As Pitchfork Media has grown from a scrappy, indie-oriented webzine into a legitimate competitor to the old guard of music journalism, so too has the annual Pitchfork Music Festival evolved from a scrappy, indie-oriented alternative to Lollapalooza into one of the most important summer festivals in a city whose calendar is packed with summer festivals. It's expanded from two days to three and grown into an international endeavor, establishing a satellite event in Paris and collaborating with established European fests like the UK-based All Tomorrow's Parties and Spain's Primavera Sound. The eighth Pitchfork festival (well, technically the 2005 installment was called "Intonation") brings together a diverse lineup of 47 acts (indie rock, hip-hop, electronic dance music, punk, whatever it is you call Willis Earl Beal) who will perform to a total audience of more than 54,000—only a fraction of whom are the "hipsters" of popular imagination.
GET PREPARED WITH OUR 15 RECOMMENDED ITINERARIES Not sure who you want to see during any given hour on Friday, Saturday, Sunday? Go ahead and tap into the collective whims or our staff, contributors, comrades, and readers, who supplied us with their perfected Pitchfork itineraries: everyone from Reader music editor Philip Montoro to Reader music critics Peter Margasak and Miles Raymer to WBEZ's Alison Cuddy to Chicago's Best Local Writer Who Excels at Social Media, Britt Julious.
TICKETS Single-day tickets, which were still available for Friday and Sunday at press time, cost $45; Saturday tickets and multiday passes are sold out. Admission is free for children under ten accompanied by an adult.
LOCATION The festival returns to Union Park, at the corner of Ashland and Lake; the main entrance is on Ashland between Lake and Washington, and there's a smaller one on Washington, on the southeast side of the park.
GETTING THERE Festivalgoers are encouraged to walk, bike, or ride the CTA, not only for the sake of the environment—the festival is fastidious about minimizing its ecological impact—but also because it can be a huge hassle to park. The Reader is once again cosponsoring secure bike parking, and this year there are two lots, one south of the park at Ashland and Madison and the other to the north at Ashland and Walnut, near Cobra Lounge; you can grab some water, air up your tires, and lube your chain, all for free.
RULES Reentry is prohibited. You can't bring in food or drink except sealed bottles of water, but you can buy many varieties of both, including the alcoholic kind, once you're inside. Also forbidden are cameras with detachable lenses, audio and video recording devices, flags, tents, musical instruments, and pets. Cameras with nondetachable lenses are OK, as are sunblock, cigarettes, and small or midsize backpacks and bags. I shouldn't even have to say it, but you're not allowed to bring illegal drugs.
LOCKERS For the first time you can rent a locker to store stuff you don't want to carry; it's $15 a day or $40 for all three, and you can reserve one at entertainmentlockers.com/pitchfork.
STAGES Big-name acts alternate on two main stages at the north end of the festival grounds, called Red (northwest) and Green (northeast); a smaller Blue stage (southwest) hosts music more or less continuously.
BESIDES THE MUSIC Nonmusical offerings have expanded this year to include a Book Fort sponsored by Chicago publishing house Featherproof, which will sell the offerings of other indie presses (McSweeney's, Drag City, Continuum) and host readings and panel discussions throughout the weekend. Also new is the Soundplay Arcade, where festgoers can play the five video games developed so far as part of Pitchfork's Soundplay initiative, each inspired by a different song. The festival has also partnered with local gallery Johalla Projects to bring installations by Chicago artists Matt Hoffman and Andrea Jablonski to the grounds. Attendees looking for other ways to give their ears a break (or to entertain themselves during a block of programming that doesn't suit their taste) can browse the American Poster Institute's Flatstock exhibit, shop at the Chicago Independent Radio Project's CHIRP Record Fair, check out locally designed clothing, crafts, and furnishings at the Coterie marketplace, or have their pictures taken at the Reader tent for a shot at daily prizes and a chance to have their photos published in the paper.
AFTER THE GATES CLOSE It's not over till the afterparties are over.