Nothing better demonstrates Pitchfork's cultural reach and music-industry clout better than the booking of R&B superstar R. Kelly as this year's Sunday headliner. His appearance at the festival is a win for all parties involved: Pitchfork continues to expand its authority beyond its old indie-rock stomping ground (and despite the efforts of WBEZ critic Jim DeRogatis, it doesn't appear hurt by the accusations that still dog the singer), Kelly gets up close and personal with an audience he has yet to conquer (many of whom are too young to remember or care about his scandals), and the crowd can bump and grind to Kells at a fraction of the usual three-figure price for a decent ticket at one of his shows.
The ninth iteration of the Pitchfork Music Festival (including its 2005 debut as the Pitchfork-curated Intonation fest) will fill Union Park with 46 diverse acts: wispy folk, sunny garage rock, sleek R&B, ugly hardcore, and, um, Lil B, among many other things. Many of the biggest events on the international summer festival circuit book a lot of the same acts, but I'd be hard-pressed to think of another besides Pitchfork that has Bjork, Andy Stott, M.I.A., and Joanna Newsom.
Despite the diversity of the overall bill, each of the daily rosters leans toward a few specific types of music: Friday has lots of light indie rock, folk, and singer-songwriter fare, Saturday goes heavy on punk, metal, and hard rock, and Sunday features plenty of rap, R&B, and electronic pop. There are lots of exceptions (Belle & Sebastian headline Saturday, for instance), but this loose organization makes it easier for folks who only want to attend a day or two of Pitchfork to choose which ones.
That's not to say there aren't going to be some tough decisions to make. Some acts whose sets overlap are likely to appeal to the same fans—KEN Mode and White Lung play at the same time on Saturday, for example, and DJ Rashad and Tree do the same on Sunday. The latter is a particularly painful choice for hometown festivalgoers, because Rashad and Tree are two of the four locals on the bill this year. Usually Pitchfork books at least one Chicago act per day, but this year there isn't one on Saturday; Angel Olsen plays Friday, and of course R. Kelly also plays on Sunday (though he more properly belongs to the world, not just to Chicago). —Leor Galil
Read on for writeups on every one of the festival's 46 artists, day-by-day itineraries plotted by Reader staffers (and three lucky contest winners), and all the aftershows that are fit to print.