Pitchfork rounds up festival artists from across the ocean and down the street

Both local and international musicians to take the stage at event showcasing the indie headliners of tomorrow.

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Bolis Pupul (left) and Charlotte Adigéry.

The electronic music duo of Bolis Pupul (left) and Charlotte Adigéry is scheduled to perform Saturday at the Pitchfork Music Festival.

Camille Vivier

Each of Chicago’s giant music festivals transports listeners to a sonic wonderland. Lollapalooza is a massive party bus, Riot Fest is a cool, classic convertible, and the Pitchfork Music Festival is an electric vehicle loaded with cutting-edge features. Pitchfork (July 21-23) is where early adopters go to hear the indie headliners of tomorrow on relatively small stages.

This year’s edition of Pitchfork is set to include 42 bands performing on three stages in Union Park. The diverse lineup includes The Smile (featuring Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood), folk-rockers Big Thief, transcendent R&B artist Kelela, and hip-hop icon Killer Mike. The festival closer is Bon Iver, whose profile was elevated far beyond the indie-rock community thanks to collaborations with Taylor Swift.

PItchfork

Pitchfork Music Festival

When: July 21-23

Where: Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph St.

Tickets: $137 per day, $290 or $518 for three-day pass

Info: pitchforkmusicfestival.com

Curated by music journalism site Pitchfork, the inaugural edition of this fest took place in Chicago in 2006 and has since spawned festivals in London, Paris and Berlin. The booking of bands across multiple festival locations helps give each event a truly global flavor.

International acts in this year’s Chicago lineup include Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul (Belgium), Alvvays (Canada), Axel Boman (Sweden), Lucrecia Dalt (Colombia), Julia Jacklin (Australia), Jockstrap (England), Mdou Moctar (Niger) and Vagabon (Cameroon).

“The internet has flattened any kind of boundary or border for music, which is a great thing for Pitchfork, which is so invested in music discovery,” said Puja Patel, Pitchfork editor-in-chief.

“I actually saw Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul at Pitchfork Paris a couple of years ago for the first time, and I was obsessed with them. They were speaking about themes that were so intense in the States at the moment. They were talking about identity. They were talking about being immigrants. They were basically saying, ‘Don’t tell me what to do,’ and ‘You don’t know where I belong,’ and dancing out the feeling of that.”

Bolis Pupul (left) and Charlotte Adigéry.

Bolis Pupul (left) and Charlotte Adigéry.

Camille Vivier

Adigéry (a native of France) and Bolis Pupul (the stage name of Boris Zeebroek, a native of Belgium) are an electronic music duo that has garnered an enthusiastic fan base in Chicago, thanks to previous performances at Thalia Hall and the Empty Bottle. The duo’s critically acclaimed 2022 album, “Topical Dancer,” offers an ingenious mixture of danceable beats, social commentary and sly humor.

The duo spoke to the Sun-Times from Ghent, Belgium, between a recording session and a meeting with a stylist. Both musicians have a dazzling, eye-popping fashion sense, with Pupul occasionally embracing androgynous aesthetics.

“We have so much fun,” an upbeat Adigéry said. “The way we describe our style is ‘campy glam.’ It’s full of humor. We love nice clothes, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Pupul explained that when he is booked to play a fest, he often yearns to check out other bands. After playing the mammoth Glastonbury Festival in England recently, he and Adigéry caught part of a set by Weyes Blood, who is also in this year’s Pitchfork lineup.

 Puja Patel, Pitchfork editor-in-chief

Puja Patel, Pitchfork editor-in-chief

Rick Wenner

Naturally, this year’s Pitchfork lineup also includes some artists who are based in the Chicago area, including Deeper, Sen Morimoto, Ric Wilson and Ariel Zetina.

“It’s important for us, every year, to have Chicago reflected in our lineup, and that is something we do with intention,” said Seth Dodson, Pitchfork’s executive director of festivals and events. “The festival is run by Chicagoans, and a lot of our [backstage] crew is really built of Chicago musicians.”

Nic Gohl — who sings lead, plays guitar and writes lyrics for Deeper — grew up in Glen Ellyn and has fond memories of attending Pitchfork during his formative years.

“I think I was 16 the first time I went,” he recalled. “It was cool to find a festival that actually had my same musical taste.”

Influenced by groups like Echo & The Bunnymen, Television and The Cars, Deeper will make its first Pitchfork appearance this year. Deeper is signed to powerhouse indie label Sub Pop, which will release the band’s third album, “Careful!,” on Sept. 8. Most of the music was recorded and mixed in Chicago at Palisade Studios and Public House Sound Recordings studio.

Deeper, from left_Shiraz Bhatti, Nic Gohl, Drew McBride, and Kevin Fairbairn_Credit_Alexa Viscius

Deeper features Shiraz Bhatti (from left), Nic Gohl, Drew McBride and Kevin Fairbairn.

Alexa Viscius

A distinctive feature of Deeper’s music is that it often avoids typical, verse-chorus-verse structures. Gohl sometimes will sing all of a composition’s lyrics, and then circle back to the beginning to sing many (or all) of those same words again. For the listener, the result can be delightfully hypnotic.

“I never really learned how to make a real song structure like you would [find] in a Beatles song,” Gohl said.

“I listened to all that, but I never really tried to emulate that. My idea of writing music was more loop-based because I had a loop pedal, and I would loop a verse over and over. I would just write whole songs off of that idea. So, a lot of the time I come up with one really good block of words.”

Gohl and his bandmates — Drew McBride (guitar, synthesizer), Kevin Fairbairn (bass) and Shiraz Bhatti (drums) — will hit the road this fall for their most extensive headlining tour to date, playing throughout the United States and Europe.

Deeper, Weyes Blood and Youth Lagoon are among the artists who will perform in Union Park and Pitchfork Music Festival London (Nov. 7–13).

“The beauty of some of these artists, and bringing them into the festival, is that you really feel this connectivity of themes, and you feel the universal language of music,” Patel said. “It reinforces the spirit of the festival as being a place where everyone belongs.”

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