UTG INTERVIEW: Pitchfork Music Festival Bands on Their Favorite Chicago Hangouts

We’re a little more than excited for Pitchfork Music Festival to arrive this year considering it has an awesome record fair (Chirp!), top notch food vendors (Rice Table! Puffs of Doom!), and a beautifully stacked lineup (Slowdive! Beck! Neutral Milk Hotel!). The festival will take place over at Union Park on July 18-20 for three days of great music before dispersing to Chicago’s playground of venues for a series of after-shows. And so the countdown to musical bliss begins.

To help festivalgoers make the most out of their experience, we asked some of the bands about their favorite spots, where they’re dying to go, and their best experience in Chicago. If you thought planning your perfect schedule was hard before, just wait until you try to fit all of these spots in. The struggle is oh so real.

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SLOWDIVE (Sunday, 6:15PM)

Favorite Spots: For Slowdive in the ’90s, the Metro WAS Chicago. We played there with Ride in 1992, Catherine Wheel in 1993, and then on our own in 1994. James and D’Arcy from Smashing Pumpkins came to the show we played with Ride in 1992, and we were rather starstruck. We used to have “Gish” on in the tour bus all the time! The Metro shows were among the very best – the venue is great for a band, but the crowds were always fantastic and it was just so much fun to play there. Then there’s Smart Bar, of course. It had a photo booth. It had cozy corners. And it had friendly security. I remember we did the tourist thing and visited the Sears (as was) Tower sky deck and gazed out over sparkling Lake Michigan and the city spread out below.

Dying to Check Out: If there’s time, I’m looking forward to going back to the lake front, drinking orange juice, and going for pretzels. I keep hearing great things about Kuma’s Corner so I’ll be looking to get a burger and do some head banging there. I’d like to check out The Vic, as we’ll be playing there in the Fall. I will definitely be looking for places to eat and hang out in Logan Square, where an old friend has a place. We’re really looking forward to playing at the Pitchfork Festival – for us it’s perfect that our first show back in the US in 2014 will be there. The people at Pitchfork have been really enthusiastic about our return, so we’re very happy to be back – and back first with them in Chicago.

Best Experience: Hopefully our best experiences are still to come. But from the past – in 1993 I was drawn back to the city after our tour with Catherine Wheel was over. I took a Greyhound from Detroit, and on the way north up from the Indiana / Illinois border an enormous night time thunderstorm raged over the city. From over an hour away the sky was lit up as if the apocalypse was bearing down on us. For a while I actually thought the city was under attack. When the bus arrived, parts of the city were under water, underpasses were closed – but I made it back up to where I was staying with my friend, a supreme goddess who I’d met in 1992. Seeing the famous Chicago skyline lit up in the storm and then spending a few days in the sunshine, getting pizza, eating ice cream, and walking around the parks are great memories.

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Favorite Spots: We play the Empty Bottle a lot and it’s always a pretty cool place.  We always stay with our friends in the Smith Westerns, too. Our drummer used to play in that band. We’re pretty much always hanging at their house playing video games.

Dying to Check Out: The festival itself. We played Pitchfork in Paris and we played Lollapalooza but that’s it. If I had known you couldn’t play both Lollapalooza and Pitchfork Festival, well… I’m glad we’re playing this year.

Best Experience: I had fun going to see Trash Talk play once after our show. It was some venue with a really high balcony and people were diving off the second floor, like 25 feet up, feet-first into the crowd. There was blood on everything. That was a really insane show. The keyboard player in our band used to live there and I always ask him what the venue’s called and I always forget. We went to that show together before he even played in the band.

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Favorite Spots: The Art Institute of Chicago Museum. I went to this museum for the first time in December of 2004 right at the point when I was getting excited by contemporary art. I saw the Joseph Bueys “sled” — it was puzzling but amazing. The Garfield Park Conservatory, too. This was on a day off during the 2012 Dan Deacon Band tour… it was cold. Actually, it was the day after the election. I remember thinking it was disgusting that they dyed the water green… it was St. Patricks Day or near then.

