Best California Dreaming
Best Coast’s album art says it all—palm trees, waves and a cat named “Snacks” perfectly portray the lazy and blithe songs on their first album, “Crazy For You.” Songwriter and singer Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno have perfected a summer anthem of sunshine, romance and weed while slowly transforming into caricatures of a lo-fi, surfer-rock phenomena. And like any front man, err, front chick, Cosentino has bangs that kill. Don’t fall too hard for the dreamy Pitchfork-darling—to boost her references to anything aquatic she’s dating Nathan Williams of WAVVES. If you hate anything within the realms of California, avoid the show. Actually, avoid the entire Sunday lineup. (Sylvia Kim)
Tips for Aging Festival Attendees
This goes out to those with a steady income, a more or less contented view on life, and “cutting-edge” taste in music:
1 Bring the kids. Seize every opportunity to indoctrinate them with your indie-rock agenda.
2 Bring the spouse. Bond over microbrews and green initiatives in between sets.
3 It’s your job to lecture twentysomethings on the glory days of alternative rock. While they were in diapers you were crowd-surfing at Pavement gigs.
4 Never be seen wearing anything other than band merch. Now’s the time to stock up.
5 Take it easy. Lounge within reasonable distance of the stage. Your ears are sensitive now, remember?
6 Don’t stay out too late. Those legal briefs aren’t going to finish themselves. (Emma Ramsay)
Best After-Show Bar
An après-Pitchfork hangout should be devoid of two things: ESPN reels and extreme heat. Cobra Lounge has neither, and instead gives recovering Pitchforkers good bourbon and a front that looks a little like a prison from the outside. The jukebox is strictly rock ‘n’ roll, filled with lots of music you’ve heard of—and that’s exactly what anybody wants after the trial-and-error woes of discovering new music. (Dee Fabbricatore)
Best Reason to Appreciate Honest-to-God Pop Music
Swedish starlet Robyn began as a teenage chanteuse with major-label backing, then she decided to do things on her terms. Since then she’s started her own imprint and kicked the glossed-over feel of her early work to the curb. Yes, she still makes the kind of immaculately produced, infectious pop singles for which her homeland’s music scene is known the world over, but there’s a lot more to it. Robyn’s fearlessness, humor and intelligence, qualities absent in most mainstream music, always come through. She’s a pop star you can take seriously. And she can actually sing. And dance. Most people stateside haven’t heard of Robyn, but hopefully the three LPs—that’s right, three—she plans to release this year will change this. Watch her grace the main stage on Friday evening. (Emma Ramsay)
Best Pitchfork Act to Follow on Twitter
Most artists use social media to promote tours and spread the word on their most recent accolades, but it’s far more entertaining to follow bands that break the Twitter regime, like Outkast’s Big Boi, who plays his set Sunday night. Instead of keeping his fans abreast of future appearances, he rewards loyal followers by being an all-star at random, and sometimes inappropriate, tweeting gems. Recent tweets include “suede Gucci slippers” and “sleep is for suckas.” It’s refreshing to hear a hip-hop act spend less time shouting out to all the haters and more time coining phrases like, “you’re smellcome”—which, thanks to Big Boi, I will now be using on a regular basis. His mantra goes something like: why plug your music when you can post pictures of you and your wife skinny-dipping? I couldn’t agree more. (Dee Fabbricatore)
Best Way to Kill Time During Wolf Parade’s Set
As a music festival put on by a website whose target demo now includes Cool Dads, there are certain to be excruciating lulls in the schedule. And while the prospect of looking at four thousand silk-screened Modest Mouse tour posters may seem exciting, there are more productive ways to go about dismissing mid-tempo indie rock. There is an outdoor basketball court at Union Park where massive impromptu games of Knockout have been known to sprout up in festival years past. And, unless inhibited by crowding from interactive Game Boy tents and Toyota Prius giveaways, this court will afford you the unique opportunity to play outdoor basketball without cajoling from serious athletes, who are unlikely to be anywhere near this festival. (Todd Hieggelke)
Best Reason to Keep Listening
