Pitchfork Music Festival 2014: Highs and Lows
The energy was high during this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, which was held over three days in Chicago’s Union Park, a space that is certainly being outgrown by a festival almost a decade old. Logistically, we’ve had better experiences, but the curation and ebb of each day’s music more than made up for it. Couple that with a stellar offering of local eateries and a phenomenal poster fair, and they’ve done quite nicely for themselves. If we go again, we’d do a few things differently, but that isn’t to say we did it wrong. We partied with the best of them and didn’t even get a sunburn thanks to the beautiful mix of sun, clouds and perfect temperatures. Behold our highlights from this year’s experience, as well as a few acts who played the fest that you should be on the lookout for in the coming weeks and months during their Pittsburgh stops.
There was a lot of good music to be had at this year’s fest, and we got to see most of it. tUnE-yArDs’ new album really shines in a live setting, and Merril Garbus’s colorful personality held its own very well in a large festival setting. As predicted, the women of the fest really killed it this year, and SZA, Kelela and FKA Twigs were three of the Blue Stage’s breakthrough performers. All three were very similar in nature, but brought their own unique perspective to the music they create. As predicted, Beck’s headlining set was a standout performance for its production value alone, while St. Vincent’s quirky guitar rock remained as solid as ever even after having seen her for the third time in the past few years.
Our personal highlights include The Field, who played many fan favorites and turned up the energy of an otherwise laid-back set by incorporating a live drummer. Grimes might have cancelled her Pittsburgh date last year, but she more than made up with it during her performance, which was fully equipped with back up dancers and fans galore, which helped to make an already whimsical soundscape that much more dreamlike.
Kendrick Lamar was far and away the best performance of the festival. He closed things out like a champ and reaffirmed the positive thoughts we had after seeing him perform at Stage AE last summer. His charm and ability outshine those of his current peers, and the addition of a live band helped to boost the set to the next level. After three straight days of drinking for 8+ hours while walking miles in the sun, his energy was just what we needed to carry us into our last after party and back home to Pittsburgh the next day.
While we don’t like to dwell on the negative, there are some things we’d do differently if given the chance. Naturally, a festival of this nature attracts many different types of people, but a good majority of the crowd would have been otherwise intolerable if it weren’t for the booze. We would also pregame a bit more, as non-VIP attendees only have beer as an option, and while we appreciate the fest keeping it local, one can only drink so many Goose Islands before their gag reflex kicks in. If you ever go to this fest, we’d highly recommend getting a VIP ticket. Those folks looked like they were having a great time, and we were continually reminded of that every time we’d walk past the VIP area and be taunted by the land of free booze. While we didn’t have to wait in line to get in, many of our friends with GA tickets faced hour + lines to get inside the fest each day, a feat that could easily ruin your pregame buzz if you aren’t careful. These cons by no means ruined an otherwise pleasant experience. We’re just used to a less pretentious bunch here in Pittsburgh and are perhaps a bit spoiled when it comes to the perks of smaller city living.
The Other Stuff
And really, what would a hipster music festival be without eccentric style? The New York Times managed to find some of the festival’s most fashionable people, but all we could seem to focus on were the abundance of mom jeans with flat asses hanging out of the bottom. While we thought the trend was almost dying here in Pittsburgh, Chicago has proven that it’s operating in full force. We were pleasantly surprised by the awesomeness of the Flatstock poster fair and wish we would have brought more money. The participating artists were friendly and their arsenals were full of amazing concert-related art. If you get the chance to attend, don’t sleep on this part of the fest.
If you’re looking to catch any of these Pitchfork alum on their forthcoming Pittsburgh dates, they come highly recommended by us and the Pitchfork staff. Go out and see some legit music if you missed the fest. You know you wanna.
Chicago-based rockers Twin Peaks hit Mr. Roboto Project August 15. Stream their latest album, Wild Onion right now on Pitchfork Advance.
Indie stars on the rise Real Estate play October 1 at Altar Bar. This is not their first Pittsburgh rodeo so expect a decent crowd.
The dynamic and captivating tUnE-yArDs hit Mr. Smalls October 18. Merril stunned us the last time she was in town, and with a sophomore album under her belt, we anticipate this one selling out.
Punk band Mutual Benefit closes out the last round of P4K bands to hit Pittsburgh in the coming months with their show October 30 at Club Cafe.