Dying to Check Out: There are a bunch of bonkers restaurants that I would love to check out, but the one I’ve been thinking about lately is called Schwa. I don’t know much about it, but I’ve heard that there can be loud music, unconventional service, and no consistency in menu, which sounds great to me.

Best Experience: Playing Pitchfork in 2009 with Ponytail. This was right at the end of out first and only year of extreme touring. We were kind of exhausted but it was sort of a one week kind of thing and we had a blast at every show along the way. I don’t remember much about actually playing except that it was cloudy, which was a good thing because it wasn’t hot, and Willy was wearing a Michael Jackson tribute shirt RIP :( bittersweet.

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PERFECT PUSSY (Sunday, 1:55PM)

Favorite Spots: Hands-down, the Botanic Garden. It’s free, and absolutely massive… The last time we were in Chicago, we played at the Township and had a blast. In addition to being a venue, its also a restaurant, so we went back to get brunch there the next morning. Everyone agreed it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had — the food was seriously incredible, the menu is a mix of gussied-up diner breakfast and Indian food — and the staff got us loaded on fancy cocktails. – Meredith Graves

The Hopleaf is a go-to for me when I am in town. I like hanging in their garden with friends in the summer. Brunch at the Township is an awesome hang, too. There is an awesome comic book store that has a bunch of independent comics from artists all over and they also have some great local comics, like how to talk to your cat about gun safety. I don’t remember the name of it. – Shaun Sutkus

Dying to Check Out: The Art Institute or the MCA Chicago. I love going to museums and I’ve never been to either of those… I’ve also never been to the Chicago Diner, which is crazy because we love milkshakes. Also, my good friend Jes (who sings in Split Feet, one of the best bands in Chicago) is in the process of organizing an all-ages, fully accessible DIY venue called PURE JOY and I’m super excited for that to be up and running, it’s going to be amazing and very special and probably the best place in Chicago. – Meredith Graves

I’ve been looking for the Batman light for years. Where can I find that? Is it real? – Shaun Sutkus

Best Experience: Both times we’ve played Chicago, it’s been with amazing bands like Broken Prayer, Split Feet, and Fake Limbs. I like a lot of bands from Chicago and the shows there are always a ton of fun. Lots of young kids come out, so if the show is all ages, we always have an amazing time! – Meredith Graves

I always enjoy riding a bike around the city and at random parks by the water. That is probably the most fun I have had in Chicago. Oh, and petting my friends cats. That is always great. – Shaun Sutkus

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Favorite Spots: I have loved every show we’ve played at The Empty Bottle — something about that venue, its staff, and the crowd it draws really resonates with me. I love Permanent Records with its incredible Creem collection.

Dying to Check Out: I haven’t explored much beyond the Empty Bottle neighborhood since I tend to eat and hang out near wherever we’re playing, so perhaps I need the suggestions…

Best Experience: Hmm nothing too clear comes to mind — lots of drunken pizza; in fact, Jules once accidentally carried around a pepperoni in her boot for a week. Most memorable? I kinda met Aaron Paul at Lollapalooza … and then Sandy… and I thanked Perry Ferrel personally for having us play, much to his confusion.

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Favorite Spots: Unfortunately, I’m super unfamiliar with Chicago since I’ve only spent a couple nights there. :(

Dying to Check Out: I remember loving The Chicago Diner, “Meat Free Since ’83”! I keep meaning to visit that bookstore, Quimby’s, but haven’t had a chance yet. Also, a friend is opening an all ages spot called Pure Joy that sounds super fun.

Best Experience: Chicago is one of those towns were we always have an interesting time. Recently we played our first show with a fog machine at Lincoln Hall and before that I played on a roof for some self-professed and confusing “art bros.” I remember my tourmates (who were from there) having to break into their own storage space with an ax because they lost their key.

