If you can believe Pitchfork's own reviews, the first Pitchfork Music Festival (or second, if you count the webzine's curatorial input on last year's Intonation Festival) promised a 7.7 rating out of 10, based on the average score given to the festival acts' most recent full-length discs. The reality, of course, was just as subjective as any review, but by our measure, Pitchfork Fest deserves an 8.3. Three of The A.V. Club's Chicago-based writers were on hand to enjoy—and judge—the event. Here's a minute-by-minute take on the festivities.

Saturday, July 29

2:34 p.m.: The festival's longwinded emcee makes the perfect Pitchfork-esque introduction for Band Of Horses: an interminably long story about his father moving to Chicago and some family reunion in South Carolina. Seriously, dude, can it and let the band play. (KR)


2:35 p.m.: Band Of Horses makes me worry slightly that the whole idea of this festival is wrong: This great band, whose Everything All The Time is one of this year's best, doesn't seem made for sunshine, blazing heat, and a big field. The band is still excellent, and Ben Bridwell's voice carries magically, but I can't help thinking how much better this would be back at Schubas. (JM)

3:47 p.m.: It's pretty amazing to walk anywhere in Union Park and hear what's happening on one of the two big stages. Even if what you're hearing is the voice of Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, which cuts deeply—for some it's pain, for others pleasure. (JM)


4:14 p.m.: A lot of great T-shirts showed up at Pitchfork Fest, plenty from kick-ass local company Threadless, and plenty of ironic kiddie shirts. The best: a considerably overweight dude in an "I Beat Anorexia" T. Sure, it's easy, but it works. On sale at the craft fair (which was pretty great, actually), a shirt that reads: "I'm so indie, I make Daniel Smith look like John Darnielle." If you get that, you read Pitchfork a lot. (JM)

4:36 p.m.: My tastes get reinforced: I like Dan Bejar much more in The New Pornographers than I do in Destroyer. (KR)


5:26 p.m.: Art Brut proves the Band Of Horses theory completely wrong; this band is built for huge outdoor festivals, and mustacheless frontman Eddie Argos eats up the energy. (JM)

5:40 p.m.: Art Brut somehow makes the awesome song "Moving To L.A." even more awesome by supplementing the line about drinking "Hennessey with Morrissey" with variations like "I'm drinking pinot with Brian Eno" and "I'm drinking sherry with Bryan Ferry." (KP)

5:54 p.m.: Argos' chest, a big portion of which peaks out from his mostly unbuttoned shirt, grows more sunburned by the moment, settling into a deep shade of crimson. He's gonna have a rough week. (KR)


6:10 p.m.: Ted Leo + Pharmacists play an impassioned set featuring new songs that sound pretty great. Here's a case for geography not being destiny: Leo is from the East Coast, not Ireland. So why does he play guitar like an alternate-universe The Edge who joined a kicking Thin Lizzy cover band? (KP)

7:15 p.m.: The Walkmen are short a drummer—he's off becoming a daddy—but they announce that Hugh McIntosh of Bad Company will fill in. (We suspect it's actually Hugh McIntosh of The French Kicks.) They rollick through an endearingly sloppy set; people rock to "The Rat," unsurprisingly. (JM)

8:10 p.m.: It's time for The Futureheads, whose patented brand of angular, early-XTC-influenced (okay, early XTC-derived) pop sounds as tight as it does expressive in the open air. One small problem: I'd just read Simon Reynolds' great post-punk history Rip It Up And Start Again, and I couldn't mentally get over his comment about how the new wave of post-punk sounds great but lacks the revolutionary musical and political principles that music had the first time around. But it does sound great. (KP)


8:49 p.m.: A-Trak sounds like a more mainstream DJ Shadow, and that's cool with me. (JM)

9:21 p.m.: The fact that The Silver Jews haven't toured for so long makes the experience—comparatively slick, well-practiced—seem a little anticlimactic. They do play "Smith And Jones Forever," though. (JM)

9:30 p.m.: Finish the Silver Jews set and use Port-A-Lets that have been stewing in the sun all day and are now completely in the dark? Or go to the gas station down the road? The music loses, sadly. (KP)



Sunday, July 30

1 p.m.: You know what isn't cool? Imitating a religious group in the name of viral marketing. Someone should tell that to the group of un-monk-like "Buddhist monks" handing out fortune cookies with a promise of a chance to "win $10,000" outside the fest. Which one of the four noble truths covers seeking material gain through contests? (KP)


