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Feature Thu Jul 12 2007

Pitchfork Music Festival Preview 2007

With a weather forecast that's for once not predicting heat stroke to coincide with the weekend of the now 3rd Annual Pitchfork Music Festival, and tickets already sold out well in advance, the crowds descending upon Chicago this coming weekend are going to be energized and ready to rock. Indeed, lucky are we that the tickets were (relatively) cheap for the festival line-up that is so wide and varied and worthy of our attention. There are Chicago bands, old bands, new bands, brass bands, DJs, and, oh yes, Yoko Ono all about to spill into Union Park at what's become a summer ritual for all true indie music fans. Below, Gapers Block: Transmission staff let you in on some of our picks for how to best spend a few days in the grass.

Friday, July 13th

Slint performs Spiderland / 6:30pm, Connector Stage
Given the odd number of awesomely (Yoko) stupid (Ono) hipster decisions that mark this year's Pitchfork Music Festival, it's perhaps not surprising that the organizers chose to kick things off with a band that (until recently) hasn't been active for years playing the entirety of a gloomy, dark record released after they broke up. Oh, and let's schedule this for when it's still bright outside. Idiots. Even still, you'd be a fool to miss this show — Slint's brand of textural post-rock might have never gotten them widespread attention, but Spiderland is one of those records that's instantly familiar, because everyone from Jack White to Timbaland has ripped it off. Released in 1991 on Chicago's Touch and Go, Spiderland features a potent mix of spoken lyrics, discordant guitar lines and subtly nuanced drumming constantly building up to and falling back from the edge until it barrels right over. Depending on how things looks like they'll sound, your best bet is to avoid the jammed denim masses at the front of the stage and find a nice grassy spot to sit down on with some friends — Spiderland is an eyes-closed experience, and, as with all things, you're better off on your back and slightly drunk when it happens to you.
-Nilay Patel

GZA performs Liquid Swords / 7:45pm, Aluminum Stage
When GZA's Liquid Swords dropped in 1995 (hot on the heels of mother-group the Wu-Tang Clan's debut), Gangsta rap was still king, and Dr. Dre's loping beats and easy-to-follow narratives were the template. But in hip hop, each classic album crowns a new king while bluntly dethroning the predecessor. One can't help but think of the anecdote about John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, in which tenor saxists like Sonny Rollins hid out for six months after its release, woodshedding the new style, knowing that inaction would be an invitation to obsolescence. GZA's lyrics are literate and exact, his flow tight and loquacious — imagine AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted without the shock tactics, or The Infamous Mobb Deep with less braggadocio. Add the production wizardry of the RZA, a man who shaped the solo records of GZA, Method Man, AND Ol' Dirty Bastard using the exact same basic materials, and you find yourself with an album that's every bit the enduring as Daydream Nation or Spiderland. Maybe more. I promise you won't have to explain to your grandchildren what was so great about Liquid Swords. It'll still be there.
-Chris Sienko

Sonic Youth performs Daydream Nation / 9pm, Aluminum Stage
If you don't know about Sonic Youth by now, you are probably reading the wrong column. Gallons of ink have been spilled over this seminal post-punk band since their early-'80s beginnings, and it would be nigh on impossible to overestimate the role they have played in establishing the "indie" genre that the Pitchfork Festival seems to celebrate. Without wasting much bluster on a band that has already amply proven to be both innovative and durable, Friday night's headline set as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties/Pitchfork collaboration promises something special: a complete performance of their epic 1989 double album Daydream Nation. A sprawling, yet meticulous album that helped usher in the new DIY ethos that became '90s alternative rock. The slow build and burn Teenage Riot nestles with the hazy sonic collage Providence and the buzzy urgency of Eric's Trip. Live, the Youth can definitely bring it, and a whole performance of their most remarkable album should be one to remember.
-Dan Snedigar