California-based Local Natives are predictably indie. And though that sounds like a dig, with the genre being so tired these days, I make exception for Local Natives and say that with love. Their DIY mentality—from self-made band posters to self-funded debut album “Gorilla Manor”—is what adds to the catchy, modern-folk sound that first garnered attention. Like almost every budding indie act, they got their big break at Austin’s SXSW and were filed into a category with Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear. Though these bands bear resemblance, Local Natives’ hooky, three-part harmonies are distinctly West Coast, and lead singer Taylor Rice’s downright-adorableness makes them instantly likeable. Listen for standout songs “World News” and “Stranger Things” at their set Sunday. (Dee Fabbricatore)
Most Likely to Get Hurt (or Hurt You)
There’s nothing loud or aggressive about Providence, Rhode Island, unless you count Red Sox fans. But Lightning Bolt breaks the mold with their “guerilla style” performances, choosing to ambush the crowd directly and shout incomprehensible vocals at close range. A show is less like a concert and more like a combat zone. Singer Brian Chippendale uses a covert microphone that he holds in his mouth or attaches to a hood, which is further distorted with noisy effects. Their lyrics cover terrorism, anarchy, superheroes and fairy tales, all likely topics to ensue a riot. They’re also known to start playing only a few seconds after the opening act to surprise the crowd, so those with a heart condition might want to maintain a healthy distance from their set. Sometimes Chippendale’s hands bleed from playing the drums too hard. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Then, it’s a blast. (Dee Fabbricatore)
Most Awkward Corporate Sponsor
This year, corporate sponsor CLIF is challenging festival-goers to a “2-mile Challenge.” This is set up to promote a more eco-friendly method of arriving at the event, asking patrons to ride instead of driving for urban travel of two miles or less. Kind of flies in the face of another sponsor, Toyota, which is taking an especially high profile this year, doesn’t it? So what does Toyota have to do with eighties arcade games, photo booths and silk-screening stations? Absolutely nothing, other than the fact that none of them conjure up memories of safety recall after safety recall after safety recall. I wonder if they’ll be filling up their display cars at BP before the festival? (Lindsey Kratochwill)
How to Be Fest Dressed
Chicago weather is always unpredictable, as is human behavior at a music fest. One never knows what kind of climatic beast, alcoholic upheavals or bodily fluids you might encounter. To ensure that these potential occurrences won’t spoil your fun, bring a poncho. But be sure to belt that poncho so you can still flaunt your girlish curves. That is applicable for men and women. If the performer you’re seeing tends to attract the moshing type, wear a fanny pack. It is best to have your hands free to hold your ground if necessary, or flick your Bic when nostalgia hits. And when dancing up a storm to the raucous Jamaican-techno beats of Major Lazer, please tie your dreads back. Nobody enjoys hair-induced whiplash. Don’t wear your prettiest silk. Period. You will perspire. Rompers are easy, ventilated and very festival appropriate; don’t combine them with pigtails or a lollipop unless you want to evoke an overgrown child. If you have a cameltoe… don’t come at all. (Rhianna Jones)
Best East Coast Waves (with one V)
Surfer Blood, an endearing bunch of baby-faced young’uns from the east coast of Florida, play a pleasant on-the-verge lo-fi rock that is only amplified by their excessive happiness on stage. Their lyrics might not make much sense to anyone but them, but their live show is so charming you just have to accept songs with titles like “Slow Jabroni.” Surfer Blood has this echoing quality that makes you feel as though you’re listening from beneath the waves, and that’s somehow comforting. (Lindsey Kratochwill)
Best Way to Dance to Bands that are Difficult to Dance to
Any group that likes lots of synth and distorted electronics (yes you, Neon Indian) is enjoyable, yes, but also quite difficult to dance to. Assuming you’re not under the influence of anything illegal—and I trust you won’t be—here’s a foolproof way to move to new-wave beats: Let your arms go slack and swing them in an increasingly fast pendulum motion, so both appendages look like they’re big elephant trunks. Next, dip your head down as though you’re about to be sick, then snap it up quickly like you’ve just suffered a whiplash, similar to how your neck reacts to a hellish water tube ride. Keep your feet mostly grounded, except for the occasional off-beat stomp. If you prefer a bit more movement, combine aforementioned arm/neck moves with a power walk, the kind moms do with tracksuits and five-pound weights. In short, anything that makes you look as if you are evolving into a real-life Inspector Gadget will work. (Dee Fabbricatore)