2 p.m.: Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman shows up with an all-female band clad entirely in white. But of course. He's funny and writes memorable songs, although not always at the same time. Mostly, though, he gets the balance right, and the rough edges are part of what makes Lenkman Lenkman. Doubters: Go download "Black Cab." (KP)

2:35 p.m.: Again, I fret about intricate music's place in a huge, hot field, but this time without cause: The National is blazingly brilliant (and probably blazingly blazing)—even better than at its last Chicago club show, at Double Door. Its quick set sticks mainly to songs from last year's unstoppable Alligator. Singer Matt Berninger, caught (umm, stalked?) walking around the grounds, later tells us that they've been working on a new album that very week, potentially due early next year. Smile a little smile. Best band of the fest, in my book. (JM)


3:20: The National plays "Mr. November" as its next-to-last song with a searing intensity that shrinks the outdoor show into something more confined, even claustrophobic. The crowd cheers each time Berninger howls, "I won't fuck us over, I'm Mr. November." (KR)

3:36 p.m.: I will admit having no feeling for Liars whatsoever. Noisy and obnoxious, but they don't even bother me. (JM)

…But they do bother me. It's weird: Every once in a while, the drummer finds a groove that's really cool. Then the band starts sounding like Liars again. (KP)


…and because of that, it's inessential on all counts. I've got no time for pretentious art-rock when there's no payoff for enduring its airs. (KR)

3:40 p.m.: Cage is the most indie-rock-looking rapper ever. (KR)

4:47 p.m.: Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif provide a refreshing dose of hip-hop on the main stage. A break in the middle of the set for the DJ to show off his skills kills the momentum, though. (KR)


5:50 p.m.: Mission Of Burma sends the crowd (particularly me) into a frenzy by playing "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," the Mission Of Burma song (okay, along with "Academy Fight Song," which also got played). The reunited forefathers of post-punk play an electrifying set for what's conceivably the biggest crowd of their career. (KR)

6:10 p.m.: You know what's great after blistering post-punk? Freak-folk jam-band music. Wait, no it isn't. But Devendra Banhart plays with his compatriots, and there's more hair on stage now than in all the other bands combined. (KR)

7:04 p.m.: Banhart closes out his set—shirtless, of course—with a goofy song about needing help to do even the simplest tasks. I watch, thinking, "If this were Phish, I'd hate it. So why am I cutting him slack?" As much as I didn't mind—even liked—Cripple Crow, I'm completely turned off by Banhart live. Maybe it's the incessant blaring of my inner punk's hippie alarm. (KR)


7:10 p.m.: Maybe Yo La Tengo could have thrown the crowd a bone by playing one, just one, song not from an album that hasn't come out yet. Maybe. Instead, it's an hour from the wonderfully titled forthcoming release I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. But I didn't hear anyone complaining. (KP)

…oh, I'll complain: The new album's seemingly endless first track, "Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" is vintage Yo La Tengo—how bored must James McNew get playing the exact same bass notes for 10 minutes?—but the goofy "Mr. Tough," with Ira Kaplan's irritating falsetto, makes me want to stab myself in the ears. A little "Tom Courtenay" would have helped matters. (KR)


8:10 p.m.: Spoon has been down and out over the years, but not lately. Since the 2001 album Girls Can Tell, the band has just gotten sharper, and by the evidence here, the live act has caught up with the recordings. The only thing going against Spoon is that it's playing before a legend known as Os Mutantes. (KP)

9:10 p.m.: But here's the problem with Os Mutantes. Bad timing. Actually, that isn't their problem. It's mine. The cumulative effect of two days in ungodly heat, ruining clothes with sweat, and drinking double-digit numbers of bottles of Water Plus have had a profound effect on my hygiene. Duty urges me to stay. My sense of personal decency compels me to leave. Sorry, Os Mutantes. (I'll turn in my music critic's license at the end of the week.) (KP)

SUMMARIES: Mostly excellent vibe, damn inspired choices, and an exhausting blast. 8.5. (JM)


Pretty great. It had a corporate-lite, handmade feel. The lineup, if not unimpeachable, was consistently interesting. The music-and-community-first spirit seemed to infect the crowd. Everyone was friendly and polite in spite of the vile weather and crowded quarters. Make it annual, please. 8.9 (KP)

Somewhere between good and great. A little more hip-hop on the main stage would be nice, as would some more aggressive rock. Not that The National and Mission Of Burma weren't fantastic; the festival could just stand a little more of bands like them. 7.6 (KR)