Even as gray skies, muggy atmosphere and rain made for a bleak opening Friday to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, the crowd waiting to enter the event was thousands deep along Ashland Avenue. Inside, puddles formed on the field and crews urgently mopped the stages. The music would have to wait, the first opening-day delay in the festival’s seven-year history.
Neither excessive moisture, nor oppressive heat nor gloom of a mid-summer afternoon could keep a dedicated indie-rock fan away when bands such as Outer Minds, Lower Dens and the Olivia Tremor Control were about to perform. The soggy conditions delayed the festival’s opening by 25 minutes, and fans were still waiting outside to gain entrance when the first notes were struck at 3:45 p.m.
Outer Minds what? Lower Dens who? If it all seems like a foreign language, then Pitchfork probably isn’t for you. But for the tens of thousands who are calling Union Park home this weekend, Chicago garage-rockers Outer Minds were worth braving the elements to see. The co-ed quintet brought ‘60s-style, tambourine-inflected harmonies and trebly 12-string guitar with a psychedelic edge to its impressive, first-out-of-the-gate set.
The festival, dedicated to lesser-knowns and rising stars championed by the pitchfork.com e-zine – the most powerful tastemaking force in digital music – has become an international event. It was expected to draw as many as 60,000 fans from around the world over the weekend to see a mix of indie rock, hip-hop and electronic music, but Friday’s concert still had not sold out at the opening bell and tickets remained for Sunday. Walk-up for the event is always strong, however, and promoters expected more fans to show up as work shifts ended and Friday weather cleared.
Among the 47 acts scheduled to perform on three stages over the weekend were relatively major acts such as Feist, who headlined Friday, Vampire Weekend, Hot Chip and Beach House. But it’s the undercard that draws a significant number of early arrivals, the hard-core music nerds that are Pitchfork’s core audience. Some of the biggest buzz centered on the collection of garage-rock bands grouped on early Sunday afternoon – Ty Segall, the Men, Thee Oh Sees – and rising hip-hop stars Danny Brown, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar.
Segall said some of the scheduling frustrated him too. “I want to see Thee Oh Sees as much as anyone,” he said before the festival. “Maybe we’ll do a call and response thing to each other across the field like (Led Zeppelin’s) Jimmy Page and Robert Plant did in 'Dazed and Confused.'"
For Pitchfork updates from Greg Kot and other Tribune writers, check chicagotribune.com/pitchfork