Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pitchfork 2011


We know that steeple. Whenever we see it we immediately think of Pitchfork Fest. This is probably because the only time we're in Union Park all year is for this festival. But after my first day at Pitchfork Fest 2011, I'm wondering if this might be the last time I'll be able to enjoy the church's tall spire.

Now don't assume I'm growing tired of Pitchfork Fest. I love it as much now as I did when it was Intonation. The organizers still bring some of my favorite artists to Chicago for a weekend. The music is great. The vibes are always cool.

But (and we all know this) with each year comes a little bit more corporate sponsorship at the fest. I'm not against this, because it brings in money and the fest's ability to pursue a higher quality product of entertainment from year to year. But... did they really have to get Axe?

Ok. I won't go off on that rant. Even though Axe is the most repulsive product in the world. Whatever Pitchfork. You have your reasons. But my point here is easy for anyone to come by--Pitchfork is big now.

This shouldn't be a surprise though. This style has been selling well for a few years now. Arcade Fire won the Grammy. Indie is a commodity and Pitchfork is the market key-master (sorry, I missed today's opening act Gatekeeper, otherwise I might have a good pun in here somewhere). We will probably be enjoying some sort of Justin Vernon project in a much larger venue for next year's Pitchfork Fest. It's about that time.

This feels like a turning point year. The set-up is so familiar and comfortable, to the point it doesn't seem quite right. One of my favorite things about Pitchfork Fest is how it has grown a little bit each year. Remember when it was only 2 days? Remember when they added the third stage over on Ogden? Goose Island beer instead of Heineken? The year they gave all the press free Chipotle burritos in that backstage area? The comedy night last year. Oh, the memories.

The strange thing about this year is what seems to be a lack of any sort of "new idea." Maybe that's where Axe comes in?

People have come to expect something of Pitchfork, and they're getting it this year. They're getting a wild opening night headliner in Animal Collective, generation-X appeal with Guided by Voices and Thurston Moore, non-mainstream but still really hip hip-hop with Curren$y and Das Racist, 'Best New Music' darlings like Tune-Yards and James Blake, and always plenty of weed.

It just can't stay like this though. Come 2012, Pitchfork Fest might as well take that big step. Leave behind the "independent" thing and just focus on the entertainment. The ideology has changed, and the fest has to bring as many people in as possible. It is about fun now.

It used to have local flare, but that's really not how it is anymore. What started as a fest where neighborhood Chicagoans could celebrate their music culture has become a world renowned event. Yes, there will be a Pitchfork Fest in France. Chicago is just a setting now. This fest could move to any city it wants at this point. Half of the attendees are from other states (well, I could be wrong, but you really do meet people from all over the place at the fest now).

Axe is a hint. No I know, it's a pungent stench. But I mean it hints at Pitchfork's next step. There is absolutely nothing even remotely close to the "indie ideal" in Axe body spray. That Pitchfork allowed them to have a huge corner tent at the fest this year is a pretty big deal. It's not just Whole Foods or hybrid cars (companies with philosophies) that are giving money to the fest now, but straight-up misogynistic companies that have nothing to do with independent music or culture. But hey, welcome to the real world. Right?

Pitchfork knows it's global. And in 2012 we'll see it come full circle. But we won't see the steeple. Not that it even matters. Half of the people who go to this fest never saw it before, and will never see it again after this weekend.

And I might forget it too.

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