This month saw two of the sell out festivals in the UK take place, Scotland's T in the Park and Latitude in Suffolk, but as has been widely reported not all in Britain have enjoyed the same amount of success: neither Glastonbury or Download sold out in 2008.

Many a Brit is choosing to get their festival fix in mainland Europe, but for those who fancy trekking further afield, as R13's resident American I feel it's my duty to introduce you to my local collection of bands in a field with this weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.

Pivotal modern rock summit? Hipster's wet dream? Harbinger of musical fascism? The debate will rage on, but in the realm of American music festivals none have crafted the kind of focused credibility and ingrained sense of "you're missing something if you're missing this" for themselves the way the Pitchfork Music Festival has. Whether this stems from the reputation of the festival's namesake and founding publication or from its perceived editorial slant remains unknown, but Pitchfork enters its third year with a lineup heavy on nostalgia but, as expected, light on normalcy.

Union Park is difficult to describe in terms of venue quality, because for all intents and purposes it's not really a concert venue. In fact, other than the three days of Pitchfork each year, it's just your average neighborhood park. If you happen to be lodging near Union Park itself, well, fear not because there's fun to be had nearby around the University of Illinois at Chicago along the stretch of Taylor Street between Ashland Avenue and Halsted Street, and again to the north of that in Greektown around the intersection of Halsted Street and Jackson Boulevard.

Just a quick cab ride away are the Bucktown/Wicker Park areas, centered around the intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee Avenues and teeming with any kind of nightlife a decent human being could want. (One sad note for you barely-legal UK barhoppers: the drinking age in America is 21, not 18, and 99 percent of clubs won't bend on that.)

Those areas are debatably within walking distance, but walking around Union Park's neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago after dark is generally not advisable under any circumstances. City of Chicago-produced literature will also suggest using public transportation, but buses in Chicago are unreliable at best - especially if you're in a hurry. Besides, with the dollar as weak as it is, the cab fare won't set you back much at all.


FRIDAY, JULY 18 (in conjunction with All Tomorrow's Parties/Don't Look Back):

6:00 pm - Mission of Burma performing Vs.
7:15 pm - Sebadoh performing Bubble and Scrape
8:30 pm - Public Enemy performing It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Notes and Notables: Once again festival organizers have stacked the first night with famous-in-indie-circle acts performing their landmark albums in their entireties. This sounds cool, but in practice the idea is not as compelling considering none of these albums are especially reliant on the form of the complete work. To put it another way, the reason any of these groups were ever cool is because they shed the trappings of the bloated album-rock performances of the bands that came before. If this were a night of, say, Yes, Rush and Pink Floyd, the whole thing would be nothing short of a genre fan's dream come true; instead, look forward to the Friday night equivalent of a bunch of people collectively dusting off their old CDs.


12:30 pm - Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar
1:00 pm - Titus Andronicus
1:25 pm - A Hawk and a Hacksaw
1:30 pm - Jay Reatard
2:00 pm - Caribou
2:20 pm - Icy Demons
3:00 pm - Fleet Foxes
3:15 pm - Fuck Buttons
4:00 pm - Dizzee Rascal
4:15 pm - The Ruby Suns
5:00 pm - Vampire Weekend
5:20 pm - Elf Power
6:00 pm - !!!
6:25 pm - Extra Golden
7:00 pm - The Hold Steady
7:30 pm - Atlas Sound
8:00 pm - Jarvis Cocker
8:25 pm - No Age
9:00 pm - Animal Collective

Notes and Notables: Dizzee Rascal tries his hardest to capitalize his excellent run of studio releases and win over an American audience the way no British rapper has of late (don't let The Streets fool you);!!!'s most inventive stroke may have been their name, but their infectious energy all but guarantees a good time; Jarvis Cocker certainly made a name for himself fronting Pulp for so long, but his solo output since that band's dissolution has proved as intriguing as anything he's ever put his name on; the Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar will kick the day off in delightful Mediterranean-tinged jazz fashion; Fuck Buttons have a great name and an interesting album of nine-minute soundscapes that simply cannot translate well into a live setting without serious outside assistance on the part of both performer and listener.


12:30 pm - Mahjongg
1:00 pm - Times New Viking
1:25 pm - High Places
1:30 pm - Dirty Projectors
2:00 pm - Boris
2:20 pm - HEALTH
3:00 pm - The Apples in Stereo
3:15 pm - King Khan & the Shrines
4:00 pm - Les Savy Fav
5:00 pm - The Dodos
5:20 pm - Occidental Brothers Dance Band International
6:00 pm - M. Ward
6:25 pm - Ghostface Killah & Raekwon
7:00 pm - Spiritualized
7:30 pm - Bon Iver
8:00 pm - Dinosaur Jr.
8:25 pm - Cut Copy
9:00 pm • Spoon

Notes and Notables: M. Ward may be better known as indie rock's sideman du jour, but his country-informed slop-pop should make for a nice afternoon wind-down. Metalheads beware: the lone entrant in the "heavy" category this year - Boris - is not especially good, even by drone metal's relatively low standards. Spoon may be closing the festival, but it's Dirty Projectors who bring the whole thing full circle on the back of their 2007 reworking of the highlights from Black Flag's classic Damaged album. The songs are old, the style is even older, but the spirit is about as progressive as this festival aims for. Although when the headliners either haven't been relevant for fifteen years or never found widespread acceptance to begin with, you have to wonder how they stretched this thing out to three days in the first place.

The Pitchfork Music Festival (as you've presumably figured out by now) runs Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20. Three-day passes are sold out, but for you last-minute travellers, individual day passes are available for $30 apiece online and retrievable via will call. Visit the official Pitchfork Music Festival Site for very-last-minute information, and keep those standard measures handy: it's supposed to hit 90 degrees this weekend.