Saturday, July 14th

Ken Vandermark and Powerhhouse Sound / 1pm, Balance Stage
No artist wants their breakout into the mainstream to be rife with controversy, but a LOT of people got hip to Ken Vandermark when the furor over his being awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant splashed onto the pages of the hometown papers. A native Chicagoan, this is the man's backyard, but it won't be just him doing what he does. Powerhouse Sound, a collection of musicians who bring a funk-rock-jazz mix, should show the audience how a saxophone can fit in an up-tempo groove with loud rock noise. This won't be slow, we guarantee.
-Troy Hunter

Califone / 1:30pm, Aluminum Stage
Pitchfork seems to be an experimental post-rock festival this year, and so it's not surprising that they've lined up Chicago's own Califone to kick off the Aluminum Stage on Day 2. Last year's /Roots and Crowns/ garnered main man Tim Rutili and his crew a lot of praise for their masterfully layered electro-folk rock (the Pitchfork review breathlessly creams all over itself), and it would be a surprise if the band didn't lean on that material heavily. Califone has been called a "thinking man's jam band," and, as paradoxical as that description may seem, there's a lot of room for the group to stretch out and noodle during tracks like "Spider's House" and "Black Metal Valentine," so just discount your sudden alarming desire to, like, wear a hemp poncho and smell like ass and get through it, hippie — Califone has plenty of better tricks up their sleeve.
-Nilay Patel

Voxtrot / 2pm, Connector Stage
Yet another Austin (TX) band blowing up over the last few years, Voxtrot sprung onto radars with a trifecta of EPs in 2005 and 2006 that garnered a fair amount of comparisons to Belle & Sebastian ("The Start of Something") and the Housemartins ("Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives"). They've graduated from last year's pre-festival show at Metro to a slot at the actual festival. With numerous shows at Subterranean, Beat Kitchen, and Empty Bottle in the past, Voxtrot has shown a knack for energizing typically tame Chicago crowds with their high energy sets of pop-influenced riffs and minimally melodramatic subject matter. They'll hit the Connector Stage 2pm, which should suit them just fine if the sun is shining brightly.
-James Ziegenfus

Beach House / 3:10pm, Balance Stage
The beautiful sounds of Baltimore's shoecore couple Beach House was one of the nicest surprises of last year. Their freshman self-titled breakthrough bridges the gap between lo-fi folk and shoegaze dalliance with candor, laying haunting melodies upon subdued guitar wrangling and primitive percussion. Vocalist Victoria Legrand mystically enraptures your eardrums while Alex Scally's instrumentation soothes your soul. The result is otherworldly, yet also nostalgic, like remembering dreams you had as a kid. Single "Apple Orchard" has just this character. With such silky affection, the verdict is out as to how Beach House will do for an outdoor festival crowd. But if they're given a quiet space to develop, there's no telling where the music will take the indie faithful.
-Brandon Forbes

Battles / 4pm, Connector Stage
Even without the high temperatures this weekend, Battles will melt yr face. Featuring former members of Don Cab, Helmet and Lynx, along with reedist Anthony Braxton's son, Tyondai (who's also made a name for himself as a solo artist), everything old is new again, as the musical DNA from each of the former projects creates a hyperkinetic tapestry of prog, post-, pre-whatever. After taking time to release a trio of EPs, Battles released its debut album, Mirrored, on Warp earlier this year, and it's their most accomplished recording yet. This band is fast and loose, yet tight as hell. It's hard to make sense of it in a just a few words, so just show up. Oh, yeah, and here's your jam of the summer: "Tonto".
-JP Pfafflin

Professor Murder / 5:15pm, Balance Stage
This Brooklyn-based pot-n-party band is content with keeping dance-punk alive and kicking — just with a lot more cowbell and whistles. Prof Murder's first EP, Ride The Subway, received rave reviews from the Blog-set for its percussive, self-professed brand of "happy hardcore," and Pitchfork debuted the group's latest single, "Dutch Hex," earlier this month. Git ready to get dooooown, and expect to hear a lot more from these freshmen party planners in the near future. RIYL: !!!, PiL, A Certain Ratio
-JP Pfafflin

