FESTIVAL GUIDE: Pitchfork Music Festival 2017

LCD Soundsystem, A Tribe Called Quest, & Solange Headline This Year’s Pitchfork Music Festival

Three Day Passes: SOLD OUT | Single Day Tickets ($75) & +PLUS Passes Available Here

We are just days away from what we at Needle & Thread like to call “Christmas In July” — Pitchfork Music Festival is coming back to Union Park in Chicago on Friday, July 14. This year, Pitchfork Fest will continue to build on the festival’s uncanny reputation to deliver a festival on par with any in America, if not surpassing most of them.

But it isn’t just the headliners that make Pitchfork Music Festival our favorite weekend of the year. This weekend is perennially a can’t miss event because of many factors: the venue, the food & drink, the #culture, the after parties, and of course… the music. Below we take a look at each of these aspects, all of which makes Pitchfork Music Festival uniquely special.

THE MUSIC

The artist lineup is the most important factor in any music festival (duh). So let’s take a look at a day-by-day breakdown of what we’ll be checking out this weekend. The full schedule is below, and there are inevitable conflicts between acts. Below is a tentative road map as to where we’ll be each day, followed by some important points to keep in mind.

1pm – (Red Stage) Madame Gandhi

1:45pm – (Green Stage) Priests

2:30pm – (Blue Stage) Dawn Richard

3pm – (Red Stage) Hiss Golden Messenger

4pm – (Green Stage) Vince Staples

4pm – (Blue Stage) William Tyler

5pm – (Red Stage) Thurston Moore Group

5:15pm – (Blue Stage) Frankie Cosmos

6pm – (Green Stage) Danny Brown

6:30pm – (Blue Stage) Kamaiyah

7pm – (Red Stage) Dirty Projectors

7:45pm – (Blue Stage) Arca & Jesse Kanda

8:10pm – (Green Stage) LCD Soundsystem

1pm – (Green Stage) Vagabon

1:45pm – (Red Stage) Jeff Rosenstock

2:30pm – (Green Stage) Weyes Blood

2:45pm – (Blue Stage) Cherry Glazer

3:20pm – (Red Stage) Arab Strap

4pm – (Blue Stage) Mitski

4:15pm – (Green Stage) George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic

5:15pm – (Red Stage) The Feelies

5:15pm – (Blue Stage) Francis And The Lights

6:15pm – (Green Stage) Angel Olsen

6:30pm – (Blue Stage) Madlib

7:25pm – (Red Stage) PJ Harvey

7:45pm – (Blue Stage) S U R V I V E

8:30pm – (Green Stage) A Tribe Called Quest

1pm – (Green Stage) Kilo Kish

1:45pm – (Red Stage) Colin Stetson

2:30pm – (Green Stage) NE-HI

2:45pm – (Blue Stage) Derrick Carter

3:20pm – (Red Stage) Isaiah Rashad

4pm – (Blue Stage) Joey Purp

4:15pm – (Green Stage) Hamilton Leithauser

5:15pm – (Red Stage) Ride

5:15pm – (Blue Stage) Pinegrove

6:15pm – (Green Stage) The Avalanches

6:30pm – (Blue Stage) Jamila Woods

7:25pm – (Red Stage) Nicolas Jaar

7:45pm – (Blue Stage) American Football

8:30pm – (Green Stage) Solange

 

Some quick thoughts:

  • Each day offers minimal conflict at the start of the day, with the first acts spaced out 45 minutes. Do not sleep on the artists opening each day — Vagabon, Kilo Kish, and Madame Gandhi all will be worth getting to the festival early, and this is not an understatement.
  • While all three days offer some schedule conflicts, Saturday is clearly the day with the most, with plenty of choices throughout the day. Will you choose the noise pop of Cherry Glazerr or airy, experimental psych folk from Weyes Blood? At 4pm, you have another choice, Mitski, who has set the blogs on fire with hype, or the classic grooves of George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic? Quite possibly the most difficult decision on Saturday will be Angel Olsen vs. Madlib at 6pm. My advice: follow your mood when making these decisions, and let the day decide for you.
  • Sunday has its fair share of conflicts too. Hamilton vs. Joey Purp? NE-HI vs. Derrick Carter? Ride vs. Pinegrove? I know in the previous point I said let your mood decide these for you, but do not take these decisions lightly; your choice can effectively ruin your afternoon. Do some research, listen to a few songs from each artist before going in if you’re not familiar with the acts, so you’ll have a better idea of what each set will hold.
  • Speaking of research, here’s a good place to start: We’ve curated a Spotify playlist containing 1-2 songs from each artist playing the festival each day (in order of their start time). Stream the playlist below, or click here to open the playlist in iTunes.

 

As mentioned countless times before (in writing and IRL), Pitchfork Music Festival stands out from the crowded festival scene with what it provides its attendees in other areas. Click below to read on, and preview the other factors that we’re most excited about this weekend.

