Pitchfork holds its seventh annual summer music festival in Union Park in Chicago on July 13-15. In contrast to many summer festivals, Pitchfork remains comparatively small with only three stages and only two bands ever playing at the same time—a feature of tasteful simplicity that eliminates much of the stress involved in navigating larger festivals. Let’s go over the basics.
Pitchfork.com: the oft-divisive arbiters of ultra-hip music, a publication with a strong point of view, which is often inaccurately written off as impossibly New York-oriented. The Oxford American: a publication that understands what it means to have a strong point of view that is geographically biased, and sees that Pitchfork gives the South its due.
The two publications have a few things in common: a fondness for writers Amanda Petrusich and Rachel Maddux, as well as the Oxford-based record label, Fat Possum, whose roster boasts a staggering proportion of releases that clear Pitchfork’s coveted 8.0 hurdle (and six Best New Musics in the past two years, for those of us that monitor these numbers like sports stats) from artists from around around the world. The Oxford American offices also share a ZIP code (and a townie bar) with Pitchfork’s recently crowned token princes of doom metal, Pallbearer, whose album Sorrow and Extinction scored a Best New Music earlier this year.
Still, decisions need to be made if good spots are going to be secured on the lawn, thus we present The Oxford American’s “Southern” picks for the weekend.
The twenty-five-year-old Meridian, Mississippi, native has spent the past few years carving out a niche in Southern hip-hop that can be billed as “blue-collar” in contrast to the trends of chopped n’ screwed and crunk before it. He raps with a drawl that recalls Outkast’s Big Boi before him and his production (done largely by himself) is rich with soul samples and favors real guitars and saxophones to out-of-the-box synth sounds.
See Big K.R.I.T.: Friday, 6:25, Green Stage
The Olivia Tremor Control
An early product of the Elephant 6 collective in Athens, Georgia, (along with Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel) this much-celebrated psychedelic indie-rock band has been less than active the past few years, but has recently released some new music and has been tentatively playing a few dates. This is one of them, so catch them while you can.
See The Olivia Tremor Control: Friday, 4:25, Green Stage
Willis Earl Beal
This eccentric Chicagoan has seen so much attention in the past year or so that the myth surrounding him nearly overshadows his music, and while he isn’t a Southerner, we appreciate his gritty, soulful approach to the odd music he makes. “Take Me Away,” the second track on his 2012 album Acousmatic Sorcery commonly draws Tom Waits comparisons, but it reminds us more of something from a Tompkins Square compilation like This May Be My Last Time Singing—raw and unproduced and channeling something otherwordly.
See Willis Earl Beal: Friday, 4:15, Blue Stage
Yes, they’re a Baltimore band, and it may seem like a stretch, but bear with us for a second—for reasons we’d like to know more about, the freakier side of the Oxford, Mississippi, music scene has been nurtured by the Baltimore scene - there are a string of creative partnerships between Baltimore artists and Oxford artists. One example, though, is Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter’s (a Texas native) appearance on Junk Culture’s single, “Hang Roxy,” which came out late last year. At any rate, Lower Dens just put out a great album called “Nootropics.” Recommended for fans of Beach House.
See Lower Dens: Friday, 3:30, Red Stage
Idahoan Trevor Powers plays a sleepy, melancholic type of indie folk with lots of dreamy vocals and echoey Rhodes organ sounds. We’re not sure how this translates to the stage, but we’ve been surprised in the past at how well sleepy acts like Delorean, Woods, and Fleet Foxes adapt to the needs of a big festival audience. If you need to take it down a notch, check it out and show some Fat Possum solidarity.
See Youth Lagoon: Saturday, 3:45, Blue Stage
Garage rocker Ty Segall is a California native, but we’re officially declaring him an honorary Southerner, or at least an honorary Memphian due to his being entwined with Goner Records’ Memphis garage rock. The recent release of Ty Segall Band’s album Slaughterhouse brought an 8.7 blessing from Pitchfork, and we think it’s pretty well deserved.
See Ty Segall: Sunday, 3:20, Red Stage
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
This Portland psychedelic pop outfit is another one of Pitchfork’s Fat Possum darlings.
See Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Sunday, 1:45, Red Stage
Atlas Sound is the brainchild of Bradford Cox, the frontman of the band Deerhunter, of Atlanta. (Another Deerhunter member, Lockett Pundt, will be playing the festival with his side project, Lotus Plaza.) Cox is very tall and thin and sometimes wears lovely frocks onstage. And the music is atmospheric and beautiful.
See Atlas Sound: Saturday, 2:30, Green Stage