By Jacob Axelrad, Editor in Chief
Published July 16, 2012
According to A$AP Rocky, it’s “raining like a motherfucker.” Yet it feels more like a light drizzle. It’s the first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival held in Union Park on Chicago’s West Side. Now in its eighth year Pitchfork is what one acquaintance and PR person calls a “more lax festival” than others — notably Bonnarroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza. As evidenced by the toddler bouncing his head up and down by my side as A$AP Rocky instructs him to “put his hands up,” our acquaintance may be correct: Pitchfork is a mellow place.
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“There are a lot of people that may not have come seen us just because they can’t come see us at a club,” Zach Medearis of Outer Minds told me in an interview. “We were playing for people that aren’t really old enough to get into bars. I like that. I’m into that.”
Significantly smaller in size than any of the “Big Three,” you can walk from one end to another in a matter of minutes. And if you do traverse all the way from the press check-in point to the corner straddling Warren Boulevard and Ashland Avenue, you find the Blue Stage where Tim Hecker is performing.
He stands absolutely still as pulsing, rhythmic beats emanate from the surrounding speakers. It sounds like something very close to music but with a loud, gonging noise thrown into the mix. The audience members are also still, some of whom have their eyes fully closed, as they smile and nod as though they understand Hecker’s message to be beautiful in its simplicity. Exactly what it is they understand remains unknown.
It’s 4:35. Indie rock band The Olivia Tremor Control graces the green stage with their ’60s nostalgia vibes, reminiscent of the Beatles and more contemporary experimental pop. Representing the festival’s older age bracket — the group originally formed in ’92, went on hiatus in 2000, and then reformed in 2009 — in an interview after the performance, founding member Bill Doss jokingly said the band sometimes questions themselves due to their age.
“I think our music is kind of about following your dreams, not your dreams, but whatever your dream happens to be,” he said. “I mean, that’s what we’re doing. We’re old enough where we should be growing up and getting jobs, but we’re not.”
In addition to the music, there’s a handcrafts fair that’s been at Pitchfork for eight years, back when it was still called the Intonation Music Festival. There are handmade earrings made from scrap materials like electrical wire and copper. There are black purses and necklaces with small pocketknives dangling from them; headphones and Mac Book chargers with yarn tied around the cords, like friendship bracelets to protect your technological devices. Adjacent to the crafts is the record fair where individual labels like Domino and EMMP sell vinyl. There’s also a book fort with proprietors like The Paper Cave, an exclusively online bookstore that sells such titles as “The Avian Gospels” and “Psycho Dream Factory.”
Bringing it back
Divided into three main stages — red, green and blue — other names that appear on Friday include hip-hop act Big K.R.I.T. and one of the evening’s final two performers: Leslie Feist. A buzz of excitement precedes her entrance. Leading with her newer material she interacts with the audience, making jokes like an old pro.
“Uh-oh, hold on, I just remembered how the next verse goes,” she says during a solo performance. The crowd cheers, loving her.
At one point she commands the audience to pull their time machines out of their pockets as she takes us “all the way back to 2006, I think.” And so begins her return to her older, more famous songs. Except she puts her a different spin on them, remixing her own stuff.