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Review: Pitchfork Music Festival 2011

Music enthusiasts of all ages and social categorizations flocked to Union Park on Friday for the sixth annual Pitchfork Music Festival. The crowd was as eclectic as the music that played: roughly 18,000 people attended each of the three days the festival was put forth.

"I think some people automatically dismiss Pitchfork because they think it's just a bunch of hipster music, and that's not true at all," said veteran attendee, Michael Wallace, 24, of Hyde Park.

Pitchfork offered a lot to music fans this year. There were indie bands, folk artists, rappers, DJs, punk rockers, and virtually everything in between. But what each act had in common was the ability to bring something unique and creative to the table.

"I love going to Pitchfork because it gives me the opportunity to see a lot of talented bands that I might not pay to see at their own show," said Brittany Squier, 21, a DePaul student who resides in Uptown.


On Friday the small, more secluded blue stage showcased some of the most talented musicians to perform the entire weekend. Tune-Yards, the third act to play the festival, set the tone for this year's Pitchfork. Frontwoman Merrill Garbus's looped tribal drum beats and screams got the crowd hyped. The happiness and raw energy she exerted on stage was so sincere that it caused a contagious smile to be spread throughout the audience. Garbus performed many of the songs that are credited for her rising fame, such as "Bizness," which featured two saxophones.

Rapper Curren$y, who sported a Michael Jordan Bull's jersey, came onto the blue stage after Tune-Yards, holding a mic in one hand and doing his "jet life" hand symbol with the other. Many of the songs he performed, such as "Elevator Music," referenced marijuana. Clouds of skunky smoke wafted through the air throughout the performance, causing the audience to be fairly chill during its entirety. In between songs, however, he warned the younger kids never to try smoking, "no matter how cool it looks," he said.

Das Racist, a rap group based out of Brooklyn, kept the hip-hop beats bumping after Curren$y's set. The three emcees came out wearing vibrant clothing, and sporting even more colorful attitudes. They jumped around stage drinking beer and spitting their highly satirical lyrics.

Ironically, many of the more popular bands that played on the bigger stages (green and red) failed to deliver as much as the lesser-known artists that dominated the blue stage on Friday. The only thing that was noteworthy of Neko Case's performance was seeing how surprisingly old she looks. Her frail frame and lack of a stage presence caused her to look like a corpse in a fire-red wig. She couldn't compete with the body-rattling bass and melodic vocals that were blaring from the blue stage during the performance of 21-year-old electronic beat genius, James Blake. Blake kept the large crowd interested after the two rap acts by creating the atmosphere of dance club with his powerfully loud music. He received the most reception when he whipped out his most popular song "The Wilhelm Scream."

Animal Collective had a slow, slightly disorganized build up at the beginning of their show. The band played a lot of new material, which will be featured on their upcoming album, and because of this, the crowd was fairly sedate until they played fan favorite tunes "Brother Sport" and "Summertime Clothes." However, for many, the overall expectations of an Animal Collective show fell flat. The stage décor was on par though; it looked like a trippy underwater forest, complete with neon flashing lights.


Saturday's line-up was not as solid as the first and last days of Pitchfork, but there was still plenty of good music to scope out. Gang Gang Dance really got the crowd dancing at the main green stage halfway through the day with their electro-trance beats. Indie rock group Destroyer kept it pretty mellow with their choice of songs.

Despite DJ Shadow's 20 plus years of experience, the sound quality in his performance was disappointing. The beats were too gritty and glitchy for many. This may have come from the frustration DJ Shadow was feeling because the lighting was entirely wrong for the visual experience he had seemingly tried to create.

Fleet Foxes was the perfect way to end the second day at Pitchfork. Remarkably, they sounded even better live than they do recorded. Each member of the band is extremely talented with their instruments, especially since many of them play more than one. Fleet Foxes played a really great mix of songs from both of their full-length albums, "Ragged Wood" and "Helplessness Blues." The more familiar songs from their first album, like "White Winter Hymnal" and "Ragged Wood," were more upbeat and had the audience frolicking and dancing about. But things were slowed down when they played newer songs. Lead singer Robin Pecknold's vocal were so solid on more intimate songs, like "The Shrine/ An Argument," that they inspired goose bumps. Fleet Foxes finished up the night with "Hopelessness Blues," which had all of Union Park grooving.