The Aftershows
(…while we’re talking about the music…)

Pitchfork Music Festival typically ends around 10pm each night, and — let’s be honest — sometimes that festival energy isn’t ready to quit just yet. Pitchfork has you covered again this year, providing plenty of shows that stretch into the wee hours of each night of the fest (and a few before the festival even starts). We’ve got you covered this year, and will be checking out a few of the many after parties throughout Chicago this weekend. Full list is below, while our picks are again highlighted in bold and at the top of the day’s events.

THURSDAY, JUNE 13

WHO: Femme’s Room w/ LCD Soundsytem’s Gavin Russom
WHERE: Berlin
WHEN: 10PM (21+) | $10
WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Gavin Russom has been described as LCD Soundsystem’s synth and electronics wizard, and recently came out to the public as transgender, and this will be Russom’s first performance since making the announcement. The latter half of this sentence shouldn’t matter, because this is a prime opportunity to catch one of the many talented members of LCD in their element.

WHO: Jamila Woods w/ Malcolm London ‘In The Round’
WHERE: Thalia Hall
WHEN: 8:30PM | $16 (adv.) / $18
WHY: In the round shows at Thalia Hall are something to behold, with the “stage” set up in the middle of the floor, giving the concert’s attendees a unique and visceral experience. Chicago’s-own Jamila Woods will make this an incredible atmosphere, providing her protest-powered and poetic lyrics intertwined in personal R&B.

WHO: Thurston Moore Group w/ Shells
WHERE: Empty Bottle
WHEN: 9PM (21+)| $20
WHY: One of the most longstanding and iconic artists in the punk scene, Thurston Moore (founding member of Sonic Youth) goes back to his roots, performing punk music in one of Chicago’s most historic punk clubs.

OTHER EVENTS:

WHO: Derrick Carter, Patrick Mahoney & Friends
WHERE: Smartbar
WHEN: 10PM (21+) | $15

WHO: William Tyler w/ Fielded
WHERE: Constellation
WHEN: 8PM | $10-$15

FRIDAY, JULY 14

WHO: Slo’Mo Presents: Madame Gandhi
WHERE: Ace Hotel – Chicago
WHEN: 10PM | $15
WHY: Madame Gandhi is an intriguing draw for a late night aftershow, and as an added (and equally enticing) bonus, the show is being hosted as part of Chicago’s Ace Hotel’s preview. The hotel hasn’t even opened yet, but judging from our stay at Ace Hotel’s Palm Springs location, it’s going to be an incredible scene. Add that to the infectious dance-worthy beats of Madame Gandhi and you’ve got one of the best after parties of the weekend.

WHO: DJ Sets from Nancy Whang, Wild Belle, Joey Purp, & Knox Fortune | Live Sets from Frankie Cosmos, Hoops, & Divino Nino
WHERE: Virgin Hotel’s Cerise & 25th Floor
WHEN: 4:30PM-Close | Free
WHY: This is neck-and-neck with the Madame Gandhi show, mainly because of the atmosphere provided by Virgin Hotel — and yeah, the lineup is pretty good, too. Nancy Whang’s DJ set will begin at 4:30, so you’re either not going to the festival or are going to miss acts like Vince Staples, however the rest of the party will continue throughout the night. The live sets are set to start at 9pm, while the DJ sets will pick up at 10. The space is tight, but it’s more than worth it.

OTHER EVENTS:

WHO: Cherry Glazerr w/ Pool Hologram, Curt Oren
WHERE: Schuba’s
WHEN: 9PM (All Ages) | $15

SATURDAY, JULY 15

WHO: DJ Sets by Stefan Ponce & Madlib
WHERE: Virgin Hotel’s Cerise
WHEN: 9PM | Free
WHY: See above for the venue highlights, but Saturday night’s DJ sets will be provided by two of the premier beat makers in the game. Madlib has long been one of my all time favorite producers and musicians, and Chicago’s own Stefan Ponce has produced tracks for Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, Towkio, Logic and others.

WHO: Vagabon w/ Tasha
WHERE: Beat Kitchen
WHEN: 11PM | $10-$12
WHY: Vagabon is one of my top undercard artists to catch at this year’s festival, but her 1pm start time is less-than-ideal. If you miss the show, or just can’t get enough, get to Beat Kitchen for a great show at an even better price.

OTHER EVENTS:

WHO: NE-HI w/ Parent
WHERE: Lincoln Hall
WHEN: 11PM | $15

WHO: Joey Purp w/ Southside & Kami
WHERE: Bottom Lounge
WHEN: 11PM (18+) | $22/$26

WHO: Priests w/ Deeper & Espejos
WHERE: Schuba’s
WHEN: 8:45PM (All Ages) | $15

SUNDAY, JULY 16

WHO: American Football
WHERE: Empty Bottle
WHEN: 9PM (21+) | $15 (SOLD OUT)
WHY: If you’re like me, you’ll likely miss AmFootball’s set at Pitchfork Fest due to them being scheduled against Nicolas Jaar and right before Solange. But fear not, because if you’re lucky enough to snag tickets to this show, your weekend will end with emo.

