As of today, we’re two weeks out from Pitchfork Music Festival’s return to Chicago over the July 21-23 weekend. The tastemaking festival is celebrating its 17th edition in 2023, and in typical fashion boasts appearances from heavy hitters with a top line of The Smile, Big Thief, and Bon Iver, but the most appealing thing about this festival is always the undercard. Pitchfork prides itself on being at the cutting edge of music discovery, and in recent years acts like Bartees Strange, Ethel Cain, THE ARMED, and Yves Tumor have played star-making sets at insanely early points in their careers. With the festival fast approaching, here are our five sets that we think you can’t miss:
Nation of Language
When They’re Playing: Friday, 7/21 — Red Stage @ 5:15 PM
Recommended Tracks: “Weak In Your Light”; “The Wall and I”
Brooklyn’s Nation of Language has been an indie favorite since the release of their debut Introduction, Presence in 2020. The group sounds right out of the 80s with comparisons to Depeche Mode, New Order, and CAN, and they’re quickly making their reputation known as a formidable live presence. While this set is a little higher up in the schedule, it feels like it could be the band’s stepping-stone into A-List status.
When They’re Playing: Saturday, 7/22 — Red Stage @ 3:20 PM
Recommended Tracks: “You Have Bought Yourself a Boat”; “Tastes Just Like It Costs”
When he’s not playing guitar with alt-country buzz band Wednesday, MJ Lenderman is making some of the greatest “kick back with a beer and watch the sunset” music that I’ve ever heard. Last year’s Boat Songs is a marvelous college-rock record, with echoes of Pavement, Built to Spill and Drive-By Truckers coexisting alongside Lenderman’s wry, entertaining lyricism.
When They’re Playing: Sunday, 7/23 — Blue Stage @ 4:00 PM
Recommended Tracks: “Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?)”; “We Wants Revenge”
Mark this one as the guaranteed best mosh of the weekend. Soul Glo came out swinging in a big way last year with the monumental Diaspora Problems, an album that’s definitely rooted in hardcore and metal but takes bold steps in charting hardcore’s future with truly adventurous production choices. The intimate Blue Stage feels like the last chance you’ll get to see Soul Glo on a stage that small, so lace up your shoes and get ready to get your ass kicked at this one.
When They’re Playing: Sunday, 7/23 — Red Stage @ 3:20 PM
Recommended Tracks: “Greatest Hits”; “50/50”
The UK duo Jockstrap have taken the world by storm over the past year with their intoxicating blend of experimental pop. There’s equal parts Primal Scream, Fatboy Slim, and Harry Nilsson on their 2022 debut I Love You Jennifer B, and this set screams mid-day dance party over at the Red Stage like last year’s set from Magdalena Bay.
When They’re Playing: Friday, 7/21 — Green Stage @ 4:15 PM
Recommended Tracks: “Prizefighter”; “The Sling”
After putting out three perfect (in my opinion) records, Trevor Powers retired the name Youth Lagoon in 2016 to focus on the experimental under his own name. This year, Powers revived the project with Heaven Is A Junkyard, and it might be his best work yet. The album feels like a wearily optimistic reflection on Powers’ upbringing in Idaho, with vivid characterization and story-telling deftly interweaving with a beautiful sonic landscape developed by Powers and producer Rodiah McDonald. There’s something incredibly special about Youth Lagoon, and his return to the festival stage is one we eagerly anticipate.
You can still grab tickets to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival here. Stay tuned to our Instagram for coverage of this year’s festival.