A Nationwide Heat Advisory Can’t Stop The Music At Pitchfork Pitchfork Music Festival Bucks The Trend of Prototypical Summer Music Festivals
CHICAGO, IL- It’s rare that I’ll venture beyond the reach of an air conditioner for too long in July, much less ignore a nationwide heat advisory. But experiencing Pitchfork Music Festival was well worth sweating off half my body weight and dodging thunderstorms with a camera in hand. What makes this festival special is its undeniable character that you simply won’t find elsewhere.
Festival culture is more saturated than ever, and lineups are often redundant and predictable. Slap Travis Scott or Cardi B’s name across the top of a busy flyer, and you’ve got the recipe for 2019’s prototypical summer music festival. Pitchfork remains a standout for its carefully curated roster with both independent and popular artists spanning all genres. The magazine itself is tailored to the open-minded, well-rounded music fan and often showcases experimental acts that deviate from the norm. Considering that it’s a product of the upper echelon media company Condé Nast, it should come as no surprise that Pitchfork seeks out only the most cutting edge artists.
Motown legends the Isley Brothers, indie rock trio HAIM, dream pop songstress Clairo, psychedelic soul group Khruangbin, and punk rapper Rico Nasty are just a small sample of this year’s talent. Additionally, the lineup boasted plenty of Chicago natives including Ric Wilson, Valee, the Great Black Music Ensemble, Mavis Staples, Tasha, and Dreezy. Freddie Gibbs also identifies as a Chicago local despite being from neighboring Gary, Indiana, but we’ll give him a pass because what gangster rapper wants to rep Gary, Indiana?
As far as the full experience goes, the festival grounds were a creative’s utopia. Attendees draped themselves in anything from house keys safety-pinned onto chain link to paper crowns akin to the ones you’d find in a Burger King meal (no, I didn’t make that example up). And they made it look good. No two festival-goers were dressed the same, and that’s because the Pitchfork crowd is comprised of free souls who define indiviudality. Naturally, I found an array of reclaimed and handmade clothes in the Renegade Fair, a Chicago based creative community and traveling market.
Between its forty-five booths, I saw bohemian shawls at Vagamundo, quirky pins, and patches in the Stay Home Club, and socially aware t-shirts at Imaginemint. Just outside the fair, the nationwide thrift franchise Buffalo Exchange had also set up camp. But of it all, my favorite brand was the sustainable, quirky Cloina store. The Chicago based retailer designs each product herself with a focus on the intersection between soft femininity and edgy attitude. To help cut down on massive textile waste prevalent in the fashion industry, she creates her one-of-a-kind clothing articles only after customers place orders.
As per a fact sheet on https://cloina.store/, a mere 10-15% of secondhand store donations actually make it to market. 10.46 million tons of textile waste are trashed each year, and millions of dollars worth of products are burned by luxury brands. In sum, Cloina’s clothes are more than just bold, whimsical statement pieces. They’re also part of a larger movement toward sustainability that will make that retail therapy feel all the more satisfying. Cloina, if you’re out there reading this somewhere, I’m sorry that I spent fifteen minutes in your dressing room without buying anything and hope this article makes up for it.
My next stop was the Flatstock Poster Fair hosted by the American Poster Institute and Speedball. Hundreds of commissioned concert posters and unique art prints paved its tent walls, and each of the dozen or so showcased artists had a marked style. Two of my favorites were Dave Kloc and Lil Tuffy.
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I’m not even a big Death Cab for Cutie fan, but I’m tempted to order Dave’s 2019 design anyways because it fits the color scheme of my apartment so perfectly. I did purchase Lil Tuffy’s purple unicorn poster for Young Thug’s 2016 tour; it made a great addition to my room and will always remind me of the time I nearly passed out in a moshpit and lost my phone at the Terminal 5 date. Ah, memories.
The final fair I visited was the CHIRP Record Fair, which brought indie labels, local record stores, and independent vendors together to sell a diverse array of music. When the “vinyl revival” started in 2007, many blew it off as a passing fad. However, twelve years later, music aficionados continue to expand their record collections rather than retire them.
I’d chalk this phenomenon up to the gritty, raw authenticity of an analog record that simply can’t be recreated digitally. And the fact that pressing “download” and “play” on a streaming service will never compare to the excitement of unwrapping a physical record and watching that initial needle drop. Oh, and what it means to sit down with a single record and appreciate it in its entirety amid an age when millions of songs floating around the internet at our disposal.
There is more to record collecting than frequenting Urban Outfitters for freshly packaged vinyl to spin on a brand new Crosley. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with treating oneself to a current favorite artist’s new record from time to time, but the true character of a record collection comes from weeding through piles of forgotten classics at a garage sale or dusting off Grandpa’s old turntable. A good collection includes some rare finds, and a good collection certainly doesn’t have to break the bank. For those interested in elevating their own collections to the next level, the CHIRP Record Fair is a must.
The final thing that stood out to me about the Pitchfork atmosphere was its ethics. Near the front entrance, I immediately noticed a sexual trauma response center with crisis counselors available to meet in private. In the very center of the festival grounds, I saw chalkboards prompting attendees to write about what diversity means to them. At the blue stage, young poets spoke their minds about everything from college to race to religion. Pitchfork created a safe space for all to show up as themselves without judgment and be just a little more present because of it.