Best Example of High Meets Low, if in Name Only
Who doesn’t admire a band that pays homage to both Shakespeare and Seinfeld? That’s New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus, which takes its name from the playwright’s most overblown-tragic manuscript, and its debut album’s name from the sitcom’s ‘Festivus’ episode. Their sound cranks Shoegaze and cynicism on high. The band describes their first disc as, “the sound of lusty youth ripping a gaping hole in the fabric of reality.” They tell you life sucks but they do it with lots of spunk, an act that will be well-juxtaposed right after Kurt Vile’s tender strumming set on Saturday. (Dee Fabbricatore)
How to Feel like You’re at Disney’s Epcot
This year’s food vendors put a worldly spin on the filthy festival vibe that makes outdoor concerts so great. You can tour international cuisine in a day, just like naïve Disney tourists who try to cover Epcot in less than six hours. And end up on stretchers. Start in India with Christian Reed’s The Rice Table, then to Southeast Asia for some curry at Star of Siam. Skip over to Europe to load up on carbs at La Luce in Italy, then to Ireland’s Abbey Pub for corned beef. At this point you’ll be feeling hot and uncomfortable in your own body, so push to the brink with Cevapcici’s warm pitas and spicy red-pepper sauce from The Balkans. End in the great USA with a rack of Robinson’s Ribs, wash it down with Temptation Ice Cream. The only thing missing is a $200 Mickey meal plan and creepy doll children singing “It’s A Small World.” (Dee Fabbricatore)
Best Late Afternoon Haunting
In the years since Los Angeles’ Liars played the inaugural Pitchfork Music Festival, people have begun to recognize them as one of the most intriguing bands in the last decade. Dynamics are integral to the band’s sound, with aggressive songs and harsh, driving rhythms juxtaposed with ballads composed of eerie guitars and ethereal vocals. Both extremes convey a haunting grittiness that makes it plausible to imagine David Lynch using their songs for a music video using footage from “Mulholland Drive,” if he were inclined to make such a thing. Liars’ shape-shifting on record has polarized listeners, but everyone seems to agree that their performances are among the best. The group has a menacing stage presence, theatrical in a way that does not compromise musicianship. If anything, their already impressive technical abilities get even better. The songs sound more immediate, and arguably stronger, than the original cuts. If you’re looking for a truly visceral experience, this is your ticket. (Emma Ramsay)
Best Example of a Sponsor Visiting the Wrong Decade
Greyhound should know better. Everyone knows that hipsters’ main mode of transportation isn’t by bus, but by sketchy vans with no windows and boxcar hopping. If Greyhound is trying to be cool, maybe it should launch a 1970s-esque, cross-country, band bus tour, complete with groupies, doctors for drug overdoses, and all things “Almost Famous.” (Sylvia Kim)
Best Chance to Play “Name that Reference”
It’s not exactly easy to find out exactly what Boston-bred, Brooklyn-based Luke Temple has on his iPod, but judging from the tracks we’ve heard from Here We Go Magic’s recently released CD “Pigeons” (especially the lead single, the oddly catchy “Collector”), he’s either been listening to a lot of psychedelic-era Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys’ trippiest numbers. Either that or he’s been adding something to his Kool-Aid. About half a decade ago, Temple released a couple of folk-inspired discs that pretty much went nowhere, and after a period away from the music scene, he reemerged with the band’s self-titled debut, and things began to take off. All of a sudden, he had a five-piece band on the road. Well-received appearances at this year’s SXSW followed, and now they’re poised to make it very, very big. (Ernest Barteldes)
Best Pitchfork Act to Follow on Twitter Even if You Care Less About the Act, or Twitter
Most bands’ Twitter pages are useful only if you’re a hardcore fan of the band. But Major Lazer’s page would be interesting even for the marginally informed. Despite being made up of a Philadelphian and a Brit, the posts follow a Jamaican persona: they barely write in English. It’s almost indecipherable and belligerent, but read it aloud and you’ll definitely be amused, especially if you imagine that the all-caps means they’re shouting. Example Tweet: “nutn naw gwaan fe merica right ya now.” (Lindsey Kratochwill)
Best Ideas for Amusing Yourself Between Sets
Here are a few suggestions for ways to kill time in between sets other than getting incredibly drunk or stoned. Or both.
