By Jack Burrows
July 14, 2019
Cast aside your past beefs with the tastemakers at Pitchfork because, even though they rated your favorite album a 6.8, they can still throw a helluva music fest. Pitchfork Music Festival returns to Union Park, Chicago on July 19-21 for the fourteenth year running, and the lineup is impressive. Pusha-T, The Isley Brothers, Robyn, Earl Sweatshirt, Kurt Vile and many others round out the crackerjack cast of musical talent this year. From its start in 2005, the festival has showcased the best in punk, indie, hardcore, rap, pop, and everything in between while touting a reasonable entry fee.
2019 festival-goers should prepare for a world-renowned celebration of music and art beneath the skyline of the Windy City, just west of downtown. The independently run festival will feature 40+ artists and a wide variety of food vendors. Pitchfork Radio will be broadcasting live at the festival with interviews, live sets, and appearances from the likes of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Jamila Woods, Jay Som, Big Thief and more. The CHIRP Record Fair will be present, hosting vinyl selections from local record stores and indie labels.
Pitchfork is also home to the world’s largest showcase of curated independent craft and design, the Renegade Craft Fair, so check that out for a glimpse into the mind of modern creatives. And, for the first time this year, poets from Louder Than A Bomb (organized by Young Chicago Authors) will perform between sets on the Blue Stage. For those who’ve opted for the Pitchfork PLUS route, an array of amenities and attractions are available including curated food at Banger’s And Lace, cocktails at The Whistler, an elevated viewing platform for the Blue Stage, and more. Wondering where to start at a fest that has so much to offer?
Here’s who we’re excited to see at Pitchfork Music Festival:
Indie enigma, former War On Drugs guitarist and father of two daughters, Kurt Vile released his latest album Bottle It In in October of last year. His seventh full-length album, Bottle delivers woozy charisma and spaced-out lyrics. Vile channels his influences—Dylan, Pavement, and Smog among others—into a spell of groovy tunes. His set is sure to be as chilled out as it quietly provoking.
Parquet Courts sound like a more seasoned band than they are. Since 2011 they’ve been dishing out a blend of garage rock, punk, and early hardcore, and released six full-length LPs. Their latest, Wide Awake, produced by Danger Mouse, is a tornado of guitar and emotion that careens along like a runaway train. With song names like “Before the Water Gets Too High” and “Violence,” you can rest assured that the ride will be wild.
Thebe Kgositsile is the creative genius behind Earl Sweatshirt, the dark, broodingly lyrical and violence-addled rap persona he embodies in what he calls his creative “operation.” His November 2018 release Some Rap Songs is perhaps his most understated work, but dig beneath it’s unassuming exterior to find the kind of lyrical intricacies that are the mark of Earl’s best.
A supergroup of two, Whitney is the brainchild of Max Kakacek of Smith Westerns and drummer Julien Ehrlich of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Whitney creates gentle, melodic rock romps and, if their latest single “Giving Up” has anything to tell us about their upcoming album, Forever Turned Around, it’s that we can expect audio excellence, a groovy and crisp listening experience.
Chicago rapper Dreezy is self-assured and accompanied by slick and satisfying beats on her latest album, Big Dreez, a show of bravado and personality. Dreezy sits in the rarefied air of fierce female rappers Cardi B and Tierra Whack, and revels in sheer fun and the excesses of dissing your rivals into oblivion.
At age 20, Lindsey Jordan has to be one of the youngest performers at Pitchfork Music Fest this year, but that won’t deter the songwriter, guitarist, and singer for the indie rockers, Snail Mail. Her confessional, easy-going lyricism combined with a cleaned-up Pavement sound transports the listener to Jordan’s world. If you are looking for fuzzy guitars and heartfelt lyrics, check out Snail Mail Sunday night.
Houston natives Khruangbin combine a wide-array of influences from around the globe into their soulful, blissed-out tunes. Their second and latest album, Con Todo El Mundo, is a sunny and hopeful batch of easy listening that floats the listener down a sonic river. If you are looking for eclectic and interesting compositions, check out Khruangbin on the Red Stage Sunday night.
Robyn has been a signed musician since she was a teenager in 1995 but, since founding her own dance-centric label in 2004, she’s broken away from the bubblegum pop of her youth and strove toward creating a mix of powerful, self-affirming anthems and dancy electronica tracks. When she isn’t making beautiful Swedish synth-pop, the outspoken feminist helps her fellow women– in 2015 she ran a tech workshop for girls. Her latest album, Honey, is the fullest realization of her vision and should make for excellent dance material when she takes the stage on Saturday.
Julia Holter creates layered chamber pop with a beguiling but powerful vocal performance. Her soaring vocal delivery is the backbone for the ethereal anthems we’ve come to expect from her since 2011 debut, Tragedy. On her latest release Aviary, she finds new heights in exploring avante-garde and noise using her voice to cut through the sound and mayhem of modern life.
Belle & Sebastian
Belle & Sebastian are indie royalty these days, but they are not content to rest on the laurels of past accomplishments. Their latest string of EPs, How To Solve Our Human Problems, Parts 1-3, offer insight into frontman Stuart Murdoch’s feelings on our current conundrums. Expect a wide variety of rock and indie sounds and a large cast of musicians from the Belle & Sebastian set.
Frequent collaborator with acclaimed and prodigious producer Madlib, Freddie Gibbs emerged in the late 2000s as a purveyor of cutting lyricism and athletic flow. His 2019 effort, Bandana, sees him teamed with Madlib again on their second full-length LP together. The album includes an all-star ensemble of guests including Pusha-T, Killer Mike, and Anderson .Paak. It’s obvious Gibbs commands respect among the rap community.