Credit: Karina Abbott

Abbott: Pitchfork Music Festival Review

by Karina Abbott (

Union Park, Chicago lit up the sky for three days and three nights this last weekend. From July 20-22nd some of the biggest artists and upcoming names in the alternative music field joined in this event that rivaled the fireworks down on the Navy Pier, the Pitchfork Music Festival. Three stages, color-coded (red, green, and blue) for ease of navigation, were set up far enough from each other that the music didn’t bleed; two in one corner and one in the other. There were some spots where you could hear a nasty cacophony from two opposing forces, but it faded out the closer you got to one stage. An impressive number of vendors lined the rest of the festival grounds with food, art, and merchandise to sell or give away for free (i.e. CLIF bars, Bai water). Walking around the park, you’d see couples, friends, and people of all ages enjoying the music while lounging on a blanket or sitting up against a tree. The huge crowd in the middle accumulated in the beginning and stayed consistently massive throughout the day. When big crowds come together there’s always a question of safety, maybe more so in recent years than in the past; when I was separated by sex to be patted down before coming in, I kept this idea of safety in mind. The security by each entrance was thorough with the bags, checking every pocket, and making sure each person had a valid pass for entry. The tension of the security line gave way to that of freedom once I entered through the gates, a key ingredient in the magic that is music festival culture. Everyone can be themselves while enjoying this great thing, that brings all types of people together, music.

Speaking of the music, two of my favorite performances happened to be one right after the other on Saturday night. The War on Drugs played a phenomenal set with more guitar changes than your average human being would deem necessary, but that being said Adam Granduciel seems otherworldly in his command of the instrument. The set included such hits as “Holding On”, “Strangest Thing”, and “Thinking of a Place”; each one performed with vigor and expertise. The next performance was by the headliner of the night, Fleet Foxes, and it was the best performance I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been to a number of performances that I keep in mind as the best of memories, constantly reminding me how much and why I love music. A few of which, that I have previously regarded as the best performances were: Hippo Campus in Des Moines at Wooly’s, because I went with some of the best people I know, the lights and energy were amazing, and the band demonstrated stage presence and performance skills rivalling musicians far beyond their years. Florence and the Machine at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL, because she has one of the most amazing voices ever, and she puts her entire self into each performance. Kings of Leon at some venue in Tampa, FL (I think), because they’re legends, they played all my favorite songs, and the lights transported me to a new and better dimension. These were my top three, but after last Saturday night, Fleet Foxes has become my very top performance that I have experienced. It may have been the cool night air coupled with the genuine and endearing personality of Robin Pecknold, the overall love that the crowd clearly felt for the band and the almost eager acceptance of the slight drizzle that followed the ominous clouds hovering over the stage, or maybe the nostalgia wrapped around some of the older songs that they threw into their set. I’m not sure what it was specifically, but I can tell you that it was worth the five hour drive.

Alternative music fans will know that there are not a whole lot of music festivals for us out there, maybe Summerfest in Milwaukee or Warped Tour if you’re into the more emo side of things, but there isn’t one in the Midwest that encompasses the indie/folk, r&b, and alt artists we all love. Or so I thought before discovering Pitchfork Fest. I’ve been reading their articles and music reviews for a few years now, and was intrigued to learn of that they put on a music festival. I didn’t know what to expect, because they aren’t just an alternative music publication, they review the biggest and most popular as well as the smaller and more underappreciated musicians out there. It was a pleasant surprise to see the lineup filled with some classic indie favorites as well as some new faces, because we all need to open ourselves up to new music. Overall it was an impressive festival that made you feel safe while allowing you to have a great time. I would recommend Pitchfork Music Festival to anyone, and you should too.

                The War On Drugs                                                                       Fleet Foxes

Credit: Karina Abbott                    Credit: Karina Abbott

About the author