The days of packing my camping gear into a car full of friends and heading out to music festivals are coming to an end for me. Terrifying is the thought of wandering around from stage to stage in the summer heat, juggling half-sets of “must-see” bands, all while trying to keep track of my friends and stay hydrated. Maybe I’ll buy a one-day pass to a nearby music festival—and by nearby, I mean a reasonable Uber fare away—listen to the couple of bands I came out to see, and then enjoy the luxury of sleeping in my own bed later. Maybe I’ve just gotten too old.
Or maybe most music festivals aren’t for me.
Pitchfork, on the other hand, offers a relief from the dilemma of the modern musical festival—curated where the others are bloated with acts, comfortable where the others are decidedly not, reasonably priced whereas the ticket prices for the big ones will offer a painful ding to your bank account.
Why is this the case? For starters, Pitchfork Music Festival is built around a brand and an online magazine that – despite its critics – strives to deliver solid, honest reviews of some of the most innovative new indie and pop music out there. To this end, it makes sense that the music festival that bears its namesake offers a lineup geared toward exploring new music. Even their advertising offers little distinction between the big names and the lesser-known ones; on the festival website, every band enjoys the same large, bold font. There are headliners, to be sure, but everyone earns the same level of appreciation.
This is a festival with a very specific purpose. It is not interested in selling out massive acres of festival grounds; it knows its demographic and its value as both a taste maker and as a brand. That is probably why, since its debut in 2006, Pitchfork has been held in the modest Union Park, unlike its Chicago cousin Lollapalooza in the much larger Grant Park. It doesn’t need to grow, nor should it – there’s something comforting about that.
When I look at the lineup this year, there’s a lot to be excited about. But there’s also a lot I’m not particularly familiar with. That pursuit of discovery, with all its risks and rewards, is a force that all music lovers deeply understand.
Pitchfork Music Festival begins this Friday, July 20th at Union Park in Chicago, IL.