The people in the crowds say as much about the event as the people on stage
Flickr user KatjusaC
The best moment of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago this past weekend came during Cut Copy’s Sunday afternoon set. Competing with the still-oppressive 95 degree temperature and the inevitable fatigue of a crowd at the end of a long weekend, in the middle of the Aussie dance-pop group’s “Hearts on Fire,” singer Dan Whitford implored the audience to “go crazy.” That's exactly what happened. The audience of thousands jumped up and down, powering through their own sweat and inertia to collectively create a buzz that spanned the festival.
Those moments don’t happen very often, so when they do, you stop and take notice. And at this year’s festival, their rarity was all-too apparent. Maybe that’s just because the event was so hot and so lengthy that it’s hard to feel anything but relief that it’s over, or maybe it’s a sign that even Pitchfork has outgrown its own hype.
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Festivals in general are tests of endurance and patience. Everyone turns out in hopes of experiencing something big, something meaningful. Call it the Woodstock syndrome. People are looking for transcendence and historical significance—a chance to say that they were there, and hoping that people will actually care a few years later. But when marijuana, beer, nicotine, and pulled pork are the only real substances available, when the sponsors include such brands such as Heineken and Axe Body Spray, and when many festival-goers seem so keenly aware of the scene and their place in it, the goal of transcendence seems nearly impossible to achieve. The Pitchfork Music Festival is no longer on the fringe. It’s well-established, and bordering on Lollapalooza territory as the years go by.