Pitchfork Music Festival or Lollapalooza? Let your wallet be your guide.

By Oliver Mosier

“It’s so damn hot.” Those words have become an annual battle cry for most Midwesterners. Chicago summers contain a brutality and harshness equaled only by…well, Chicago winters.

Temperatures are rising furiously off of Lake Michigan and countless Chicagoans are already looking for refuge. There are several things that can define one’s summer. Usually, music is something that rises to the top of that list. If you’re staying in the Chicago area this summer—desperately seeking a break from the oppressive heat—then look no farther than Union Park.

On July 29 and 30, Pitchfork Media will be hosting a music festival that is both affordable and astounding. Tickets range from $20 to $30 (a remarkable price for a two-day music festival featuring 41 bands). I could mention Lollapalooza, with headliners Kanye West and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But this is a college newspaper, and unless you’re willing to spend more than $130, Pitchfork Music Festival is the one for you.

Pitchfork Media is a Chicago-based Internet ’zine that deals with every facet of music and music criticism. Many students’ lives revolve around compulsively checking the site for updates. Pitchfork, far from an electronic version of MTV, usually deals with independent bands. While the writing ranges from brilliant to painfully pretentious, the choice of location for this year’s festival is right on target. Union Park is located downtown on the corner of Lake Street and Ashland Avenue. Even if the heat is beyond the pale, the music at the festival will more than make up for it.

Bands playing the first day include Silver Jews, Band of Horses, the Futureheads, Art Brut, Man Man, Chin Up Chin Up, Destroyer, and U of C veterans Ted Leo/Pharmacists, to name a few.

July 29 is truly a display for indie legends, thanks to the inclusion of John Darnielle. Darnielle is the mastermind behind the band the Mountain Goats (essentially a solo project for Darnielle). Darnielle’s literate songwriting makes him someone truly worth seeing since the release of All Hail West Texas over a decade ago. Audiences will be treated to his stream-of-consciousness rants coupled with hysterical guitar playing. This makes the Mountain Goats the biggest must-see of day one.

Yo La Tengo, Aesop Rock, Spoon, and Devendra Barnhart are a few of the acts playing on July 30. If the Mountain Goats are the reason to go to day one, then the National is the reason to come back for more. The quintet consists of two sets of brothers, all friends from Cincinnati. If you haven’t heard the National yet, I suggest you immediately purchase Alligator, their latest effort. Despite growing popularity, they have held onto their unique sound. The humor of primary songwriter and lead singer Matt Beringer makes the National a band well worth listening to.

The Pitchfork Music Festival is for those who are adventurous and open to new things. This affordable (if not cheap) festival is tailor-made for the broke college student in need of musical escape. Now, back to those of you who are willing to drop the Benjamins for some music—let’s discuss Lollapalooza.

Lollapalooza’s three-day festival is in Chicago’s Grant Park. Lollapalooza prides itself on having 130 bands on eight stages (as opposed to Pitchfork’s 41-to-3 ratio). Bands range from the annoying and popular (Red Hot Chili Peppers) to the rapping and rabbinical (Matisyahu). Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco, and Kanye West headline, and the Flaming Lips, Queens of the Stone Age, and the poor man’s Pink Floyd—excuse me, Ween—are a few more of the 2006 lineup. Blues Traveler will be on hand to answer the perennial “Where Are They Now?” question. (Part of me expected to see Hootie and Blowfish or the Gin Blossoms after reading that Blues Traveler is still traveling.)

Broken Social Scene, Stars, Feist, and the New Pornographers represent our neighbors from the north. Ryan Adams brings a sensitive side, and Iron & Wine and Calexico dive deep into the depths of contemporary folk music. The eclectic line-up contains old-school noise-rockers Sonic Youth, Common (fresh off his critically acclaimed Be), Gnarls Barkley (otherwise known as DJ Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green), Cursive, the Hold Steady, and the Go! Team. But such a large and successful festival cannot be immune to mistakes. In my opinion, the inclusion of 30 Seconds to Mars (fronted by actor Jared Leto) and Sparta are this year’s mistakes.

I have gone to the library for the last four days—not because I have three papers due next week (which I do) but because Crerar’s central air makes life worth living again. Despite this, I would gladly forfeit my A.C. for the ability to go to both music festivals. In fact, the only escape from the repressive heat and unstoppable humidity will come in the form of outdoor festivals. Air conditioning is all well and good, but the heat will be become oddly bearable with great music on the horizon. Chicago has a wonderful summer of sound coming up. Until then, I suggest everyone stay inside.