Dan Deacon / 7:15pm, Balance Stage
Baltimore's one-man party machine, Dan Deacon has been turning up everywhere lately. From unforgettable interviews and performances on The Today Show to write-ups in Rolling Stone, the classically trained composer turned noisenik seems unstoppable. Resembling Atom and His Package, with a much more evolved and convoluted package, Deacon combines vocoders, modulators and pitch shifters galore with his very own light show, ensuring and directing the non-stop limb-flailing free for all of his shows. Enlisting the help of robe-wearing volunteers in all of the cities on his current tour, Chicago's show looks to be a performance of epic proportions.
-John Lombardo

Girl Talk / 8:30pm, Balance Stage
Negativland. Freelance Hellraiser. Dangermouse. These artists and more helped usher in the mainstream introduction to mash-ups, and to some of the most vexing questions of the decade, both legally and artistically. Yet at the moment, one artist is getting all the press, all the sold-out concerts, and all the congressman hang-out sessions: Girl Talk. Is it just the flavor of the moment? Is it the shirtless and sweaty effort he puts into every show? Is it the wireless-laptop-and-propane-fueled-speakers-on-a-wagon alley-concert-after-a-concert that he held last week after his set at the Montreal Jazz Fest? All of the above, of course — but if Mr. Gillis outdoes his most recent stunt for Pitchfork, his set will be the stuff of legend.
-Dan Morgridge

Yoko Ono / 9pm, Aluminum stage
Were you to gauge it all by commercial standards, it would be easy to dismiss Yoko Ono's music career as superfluous and inconsequential—as many have done for nearly four decades. But that picture changes drastically when viewed from the vantage of the indie and underground music scenes. Throughout the years, her work has unpredictably veered from the most severely experimental and amusical to disarmingly simple pop songs to edgy, dancefloor-friendly fare, all the while inspiring generations of musicians laboring on the fringes of the mainstream. The duration and range of this influence was given some of its propers on her recent releases Yes, I'm a Witch and Open Your Box, on which a range of artists — from Peaches and Le Tigre to Anthony & The Johnsons and the Flaming Lips — were invited to rework or remix a selection of songs drawn from the full spectrum of Ono's back catalog. A late addition to the Festival roster, Saturday evening's headlining set makes for a rare live appearance from Ono, who has curtailed touring and live performances in recent years. According to Pitchfork, she'll be appearing "with special guests;" but so far there's been no word on just who that might include.
-Graham Sanford

Sunday, July 15th

Fred Lonberg-Holm's Lightbox Orchestra / 1pm, Balance Stage
With a rotating cast of musicians from the rock, jazz, free improv, and noise spheres, and a piece of operating machinery that resembles a Lost In Space-era "super" computer, the Lightbox Orchestra (under the conduction of 'cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm) creates another method of placing four walls around chaos. Lonberg-Holm conducts each piece using a box with colored lights, each representing a musician on stage. He turns them on and off to instigate duos, trios, ensembles, sparring matches or sudden solos. Unlike the game systems of John Zorn (Cobra, et al.) or the "Conduction" approach of Butch Morris, a Lightbox musician don't need to respond to every cue — if it ain't happenin', it ain't happenin'. The conductions can whip the group into steely mountains of hubbub, or strip away layers of musical conditioning, midwifing an array of truly gorgeous interactions; a fugue for laptop and contrabass clarinet, say. Jazz musicians dominate this lineup, but wild cards like Todd Carter (TV Pow) and Jeff Parker (Tortoise) suggest that anything, indeed, will be possible.
-Chris Sienko

Deerhunter / 1pm, Connector Stage
If there's one buzzworthy band I'd have expected to see at Pitchfork this year, it's Deerhunter. The quintet, straight outta Atlanta, Georgia hit the ground running hard this year with a well-received trip to SXSW and a supporting role with The Ponys 2007 tour, all-the-while, Chicago's Kranky Records was slinging their new album Cryptograms around. (Catch the title track here [mp3].) Deerhunter's a psych-pop journey into the minds of some of your best friends from high school. These boys are young, but oh-so-fascinating to watch in concert. Lead singer and definite standout Bradford Cox sways, he croons, he screams a lot, then he jumps up on the monitors and spreads his wings wide, then he screams some more. (Watching him perform with the band this spring at the Empty Bottle, I had a moment where I swore he was channeling some scenes from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls but I'm not sure if that will ever be recreated again.) These boys are experimental, for sure, and in that respect, they'll certainly go on polarizing their audiences forever (they even collect bad reviews on their MySpace page). Check them out, if it's not your thing, don't beat yourself up about it.
-Anne Holub

