C-U is no stranger to music festivals (especially indie festivals like that one that happens every September). The area is a good place for music and touring acts that come through to play in the venues we have here. Many acts like the ones booked at Pitchfork Music Festival every year come through on occasion, do their thing and go on their way.
Pitchfork 2012 is happening this weekend up in the Windy City’s Union Park, and we’ll be there all weekend seeing shows, aftershows, taking photos, spending too much at the CHIRP Record Fair, and hopefully enjoying a few beers here and there. This year we’ve put together a different kind of preview — we’re always looking for chances to support local music and here’s our spin on things in 2012.
We compiled a schedule of bands we’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s fest — and we know it isn’t possible to catch every single act we’d like with only a few people in our crew. Since that’s the case, we’ve put together what an ideal schedule might look like for us, along with a hypothetical local act pairing, venue (one used frequently throughout the year), and ticket price if the act came through C-U. There’s a lot of crossover locals that could’ve fit with multiple acts, but we tried to spread things out to different venues and not repeat any local acts, and here’s our go at it.
Friday, July 13th
Lower Dens: 3:30, Red Stage :: Goblin Colors, Mike ‘N Molly’s (beer garden), $11
Lower Dens have some haunting stuff going on throughout most of their short catalog. Their new record Nootropics dropped this year following the extremely underrated Twin-Hand Movement, which came out a few years ago. Goblin Colors have tailored their sound to have some of the same haziness (check out this video from their performances at Mike ‘N Molly’s earlier this year) of Lower Dens, which makes it a decent fit. Let the sound bounce around outside in the beer garden for this show and zone out. Listen: Lower Dens: “Brains”
The Olivia Tremor Control: 4:35, Green Stage :: The Cheaper Hits, The Highdive, $15
Although Jeff Mangum might’ve focused his attention on another project you may have heard of back in the mid-90s, The Olivia Tremor Control quietly became something to pay attention to as the 90s ended and the 00s came around. Even though they disbanded and reformed, their spot at the festival is not to be unexpected after everything Elephant 6 has done. Pair them with The Cheaper Hits, who have the foggy production style and straightforward rock tracks, and you make a pretty great bill. Listen: The Olivia Tremor Control: “Jumping Fences”
A$AP Rocky: 5:30, Red Stage :: Jay Moses, Canopy Club (main stage), $14
This year’s festival features about the same amount of hip-hop as it has had in the past (it must be difficult trying to top Big Boi’s 2010 appearance, anyways), but this is a definite must-see out of all the hip-hop acts billed this year (Danny Brown, ScHoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T). A$AP has a full length coming this year, which follows its out-of-nowhere stellar mixtape from last year (LiveLoveA$AP), and features one of the better rap tracks in “Peso” to come out in 2011. Jay Moses gets the call for this one because of his blend of more mainstream production style with a rising national hip-hop artist who is all about production. Put them on the main stage of Canopy and start the party. Listen: A$AP Rocky: “Peso“
Japandroids. Photo by Charlotte Zoller.
Japandroids: 6:15, Blue Stage :: Hank, The Highdive, $15
Brian King and David Prowse are no strangers to C-U. Probably the most hyped (and arguably the best) Polyvinyl act of the last few years, Pygmalion Music Festival has featured them twice (both shows were top-notch), and they’re basically contending for every critic’s nod for album of the year vote with 2012’s anthemic Celebration Rock. They were a late add to the festival bill this year, and I’d pair them with Hank’s rowdy-by-nature sound if they came through town. Just listen to Hank’s new EP and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. They might break through the stage at The Highdive, but so be it. Listen: Japandroids: “The House That Heaven Built”
Dirty Projectors: 7:20, Red Stage :: An Evening With Your Mother, Krannert Center, $22
We’ll soon see what this band brings to the table for Pygmalion in September, but we’ll get a chance to catch their set as a taste of what to expect in a few months in C-U. You can listen to Swing Lo Magellan basically anywhere on the internet now, and from someone who thought Bitte Orca was excellent, it takes a few spins to get an idea of what they are doing differently this time around. This show would sound pretty incredible if it was held at Krannert’s theater (Roky Erickson, Okkervil River, and Ted Leo played there a few years back at Pygmalion), allowing some echos and harmonies to ring through the auditorium. This was a tough local pick because of how different DP can be from everything else at times, but An Evening With Your Mother’s melodic folk gets the nod. Listen: Dirty Projectors: “Gun Has No Trigger”
Purity Ring: 8:20, Blue Stage :: DJ Belly, Mike ‘N Molly’s (upstairs), $9
Another act who played C-U less than a year ago gets a pretty great timeslot for those who want to groove a bit instead of seeing Feist — and their debut LP hasn’t even dropped yet. The hype is there for a reason — just listen to the singles out there and you’ll understand where the hook is with this duo. I’ve always thought the genre “futurepop” was kind of a hilarious genre, but whatever you want to call it, Purity Ring has something going on. Their pairing was a bit difficult here because there aren’t many similar acts in town (or anywhere), but throwing a DJ in there can never hurt, especially one as good as Belly. Listen: Purity Ring: “Lofticries”
Feist. Photo by Ben Norman.
