The 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival is going down this weekend in Chicago and as in past years (2008, 2009, 2010) I Rock Cleveland will be there with photographer Mara Robinson to document this yearly gathering of music fans, hipsters, aging indie rockers, and other assorted cool people with questionable sartorial sense.

One of the festival’s greatest strengths, and one of the reasons I keep going back is its freshness and diversity of performers.  During Pitchfork’s three days of music you’ll see classic indie acts (Guided by Voices, Superchunk, and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore), some of today’s bigger underground acts (TV on the Radio, Deerhunter, and Animal Collective), and some young up-and-comers (EMA, Yuck, and Zola Jesus).

Of course, the same diversity that makes the festival great, also guarantees that at some point during the weekend you’ll find yourself looking at a list of band names that mean absolutely nothing to you.

Did you check out the schedule and think to yourself, “What is a Sun Airway and why should I ride the Sun Airway and not hang out in the Cold Cave? It is July and it might get hot.  Should I check out the Baths or go chill in the Woods?  Shabazz Palaces, Odd Future, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti?  What does it mean?”

It means this festival guide is for you. Below, you’ll find each day of the festival broken down into four categories: Must Sees, Maybes, Not for Mes, and Haven’t a Scoobs.  The Must Sees and Maybes should be self explanatory.  If a band is Not for Me, it doesn’t mean it’s not for you.  Hey, you may like Animal Collective.  They (And their fans) annoy the shit outta me.  Lastly, if I haven’t a scoob, that means I don’t have what Scooby-Do finds, a clue.  I can’t tell you one way or another if that particular act is with your time.


Must Sees: EMA (3:30 Red Stage), Thurston Moore (5:30 Red Stage), Guided by Voices (6:25 Green Stage), Neko Case (7:20 Red Stage)

Technically, Animal Collective are the day’s headliners. Yet, for a certain segment of the festival crowd, let’s say 30-something and 40-something males, the day will start and end with the set by Dayton, Ohio legends, Guided by Voices.

Having already seen Robert Pollard, Mitch Mitchell, Tobin Sprout, Kevin Fennell, and Greg Demos twice on their current tour, I can guarantee the following. Uncle Bob will rock kick higher than any kid at the festival and drink more beer than anyone at the festival. Mitch will smoke like a train from the first song to the last. You’ll get about 30 songs in the band’s 60 minute set and those 30 and 40 somethings will slur every word. My advice to you is to get to the beer tent early. You’ll want to be in the front row sloshing your two drinks in the air when that first rock kick hits.

VIDEO: Guided by Voices – Gold Star for Robot Boy/Matter Eater Lad (Live in Philadelphia 2011)

Maybes: Battles (4:35 Green Stage), Das Racist (6:30 Blue Stage)

Not for Mes: Tune-Yards (4:30 Blue Stage), James Blake (7:30 Blue Stage), Animal Collective (8:30 Green Stage)

Haven’t a Scoobs: Gatekeeper (3:20 Blue Stage), Curren$y (5:30 Blue Stage)


Must Sees: No Age (3:20 Red Stage), Off! (4:45 Blue Stage),  DJ Shadow (7:25 Red Stage)

Even though Saturday looks like the weakest of the three days on paper, it won’t be without its highlights. Two bands in particular on my Must See list, No Age and Off!, will rip. That’s a guarantee.

Like Guided by Voices, Off! are another veteran act who will be putting the kids to shame in Chicago. I pity the twee singer/songwriters and chillwave bands who has to follow this act. Vocalist Keith Morris earned his rep in classic punk bands The Circle Jerks and Black Flag while bassist Shane McDonald (Redd Kross), Dmitri Coats (Burning Brides), and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt/Hot Snakes) aren’t exactly slouches either. Their sound is a total throwback to early West Coast hardcore, meaning there will be rapid-fire riffs, trashing, slam-dancing, and more than one aging punk in need of a good chiropractor come Sunday.

VIDEO: OFF! – Upside Down (Live at Vice Records)

No Age, meanwhile, bring a slightly different take on West Coast noise. This LA duo is indebted as much to guitar geeks like Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine as they are to American punk rock. Yes, they will rip, but they will rip with mountains of effects.

VIDEO: No Age – Teen Creeps/Sleeper Hold (Live at SXSW 2009)

Maybes: Julianna Barwick (1:00 Green Stage) Woods (1:45 Red Stage), Gang Gang Dance (4:15 Green Stage), The Radio Dept (5:45 Blue Stage), The Dismemberment Plan (6:15 Green Stage), Zola Jesus (7:40 Blue Stage)

Not for Mes: Cold Cave (2:30 Green Stage), Destroyer (5:15 Red Stage), Fleet Foxes (8:30 Green Stage)

If the pastoral, folk-rock stylings of Fleet Foxes don’t do it as a headliner for you, there is hope. Also playing Saturday night in Chicago, albeit at the UIC Pavilion and not Union Park, is one of Seattle’s finest, Soundgarden. Get yourself a cab. Get yourself tickets off the street. You won’t regret it.

Haven’t a Scoobs: Chrissy Murderbot Feat MC ZULU (1:00 Blue Stage), Sun Airway (1:55 Blue Stage), G-Side (2:50 Blue Stage), Wild Nothing (3:45 Blue Stage), Twin Shadow (6:45 Blue Stage)


Must Sees: Yuck (1:45 Red Stage), Kurt Vile (2:30 Green Stage), Shabazz Palaces (3:45 Blue Stage), Superchunk (5:15 Red Stage), Kylesa (5:45 Blue Stage), Deerhunter (6:15 Green Stage), TV on the Radio (8:30 Green Stage)

While much of the pre-festival talk has centered on the LA hip-hop collective Odd Future, it’s another rap act that has me intrigued — Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces. Here you’ll get an inventive, forward thinking hip-hop act without all the braggadocio, misogyny, homophobia, and ultra-violence that comes with Odd Future.

VIDEO: Shabazz Palaces – An Echo…(Live at KEXP)

Now, should you find yourself at the festival early on Sunday morning, Yuck is one of those young, up-and-comers who are likely to surprise more than a few. Playing a style similar to early Teenage Fanclub or early Sloan, theirs is a mix of power-pop, brit-pop, and unrelenting fuzz. Check out those mop-tops, and their hell could care posture in the video below. They even got the look to go with the sound.

VIDEO: Yuck – Holing Out (Radio One Session)

Maybes: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (4:15 Green Stage), HEALTH (7:40 Blue Stage), Cut Copy (7:25 Red Stage), The Fresh and Onlys (1:00 Green Stage)

Not for Mes: Odd Future (3:20 Red Stage), Toro y Moi (6:45 Blue Stage)

Haven’t a Scoobs: Darkstar (1:00 Blue Stage), How to Dress Well (1:55 Blue Stage), Twin Sister (2:50 Blue Stage), Baths (4:45 Blue Stage)

This is not bragging, I am not one to brag, this is truth: No outlet does more with less during the festival weekend than I Rock Cleveland. By the time the sun sets on Sunday, Mara and I will have covered somewhere around a dozen acts. It’s quality, too. We don’t fuck around when we get the opportunity to play professional journos for a weekend. So, check back early and check back often. Most of the previous days reviews and photo sets will be live by the time the next day starts. Who knows? There may even be a surprise or two, like most misplaced band t-shirt, worst fashion statement, or how many chillwavers does it take for me to totally lose my shit in 90 degree whether. It will be a hot one.

For more information on the Pitchfork Music Festival, visit the official site, here.