Menomena / 2pm, Connector Stage
While adjectives like "avant-garde," "experimental," or "progressive" are thrown around referring to Portland's Menomena, the one that makes the most sense to me is: compelling. On 2003's I Am the Fun Blame Monster, recorded utilizing a computer program developed by band member Brent Knopf, sultry percussion, bouncing sax, and spacey melodies mix in spellbinding fashion. This year's Friend and Foe takes Menomena's sound to more adventuresome levels, combining the expected drum and bass loops with found piano ditties, power organ, and uplifting harmonies. Notable tracks include the church revelation feel of "Muscle'n Flo" and the acoustic rhythm of "Wet and Rusting." Get ready to get compelled.
-Brandon Forbes

Brightblack Morning Light / 2pm, Balance Stage
A quote from the band's bio may be the best place to start to get a feel for Brightblack Morning Light. "Brightblack Morning Light is the cooperative song work of best friends, N. Shinywater and Rachel Hughes...among other good friends and herbs." There are a couple of clues to this band's freak folk sound in this short sentence, namely the word "cooperative" (which all but screams left wing, commie sympathizers) and the suspicious word "herbs". Expect the smell of "herbs" to be strong during this band's trippy (hippy) set. Listen to the song "Everybody New" [mp3] from the band's Matador Records' debut.
-Craig Bonnell

NOMO / 3:10pm, Balance Stage
After the release of their excellent "New Tones" last year, NOMO succeeded where other brass bands had failed — they got a decent review from Pitchfork. While not as booty-quaking as say, a Youngblood Brass Band, Nomo brings a Fela Kuti-meets-Miles Davis tight and cool approach to their groove. The tent has always been Pitchfork's hiding place for experimental jazzbos, electronica, and dancing — blame it on a case of Not In My Indie Backyard, or just an appropriately intimate stage setting for intimate bands — but that's where you'll find NOMO. And while all the weekend jazz combos of Chicago will be nodding their heads in approval at the front of the crowd, you can bet that there will be others getting their nasty groove on in the back.
-Dan Morgridge

The Sea and Cake / 4pm, Connector Stage
The Sea and Cake, our very own Chicago boys, will be gracing the stage this afternoon just a few months into promoting their latest album, Everybody. Sporting a slightly harder sound this time around, (though a hard Sea and Cake may sound like an oxymoron to some die-hard fans), the band is still peppering their sets with plenty of crowd favorites like "Jacking the Ball" and "Bring My Car I Feel to Smash It". Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt and the boys bring their soulful post-rock back to their latest work with just a touch of, I don't know, call it, maturity? Can you say that about a band that continually reminds one of a wizened grad student, telling dreamy tales at the bar near campus night after night? It seems like The Sea and Cake will always be around, as a perennial part of the Chicago music scene. Though, this is likely going to be a quite rare chance to catch them out-of-doors, in the (gasp) fresh air and sunshine while they peddle their new wares. You never know when the ride's going to stop, folks, so come on out before it gets dark and catch the band in action.
-Anne Holub

Jamie Lidell / 5pm, Aluminum Stage
It wasn't so long ago that people were hearing Multiply and asking, "That's the guy from Super Collider?" Yes, Jamie Lidell's soul-influenced effort caught many people off-guard in 2005. Outside of the title track and a few other songs like "Game for Fools" and "What's the Use", though, it was pretty true to a Warp Records release. So when Lidell first toured the US that fall and treated crowds to a lot of bleeps and bloops via samplers, it shouldn't've been a surprise. As evidenced in YouTube's hereand here, Lidell's a showman and his true love is electronics.
-James Ziegenfus

