While R. Kelly is sure to steam up any event, the Pitchfork Festival has always been about shining light on the underdogs. This year’s bill is as forward-thinking as ever, tapping a slew of fiery up-and-comers to fill out the bottom half of the bill. Whether you’re checking out these bands destined for greater things at the fest itself (lucky you!) or on your home turf, stay stylin’ in some RayBan Clubmaster shades. In fact, you can still WIN tix to the Pitchfork Festival thanks to RayBan and their all-new Aluminum Clubmaster sunglasses. And now, without further ado, these are the ten can’t-miss, absolute essentials from this year’s epic Pitchfork Festival.
Frankie Rose Frankie Rose crafts the kind of astral explorations that would bedevil a planetarium projectionist. Beach House-style echo underpins the swirl of stars, as propulsive, rolling beats distinguish the songs from the languid wash of more middling indie acts. “Pair of Wings,” meanwhile, stands out as her most singular achievement, a slow builder that takes us from a whisper to grand orchestral bliss. Here’s hoping her set coincides with sunset — either way she’s sure to conjure clouds that caress us softly into evening.
Foxygen When Foxygen singer Sam Frances says, “There’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore,” the band’s laid-back, everyman acceptability is immediately understood. His thin quiver cracks mischievously, waffling with unmitigated emotion. Psychedelic Elephant 6 references are everywhere, but the band also digs into more elemental influences, touching Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, and the Beatles’ more orchestral oddities in equal order. Whether jamming uptempo or waltzing in more even-handed environs, one imagines each word adorned with the kind of hip swagger we haven’t seen since the ’60s.
Blood Orange Equal parts Twin Shadow and minimalist, Purple Rain Prince, Blood Orange is a massive departure from mastermind Devonte Hynes’ original outing. In Test Iscles he fused punk and dance music with unpretentious abandon. As Lightspeed Champion, he explored the vast possibilities of uptempo indie. While these influences have now given way to falsetto chill-outs, evoking beach bums in the ’80s, the veteran’s strong sense of pop structure remains as sharp as ever.
Metz Lo-fi garage grungers Metz kick off their most recent record with the predictive “Headache,” a short, noisy stunner which immediately acclimatizes the listener to the band’s uncompromising attack. Their punk leanings are bolstered by an affinity for the noisy guitar rambling and affected vocals of ’90s Dischord. With song titles like “Sad Pricks,” “Rats,” “Nausea,” “Wasted,” and “Negative Space,” the band clearly has no bones about unleashing its angst. The real question is: will you spit it back at them if and when a pit breaks out?
Merchandise Fusing shoegaze with the throaty emoting of Manchester mopers the Smiths, Merchandise create a retro static that goes straight for Joy Division’s gut. There’s an ingrained grandeur pervading the band’s newest ep, Totale Night, that transcends earlier noise muck for meaty, indie-leaning orchestrals. But even with the refinement of age, they remain loose canons capable of turning on prettier moments without reserve.
Ryan Hemsworth The fusion of indie, dance, and hip-hop is hardly a revolutionary act, but at 4am, not all party starters are equal. Whether beefing up soul samples or ramping the reverie with propulsive hip-hop, Ryan Hemsworth brings late-night club kids to their knees. Bright lights, crazy nights — outdoors he ought to be even more amazing.
Pissed Jeans Like early Nirvana and Mudhoney, Pissed Jeans toss thick sludge into oceans of ugly ambience. Cackling groans pierce crumbling walls of milky static in a sonic staring contest that the band inevitably wins against its audience. These guys are all grime and no glory: a sweaty, pit-kicking affair that leaves its revelers caked in blood and guts. Wear earplugs if you want, but don’t think they’ll save you: once you’re within 50 feet of the stage, your body belongs to the band.
Waxhatchee Rising from the ashes of Alabama punk outfit P.S. Elliot, Katie Crutchfield remains an embattled songwriter, an intelligent agent of bombardment. Of course, as Waxahatchee her modus operandi is somewhat more subtle: pounding an electric guitar in minimalist strokes, she splits the difference between early Liz Phair and Mirah. Her girl-next-door croon writhes with emotion as simple rock riffs evoke the spirit of Beat Happening and Moldy Peaches. Lovely and undeniably lovable.
Parquet Courts Slick cow-punkers Parquet Courts have a bag full of Jonathan Richman dolls and they won’t stop tossing them out until they’ve made Modern Lovers out of everyone. Taking cues from the aforementioned act, the band fuses a freewhellin’ twang with college-rock rhythms. Ranting like a mental patient in escape, singer Andrew Savage is a faux-redneck profit of the retro-slack, old-school indie age.
White Lung Suckling the teat of older infamy, contemporary Riot Grrl act White Lung manages to transcend its hardcore influences. The energy is intact, but the group is hardly interested in recreating a revolution. Incisive barks court audience aggression, as nails are strewn everywhere you walk. The vitality of this act is impossible to ignore: let’s just hope screaming along with your finger in the air is enough to get you out alive.