchfork Music Festival 2007 exceeded their ticket sales this time around; selling out their $50.00 three-day passes and $15.00 one day Saturday and Sunday passes. The amount of ticket sales was clearly obvious by how crowded Union Park was all weekend. Having gone to the last two festivals sponsored by Pitchfork, I had a lot to compare it to. It's hard to say which year was the best because each time was an entirely different experience. I have found with music festivals that the line up, whether there are several bands you want to see one day or not so many the next, is really all about the experience. Personally, I never thought I would enjoy outdoor music festivals until I went to Intonation, which was the first festival I had been to. Now it has become an event that I look forward to every summer.
Friday July 13th
The first day of bands at Pitchfork this year is what sold me on buying a ticket. Don't Look Back Concerts and All Tomorrow's Parties collaborated with Pitchfork, adding an additional day to the originally two day festivities. Don't Look Back is a series of concerts where artists are asked to play their most influential album of their career in it's entirety. July 13th included Slint performing Spiderland, GZA with Liquid Swords, and Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation. The gates opened at 5 PM and Slint went on at 6:30 PM. I only stood up front for their performance for a few songs, as I wanted to get a good spot over at the other stage where GZA and Sonic Youth would be performing. While it was incredibly amazing to see Slint as well as have them perform Spiderland, my impression was that they were not that into it. They also had set lists in front of them on stage, even though they were playing the album front to back. Their lack of enthusiasm didn't make me get that into their set but of course, they still played well for the few songs I watched.
I made my way across Union Park and got a nice spot up front at the Connector Stage. I wasn't all that familiar with GZA or Liquid Swords, but who wouldn't want to watch a member of Wu-Tang Clan perform? The Genius was joined by Cappadonna, Killah Priest, and Dreddy Krueger in what turned out to be the best hip-hop performance I've seen. The whole crowd got into it, throwing their hands up to make a "W" sign for Wu-Tang. The artists closed their set with a dedication to the late ODB. I expected most of the obvious GZA fans to clear out before Sonic Youth went on, but the crowd only seemed to get bigger and more drunk. Sonic Youth took the stage around 9:30 PM and the crowd got a bit crazy here and there, but I can't really blame them because I was very excited to see their set as well, in a sober way, though. GZA fans turned out to be Sonic Youth fans, too, and sang along to every song off Daydream Nation. The set ended after an hour and a half, leaving festival-goers with a positive outlook for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday July 14th
I arrived Saturday afternoon as Voxtrot was about to play at the Aluminum Stage, and I watched them for a few songs. They did very well for being newcomers at a big festival. I had seem them before at a bar, and I got the impression that they were awkward and nervous being in the spotlight but they seemed quite the opposite this time. Grizzly Bear went on after Voxtrot at the Connector Stage. This band was one of my favorite bands that played on Saturday. I never got into their album Yellow House but seeing them live definitely convinced me to give it another listen. Other notable bands that I stuck around for Saturday were Battles and Professor Murder. I heard from other festival attendees that Girl Talk's performance was outrageous and the place was packed, which wasn't a big area where the Balance Stage was (this being the smaller stage that replaced the DJ tent at previous festivals). Most people were skeptical about Yoko Ono headlining that night, and according to reviews and people I spoke to the next day, not many people stuck around or they left after a few minutes into her performance. Oh well, that's what happens when you're Yoko Ono, I guess.
Sunday July 15th
Sunday I arrived while The Ponys were in the middle of their set and just a few seconds of hearing them was enough for my ears. I watched a bit of Menomena, but I felt that they should have played later in the day when the sun was not blazing. I was not all that interested in many bands on the last day and really only went for Stephen Malkmus. I staked out a spot up front (only to be overpowered by tall people) and got plenty of great pictures. Malkmus played alright, minus the pretty frequent pre-pubescent sounding voice cracks. Pavement drummer Bob Nastanovich made a guest-appearance, which was real fun to see. The pair had great chemistry and made the performance very enjoyable for the crowd, as they seemed to be having fun on stage together. The crowd tried to cheer Malkmus back on to the stage after his set ended, but to no avail. Of Montreal went on following Malkmus at the Aluminum Stage, and the first five minutes (which was really just their "intro," because apparently they are the kind of band who needs that) ran me right out of Union Park. There is only so much I can take when a band comes out on stage wearing gigantic pink angel wings.
The first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival was probably what saved it this year, as I cannot imagine it selling out based on Saturday and Sunday alone. My experience was still enjoyable each day, but seeing three amazing bands perform their most influential albums in one night wins over pink angel wings and Yoko Ono any day.
Special: See Photos from Pitchfork Music Festival!
Samantha's photos from the event are up and online - check them out at the following URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10348589@N06/