Pitchfork Festival Underscores the Pressing Need for Justifying Rosters

Take a quick look at the lineups of all major music festivals in the United States this year and count the number of times you spot Kendrick Lamar, ODESZA, Foo Fighters, the Lumineers, the 1975 and Lana Del Rey. This can be fun till you place the texts side-by-side and it starts resembling a poorly plagiarized assignment with words and phrases unashamedly rearranged.

Premised on a one-size-fits all model, a disappointing number of these events have started morphing into one another.

With each passing year, gatherings that were once themed celebrations of creativity are turning into overpriced, indistinguishable cash grabs with no identity of their own. This is why it is necessary, now more than ever, for multi-stage concert rallies to stand for something.

The Merit of Purposeful Assemblage

Pitchfork, despite the countless times its writers have trashed the music we hold close to our hearts, is a force unto itself. Whereas average and under-par scores by the publication are tough to digest more often than not, a positive review by them carries more weight than outlets handing out As without restraint. Though a rubric may seem unnecessary in a taste-based sport, its value becomes apparent when it comes to curating a bill.

And that’s what Pitchfork Music Festival is — an exhibition of the material its journalistic namesake endorses by means of evidence and critique. In other words, each act summoned to take the Red, Blue and Green stages at Chicago’s Union Park year after year prove that there exist more angles to the arts and entertainment space other than mass appeal.

Of course, Pitchfork as a media and event brand doesn’t get to decide what’s objectively likable, but their team makes a case for it. That alone makes their annual showcase credible and worth believing in.

Thom Yorke w/ The Smile on Friday | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

Not everyone will agree that the Smile, Big Thief and Bon Iver deserve headlining spots, or any spot for that matter. Jockstrap is perhaps too weird for pop, JPEGMAFIA too noisy for hip-hop heads and illuminati hotties too annoying to the indie rock herd, but their placements are backed by scorecards graded per idiosyncratic resonance rather than stringent marketability.

Sarah Tudzin w/ illuminati hotties on Sunday | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

Music can be commercially successful and reflective of its numbers, but there’s a lot of great content out there that fails to get platformed due to operating at a smaller scale that isn’t accommodating of everyone’s taste and diet. Those acts deserve crowds of their own who champion them like their mainstream counterparts, and that is exactly what Pitchfork Music Festival seeks to provide … and tremendously at that.

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