Next Friday, the cream of the crop of music will land in Chicago’s Union Park for the sixteenth edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival. Much like the tastemaking blog for which the festival is named, the lineup is delightfully eclectic with headliners The National, Mitski, and The Roots. The lineup is truly all over the map — whether you like indie icons (Low, Japanese Breakfast, and Spiritualized), cutting-edge hip-hop (Earl Sweatshirt, Tkay Maidza, Noname) or something a little more experimental (Spirit of the Beehive, SPELLLING, yeule), there’s something to love for everyone over the festival’s weekend. We dove into the smaller font on the festival’s massive lineup poster to pick out five acts that are surefire bets to be the sets of the weekend — last year, our Ones to Watch included iconic sets like Bartees Strange and Yves Tumor, so think of this guide as your chance to get ahead on the weekend and figure out the sets you cannot miss from what are sure to be your new favorite bands:
When and Where They’re Playing: Saturday, 7/16 – 2:45-3:30p – Blue Stage
Last year’s ULTRAPOP brought The Armed’s stylings of hardcore to the mainstream by combining murderous blastbeats and screaming with something a little sweeter. Think of ULTRAPOP as Passion Pit meets The Dillinger Escape Plan, wrapped up in a brilliantly colored package where no one really knows what’s going on thanks to the band’s diligent ethos of anonymity. At any given point, I’m not sure who plays in The Armed, but recent videos from sets at Primavera Sound and their oft-delayed album release shows in 2022 exhibit a chaotic, explosive energy that’s unmatched by anything on the Pitchfork lineup. Like how TURNSTILE blew the hardcore scene wide open in 2021, The Armed have the potential to do that with their set on Saturday.
When and Where They’re Playing: Saturday 7/16 – 4:15-5:10p – Green Stage
The export of UK post-punk has been one of the more thrilling stories in indie music over the past half-decade. Dry Cleaning, out of South London, twists the formula slightly to make them one of the more compelling bands out of that genre. Lead singer Florence Shaw is remarkably sharp, relying on spoken word more-so than flat-out singing as she explores the banalities of the modern world over angular guitars that bring to mind the best of Wire. With a new album announced last month (Stumpwork, out in October on legendary label 4AD) and a North American tour just announced for 2022, it’s possible that this group is going to blow up really quickly like their peers in black midi or Wet Leg.
When and Where They’re Playing: Friday 7/15 – 1:45-2:25p – Red Stage
Much like last year with Bartees Strange, Ethel Cain holds the slot of “this will be way too early for her.” The Florida-born and Alabama-based songwriter has had a meteoric rise with the release of this year’s debut Preacher’s Daughter with glowing coverage in outlets like PAPER, The New York Times and Billboard. Her music is expansive and world-building, with echoes of dream-pop and electronic music fading in and out as she reflects on her experience of growing up in the South and being held down by religion and the church’s views on gender and sexuality. Preacher’s Daughter is a powerful piece of art, and it feels as though she’s finally breaking through the surface — this set on Friday will be spellbinding and star-making.
When and Where They’re Playing: Sunday 7/17 – 3:20-4:10p – Red Stage
Watching the growth of Injury Reserve has been awe-inspiring. The Arizona group has been making their own, unique style of hip-hop for nearly a decade, with the rooms getting bigger and bigger and features from Bruiser Brigade and Aminé ushering in their sound to inspire a new generation of hip-hop listeners. Following member Stepa J. Groggs’ tragic death in 2020, the group released the emotional and heavy Before I Get to Phoenix that’s been a mainstay in my Spotify library since it dropped. There are few hip-hop groups that sound like what Injury Reserve is crafting right now, and their Red stage set will serve as a perfect way to wind down the weekend on Sunday.
When and Where They’re Playing: Sunday 7/17 – 1:45-2:25p – Red Stage
L’Rain’s Fatigue blew my mind in 2021. Her sophomore record effortlessly blends experimental, RnB, and orchestral music with a deft precision that’s unrivaled by artists in the independent sphere right now. After a stint supporting Animal Collective on their recent cross-country tour, the project of Taja Cheek will provide an exploratory vibe to walk into your day with on Sunday; I feel like this is the set that has the most potential for concert-goers to go into unfamiliar with and leave with a new favorite artist.
Tickets are still available for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival here.
Check out our 2021 coverage of Pitchfork Music Festival here.