When it comes to Chicago’s major summer music festivals, Pitchfork is the easiest to navigate. Still, there are tons of acts to see this weekend in Union Park. Even though the scale isn’t quite as daunting as Lollapalooza or Riot Fest, it’s virtually impossible to see every booking at Pitchfork (or to be familiar with the entire lineup).
Then there are the inevitable festival hurdles and distractions: heat, hunger, live-music saturation, and commerce (hello CHIRP record booth). The schedule we’ve crafted is but a mere suggestion—no one will be mad if you want to see Mount Kimbie instead of Courtney Barnett, and no one is expecting you to get there when the doors open each day. But if you’re the kind of intrepid audience member who wants to go full ‘fork, here are suggestions on what to see throughout the entire weekend.
Friday, July 20
The Curls: 1 p.m. (Green Stage)
Melkbelly: 1:45 p.m. (Red Stage)
Julie Byrne: 2:45 p.m. (Blue Stage)
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society: 3:20 p.m. (Red)
Tierra Whack: 4:15 p.m. (Green)
Saba: 5:15 p.m. (Red)
Big Thief: 6:30 p.m. (Blue)
Courtney Barnett: 7:25 p.m. (Red)
Tame Impala: 8:30 p.m. (Green)
If you have work off or you just decided to head to the festival on your lunch break without telling your boss, you’re in luck. Friday has historically been Pitchfork’s day to highlight rock bands on the lineup; this year’s edition kicks off with locals the Curls and Melkbelly. The middle of the day provides notable exceptions: Joshua Abrams and the Natural Information Society’s avant-garde psych-jazz and Chicago rapper Saba chief among them. But immediately following them is Big Thief, your favorite band’s favorite band. Close out the day with the Australian one-two punch of deft and clever songwriter Courtney Barnett and retro-rock masters Tame Impala.
Saturday, July 21
Paul Cherry: 1 p.m. (Green)
Nilüfer Yanya: 3:20 p.m. (Red)
Moses Sumney: 4:15 p.m. (Blue)
Raphael Saadiq: 5:15 p.m. (Red)
Blood Orange: 6:15 p.m. (Green)
Kelela: 7:45 p.m. (Blue)
Fleet Foxes: 8:30 p.m. (Green)
Getting to Union Park right when the gates open is a Herculean task, especially if you plan on drinking beers in 90-degree weather. But if there’s one day to get to Pitchfork on time, it’s Saturday, which opens with local singer-songwriter Paul Cherry’s smooth, psychedelic, and eccentric songs. The rest of the day showcases artists who are similarly predisposed to crafting catch tunes: rising London-based pop star and crowd pleaser Nilüfer Yanya, the silky crooner Moses Sumney, veteran vocalist Raphael Saadiq, and Prince acolyte Blood Orange. While no one would fault you for seeing the War on Drugs, you should instead check out futuristic R&B singer Kelela before the heady and spectral folk rock of headliner Fleet Foxes.
Sunday, July 22
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: 1 p.m. (Green)
Irreversible Entanglements: 1:45 p.m. (Red)
Kweku Collins: 2:30 p.m. (Green)
Ravyn Lenae: 3:20 p.m. (Red)
Japanese Breakfast: 4 p.m. (Blue)
Smino: 4:15 p.m. (Green)
Noname: 5:15 p.m. (Red)
DRAM: 6:15 p.m. (Green)
Chaka Khan: 7:25 p.m. (Red)
Ms. Lauryn Hill: 8:30 p.m. (Green)
Sundays tend to be Pitchfork’s best day, especially for fans of hip-hop, R&B, and experimental music. Because of that, the worst conflicts of the weekend occur, with overlaps in the afternoon such as Australian pop oddball Alex Cameron playing at the same time as local hero Noname. Split the difference during the four o’clock hour when Japanese Breakfast and Smino take the stage around the same time. Later in the day, “I’m Every Woman” singer Chaka Khan is the must-see show of this year’s lineup. And if Lauryn Hill forgoes her reputation as a late-arriving artist who frequently cancels shows, it’s tough to imagine a better day of live music.
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