15 Essential Tracks to Listen to Before Pitchfork Music Festival

On July 14th, Pitchfork Music Festival will return to Chicago’s Union Park with an impressive lineup of hip-hop, indie folk, and electronica. The festival is now in its 11th year and still boasting some of the most exciting acts of the year. Unlike Chicago’s other premier music festivals, Pitchfork keeps things pretty mellow and only showcases 13 or 14 acts each day. Festival-goers could easily walk around and see every act, or they could camp out at one of the three stages and wait for the headliners to close out the night.

What Pitchfork lacks in quantity, however, it easily makes up for in quality. Every musician is worthy of their place in the festival. Here are some essential tracks to get you hyped up for what’s to come.

  1. Vince Staples: Rain Come Down

Vince Staples has been making music since 2009 but has blown up since the release of his album Summertime ‘06 in 2015. At 24, Staples has already made a name for himself as a thought-provoking artist who’s breaking the mold of what hip-hop looks like. A self-described ‘straight-edge’ artist, Staples has been praised by critics, artists, and fans of gangsta rap and alternative hip-hop alike. His high energy stage presence and rapt lyrics keep him on the edge of the game.

Vince Staples will be performing on Friday, July 14th at 4pm.

  1. Frankie Cosmos: Outside with the Cuties

Frankie Cosmos (fka Ingrid Superstar) is the quintessential example of the sound of Pitchfork. A folk singer/songwriter who draws inspiration from Frank O’Hara’s poetry and DIY folk/punk bands, Cosmos released her first album in 2014 after writing and publishing her music independently on Bandcamp. Cosmos’ set will be stripped down and understated, which is a perfect way to start the weekend.

Catch Frankie Cosmos at 5:15pm on Friday, July 14th.

  1. Dirty Projectors: Little Bubble

David Longstreth has been the frontman for Dirty Projectors since its inception, yet nearly everything else has changed. The band has gone through its share of lineup changes in the past 15 years, but after eight studio albums and three EPs (including a powerful collaboration with Bjork), the band is still making interesting electronica tunes. Another act that is synonymous with Pitchfork’s vibe, Longstreth and the newest batch of band members will be a perfect Chicago evening experience.

Dirty Projectors will be performing on Friday, July 14th at 7pm.

  1. Arca & Jesse Kanda: TRAUMA Scene 1

Arca is a Venezuelan electronica artist who spins gothic sounds. Jesse Kanda is a visual artist who has created pieces for FKA Twigs and Bjork. Together, they are a duo that combine performance art as much as music. Arca is known to push his image to the extreme but in a way that doesn’t feel pretentious. The collaboration has spawned a number of exciting (and often creepy) tracks that will enthrall and entice Pitchfork’s audience.

Arca & Jesse Kanda will be performing on Friday, July 14th at 7:45pm.

  1. LCD Soundsystem: Call the Police

What can be said about James Murphy and co that hasn’t been said a million times before? The band announced their breakup in 2011, but rumors of new music and shows started surfacing in late 2015. To everyone’s delight, not only has LCD Soundsystem reunited, their new album (American Dream) will be released in September. Their newest single, “Call the Police”, boasts a heavy hint of U2 and Brian Eno and sounds like Murphy has found his stride once again. But, did we ever really doubt that he’d lost it?

LCD Soundsystem close Day 1 of Pitchfork at 8:10pm on Friday, July 14th.

  1. Jeff Rosenstock: Wave Goodnight To Me

Fronting such punk bands as The Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Bomb the Music Industry!, Jeff Rosenstock has become a pretty well-known name. His third solo album, WORRY, keeps many of the same punk rock themes that have defined his musical career. Each track off this newest album has a fun, danceable energy while still grounded firmly in punk rock. While Rosenstock would fit in at Riot Fest just as well, his DIY approach to music and production makes him a solid fit for Pitchfork.

Check out Jeff Rosenstock at 1:45pm on Saturday, July 15th.

  1. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic: “Flashlight”

Do not miss George Clinton. This is an order. One of the founders of funk, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic wrote some of the greatest tunes of the 1970s, including “Maggot Brain” and “Flashlight”. The original ten-piece band has since included dozens of incredible musicians, but Clinton has always been the vocalist. P-Funk have played sold-out theatres and closed neighborhood dive bars, but seeing them onstage at Pitchfork will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the weekend.

George Clinton and P-Funk play on Saturday, July 15th at 4:15pm.

