Pitchfork promises weekend of indie music, introduces new activities

By Sophia Coleman

The season of massive crowds, outdoor art exhibits and great music is upon the city, and one of the most affordable and diverse music festivals is only days away.

Pitchfork, an independent music publication, is gearing up for its seventh annual music festival, which takes place in the West Loop at Union Park July 13-15. The line up will feature nearly 50 acts, including popular indie artists such as Feist, Sleigh Bells, Beach House and Dirty Projectors.

“Our focus is always to put as much music on all of our stages as possible with the least amount of frustrations,” said Chris Kaskie, president of Pitchfork. “We want everyone to walk in and know they are in a comfortable environment to check out the music.”

While music is the main focus, this year Kaskie has expanded the festival’s repertoire to include a few new activities to entertain audiences between their favorite performances. The very first BookFort will take place, which will showcase the latest trends in the indie publishing world and give festivalgoers the opportunity to brush up on new authors and sit in on panel discussions.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what BookFort will be,” Kaskie said. “There’ll be a lot of readings and authors speaking, as well as books for sale.”

BookFort was created by Zach Dodson, an assistant professor in the Art and Design Department at Columbia and the creative director at Featherproof Books, a local indie publisher, together with Mairead Case, who is an editor at Featherproof and Special Events coordinator at Columbia. Case said that she sees BookFort as the literary equivalent to what’s happening on Pitchfork’s three music stages.

“It’s the exciting new, quality writing of today,” Case said. “Our mission is to create a space where folks can come browse bookshelves, chat directly with publishers and editors, and hear some really good readings.”

Also new to the festival is Johalla Projects, which will feature two interactive installations.  Anna Cerniglia, founder of the organization, said she wants the art to positively shift the mood and ambience of the festival.

Johalla Projects was founded in 2009 as a venue for emerging artists in all media and has since been transformed into a collaborative project space over the past year. Cerniglia said she was thrilled to become a part of Pitchfork this year, and is excited to see how people will react to the two installations.

“We could do so much with the installations,” Cerniglia said. “We could make it really simple or crazy, but what we wanted to do was make sure people took it in more, rather than make a kitschy environment.”

An 80-foot-long sculpture designed by artist Matthew Hoffman, will be adjacent to the Blue Stage. Hoffman has completed other works of art in Chicago, such as the “You are Beautiful Project.” Cerniglia said that Hoffman’s installation  incorporates the phrase “These Moments,” will encompass the overall feeling of the festival.

The other exhibit, created by local artist Andrea Jablonski, will festoon the VIP area with hundreds of balloons in different colors, shapes and sizes, including ones that glow in the dark.

CHIRP Record Fair, which Kaskie said is a huge highlight of the festival, is hosted by the Chicago Independent Radio Project and will offer attendees plenty of albums and other items for purchase. Proceeds support the not-for-profit community radio station and independent record stores and labels.

Coterie, another popular, long-time feature of Pitchfork, will display the wares of 40 artists and craftspeople. One-of-a-kind clothing, jewelry, artwork, home décor and other items will be available for purchase.

Another organization representing Chicago’s artist community is Flatstock, an ongoing and international series of exhibitions that feature handcrafted concert posters.

The posters will range in price from about $20 to $40, according to Dan MacAdam, who runs the Flatstock event and is a board member of the American Poster Institute.

“The idea behind Flatstock—as well as Pitchfork—is affordable art,” MacAdam said. “I think music is so closely linked to people’s identities and they see these posters and identify with them. This is the beginning of a fuller engagement, not just with music, but also with fine art.”

With approximately 44 exhibitors at Pitchfork—all with a hefty catalogue of prints—the silk-screened posters run the gamut, highlighting bands ranging from the obscure to the wildly popular. Some of the artists exhibiting their posters have been commissioned by bands performing at the fest, such as San Francisco experimental band The Oh Sees, and Liturgy, a metal band from Brooklyn.

Kaskie said that overall, he is proud of what Pitchfork has become over the past seven years because of its ability to represent and support the arts community and show it to the rest of the world. He said that he is excited to introduce livestreaming of the festival on YouTube, which will give people who were unable to buy tickets a chance to experience a real-time performance of some of their favorite bands.

“I think this year is going to be unique [compared to] any other year,” Kaskie said. “This is from a lineup standpoint and from our online community and how it translates to the real world.”

For more information on Pitchfork, including the full lineup, ticket prices and performance schedule, visit Pitchfork.com