Celebrating a decade in 2015, the Pitchfork Music Festival continues to be the most exciting and relevant of all the nationally renowned festivals by sticking to the script: a three-day celebration of emerging and independent talent, with relatively low cost, and hip enough to still attract a crowd that might otherwise skip yet another outdoor festival. From Chicago’s Union Park, Pitchfork is a true destination event. The diversity, breadth, and ever-changing sensibility of the lineup are superb. Arm yourself with our top five picks of the festival, grab the sunblock, book a last-minute flight, and hit the Windy City ready to go.
MAC DEMARCO, FRIDAY, JULY 17, 5:30 PM, RED STAGE
A Canadian boy channeling everyone from Modern Lovers to Neil Young, DeMarco is a lot deeper than his “party guy” image and tendency to aimlessly noodle on his guitar might suggest. Beneath the persona is a guy who can write a song about a Canadian-brand cigarette as affecting and moving as an ode to knowing when to end a relationship. He recently surprise-released an instrumental record that he explicitly stated is meant to soundtrack barbecues. Listen here.
PANDA BEAR, FRIDAY, JULY 17, 6:25 PM, GREEN STAGE
Removed from the hype of his day-job group Animal Collective, Panda Bear has been releasing records that alternate between sounding like The Beach Boys and the soothing voices of a church choir. A more frenetic release than his past records, 2015’s Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper pondered fatherhood, death, and his own parents with an immediacy lacking from the “chilled out” vibes of his first three albums.
KURT VILE AND THE VIOLATORS, SATURDAY, JULY 18, 4:15 PM, GREEN STAGE
Another eternally-chill songwriter who hides emotional depth behind a lackadaisical facade, Kurt Vile has expanded to a fuller sound, but not at the expense of his ability to wring every bit of depth from behind his long hair and sunken eyes.
COURTNEY BARNETT, SUNDAY, JULY 19, 4:15 PM, GREEN STAGE
A novelist’s attention to detail with a sense of humor, Barnett toured for a few years before really making a splash with 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Her best song, the ruminative “Depreston,” belies just how funny she can be without selling it too hard and without sacrificing her melodies for obtuse lyrics.
JAMIE XX, SUNDAY, JULY 19, 5:15 PM, RED STAGE
Another artist stepping out from the shadow of his main band, Jamie xx, in just a few short years, has evolved from a producer obsessed with minimalism to a conductor of many sounds, from steel drums to fractured vocal samples to throbbing bass lines. In Colour, his debut solo album, is often stunning for its ability to combine his love for minimalism with an embrace of a fuller sound, complete with cameos from Romy Croft and Oliver Sim, his XX bandmates, and dancehall star Popcaan.