The first thing I noticed was the hair cuts. I walked into Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park for the first time in 2013 and immediately noticed a literal “hair cut” stage, an elevated platform in the middle of the park where fest-goers could get a trim — and while I, naturally, wasn’t willing to give agency over my impossible mop to a random stylist, my friends didn’t share my hesitation.
In retrospect, I wish I didn’t have any hesitation, either. Cliché as it sounds, much of that year (and my Pitchfork experiences since) revolved around (necessary) discomfort, as I continually acquainted myself with the feel of the fest and the music that gives it its pulse; in 2014, Earl Sweatshirt and Kendrick Lamar helped me find this peace. In 2015, it was Mr. Twin Sister and Shamir who did the job, followed by Kamasi Washington and FKA twigs a year later.
Pepper in daily visits to the Renegade Craft and CHIRP Record fairs, and fans will quickly realize how much navigation is necessary for such an average-sized festival. To help alleviate this anxiety, we categorized various acts according to an incredibly abstract sort of comfortability factor.
Danny Brown: Brown performed at the festival in 2012 and 2014, and it’ll be interesting to see just how high-octane the Detroit native can take his witty punch, this time around with Atrocity Exhibition.
LCD Soundsystem: Following a memorable headlining set at Lollapalooza last year and the May release of “call the police” and “american dream,” anticipation has only grown for the band’s first return to Union Park since 2010.
Angel Olsen: The solo rocker last played the festival in 2013. Fans are in for a treat with Olsen’s performance of My Woman, her enigmatic 2016 release.
Nicolas Jaar: Perhaps no artist embodies the festival’s avant-garde undercurrent better than Jaar, whose ever-developing sound — which last graced the stage in 2012 — will throb from the Red Stage on Sunday night.
Vince Staples: The Long Beach product was set to perform in 2015 before travel difficulties forced a cancellation. To say fans are eager to finally get served the bass (this time, via Big Fish Theory) might be an understatement.
Frankie Cosmos: Greta Kline sings with a comforting chip on her shoulder, if such a thing exists. Next Thing (2016) brought with it an economically ambient sound that would seem to transfer well to the big stage.
Jeff Rosenstock: Speaking of festival songs, Jeff Rosenstock has many, including one named “Festival Song.” His unique brand of punk makes for a quintessential Pitchfork-ian sound. Seeing Rosenstock early Saturday should, intangibly, feel just right.
A Tribe Called Quest: What can possibly be said here? Legends (minus Phife, RIP) performing the already-classic We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016) in addition, hopefully, to other timeless hits.
The Avalanches: Another (successfully) aging group, the freewheeling Australian electronic outfit will soundtrack a psychedelic Sunday evening. Mixes from Since I Left You (2000) and the more reflective Wildflower (2016) await.
Dawn Richard: Formerly of Danity Kane, the singer released Redemption in late November to complete her solo trilogy — the unconventionally dense dance album can make for an energetic set.
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic: A legend in his own right, the P-Funker fills one of the festival’s industry veteran spots once occupied by the likes of Björk and Giorgio Moroder. How he holds up (see: Brian Wilson’s 2016 set) remains to be seen.
Derrick Carter: Carter’s breed of house is somewhat confrontational; either you’re dance-compatible with it or you’re left on its margins. The Chicago-based producer can potentially set the park afire Sunday afternoon.
Pinegrove: An explosion in popularity feels inevitable for this uniquely soothing group. Evan Stephens Hall’s especially raw vocals will be on display as they tear through Cardinal (2016).