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Favorite Spots: Chicago is a serious money trap for me. A day in Chicago usually looks like: dropping excessive coin at Quimby’s on comics & zines; buying Liz Phair 7″s I don’t really need at Reckless before perusing the Touch & Go selection at Saki; self-portraiting in at least three photo booths; binge eating vegan milkshakes and mac & cheese at The Chicago Diner. My bank should probably ban me from using my credit card in Chicago at this point.

Dying to Check Out: I’m really excited for Pure Joy, which will be an all ages arts space opening later this year. My friend Jes Skolnik is spearheading it and it seems like it’ll be an amazing place. I hope we can play there.

Best Experience: One time we got to tour Electrical Audio. I got the impression I was the only person ever to tour Electrical Audio and mostly ask questions about the Detachment Kit. Steve Albini advised us to always make breakfast in bed for our wives. Always.

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Favorite Spots: There’s a prank shop right across the street from Schubas Tavern that we like to visit. One time, while on tour with Julia Holter, we bought some rubber snakes and put them in her drummer’s stick bag which he didn’t discover until during the show. That was a real hoot. Garfield Park Conservatory is an amazing indoor botanical gardens with multiple ecosystems. A wonderful little creature resides in there, the axolotl (aka mexican salamander). Undeniably cute little bugger. Uncle Mike’s Place (the Filipino Breakfast) — go here every time without fail. Nicole’s sister has lived in Chicago for as long as we’ve been touring, so she always gets quality time with her sis while we explore the city, too.

Dying to Check Out: The waterfront. For as many times as we’ve been in Chicago, we haven’t really explored the waterfront. Looks delightful. Would love to get out there on a sailboat one day.

Best Experience: The experiences that really stand out tend to be those which occur when first discovering a place, when it’s new and full of wonder. I’ll never forget those first times rolling into Chicago on our big vegetable oil school bus, playing Schubas, and feeling like it was the most grandiose thing. Staying up all night and eating a big Uncle Mike’s Filipino Breakfast with our dear friend and Chicago resident, Grant. The simple things<3

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JACK DOLAN of TWIN PEAKS (Saturday, 1:00PM)

Favorite Spots: A few places we love to go for good eats are the Heartland Cafe and Beach Stand, which were both started by KDN’s family long ago, JB’s Pizza in Rogers park, Budakis hot dog spot in Ravenswood.. love me some Harold’s Chicken all over the city, and a good Taco Burrito King will never let you down. Two very killer record stores are the Reckless Records in the South Loop and Wicker Park, but there’s a little gem called Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square that is excellent as well. Go see a movie at the Davis or the 400 cause anything else costs an arm and a leg. Go to the Art Institute on Thursday for free with your lady friend. Scalp some cheap tickets at Wrigley Field and get wasted. Go chill on the “sea wall” on the lake which is literally just a wall you jump off into the water and you can see the skyline on almost every spot on it. Lay around and play catch in Welles park and go take smoke breaks at Sunken Gardens right down the street (watch for the local kids!). And we have tons of great venues (Lincoln hall, Schubas, Riviera, Logan Square Auditorium), but if you’re looking for something more DIY and cheaper, it’s all about places like Wally’s World, Animal Kingdom, and Conservatory Studios, but you need to ask somebody else where they are. ;)

Dying to Check Out: We would love to attend a show at the Empty Bottle, but none of us are 21. In fact, we would love to attend every show and bar as a 21-year-old — that’s why we stick to going to house shows for the most part. Cobra Lounge, the Hideout, and Emporium are also supposed to be sick places. There’s a jazz record store downtown that I’ve been meaning to go to forever; it’s reputation is quite good. Also, I want to do that sky deck thing on the John Hancock where you are basically just standing in a glass box. Sounds expensive though.

Best Experience: I think our best experience in Chicago is just being lucky enough to be born here and especially playing music in this super supportive, talented, and just plain music lovin’ scene. KDN and I went to school in the heart of the South Loop which was an amazing thing to do everyday as a young teen. A boy can truly grow wise here.


Pitchfork Music Festival passes are sold out, but single-day tickets for Friday are still available here.

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