The Cool Kids / 5:15pm, Balance Stage
It's been a wild and unpredictable year for the Chicago club scene. Thanks to MySpace and the proliferation of mp3 blogs, it seems like there are lots of people outside of Chicago who are more knowledgeable about breaking Chicago DJs, remixers, and emcees than the people who staff the local dance-music record stores. First Flosstradamus and Kid Sister quickly blew up on the national (and international) scene, and now it looks like the Cool Kids are right behind them. They've gone from blip to boom with whiplash speed, and recent appearances around town have been drawing large and very lively crowds. Don't let the skrewed and easy-rolling mode of their mp3 tracks fool you — when it comes to kicking it live, the Cool Kids notch it up for maximum bump and bouncitude. Apparently their appearance at Lollapalooza has fallen through, so here's your chance to check them out when they represent the new Chi swing with their set on the Balance stage on Sunday afternoon.
-Graham Sanford

Cadence Weapon / 6:15pm, Balance Stage
The kid's a one-man show, and at 19, he's a touring vet, so at the very least, he oughta be entertaining. The kid's done remixes, he's put his friends on, he's repped Edmonton to the fullest, and now Chicago gets to meet him. He'll be promoting his latest, "Breaking Kayfabe", so the sounds may be new to all concerned. Check the myspace page for videos and to sample his flow.
-Troy Hunter

De La Soul / 9pm, Aluminum Stage
Acting as one of hip hop's longest running and most innovative acts, De La Soul has come out of hibernation to reclaim their throne. Known widely for their groundbreaking debut 3 Feet High and Rising, and their later hip-hop classic Stakes is High, Plug One, Two and Three (Posdnuos, Maseo and Dave) return to the main stage after a noticeable a three year absence. Don't miss your chance to see these Hip-Hop legends as they close out the Pitchfork Music Festival Sunday night!
-John Lombardo

Pitchfork Music Festival 2007, Union Park, Chicago

Friday, July 13 (in conjunction with ATP/Don't Look Back) Line-up
6:30 - Slint perform Spiderland (C)
7:45 - GZA performs Liquid Swords (A)
9:00 - Sonic Youth perform Daydream Nation (A)

Saturday, July 14 Line-up
1:00 - The Twilight Sad (C)
1:00 - Ken Vandermark's Powerhouse Sound (B)
1:30 - Califone (A)
2:00 - Voxtrot (C)
2:00 - William Parker Quartet (B)
3:00 - Grizzly Bear (A)
3:10 - Beach House (B)
4:00 - Battles (C)
4:10 - Fujiya & Miyagi (B)
5:00 - Iron and Wine (A)
5:15 - Professor Murder (B)
6:00 - Mastodon (C)
6:15 - Oxford Collapse (B)
7:00 - Clipse (A)
7:15 - Dan Deacon (B)
8:00 - Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues (C)
8:30 - Girl Talk (B)
9:00 - Yoko Ono (with special guests) (A)

Sunday, July 15 Line-up
1:00 - Deerhunter (C)
1:00 - Fred Lonberg-Holm's Lightbox Orchestra (B)
1:30 - The Ponys (A)
2:00 - Menomena (C)
2:00 - Brightblack Morning Light (B)
3:00 - Junior Boys (A)
3:10 - Nomo (B)
4:00 - The Sea and Cake (C)
4:10 - Craig Taborn's Junk Magic (B)
5:00 - Jamie Lidell (A)
5:15 - The Cool Kids (B)
6:00 - Stephen Malkmus (C)
6:15 - Cadence Weapon (B)
7:00 - Of Montreal (A)
7:15 - The Field (B)
8:00 - The New Pornographers (C)
8:30 - Klaxons (B)
9:00 - De La Soul (A)

(A) - Aluminum Stage
(B) - Balance Stage
(C) - Connector Stage

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
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Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


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Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
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Park West
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Red Line Tap
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Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

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  & Shops:

Alligator Records
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Dave's Records
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Groove Distribution
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Jam Productions
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Minty Fresh
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mP Shows
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