Battle of the Festivals: Lollapalooza vs. Pitchfork
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    Photo by Raztaz42 licensed by Wikimedia Commons.

    Lollapalooza by Julie Kliegman

    I fell in love with Lollapalooza in August 2010. After spending three days in Grant Park surrounded by thousands of others armed with face paint and paper wristbands, I vowed I would return when I could. I guess what I’m saying is that I probably would’ve bought tickets to this year’s festival and thoroughly enjoyed myself no matter who was set to show up. That said, I am particularly pleased with the lineup, so much so that I feel compelled to defend Lolla’s honor.

    If you can only make it to one Chicago-area festival this summer, do shun the ever-so-pretentious Pitchfork in favor of Lolla. It’s admittedly hard to find the right place to start with breaking down two sets of lineups this extensive. 

    I’d just like to reiterate something that I don’t think Pitchfork and its fans always understand: Just because a band is mainstream, doesn’t mean it’s not high quality or fun to see live. In case I wasn’t clear enough, what I mean is mainstream isn’t inherently bad.

    Before you turn your nose up at the thought of a name like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I invite you to remember the band at its height, complete with tracks like “Under the Bridge” and crazy performance tactics like having each artist wear nothing but one sock (and not on his foot). I’d find it hard to believe that the group’s performance won’t harken back to those days, especially because they aren’t burdened with a brand new album to promote.

    Even if mainstream isn’t your thing, it’s hard to complain about acts like Florence & the Machine, The Shins, and Metric taking the stage: Like the Chili Peppers, these acts (and many others) are known quantities that won't disappoint. There’s a good mix of new and old, big and small, indie and, well, non-indie. I could keep going with a laundry list of great acts, but that’s what Google is for.

    I appreciate Lolla’s dedication to reaching out to a wide variety of artists and therefore attracting a broader group of concert-goers (important mostly for people-watching purposes). Black Sabbath isn’t my taste, but it pays homage to the festival’s metal roots, and I can respect that.

    Pitchfork’s lineup isn’t bad by any means, but it isn’t diverse enough for me. Three days of bands with similar yet good sounds isn’t enough for me. I like plenty of the acts well enough – Vampire Weekend, Cloud Nothings and Sleigh Bells, to name a few. However, it doesn’t make sense to dish out money for Pitchfork’s lineup (high in quality but low in diversity) when I can get high-quality music that varies much more in sound at Lolla.

    And hey, even if you’re not inherently a Lolla lover, show it some love. Metallica and Beyoncé, two of the most-rumored acts in the months leading up to the lineup reveal, aren’t on the ticket. The only way I’d want to hear their songs is if Beyoncé sang “Enter Sandman” and Metallica took a stab at “Single Ladies.” The fact that some of the more worrisome rumors were wrong is alone reason enough for Lolla’s lineup to rock.

    I could talk for days about Lolla’s lineup. I could say the experience of seeing Passion Pit would inevitably be better in Grant Park with a relaxed crowd than it was at the 2010 A&O Ball, with a jam-packed, not-so-sober and not-so-polite crowd. I could say Florence & the Machine is a guaranteed hit. But really, the best way to sum up Lolla 2012 is with the following two words: Jack White.

    Photo by Kate Gardiner on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

    Pitchfork Music Festival by Eric Brown

    It may not be Lollapalooza, but the Pitchfork Music Festival ain't too shabby – and it costs less than half as much as its big name counterpart. Three-day passes to the festival, which takes place in Chicago's Union Park, may be long gone, but retail at $110 to Lollapalooza's sticker-shock of $230. Plus, it's important to keep in mind that many of the elite names rocking Lollapalooza were the highlights of recent Pitchfork festivals. Excited for tUnE-yArDsWashed Out or Neon Indian's sets at Lollapalooza this year? They all rocked Pitchfork in one of the last two years.

    But the hipster-driven notion of seeing elite indie bands before they reach the blown-out $14 beer oasis we lovingly call Lollapalooza can only get us so far: Independent of comparison, this year's Pitchfork lineup is one to be reckoned with.

    What makes Pitchfork such a cool event is that it really has something for everybody. Whether you're a fan of hip-hop, electronic, or more traditional indie rock sounds, Pitchfork has you covered. This year, the festival's biggest strength is hip-hop. While Lollapalooza 2012 pretty much starts and ends with Childish Gambino and Wale (#ugh), Pitchfork has bolstered its lineup with an assortment of rap's best names. You won't be getting Kanye or Jay-Z, but you will be getting A$AP Rocky (and his producing cohort, Clams Casino), Big K.R.I.T.ScHoolboy QDanny Brown and Kendrick Lamar. There will be no shortage of swag at Pitchfork 2012.

    Not a hip-hop fan? You can go the entire three-day weekend without going near any rappers and still leave Pitchfork with your mind blown (and $120 of extra cash, if you're keeping score). To cool off from the Chicago heat, enjoy indie favorites like CultsBeach HouseReal Estate or the quintessentially summer-sounding Vampire Weekend. Interested in a rowdier experience? Try emerging rock powerhouses like Cloud NothingsTy Segall or Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Or if you really want to ratchet the sound knob up to eleven, go with LiturgyThe Men or Sleigh Bells.

    If you have a genuine aversion to anything with an identifiable melody, you won't want to miss Tim HeckerNicolar JaarThe Field or AraabMuzik. I can't say I'll understand your decision, but that's why Pitchfork is great: It offers a ton of musical diversity, and showcases the best new acts from many genres.

    Yes, Lollapalooza is great too. Like many, I have a special connection with Jack White. And who wouldn't want to relieve their uncool high school days by shouting along to "Give It Away" with Anthony Kiedis? (Disclaimer for those psyched about the Chilis: All their classic music was created with guitar savant and visionary John Frusciante at the helm, and he departed from the band in 2009.) But Pitchfork is on the precipice of emerging artists and sounds in a way that Lollapalooza simply is not. It's true: At Lollapalooza you'll get artists like The Shins and Franz Ferdinand. Sure, they're big names, but their careers have already crested.

    Instead, go with Pitchfork. In addition to the aforementioned artists, you'll get major indie names like FeistDirty ProjectorsFlying LotusGodspeed You! Black EmperorWild FlagYouth Lagoon and both of Deerhunter's competing solo projects, Atlas Sound and Lotus Plaza. And you'll have some money in your pocket for that Vampire Weekend shirt you've always wanted and plenty of ice cold Newcastle.


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