Drunk 16-year-olds, temperamental bros and the looming threat of heatstroke aside, the biggest headache any music festival attendee faces is determining his/her daily schedule. Inevitably, you’ll find yourself facing a series of tough choices between two bands you’d really like to see who are scheduled to perform at roughly the same time.
Granted, one of Pitchfork Music Festival’s greatest selling points is its compact space, which makes these choices less of an issue. Union Park’s cozy environs means the festival’s three stages are only about several hundred feet away from one another, allowing you to see and hear more bands—plus your feet hurt marginally less at the end of each day. But since Pitchfork Festival gets more crowded every year, show-watching space is at a premium. Which means it’s essential to take a few moments at the beginning of the day to determine which bands you really care about seeing, because staking claim to a good spot is a strategic exercise akin to a game of Risk with fewer international threats and way more Ray-Bans. To help plan our days (and yours), here’s a little guide to prioritizing some of the viewing and listening options at 2012’s Pitchfork Music Festival.
Beach House: Beach House have the enviable ability to reproduce their intricate music in a live setting—something many synth-heavy bedroom pop peddlers are unable to do. At this year’s festival, they’re playing near the tail end of Sunday night, and both the sweeping romantic tracks and heavy-lidded come-ons from May’s excellent Bloom will sound wonderful at dusk at the end of the weekend. Raise your hand if you, too, are looking forward to the crowd-wide makeout session during “Lazuli.” –Susannah Young
Sleigh Bells: For whatever reason, despite Reign of Terror being of near equal quality to their breakout album Treats, Sleigh Bells haven't received quite the same amount of Internet-crushing hype in 2012 as they had two years ago. But you shouldn't let that obfuscate the fact that Reign of Terror crushes just as hard, and that Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss still melt faces when they perform live. Their set at Pitchfork Fest 2010 was all frentic, gyroscopic forward motion, and with another record's worth of adrenaline-fueled apocalypse pop under their belt, it's likely that the 2012 edition will match their previous efforts.--Chris Bosman
The Men: The Men’s ramshackle take on garage rock sounds “live” even on their albums, songs pieced together with a casual but practiced hand. Loud, id-charged numbers like “Open Your Heart” are guaranteed crowd-pleasers (fellow attendees, for my safety and the safety of others, please help me monitor my Sparks intake when “Animal” rolls around), and tracks like “Ex-Dreams” that swerve in and out of structural integrity will sound absolutely perfect in the afternoon's shimmering heat. –Susannah Young
Danny Brown: XXX, the record where Danny Brown became Danny Brown, dropped around 11 months ago, but the Detroit rapper's star has only been rising, thanks to a slew of collaborations, guest appearances, and live shows, each one attempting to one-up the previous. In concert, Brown's trademark Exorcist bark chips away at the nuclear bass of his hallucinogenic productions, and turns what could be overdone chant-a-longs ("I smoke blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt/ Blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt") into the rhythmic snap of smoked out anthems. –Chris Bosman
Kendrick Lamar: To capture the attention of a festival crowd, it helps to be an energetic and earnest performer. Kendrick Lamar is both, and for that reason puts on a great live show that I’m guessing will be even more rewarding in a festival setting. Worth noting: “A.D.H.D.”’s intoxicant checklist will undoubtedly make for some great people-watching moments. –Susannah Young
Dirty Projectors: Dave Longstreth and company have a knack for finding the middle ground between obtuse, complex songwriting and fun summer jams, especially evident on next week’s release, Swing Lo Magellan. A live setting really encourages audiences to get into the participatory aspects of DP’s songs (handclapping, catchy hooks)…but you’ve also got to weigh that against how friggin’ difficult it is for people with average voices to sing DP songs. Which is why you should cut your losses and find a shady spot to chill during “Dance For You” and “Just From Chevron.” –Susannah Young
Vampire Weekend: While Vampire Weekend haven't released an album in two and a half years (Early 2010's Contra), that doesn't change the fact that they're an exceptionally tight live band. There are times when the phrase "sounding exactly like the album" is an insult and times when it's a compliment, and for those who have enjoyed the playful, intelligent, bouyant, and Afro-pop inspired records from the Upper West Side band's records, it's the latter. They don't shred or blow up the stage with charisma, they just play their tracks pitch perfect. -Chris Bosman
Japandroids: Though they occasionally sound a little messy live, there’s really no better, more appropriate way to see Japandroids than squashed in the middle of a bunch of young, exhausted and breathless fans. If you’re not planning to cry-yell along to “Fire’s Highway” and “The House That Heaven Built” and slosh beer everywhere, shame on you. –Susannah Young
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: It's hard to know what exactly to make of live post-rock bands. Some, like Explosions in the Sky, are made for the stage, where their almost subconscious guitar interplay bursts like neon lights over the crowd. Others can't translate their monolithic arrangements to the stage. It's been a not-insignificant amount of time since Godspeed You! Black Emperor have stormed stages with any consistency, and Pitchfork Fest marks their first show on a 28-show tour that announces their return. The band closes out Saturday night at Union Park and we'll be lifting our skinny fists like antennas to heaven. -Chris Bosman
Lower Dens: As great as Lower Dens’ recent release Nootropics is, it’s going to be a little strange to hear such intimate and intricate songs under a blistering summer sun instead of piped directly into your ears in a dim room. Nonetheless, I’m making this a bit of a priority since I haven’t seen Jana Hunter live as a solo artist or with Dens—and am really hoping the set is just as moody and intense as the album. –Susannah Young
Grimes: Patient, nuanced music typically doesn't translate that well to an outdoor setting, and sometimes not well to any live setting. But Claire Boucher, who has had to learn on the fly during her rise to Internet infamy, has more going for her on stage than just the quality of songwriting on Visions. Her relentless energy and indominatable spirit are part of her live persona. If you're not feeling Godspeed's enormity, you'd do well to catch the incessant charisma of Grimes. -Chris Bosman
Purity Ring: Purity Ring have rightly been seeing their star rise in the last few months, as uniformly excellent "future pop" tracks have trickled out from Megan James and Corin Roddick over the last few years, leading up to this summer's release of their debut album Shrines. If you're looking for nighttime music to get blissed out to, the band's spacey arrangements and James' moonbeam of a voice will provide a perfect soundtrack. -Chris Bosman
Feist: On the other hand, if you're feeling the need for some pop music of the non-future type on Friday night, you can catch Leslie Feist going through her catalog of alternate-universe standards (or, like "Sealion," actual standards) like "Brandy Alexander," the Apple-famous "1 2 3 4," or "Mushaboom." With the sun on its way down from what will likely be a burning first day in Chicago, Feist will be a much-needed exhale. Or, you know, she could bring Mastadon out and blast through Leviathan. Either or. -Chris Bosman