For the Gabor family of Evanston, the Pitchfork Music Festival is a yearly tradition.
“This is our tenth Pitchfork,” said Emma Gabor, 23, who came with her mother and father and is most excited to see Sufjan Stevens Saturday night. “We come as a family, as a mini-vacation. Every year we find new bands that we like, there’s cool art, we run into people we know and it’s not as crazy as Lollapalooza.”
The Gabors were among a colorful crowd that surged into Union Park on Friday, despite impending rain, for the 11th annual Pitchfork, which featured more than 40 bands, including Blood Orange, Sufjan Stevens and alternative R&B singer FKA Twigs.
The festival, which runs through Sunday, also has more than 50 food, nonprofit and retail vendors, including Black Dog Gelato, Mercy for Animals and locally produced, Chicago-inspired apparel by Transit Tees. Other musicians playing on the fest’s three stages included Holly Herndon, English indie-rock band LUH and hip-hop singer Miguel.
Like the Gabors, Noah Singer of Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, who has attended Pitchfork for the past six years, likes that Pitchfork isn’t overwhelming.
“It’s a manageable music festival. I’m getting old,” Singer said, laughing. “They always curate a good group of bands.”
Outside the bands, the festival offers Chirp Record Fair for the vinyl-inclined, the Coterie Craft Fair, featuring the work of more than 40 artists, and Flatstock, a tent selling prints of show-posters.
Some traveled far to experience Pitchfork for the first time.
“We usually go to Coachella, but it’s getting a little commercial,” said Collette Suguitian, 30, who flew in from Hawaii to see several musical acts, including NAO and Holy Ghosts. “There are a lot of cool up-and-coming bands here.”
When asked how she would make it to see all the bands she was interested in, Suguitian shrugged. “You go with the flow,” she said, adjusting her shades.
Also excited to hear new music was Chicago-native Ellen Wady, who has attended Pitchfork for the past three years and has sat under the same tree near the entrance each year.
“There are fewer bands I know this year, but it’s cool to hear a song on the radio and say ‘I saw them at Pitchfork!’” Wady said, who brought her friend Rupal Soni, who has never been to the fest before. “I’m looking forward to hearing [Beach Boys member] Brian Wilson perform ‘Pet Sounds,’” she added, referring to Wilson’s plan to perform the iconic Beach Boys album, 50 years old this year.
Kim Mendiola will spend the weekend working at the Virtue Cider pop-up tent, as she has the past five years.
“It’s great people-watching, it’s an easy way to pass the day,” Mendiola said, noting she can hear the bands perform behind her tent so she can enjoy the music, too. “There are lots of good vibes.”
Her colleague, Leslie McConnell, recalled last year’s storm that forced festival attendees and workers to evacuate the park.
“It was a downpour,” McConnell said, eyes wide. “We ran into a local restaurant and used the hand dryer to dry off. I think we used all their paper towels!”
Despite this year’s afternoon showers, festival-goers were all smiles as they blew bubbles, sipped beer and danced in the rain.
Pitchfork through Sunday at Union Park (1501 W. Randolph). One-day passes are $65 and three-day passes are $165. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketfly.com.