Pitchfork Festival

Posted by Charlotte on August 10, 2009 at 10:52 pm.


I have to say I was a little apprehensive about going to a festival on my own, I envisaged myself standing in amongst thousands of people and taking to no-one for three days. Luckily my pessimism was proved wrong and I had the best festival experience I have ever had.

Pitchfork is a fairly small festival but it just gets it right in every way (I am told the only downside was the drinks queue, but I managed to avoid that). Within 10 minutes of arriving I had befriended an incredibly cool photographer from Yahoo Music called Taleen. After seeing her disappear into the photo pit for Yo La Tengo I knew I should probably get my press pass sorted, which luckily I did.

The next morning I dashed to a photography wholesalers and persuaded them to lend me a lens, which was tricky as I didn’t have the required $2000 spare on my credit card as a deposit… gulp, but they were kind and let me loose with one. Photographing a festival was one of the toughest things I have ever had to photograph. You are limited to the first three songs, and combined with ever changing light and the scrum of the other photographers, if you aren’t used to photographing fast you will be after.

Seeing bands from the photo pit was incredible, you are obviously closer than anyone else, but with a zoom lens you view the band from an almost intimate perspective. I tried to photograph everything, and although that meant missing the rest of a set, I saw many more bands than I would have done.

3752779856_38cb5187feMy partner in crime, Taleen

For some reason Taleen and I had also been given VIP passes and so we got to spend our time backstage. It was very different to what I was expecting. Obviously better toilets and free booze (although I do not recommend Sparks, alcoholic-lucozade certainly keeps you going, but you feel very strange in the morning). Taleen loved approaching people in bands and set about talking to anyone and everyone, I’m awful at remembering who people are and this worked in my favour as I didn’t become a blithering idiot. I did manage to maintain my ability to say daft things at the worst times but I think (hope) my accent allowed me to get away with it.

There were a few bands that I was more excited about getting to see so close, rather than taking their picture, and Grizzly Bear were definitely one of those. There was a brief panic when my camera ran out of battery (amateur, I know) but I had also taken my Pentax film camera and bizarrely those ended up being the photos I like the most.

Flaming Lips was certainly an experience.We knew they would be the hardest to photograph as the scrum would be the most competitive. Taleen wasn’t really up for it but I was too curious to miss it and dragged her over. The first set of photographers had been let and and there were hundreds of them squished into the few metres the photographers get. We were held back and told that everyone was only getting one song. We obviously missed the ‘one song’ that included Wayne Coyne coming out onto the stage through a backdrop of a woman with her legs open in his trademark bouncy ball and out onto the crowd. However it was a great sight to see and when we finally got in I was thankful that we only had the one song as the previously courteous photo pit had turned into a feeding frenzy with elbows being thrown left, right and centre. Although I am not a huge Flaming Lips fan, they certainly put on a show and the atmosphere they created was the perfect way to end the festival.

If you are more interested in reading about the bands than my daft experience see below:

My review for Drowned in Sound is here – Close to P4K-tion: DiS does the Pitchfork Music Festival


It was wonderful being back in Chicago, I managed to have nearly two days either side of the festival and was taken to the most amazing places to eat by my Chicago-an friend Kevin. Hopefully the line-up for Pitchfork will be as good next year and I can hotfoot it over there again.

The rest of my photos are in this fancy slideshow below:

and look, there I am….


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