  1. Francis and the Lights: May I Have this Dance (Feat. Chance the Rapper)

It’s hard to believe that Francis and the Lights has only one studio album. Farewell Starlite! has topped nearly every indie publication’s list in the past year, and this album is only the beginning. Francis Farewell Starlite has collaborated with Bon Iver, Kanye West, and Chance the Rapper, and his distinct vocals and synths (think Peter Gabriel meets Zero 7) make him one of the most exciting acts at Pitchfork this year. His live set is accompanied by beautiful lights and visuals, so be sure to get a front-row spot.

Francis and the Lights will be performing on Saturday, July 15th at 5:15pm.

  1. Angel Olsen: Shut Up Kiss Me

Angel Olsen sounds like a combination of Debbie Harry and a Diablo Cody movie: true indie rock with just a little bit of guttural punk. She has become a favorite in Chicago, playing local shows and festivals since moving to the city after graduating from high school in St. Louis. Olsen’s stage presence is often described as mesmerizing, taking the ‘less is more’ approach and letting her vocals and songwriting skills speak for themselves. Her sultry twang will keep her right at home in Chicago and on the Green Stage at Pitchfork.

Don’t miss Angel Olsen on Saturday, July 15th at 6:15pm.

  1. PJ Harvey: The Wheel

Pitchfork brings a lot of nostalgic acts to their festival, but they only do so with artists whose staying power has proven their worth. PJ Harvey was one of the most prolific alt-rock girls of the 90s, and her songs (new and old) continue to be staples of the scene. Harvey is the only artist to have won the coveted Mercury Prize twice, and her iconic style changes with every album (think David Bowie or Prince). She will no doubt play her most well-known hits, but check out “The Wheel” from her newest album, The Hope Six Demolition Project.

PJ Harvey is scheduled to perform on Saturday, July 15th at 7:25pm.

  1. A Tribe Called Quest: Movin’ Backwards

Even though A Tribe Called Quest made it big in the 1980s, their newest album We Got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is just as important as their older records. The group formed in Brooklyn during Reagan’s presidency, which echoed a lot of the same racial tension and conservative fear mongering that’s happening today. Their political and social call to arms was not unique, but it certainly left a lasting impression and continues to be an important thread in their songs. A Tribe Called Quest will close out Saturday at Pitchfork and undoubtedly bring Union Park together for the night.

A Tribe Called Quest will perform on Saturday, July 15th at 8:30pm.

  1. Joey Purp: Money & Bitches (feat. Mick Jenkins)

Chicago rapper Joey Purp became well known as a member of Savemoney, a Chicago crew featuring Vic Mensa amongst others. Like a lot of Chicago rappers, he started collaborating with other Chicago artists like Chance the Rapper and Towkio and released his first mixtape The Purple Tape in 2012. His second mixtape, iiiDrops came out last year and was listed as “Best New Music” by Pitchfork. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Purp brought out some of his Chicago pals for this set.

Check out Joey Purp at 4pm on Sunday, July 16th.

  1. The Avalanches: Because I’m Me

Australian electroboyz The Avalanches created some of the catchiest songs of the early 2000s but had a revolving door of band members. Their first album, Since I Left You, was praised across the globe and left fans wanting more, but it was the only album the band would release for 16 years. To everyone’s surprise, Wildflower dropped in 2016, composed of psychedelic and motown-inspired songs. While the group has collaborated and written songs in between these albums, it will be amazing to see these guys live performing a more comprehensive catalogue of their own design.

Check out The Avalanches at 6:15pm on Sunday, July 16th.

  1. Jamila Woods: Blk Girl Soldier

Pitchfork loves to showcase Chicago artists, and Jamila Woods is one of the strongest Chicago artists on the bill. Woods’ first studio album, HEAVN, featured collaborations from Chicago artists Saba, Noname, and Chance the Rapper, but Woods doesn’t rely on any of these names to boost her career. Her soulful voice and spiritual lyrics make her one of the most important black female singers on the airwaves. Her performance will undoubtedly be a perfect compliment to Solange’s closing set.

Jamila Woods is playing on Sunday, July 16th at 6:30pm.

  1. Solange: Don’t Touch My Hair

It’s more than impressive that Beyonce’s little sister was able to release an album the same year as Lemonade and receive acclaim and praise all on her own. Solange’s 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, is an unapologetic, emotional journey that gave Solange the chance to reclaim her blackness and feminist roots from her previous pop albums. Her live performance will be an incredible way to end Pitchfork’s 3-day festival, and it will undoubtedly be one of the highlights that have people pining for the 2018 lineup the next day.

Solange will be closing out Pitchfork on Sunday, July 16th at 8:30pm.

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