OTHER EVENTS

WHO: Kilo Kish, Vagabon & Oddcouple
WHERE: Virgin Hotels
WHEN: 9PM | Free

WHO: Colin Stetson w/ Justin Walter
WHERE: Constellation
WHEN: 8:30PM | $15/$20

 

Pitchfork Music Festival 2016

THE VENUE
(…& its attendees)

Union Park hosts three stages every year, each spaced out perfectly to allow festival-goers a short commute between performances, but with enough distance between them, to decrease what I call noise-bleeding – the tendency for one stage’s music to overwhelm the music of another. This may seem like a petty complaint, but it’s an issue that even the largest festivals fall victim to, and can ultimately ruin the enjoyment of nearly any performance.

This will be the first year that Pitchfork Fest will utilize what they’re calling a “+PLUS” zone – a paid upgrade to the general ticket, costing an extra $195 dollars for three days. Previously, the VIP wristband and area was reserved for artists, donors, and others, but was not available for sale. The hefty price tag for many of the artist booking fees is my guess for what influenced the change.

The extra money for a +PLUS upgrade carries a much cheaper price tag for the VIP upgrade compared to other festivals, and offers some pretty great amenities: access to premium food vendors and specialty cocktail bars (Parson’s Chicken & Fish is on this list… not much else is needed to entice me), air-conditioned bathrooms, shaded seating areas, cell phone charging stations, re-entry privileges/expedited VIP gate, and complimentary storage lockers. We’ll see how it goes this year.

We’ve said this before, but the crowd size is always manageable, and makes for a relatively stress-free experience, even when the festival is sold out. Navigable paths and polite concert-goers are the two factors most responsible for our love for the Pitchfork Music Festival crowd. Another is the low ratio of basketball jerseys seen in the crowd.

The Libations

Pitchfork Fest succeeds in its value-to-quality ratio, and that doesn’t just apply to the musical acts and ticket price. The food options are bountiful, and feature plenty of cuisines no matter your dietary restrictions (or lack there of). One half of Needle & Thread is gluten-free, which effectively means the other one is gluten-free too. We found a new favorite food truck at last year’s festival: DönerMen — a truck selling the best Turkish kebabs I’ve ever had (I recommend the Döner Box, which is the kebab fixings over a bed of greens).

Other food vendors include Leghorn, AVEC, Wishbone, Wow Bao, Billy Goat Tavern, Robinson’s Ribs, Connie’s Pizza, Dia De Los Tamales, Estrella Negra, The Goddess & The Grocer, Black Dog Gelato, Wooden Paddle Pizza, and The Rice Table. Check out more info on the food vendors here.

Goose Island is the primary beer vendor for the festival, and the prices are pretty standard, typically $6-8 per beer. Keep an eye out for the special booth that features a rotating tap, including an artist-inspired and developed beer, brewed specifically for the festival.

Pitchfork Fest will collaborate with #WearOrange in 2017

The #Culture

This is a blanket area containing almost everything else that Pitchfork Fest does well, but they really do a great job and providing an excellent atmosphere and experience. Pitchfork offers plenty of support for the community in Chicago, with awareness for local causes as well as booths set up for local artists, record stores, and clothing designers/boutiques. Here are some things to keep in mind as you venture into the grounds.

Flatstock
Every year this is our favorite place to check out and empty our wallets. Local graphic and poster artists line the street with booths, selling unique concert posters from concerts around the globe. Be on the lookout for commemorative posters for this year’s Pitchfork Music Fest as well!
Chirp! Record Fair
You never know what you’ll find at the record fair put on by the Chicago Independent Radio Project. Featuring vinyl collections from indie labels, local record stores, and independent vendors, I was once lucky enough to score a purple pressing of Prince’s Purple Rain. Vinylheads, get there early.
Local Fashion & Art
Renegade Craft Fair highlights the entrepreneurial and communal values of Chicago’s local craft and design scene. Meanwhile, shop plenty of clothing that extends beyond your standard concert merch, vendors like Suns Out!, Buffalo Exchange, Festy Besty, BARAKA, and a ton more.
#WearOrange
Each year, Pitchfork Fest partners with a charitable organization or cause to draw attention to local issues. This year, PMF is partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety and Mothers Against Senseless Killing (MASK), to raise awareness and share facts about gun violence in Chicago. The festival is collaborating with the Chicago Reader’s Street View column to feature festival-goers who wear orange to raise awareness to gun violence in the city.
Saint Heron House
All weekend, Solange’s Saint Heron project will host a multidisciplinary experience featuring an onsite art installation, film screening, artist talks, late night jazz jam sessions, and more! Check out all of the events here.
Sustainability
Pitchfork Music Festival has made it a point to lessen its environmental footstep as much as possible. Providing water fountains to festival-goers to reuse their water bottles, plenty of recycling bins, as well as compost bins to food vendors. The fest also promotes using public transit, ride sharing, and biking to the grounds (parking is sparse around Union Park anyways!).

Well, there you have it – our probably over-extensive guide to Pitchfork Music Festival 2017. As always, make sure you follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for updates from the festival and check back after the fest for our recap!

Pitchfork Music Festival 2016
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