Feist: 8:20, Green Stage :: Grandkids, Foellinger Auditorium, $18
Initially, I was surprised at Feist headlining this festival. It makes total sense though. Her resume is stacked no matter where you look — whether it’s her work with Broken Social Scene or her latest release in Metals or The Reminder from a few years back. She’s got game. Grandkids have climbed their way up as one of the best bands in C-U because of their consistency, even though they have only a few EPs under their belt (a full-length is on the way). It’s similar to how Feist has come to own a good part of the indie rock genre over the past decade. Foellinger would treat these two pretty well, as long as its promoted better than the Broken Social Scene show a few years back… Listen: Feist: “How Come You Never Go There”
Saturday, July 14th
The Psychic Paramount: 1:00, Green Stage :: Take Care, The Highdive, $8
These guys put out one of the better prog-rock records of last year with II, and snuck onto the bill this year without a lot of press outside of Pitchfork. Some other accolades were there, but you don’t really need any others to like you in order to get onto this festival’s bill. They find a way to combine spastic arrangements with some pretty heavy stuff at times. Take Care would fit here with their similar instrumentation and sound in general. This show would bring the noise and it seemed like the best fit. Listen: The Psychic Paramount: “DDB”
Cloud Nothings: 1:45, Red Stage :: Easter, Urbana IMC, $10
C-U will get a chance to see these guys later in the year at Pygmalion, but hopefully I can catch a few minutes of this one before heading off to see Lotus Plaza. If this wasn’t a conflict and they weren’t coming to C-U in a few months, this would be a must-see. Attack on Memory will end up on a lot of year-end lists and still holds up against any other rock release from this year. Putting them with Easter is almost a no-brainer. Listen: Cloud Nothings: “Wasted Days”
Lotus Plaza (left) and Cloud Nothings (right).
Lotus Plaza: 1:55, Blue Stage :: Common Loon, Channing-Murray Foundation, $12
The Channing-Murray venue is extremely underutlized. I’m not sure if there are certain rules about putting bands there when it’s not Pygmalion, but I have to say that it was one of the best places to see a show during last year’s festival (The Dodos, The Luyas and Grandkids tore up). Put together the airy and atmospheric tones of Lotus Plaza and Common Loon and it would be a real winner. Lotus Plaza had to drop out of Pygmalion after intially being on the bill (dude’s getting married, so it’s acceptable), so this would be the place to catch them instead of Cloud Nothings. Listen: Lotus Plaza: “Strangers”
Cults: 3:20, Red Stage :: The Palace Flophouse, Cowboy Monkey, $10
Yes, you might have seen Cults a few years back when they were in C-U, but their self-titled debut still has some juice to it. Even though this one makes sense, it was still a bit surprising to see them on the bill this year for some reason. The Palace Flophouse’s male/female singer combination works well here, and Cowboy Monkey as a smaller venue feels right for this one. Listen: Cults: “Go Outside”
Wild Flag: 5:15, Red Stage :: The Dirty Feathers, Mike ‘N Molly’s (beer garden), $15
Good old fashion rock ‘n roll here. Wild Flag is no joke — they can bring it, and so can The Dirty Feathers. Wild Flag stopped through C-U last October and it was surprising to me that a band like The DFs weren’t on this bill to begin with. As our writer who reviewed that show last year titled the article “shake, shimmy, ROCK,” don’t think you wouldn’t be doing some, if not all, of those things if this was billed in town. Listen: Wild Flag: “Romance”
Sleigh Bells: 6:15, Green Stage :: That’s No Moon, Canopy Club (main stage), $23
Another act I was surprised was billed again since they were at the festival two years ago. This is a different band though, and after releasing Reign of Terror, their sound became a bit more dynamic. Is that record as good as their debut? Not in my opinion, but hey, they’ll be down in C-U in September, so why not see this band twice for fun? This is a difficult pairing for C-U, but I think That’s No Moon could add something to the mix. They incorporate pop and rock elements — just a slightly different version than Sleigh Bells. Listen: Sleigh Bells: “Comeback Kid”
Chromatics: 6:45, Blue Stage :: Evil Tents, The Highdive, $15
Another late add with Japandroids to the fesitval bill, Chromatics have quietly put together one of the best records of 2012 with Kill for Love, their ambitious, 70-minute LP. Even though it’s a long listen (M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming definitely comes to mind), it’s very rewarding. Chromatics’ softer vocals mixed with some atmospheric and straight indie vibes make Evil Tents a good fit here. Listen: Chromatics: “Kill For Love”
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: 8:30, Green Stage :: Withershins, Canopy Club (main stage), $22
Now here’s the doozy of the festival. Probably my most anticipated show of the weekend because of how good or how disappointing it could end up being. I’m curious as to how an outdoor show like this one will capture the power of Godspeed — who can produce some extremely bombastic and almost symphonic grooves at times — outside. With that said, one of the better post-rock outfits C-U has to offer is Withershins, so putting them together on Canopy’s main stage makes sense. If Explosions in the Sky can sound as amazing as they did there last year, I think GY!BE would match it. Listen: Godspeed You! Black Emperor: “Storm”
Sunday, July 15th
Dirty Beaches: 1:00, Green Stage :: My Werewolf Diary, Mike ‘N Molly’s (upstairs), $7
Lo-fi music oftentimes translates differently at a festival than it does on tape. This one could go either way, but I’ve got positive thinking that this one would be an early show worth catching. Badlands is Dirty Beaches’ breakthrough from last year, featuring some rockabilly influences with some interesting sampling and looping mixed in. Elzie Sexton’s (of New Ruins) side project could work here because of its smokey sound and vocals. Listen: Dirty Beaches: “Lord Knows Best”
Iceage: 2:30, Green Stage :: Midstress, Urbana IMC, $10
The Urbana Independent Media Center hosts punk shows all the time, and Iceage is as straight up as a Brit punk band can get. No questions about it. If you haven’t checked out New Brigade yet you’re sleeping on these guys. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it might be for you. Midstress knows how to play punk music, so they would show Iceage what this side of the pond’s (and specifically C-U’s) punk shows are like. Listen: Iceage: “You’re Blessed”
Iceage (left) and Thee Oh Sees (right).