Sunday was a scorcher indeed. However, the high heat index didn't keep the ticket-holders from enjoying the music on the only day that had sold out tickets in advance. People came early to claim spots in the shade and doused each other with water to stay cool. Pitchfork staff also handed out thousands of bottles of water to festival attendants on both Saturday and Sunday in order to prevent over-heating and dehydration.

One of the most anticipated acts of the whole festival was Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA). There had been speculation at least a week prior to Pitchfork as to what kind of trouble they could possibly stir up during their set.

"A lot of people don't like Odd Future because they don't understand their swag," said OFWGKTA fan Steven Buck, 22, of Countryside.

Tyler the Creator, the 20-year-old credited with masterminding the infamously obscene rap crew, hobbled out on crutches, with a thick cast on his leg, as members from the audience waved their middle fingers in the air to show their support. For the first part of the show, Tyler rapped from a stool in the center of the stage, while his fellow members danced around him. But he didn't let a broken leg stop his notorious antics for long, as he eventually dove off of the stage and into the crowd.

The band got the crowd so hyped up that a swirling mosh-pit was present even in the middle of the crowd, and at least 20 members of the audience crowd surfed. Odd Future gave a shout out—and cupcakes—to the woman's group that was at Union Park, protesting their music. Near the end of their set they performed "Yonkers," which features the lyrics "I'm stabbing any blogging f****t hipster with a Pitchfork." Before he began rapping, Tyler said to the crowd, "I know y'all in the back know this one!" OFWGKTA is a group that thrive off of controversy and the fans that love them seem to have some sort of understanding of their humor and ostentatious personas.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti was by far the most bizarre show of the entire weekend. It was a hot mess. The obnoxiously flamboyant front man deep-throated his microphone headset after it got stuck in his hair and then proceeded to fall over his band's equipment. Pink mimicked almost every noise of a dying animal and played the air guitar. Pink's own keyboardist couldn't help but laugh at his antics, as was the rest of the crowd.

Towards the end of the show two members of the audience began to fist fight, causing everyone around them to ignore Ariel Pink to witness the brawl. The lead singer was clearly offended by this and threw down his mic after screaming obscenities into it then exited the stage, ending their set about 20 minutes early.

Deerhunter was up next on the green stage and was able to keep the attention of their audience much better than the spastic spectacles of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. Pink, the band's lead guitarist, shredded the chords, while lead singer and secondary guitarist, Bradford Cox, wailed lyrics and strummed along. The bassist, who usually has a cigarette in his mouth the entire show, coolly stood on stage and swayed to and fro as he plucked away.

Australian band Cut Copy performed on the red stage to a large crowd of peppy-looking, spiky-haired fans. The band's sound is fairly monotonous and sounds as if they were teleported directly from the 80's to Pitchfork circa 2011. They would most likely feel more at home in a European discothèque.

HEALTH took to the blue stage shortly after Cut Copy did, and their heavy metal screams were a refreshing change of pace from the poppy baritone vocals of the Aussies. They were rock, all rock, and nothing but rock. The bassist was flailing his long, jet-black hair around so much that it was truly astounding his head didn't fall off. The band went back and forth from playing instruments to creating synth-punk beats and screaming into their microphones. They put on the type of high-energy rock show that Ariel Pink was probably aiming for, but failed due to utter insanity.

The last headlining act of Pitchfork was TV on the Radio, who performed to a dwindling crowd due to the heat, which was still going pretty strong even after sunset. The well-rounded rock band channeled several different genres, stemming from punk rock to gospel soul. TV on the Radio got the crowd rocking when they played their hit song, "Wolf Like Me." The band did a cover of 90's punk band Fugazi's "Waiting Room" as one of their final songs to wrap up the festival.

As the music ends just before 10 p.m., festival attendants grabbed one last free water and hopped on their bikes or the CTA, which was even more crowded than during a Cubs or Sox game, and rode away from a Pitchfork Music Festival until next year.

(Written for The DePaulia)

Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 20:03