1 Gawk at people’s attempts to find one another. Many scream into their phones, waving anything they can get their hands on in the air—think shoes, umbrellas and, um, lawn chairs—to guide their lost friends.
2 Challenge yourself to eavesdrop in on conversations about extreme crate digging or karaoke with washed-up indie-rock idols without screaming.
3 If all else fails, count the Sonic Youth tees. (Emma Ramsay)
Most Dylanesque Swede of the Weekend
Sweden’s Kristian Matsson’s solo moniker, The Tallest Man on Earth, showcases his coarse, Bob Dylan-like vocals much better than the Swedish rock band Montezumas he was hiding in before. Now his one-man pluck-and-moan gig exposes the raw intimacy and gentle pain he was meant for, making listeners feel like he’s whispering in their ear even if they’re in the back of the venue. He recorded all three of his albums, including the latest, “The Wild Hunt,”at home on one microphone, driving that organic feel that will be perfect to kick off Pitchfork on Friday afternoon. (Dee Fabbricatore)
Best Pitchfork ~*~HeaRtThrOb~*~
Surfer Blood looks like your crush from your college radio e-board. Striped sweaters—check. Facial hair—check. Bart Simpson’s t-shirt—check. John Paul Pitts’ baby face—check. (I wonder how many girls have pinched his cheeks and played with his heart.) The Florida natives sing about escaping to Alaska, broken hearts and “Barack Hussein Obama.” What else screams boyish charm? For teenage girls who swear they’ve outgrown Justin Bieber, they will be a sight for sore eyes after Friday and Saturday nights’ lineups of Broken Social Scene and LCD Soundsystem, aka “those old guys.” Alexis Krauss, the lead singer of experimental pop duo Sleigh Bells, comes a very close second: she must’ve been the hottest fourth-grade teacher in the Bronx. (Sylvia Kim)
Best Place to Dance Cathartically Whilst Surrounded by 10,000 Others Whom in That Poignant Moment Ponder the Fragile Nature of Aging with Remorse and Optimism
Yes, Pavement is back, and yes, 21 year olds appreciate “Gold Soundz.” But the story of this year’s festival will undoubtedly be LCD Soundsystem, DFA Records owner James Murphy’s acclaimed project. The act is known primarily as dance music, but the real draw comes from the touches of nostalgia woven into all those keyboard textures. These are what make LCD Soundsystem the Great Uniter of the festival; Cool Dads will be able to identify with Murphy’s longing for a past marked by Pixies tribute bands and drug-fueled nights, while twentysomethings will feel the weight of realization that their Golden Era is fleeting. More than any other act in the festival, LCD Soundsystem teaches us that vital lesson about nostalgia: you really can never quarantine the past. Just leave me room to emote when “All My Friends” hits. (Todd Hieggelke)
—Edited by Dee Fabbricatore and Todd Hieggelke