Thee Oh Sees: 2:50, Blue Stage :: DeathTram, The Brass Rail, $9
Just downright filthy garage rock from Thee Oh Sees throughout their existence as a part of the ever-productive San Francisco garage rock scene. Putting this show at The Brass Rail would be an absolute mess in the best way possible. Get whiskey drunk and let their psych-rock pummel you and you’ll feel like you got in a fight the next day. DeathTram has some pretty great rock ‘n roll tunes themselves, so all things considered, this would be one you hope to make it out alive. Listen: Thee Oh Sees: “The Dream”
The Men: 3:45, Blue Stage :: Scurvine, The Iron Post, $11
A serious amount of rock music happening early in the day on Sunday (not included in this preview is Ty Segall, Milk Music, and A Lull), capped off by probably the best of all of them in The Men. Some of their material is pretty straightforward, while other tracks are hard to pin down. It’s an interesting combination of rock, alternative, indie, thrash, and even punk — it’s all over the place. Many different bands could fit in this spot with The Men because their sound is pretty raw at times, but so is Scurvine’s, so they would work well in this slot. Listen: The Men: “Turn It Around”
Real Estate. Photo by Erez Avissar.
Real Estate: 4:15, Green Stage :: New Ruins, Mike ‘N Molly’s (beer garden), $15
Possibly the most straightforward and best indie rock release from last year could be Real Estate’s Days. It does everything the way it should be, and they don’t try to be anything other than what they are. It’s easy to get lost in what they’re doing which is what makes them so captivating at times. Some people might think the songs blend together, but there’s a big difference between blending together and just being consistently good. A consistently good local act, New Ruins, meshes nicely into this one, and why not put them outside on a summer night to watch the time slip away into another day. Listen: Real Estate: “It’s Real”
Araabmuzik: 6:15, Green Stage :: DJ Mertz, Canopy Club (main stage), $15
Dubstep. Electronica. Hip-hop. Rap. R&B. Everything is there. Araabmuzik’s Electronic Dream sounds exactly what it appears to be. Just watch his +1 session with Pitchfork to try and understand what he does on stage with sampling and everything else and you might see why this would be a good set to catch at this year’s fest. Throw in a solid DJ like Mertz and you’re golden. Listen: Araabmuzik: “Streetz Tonight”
Beach House: 7:25, Red Stage :: Psychic Twin, The Highdive, $20
Beach House has put out some of the best records in recent years, not only in the indie-pop genre, but just music in general. They played Pitchfork a few years ago and were solid on their tour of their stellar Teen Dream, so billing them later into the day — especially with the success of this year’s Bloom — is no surprise to anyone. Many could pin this decision to put Psychic Twin with Beach House because they have female singers who play keyboard, but even though that assessment seems like a surface-level choice, it makes the most sense sonically. Listen: Beach House: “Lazuli”
Vampire Weekend: 8:30, Green Stage :: Elsinore, Canopy Club (main stage), $23
This may a surprising headliner to some, but anyone who reads Pitchfork can understand why Vampire Weekend is closing out the festival. Last year, Fleet Foxes headlined after only two pretty good records to their repertoire, now VW is following suit a year later. Elsinore makes a lot of sense here because of the indie-rock sensability shared between these two, and I can’t think of anywhere else that would better suit a band as big as Vampire Weekend is than the main room at Canopy. Listen: Vampire Weekend: “Holiday”
We’ll see you next week with all the post-fest coverage, including photos, interviews, and reviews of what we witnessed.