Every year, Wicker Park Fest is sandwiched between Chicago's two premier music events—Pitchfork and Lollapalooza—and every year, its lineup rivals theirs for a twentieth of the price.
2014 is no exception. This year's bill boasts 36 bands across three stages over the course of two days, and nearly all of them are excellent (an anomaly at street festivals).
Sadly, you can't see them all, and while you probably know whether you'll be watching Owls or RJD2 Saturday night, the earlier bands aren't as easy to sort out. Here are three that I'd pay $20 to see solo—let alone $5 for the whole lot.
Philly quartet Hop Along's music is a bit indescribable. What started a decade ago as the bedroom project of singer Frances Quinlan has morphed into something far noisier with the addition of distortion pedals and a full band (Quinlan's brother plays drums). Even more indescribable is Qinlan's voice itself, which at its most ferocious recalls Janis Joplin (check out 3:18 in the track below and repeat forever). Regardless, the band's 2012 LP Get Disowned is positively flooring, and until there's a follow-up for them to tour in support of, you best catch Hop Along this weekend—it's rare for them to venture far from the East Coast. Saturday at 4:45 p.m., North Stage.
In a previous life, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson played keyboards in Nassau County punk collective Bomb the Music Industry!, who've long disbanded. And, while Stevenson's brand of bluegrass-tinged indie rock doesn't necessarily sound anything like Bomb's wild-eyed clamor, she approaches the indie genre with their punk aesthetic: by stripping away any glitzy production or roundabout lyrics until there's nothing left but an acoustic guitar, her heady voice, and The Big Questions. Saturday at 6 p.m., North Stage.
Stop by any half indie-minded Chicago music event and you're bound to find some iteration of Evan Weiss singing. The unofficial figurehead of Chicago's fourth-wave emo scene played Wicker Park Fest last year with his mathy trio, Their / They're / There, and he'll appear a week from Friday at Lollapalooza with Into It. Over It., the band that grew from his main solo act. But this weekend, it's Pet Symmetry, a straightforward power-pop collab between Weiss and members of Dowsing, another Chicago emo group.
If you're wondering how one man shoulders lyrical duties for three different bands, it's by writing about anything and everything. For proof, look to the opener of Pet Symmetry's EP, "A Detailed and Poetic Physical Threat to the Person Who Intentionally Vandalized my 1994 Dodge Intrepid Behind Kate’s Apartment." Saturday at 7:30, Center Stage.
Wicker Park Fest runs from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Milwaukee between North and Paulina. $5 suggested donation.