Number one best! Major Lazer’s Skerrit Bwoy crowdsurfs during his performance on Sunday at Pitchfork Music Festival.


Even the heat could not stop our compulsive note-taking.

Warning: The following post contains the phrases “ball gag,” “dry hump,” and “drug paraphernalia.” Proceed at your own risk.

FESTIVALS Pitchfork, the city’s second largest summer music event (behind Lollapalooza), drew 54,000 to Union Park over the weekend. The usual specimens were all there: the erudite indie rock fans, the gaggles of teens, the boys in moustaches, the hipster parents with their babies in headphones. Chicago magazine photographers Esther Kang and Ray Whitehouse and senior editor Cassie Walker were there to capture the best, the worst, and the curious from the event, which was (let’s just get it out the way) scorching, crowded, and, as happens every year, full of audible rewards for those who stuck it through anyway.

1. Major Lazer: The DJ’s Diplo and Switch met working with one of our favorite female rappers, M.I.A., and their union is an off the hook fusion of hip-hop, reggae, and dancehall. Their stage show, led by Skerrit Bwoy, can be summed up in five words: downright raunchy beats and dry humps. Their performance schtick—a pro-wrestling like ladder leap onto a dancer spread eagle on the stage—sounds completely ridiculous, and it was. But, for my crew, it was a welcome change from the parade of mopey indie frontmen hiding behind their broken hearts and $400 sunglasses.
2. Surfer Blood: I was introduced to this Florida group—a poor man’s Vampire Weekend—by my friend during a recent camping trip. The catchy hooks and islandy riffs made the perfect soundtrack for a canoe trek down the Wisconsin River, and, though I had my doubts, they actually held up live. Their song “Swim” was a Sunday highlight.
3. LCD Soundsystem: After one of the most lauded albums so far of 2010 and a performance Saturday night that left us enraptured, we beg you, wise and seasoned frontman James Murphy, do not make good on your promises to retire.
4. Robyn: The Swedish pop star had her first hit at 16, so you’d think that, by 31, it would all be downhill. On the contrary, the petite songstress inspired some indie fest fist pumping of her own with the songs “Dancing On My Own” and “With Every Heartbeat.”
5. Beach House: After seeing this ethereal Maryland duo play an eerily quiet set in a downtown church in 2008, I wasn’t sure how their dreamy, wandering sound would filter out to a crowded field. They sounded louder, stronger, more sure of themselves—but still layered, haunted, and inspired.
6. Titus Andronicus: Indie-punk with a name inspired by Shakespeare and a female guitarist who looks like she’s 16 and having the time of her life. They led their set with “A More Perfect Union,” a summer anthem that gives a nod to their Jersey roots and brilliantly pillages Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”
7. Flatstock: Not a band, but the annual poster convention that sets up in the southeastern corner of the fest. Check out our photo gallery of Chicago’s representatives, including Jay Ryan’s Bird Machine and new favorite industrial poster studio Crosshair.

1. Freddie Gibbs: Hate to be a hater, but the Gary, Indiana-born rapper’s “make money, money, make money, money” mantra sounded like dimestore hip-hop. Took the 10-year-old in the crew thinking it would be a dance party; left quickly under the assault of tired “playa” imagery and f-bombs.
2. Panda Bear: Love the sound, decidedly not into his one-man live show.
3. Sleigh Bells: Was on the fence about this electronica duo from Brooklyn before I saw the set, and left feeling the same way after seeing them live. Why can’t they harness the magic consistently?
4. Smith Westerns: Hooky but not memorable tunes from a Chicago band that’s curiously on the rise.

1. Lightning Bolt: The rare band to be fronted by a drummer. Probably the only band to be fronted by a drummer wearing a mask and what looked like a ball gag. Divided my crew—some said brilliant, others were confused. All stood watching with mouths slightly agape.
2. Hannibal Buress: Love the Chicago expat comedian, who just finished his first season writing for Saturday Night Live. Not convinced that introducing stand-up comedy is the best choice for a festival that’s plagued by inconsistencies on the soundboard.
3. Drug paraphernalia: Was everybody in Union Park high?
4. Pitchfork fashion: I’m not a snob, but I took an informal poll, and we all agreed that it was not a good year for brilliant hipster style. To be fair, when the temps reach a stifling 90 degrees, it’s hard to rock much more than a tank top and gym shorts. Check out our photogs’ style gallery and decide for yourself.

  • The Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot makes mini-videos after the individual performances and includes a puzzling soliloquy Jon Spencer’s leather pants.


Photograph: Ray Whitehouse