Chicago is a city overrun by music festivals. Around June, the options for multi-billed outdoor musical entertainment become almost limitless. There’s of course Lollapalooza, but you also have Riot Fest, Open Air, North Coast, Aaaah!, Mamby on the Beach, the Jazz Festival, the Blues Festival, the Taste of Chicago, and so on. That’s not even mentioning the various, smaller neighborhood events. Each one has its own distinct flavor and vibe; its own musical and demographic makeup that sets them apart from the others. You won’t see or hear the same things twice.
This last weekend was the music website Pitchfork’s own annual festival. Set in Union Park just outside of West Loop, P4k is decidedly more intimate than many of the other festivals that take place in the city. It’s generally laid back — you end up stepping over and around more than you fair share of attendees lounging on blankets in the grass — easy to navigate, and filled with chill people looking to either catch the next big thing back in the shady Blue Stage area, or more well-known commodities on the larger Green and Red stages set under the imposing gaze of the stately Sears (né Willis) Tower.
Every imaginable group of people is well-represented. Teens — though the ratio skews way less than you’re liable to see at say Lollapalooza. Ethereal hula hoopers. Hacky-sackers. Dads running down the Cubs’ chances this year. Twenty-something hipsters in ironic fashion wear (my favorite was the girl wearing a black Misfits tee with Beyonce’s name emblazoned over the top). Denizens of corporate America. Hippies. Seapunks. Drinkers. Smokers. Tokers. Midnight jokers.
On a personal level, I also really enjoy Pitchfork for the opportunity it presents to catch up with friends and peers in the music journalism community. It seems like almost half of the folks who write about music in some capacity converge on this one event each year. Someone I know called it summer camp for music writers, and that feels about right.