The Pitchfork Music Festival has always prided itself on attracting a diverse line-up, stacked with both up-and-comers and vets from the worlds of indie rock, electronic music, hip-hop and pop. The lineup for the 2013 edition, this upcoming weekend at Union Park in Chicago, may be the most diverse yet, with nightly headliners Bjork, Belle and Sebastian and R Kelly, a Saturday schedule stacked with rock bands and a Sunday schedule heavy with grooves.
Putting together such a wide-ranging lineup isn’t without its risks. For one, there’s R Kelly, the R&B chart-topper of the ’90s, who, though acquitted on charges related to a sex tape with an underage woman, still found himself in need of a fixed reputation. The fact that he did so with the maybe intentionally comedic hip-hop opera, Trapped in the Closet, only adds to the mystery of the man. Preceding him on Sunday night will be M.I.A, an unpredictable and brilliant artist who is just as likely to steal the weekend as she is to spit off a tirade and split mid set.
Then, there’s the scheduling, itself. As mentioned earlier, the organizers back loaded the festival with hip-hop, pop, and electronic music leading up to M.I.A. and R. Kelly on Sunday night. It was the right strategy to attract a crowd on Sunday night. But, what about those who bought into the weekend package? With the exception of Yo La Tengo, playing at 4:15, there’s little for the rock fan to do but wander between the three stages and hope something sticks.
Conversely, on both Friday and Saturday, the rock fan will find themselves with competing acts, on opposite ends of the grounds.
Not that I’m blaming any one here. I understand how difficult it is to wrangle 30+ tours into a single location over the course of three days. Not everyone has the leisure of a weekend in Chicago. For many of the performers, the next day will bring a new day and new faces. rock. All of this makes arriving in Chicago with a game plan, for you, the festival-goer, all that more important.
The Can’t Miss Acts
Bjork – Friday at 8:30 (Green Stage) The weirdo, Icelandic performer makes rare stateside appearance as the first night’s headliner. Even those who aren’t drawn to her whimsy and grace can admire her as a performer.
Savages – Saturday at 4:15 (Green) The English buzz band has nearly single-handedly made post-punk hip again. This will be the first chance for many in the states to see if they live up to the burdensome hype.
Belle & Sebastian – Saturday at 8:30 (Green) Countless indie pop bands, both those who preceded and those who followed these Glasgow masters of the genre, owe them for making articulate pop music as acceptable in the underground as dunderheaded punk.
MIA – Sunday at 7:25 (Green) In the past month, MIA’s been scrapping with her label over the content of her new album and the release of a documentary. Will she channel all of her recent rage into her performance?
R Kelly – Sunday at 8:30 (Green) I’m rooting for the guy, but at the same time I’m secretly hoping for an all Trapped in the Closet set.
You Can Go With This, Or You Can Go With That
You Can Go With Mikal Cronin on Friday at 6:15 (Blue Stage), the Ty Segall associate who went solo and power pop on his latest with an album every bit as riveting as Segall’s retro garage stomp.
Or You Can Go With Wire on Friday at 6:25 (Red) and see the English art-punk OGs who have revealed themselves to be surprisingly relevant 36 years after their recorded debut.
You Can Go With Metz on Saturday at 4:45 (Blue) for some young Toronto noise-punks who have a reputation for being loud and rowdy.
Or You Can Go With Swans on Saturday at 5:15 (Red Stage) and catch these early, NYC art-punks who have a reputation for being LOUD and challenging.
You Can Go With The Breeders on Saturday at 6:25 (Green) and witness Dayton’s 2nd Greatest band (next to GBV, of course), celebrate the anniversary of their 1993 breakthrough album, Last Splash.
Or You Can Go With Low on Saturday at 6:45 (Blue) and watch a band who have quietly built a long career out of being one of the most reliable (and stubborn) quiet bands in indie rock.
You Can Go With Yo La Tengo on Sunday at 4:15 (Green) for a trio of indie-rock lifers who are incapable of a bad performance, and playing the same performance twice, for that matter.
Or You Can Go With Waxahatchee on Sunday at 3:45 (Blue) A young singer-songwriter who may have the critics on her side, but may not have the fans when scheduled against Hoboken’s finest.
The Early Bird Specials (Not Just for the Olds)
Daughn Gibson – Friday at 3:30 (Red) A young artist whose blend of downtempo electronic music and classic country lends itself to unique descriptions, like my favorite, long haul trucker trip hop.
Pissed Jeans – Saturday at 1:15 (Red) For a certain subsection of the festival crowd, 28-40 year old males, no band will understand you more than these sludge rockers. They get your shitty job and your worthless boss. They’ve been to the kinds of shitty weekend dinner parties your girlfriend drags you to when you’d rather be at the rock club. They’re just like you, but more vocal in expressing their disdain.
…Trail of Dead – Saturday at 3:20 (Red) After spending years in the rock wilderness, they surprised in 2012 with their most vital album in nearly a decade. Can these rockers follow up that success with an equally redeeming performance? We’ll see. Throwing out some old jams like “Morning Stoner,” surely wouldn’t hurt their cause.
She’s Like Celery To Me
Joanna Newsom – Friday at 7:20 (Red) If Newsom were a vegetable, she’d be celery. If she were a pair of trainers, she’d be British Knights, or those one’s with the pump. If she was a contestant on American Idol, she’d be the one with the defiant parent claiming, in the face of evidence proving otherwise, that her daughter is a talented singer and musician. She is the living embodiment of critical follow the leader. I, too, was once curious what this Newsom phenomena was about. Friday, I’ll be as far away from the Red stage as possible. With earplugs, just in case.