A Pitchfork Music Festival Retrospective

The Pitchfork Music Festival will kick into gear Friday afternoon at Chicago’s Union Park. Now in its sixth year, the three-day event has come to mirror the cultural omnipresence of the music-critique site it’s named after.

As Pitchfork the site continues to garner tens of millions of views each month, Pitchfork the festival sold out its three-day passes in less than 24 hours. As Pitchfork the site has become an iconic vanguard of independent music and has praised the names of Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio, Cut Copy, The Dismemberment Plan, Guided By Voices, Das Racist, DJ Shadow, Deerhunter, and others, Pitchfork the festival has a lineup that includes Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio, Cut Copy, The Dismemberment Plan, Guided By Voices, Das Racist, DJ Shadow, Deerhunter, and others. As glossy mags of all shapes and sizes try and cover acts that Pitchfork the site has spent a good deal of time waxing lyrically about (see: every Odd Future article published after February), festivals of all shapes and sizes try and court acts that Pitchfork the festival has given stage time to (see: Lollapalooza’s 2011 lineup, which includes Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 acts Local Natives, Smith Westerns, Best Coast, Titus Andronicus).

Of course, the festival didn’t start out like this. The seeds were first planted in the summer of 2005, when Pitchfork curated a now-defunct summer event called the Intonation Music Festival. It featured a number of Chicago acts (Pelican, Andrew Bird, Tortoise) and covered the indie rock bases (The Hold Steady, Broken Social Scene, The Decemberists, Deerhoof, The Wrens).

Once the Pitchfork Music Festival became an event independent of Intonation in 2006, things began to change. The festival grew, and with it the prestige of its lineup. Or, rather, bands on the festival roster grew in prestige post-festival. CSS played Pitchfork in ’06, and the following year their song “Music is My Hot Hot Sex” made it into an iPod ad, hit the Billboard charts, and helped make the band an international sensation. Girl Talk played Pitchfork in ’07, and though Gregg Gillis already had a bit of a name by that summer, 2008’s Feed the Animals caused a stir for being one of the few post-In Rainbows pay-what-you-want albums and got coverage in everything from Blender to The New Yorker. Animal Collective played in ’08, and their critically lauded Merriweather Post-Pavilion dropped the following year. The National played in ’09, and the following year the New York Times streamed High Violet on their website before its release, and it hit No. 3 on Billboard once it came out. Last year’s festival saw (among other things) current critic faves The Smith Westerns, a couple chillwavers on the rise (Neon Indian dropped a collaboration with The Flaming Lips and Washed Out’s debut album comes out Tuesday on Sub Pop), and a handful of other currently rising acts that squeezed their voices into a lineup primed to support the one and only Pavement.

Of course, that’s covering just a small area of the many bands that have graced the stage at Pitchfork. There are also the groups that came to perform their best album in full (Public Enemy, Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth), others played request-only sets (The Jesus Lizard, Built to Spill), and, well, plenty of other marquee names.

It’s exhausting to look over the history of the festival, much like the experience of attending a multi-day music event in the summer heat. To help ease the anxiety one may feel scrolling over the list of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival lineup, I’ll be previewing and covering the event for Thought Catalog. So keep your ears open and your eyes peeled. TC mark

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  • Guest

    “TRY TO,” for Pete’s sake, not “try and.”

  • Anonymous

    After reading the “As Pitchfork the site…pitchfork the festival” sentence I aneurism’d. Awful writing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/t.jason.ham Jason Ham

      lolnokidding. “iconic vanguard” haha wthhhhh.

  • Guest

    Local Natives are playing Lolla because they played ACL last year and they played SXSW earlier that same year. Lolla is produced by C3 Presents who also produce ACL who also have their hands in SXSW. Try having a little industry insight before you jump all over Pitchfork’s dick. They are not the be all end all of the music/festival world.

  • TO

    It seems like you are criticizing the festival, but are not really completely committed to doing so. Also, there smaller groups playing at Pitchfork Music Fest. Pitchfork gives high scores to bands they like, just as they invite bands they like to play. There is not always some sort of conspiracy.

    • TO

      *there are

  • Waicool

    the pitchfork brand is unique and appears to be growing amid the hype.   Pitchfork should be considered a music genre ie. “i like pitchforck music much better than club music”.  

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