Last Friday, Pitchfork Music Festival—the annual summer music festival held in Chicago’s Union Park—announced its initial lineup of artists. More artists will be announced in the months ahead, but the headliners and most of the major acts are set in stone. This year the festival will take place July 18–20, and if the past few years are anything to go by, it will sell out sometime between now and mid-June.
Pitchfork is one of several smaller Chicago-based festivals, with a capacity just short of 20,000. This pales in comparison to Lollapalooza, which packs five times as many listeners into Grant Park toward the end of each summer. Because of their smaller capacities, North Coast, Riot Fest, Spring Awakening, Pitchfork, and Wavefront all attempt to appeal to a more specific niche of listeners. With the exception of Riot Fest, though, most of Pitchfork’s contemporaries are EDM-centric (although a select few crossover artists make appearances from time to time). Pitchfork Music Festival focuses primarily on the independent music that its sister publication covers, although this can manifest itself in a vast array of genres.
Indeed, since its introduction in 2006, the festival has consistently produced a diverse lineup of artists, ranging from experimental rock to hip-hop and electronica. This year’s lineup continues the trend, with sets on the bill from artists like The Haxan Cloak, Pusha T, and the newly reunited Slowdive. Past headliners have included Björk, TV on the Radio, Pavement, and LCD Soundsystem.
Over the past few years, Pitchfork has often been able to book fairly unique artists, and this year is no exception. While we’re still toward the beginning of festival announcements, many of the bands on the lineup have only scheduled one or two American festivals so far. Death Grips, for example, hasn’t played any shows since last August, and is not currently on any other festival bills. It’s unclear whether or not this is a result of last summer’s infamous series of no-shows that began at a Lollapalooza aftershow at the Bottom Lounge. I could imagine festival organizers turning a very wary eye towards booking the experimental hip-hop group this summer, yet it is also possible that Death Grips is simply working on a follow-up to Government Plates.
Perhaps the biggest draw this year will be Beck’s long-awaited return to Chicago. While he’s played a few festival shows around the world since his 2008 release Modern Guilt, he hasn’t visited Chicago since his tour in support of that album. He’s been mostly quiet on the studio front as well, only releasing one “album” of sheet music since then. When he’s here this summer he’ll be fresh off Morning Phase, his first proper album in six years.
Unfortunately, this year’s other headliners leave a little bit to be desired; Kendrick Lamar and Neutral Milk Hotel both made Chicago stops in the past year, and they’re both likely to be playing a large number of festivals across the world this summer. While Kendrick had an impressive set at last summer’s Lollapalooza, he has not yet released a follow-up to 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, and considering the fact that he’s hardly taken a break from touring since the album’s release, it’s difficult to imagine his set this year being markedly different from last year’s. With Pusha T on the lineup, though, it is possible that Kendrick could make a surprise appearance for “Nosetalgia”, one of the strongest tracks of 2013’s My Name is My Name.
Still, the lineup as a whole is definitely something to get excited about—seeing Grimes, Giorgio Moroder, and Beck all in one weekend will be quite the treat. At around half the ticket price of Lollapalooza, and an even smaller fraction of its size, Pitchfork necessarily has to find ways to attract an audience despite a somewhat limited budget. And, despite a couple of less-than-exclusive headliners, they’ve once again managed to achieve their goal.
Tickets to the Pitchfork Music Festival can be purchased here. Three-day passes cost $130, while a single-day pass is $60.