Previewing Pitchfork Music Festival 2018

Chicago publisher stays ahead of curve for lucky 13th installment in Union Park

By John Flannagan

Pitchfork has been the gold standard for long-form music reviews and news about all things indie since before the turn of the millennium. Since that time, its online platform has revolutionized music journalism, kept the medium fresh and important, led to the quarterly publication of a high-quality magazine and spawned successful festivals both domestically and in Europe. Featuring and profiling cutting-edge artists from every conceivable music genre is the site’s bread and butter, so it comes as no surprise that it is hosting what will be its 13th annual bash at Chicago’s Union Park July 20-22.

Pitchfork is adept at curating festival lineups that are as edgy and eclectic as their online content, and the lineup for Chicago this month is no exception. Headliners include Tame Impala and Fleet Foxes, and closing out the festival on Sunday is Ms. Lauryn Hill, who will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of her landmark album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” A bill featuring those three on the top line is about as solid as it gets in the festival landscape. But if they weren’t enough, also featured on the lineup are Courtney Barnett, Blood Orange, Earl Sweatshirt, The War on Drugs, Zola Jesus, Japandroids, Julien Baker and Raphael Saadiq – to name just a few of the 40 acts performing across the three days.

Pitchfork is heavy on hip-hop this year, and arguably the most polarizing of these acts will be Hill, who has a penchant for starting sets late. Union Park has a strict 10 p.m. curfew, which could curtail her performance were she to hold true to form. Here’s to hoping she has her act together on the night and gets started on time so that we can see this set in its entirety.

Another act that we at BLANK are particularly excited to see is Chaka Khan. Personally, I’ve never seen her live, but I grew up listening to her, and the singer’s influence on hip-hop and pop music today is undeniable. “I Feel for You” turned me onto her in the early ‘80s, but Khan has a repertoire of songs that includes 1978’s platinum disco hit “I’m Every Woman” and “Tell Me Something Good,” a song on which she teamed up with funk outfit Rufus and that won critical acclaim. Khan has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; hopefully, she’ll receive her due credit soon and be accepted. In the meantime, you can bet that the Chicago native will receive a warm reception in Union Park.

A few of the acts that are on our radar are electronic in nature, and they include Kelly Lee Owens and Mount Kimbie. Owens absolutely blew our minds at Big Ears in March, having brought her electro dance-pop to the Mill & Mine and having set the stage so perfectly for Four Tet. Her high-energy, fast-tempo set is a must see.

Mount Kimbie is an English electronic duo currently signed to the well-regarded Warp label, which features everyone from Aphex Twin to Grizzly Bear. The pair play a minimalistic, ambient style of dubstep (the real kind, not the one with drops) which has a unique sound all of its own. Their latest effort, 2017’s “Love What Survives,” features such guest stars as King Krule, James Blake and Micachu, features more lyrics that have past works and is a strong album from beginning to end. Absolute banger “Delta” is the track that first got our attention.

This will be BLANK’s first excursion to Pitchfork, but it appears that this festival boasts many of the same kinds of things to which we’ve grown accustomed at other festivals. However, some of the unique experiences we plan to check out include the CHIRP Record Fair, which features more than 40 tables of vinyl from independent labels/dealers. Also, the interactive Book Fort, where readings and performances take place throughout the weekend, sounds like a blast. Lastly (and maybe the coolest plus for Pitchfork 2018) is the fact that they have booked the largest number of locals in the festival’s history – 11 in all. Among the best of these acts are Smino, Julie Byrne, Open Mike Eagle and Circuit des Yeux. While these artists have since moved away, all got their start in the Windy City and should put on spirited performances in return.

More information can be found and tickets can be purchased at http://pitchforkmusicfestival.com/.

 

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