Unlike other music festivals with an overwhelming bevy of stages from which to choose, Pitchfork makes it easy and narrows the action to three, each ascribed a particular color. Most of the time, this means there aren't too many painstaking choices between acts, or heartbreak resulting from missing a favorite band. But like all worthwhile things, some choices must be made in order to ensure the best experience. Here's how you should tackle day one.
Lower Dens, Red Stage: 3:30pm
It's a tough call as to how to start this day, with two bands that are equally fun and enticing. But, I have to choose the low-tempo, relaxed, but deep cool of Lower Dens over the synthy fun of Outer Minds. Dens hail from Baltimore, playing spacious, lush soundscapes lifted by the amazing vocals of Jana Hunter. For further proof, check out their intimate performance below.
Willis Earl Beal, Blue Stage: 4:15pm
After easing into the afternoon, with the lilting melodies of Lower Dens, envelop yourself in the soul powerhouse that is Willis Earl Beal. Blowing up recently, he is a Chicago local who used to sing people songs if they called him and sends pictures he draws in reponse to letters. Besides the fact that he clearly has singing talent, as well as charisma to last two lifetimes, I'm curious to see if he can really carry an entire show on his own broad shoulders. Also, apparently he gets riled very easily. Watch him put a toothpick to remarkably efficient use.
A$AP Rocky, Red Stage: 5:30pm
There'll probably be a little gap in time between Willis Earl Beal wrapping up, and traversing the diminuitive Union Park to the Red Stage for the beginning of this set. But judging by the huge fan base that A$AP has already accumulated, this show will be undoubtedly packed long before it starts. While I'm not sold on Rocky, especially his live performances, the only other option during this time slot is Tim Hecker, whose industrial, enigmatic music is magnificently layered, but not the best for live performances. A$AP will live and die based on the crowd he gets, and if it's rowdy enough, this will prove to be a fun performance, especially if he brings this armada on stage with him.
Japandroids, Blue Stage: 6:15pm
Before A$AP Rocky's set is done, you will be forced to make the first hard decision of the day. Japandroids, the noisy Canadian rock duo, plays at the same time as smooth, southern rapper Big K.R.I.T. Fortunately, this year Pitchfork is rife with tons of great hip-hop acts so if you miss K.R.I.T., it's not the end of the world. That being said, he is a great performer with a slew of mixtape hits and Mississippi charm. Japandroids on record are engaging, loud, loose, and fun, but live, they are a more raging beast entirely. If hip-hop is the reason why you're at Pitchfork, don't miss Big K.R.I.T., but otherwise you'd be a fool not to see this.
Dirty Projectors, Red Stage: 7:20pm
This sprawling, experimental, weirdo outfit from Brooklyn is not for everyone. Their melodies can be strange and challenging at times, but Dirty Projectors are a joy to behold in concert. The other choice at this time is Clams Casino, the virtuoso producer responsible for a lot of A$AP Rocky's infectious sizzurp-infused beats. While, he brings a lot of additional songs to the table, having just seen A$AP earlier in the day, might make this feel like a lower energy rehash of an old tune. Also it's one guy and an iPad vs. a team of talented musicians. Check out how Dirty Projectors layer their vocals into pop majesties.
Purity Ring, Blue Stage: 8:20pm / Feist, Green Stage: 8:20pm
The jury is out on this one. Leslie Feist is one of those amazing, multi-talented performers that everyone should see live. Her solo career post-Broken Social Scene has blossomed, bringing her to the forefront of American songwriters. She can break hearts with her wavering, gentle vocals, inspire awe with her beauty, and tear into vicious guitar solos, often all in the same song. Feist is magnificent.
Then why should you even think twice about seeing her? The choice comes down to a preference for something new and exciting vs. something familiar and reliably brilliant. The former is represented by Pitchfork's other closing act on Friday, Purity Ring, an electronic duo imported from Canada. They only have one released LP (Shrines), and little live performance experience, especially compared to veteran Feist. But they are so compelling that they may be worth the risk. Megan James provides ethereal vocals that wade across hip-hop influenced beats by Corin Roddick. It's a combination fueled by unique chemistry, blending to create a hypnotic futuristic sound.
Check out Feist do her thing:
And watch Purity Ring break it down, with Roddick slamming on little neon-illuminated trees:
How will you plan your day? Let me know in the comments who you're most excited about.