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Now in its sixth year, indie tastemaker Pitchfork once again assembled a slew of must-see headliners and buzz bands for their three-day Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park this past weekend (July 15-17).
Acts like TV on the Radio, Odd Future, Fleet Foxes, Animal Collective, and a reunited Guided by Voices led the charge for festival raves, but we saw plenty more, including ironic t-shirts, crowd wackiness and successful attempts at beating the scorching heat.
Here are 15 things we witnessed that you may have missed — even if you were there.
1. Reunions proved to be a big draw at this year’s festival, with ’90s indie rock legends Guided by Voices packing the house. Frontman Bob Pollard hasn’t let old age keep him from partying hard, chugging a beer and taking a swig of tequila between each song. Meanwhile, the Dismemberment Plan also extended their reunion tour with a set of danceable rock tunes, including an impromptu cover of Robyn’s “Dancehall Queen.”
2. Animal Collective and Curren$y had the biggest clouds of smokes during their shows, respectively. Though the latter encouraged it, crowds seemed just a little more eager to, ahem, enhance the experience of the former’s bright, trippy stage show.
3. As expected, the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All collective stole the show this weekend. The wild hip-hop group started off Sunday by making peace with domestic violence protesters, handing out cupcakes to members of the picket line. Despite using Bob Marley’s “One Love” as their entrance music, though, it didn’t stop the rappers from unleashing anarchy of the festival audience as usual, including a stage dive from Tyler, the Creator, despite his broken leg.
4. After a hectic day of stage-hopping, Fleet Foxes provided the perfect Saturday night comedown from with a set of mellow jams and multi-vocal harmonies, letting songs from their new album, Helplessness Blues, allow the crowd to chill out before leaving the festival grounds.
5. As always, festival attire ranged from fashionable to just a little bit crazy, with a sea of flannel shirts overshadowed by Animal Collective fans in face paint, concert-goers in animal costumes, and — yes — even a crowd-surfer dressed as the “Green Man” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
6. TV on the Radio ended the festival with a bang, transforming their experimental sounds into bona fide stadium rock. Not content with their own songs, the Brooklyn group launched into a cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room,” not to mention a guest appearance by indie rapper Shabazz Palaces, who had performed earlier in the day.
7. No vocalist? No problem! Math-rockers Battles spent the majority of their set jamming without a proper guest vocalist, and aside from some pre-recorded vocals and a quick “thank you,” the band silently, methodically rocked out.
8. Brooklyn act Gang Gang Dance kept it weird on Saturday’s main stage, with lead singer Lizzie Bougatsos crowd surfing during one of the avant-pop band’s many extended jam sessions. Look out Animal Collective, you might have competition if they keep this up!
9. The heat didn’t stop the bands from donning elaborate outfits on stage, with Cold Cave leading the charge in black leather head to toe. We’re not saying it looked crazy, but we are saying that the crowd felt sweaty just by looking at them.
10. It was beyond hot over the weekend, with temperatures reaching over 95 degrees, but festival organizers made sure to keep everyone hydrated, offering free bottles of water to early entrants, free water refills for all, and free bottles to troopers waiting to see their favorite bands in the front row all day.
11. DJ Shadow overcame frustration and technical difficulties on Saturday night. After his ambitious dome-turned-projection screen wasn’t showing its images in the sun, the producer stripped down his set as he kept the jams flowing for a crowd of rabid, dancing fans.
12. No one made the audience dance harder than Aussie electro-poppers Cut Copy, whose ’80s-inspired beats had bodies shaking from start to finish. Towards the end of the band’s Sunday set, frontman Dan Whitford remarked that the while everyone had spent three days catching bands in the heat, it was finally time to “go crazy,” and the crowd obeyed.
13. James Blake overcame crowd chatter to deliver Friday’s best performance. After a shaky start with a few quiet songs, the U.K. singer-songwriter and his backing band unleashed a surprise barrage of dubstep rhythms for the weekend’s most surprising dance party.
14. How to Dress Well brought pop nostalgia to the festival, recruiting a string section to help him create woozy, dream-pop covers of Janet Jackson’s “Again” and R. Kelly’s “I Wish,” making the iconic tracks all his own in the process.
15. Plenty of people took up the offer of “free hugs” from an attendee carrying a sign around, but he was predictably one-upped by a man carrying around a box with the words “free kittens” on it. Don’t worry folks, no cats were harmed at this year’s festival.
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