An Unforgettable Festival To Remember (And Not Forget)

Note: The names of all those involved have been replaced by nicknames to protect the not-so-innocent. Also, the chronology and content of events may have been altered due to lapses in memory, or maybe I just like lying to you. Whatever.

Day One: Friday, July 17th

I awake to the sound of destiny, if destiny was a shrill piercing buzz coming out of my alarm clock. It’s sometime before noon, and as a lazy person with no sense of purpose or drive, I normally hate waking up before noon. But today I hate it a little bit less. Why? Come on, dumbass, read the title.

My brother drives me to the airport. The ride is uneventful (no car accidents/high-speed chases). Trivial but passable… no standout moments. He drops me off at the curb and I carry my bags to the ticket counter. Since I only have one medium-sized rolling duffel and a laptop case, I’m told I don’t have to check any bags. I ask the ticket lady if she has any baggage of her own; she gives me a strange look. I guess she isn’t as deep as I am. Whatever.

I get on the plane and stow my bag in the overhead compartment. I discover I haven’t been seated next to an attractive, shy hipster who will later become my wife. This is quite disappointing; I consider asking for a refund, but then remember I’m totally over capitalism and material possessions.

The flight is uneventful (no plane crashes/high-speed air chases). A solid effort, but a bit too frontloaded… midsection lacks diversity, though the ending is strong. I disembark and walk through O’Hare Airport, which always reminds me of Home Alone. Remember that scene with the family running through O’Hare to catch their flight, since a power outage reset their alarm clocks and they’re totally running late? And then they barely make it and they get on the plane and they’re like did we forget anything and then the mom is like KEVIN and then you see Macaulay Culkin waking up to an empty house? Man, I love that movie. Also, the creepy dude with the shovel who saves Kevin is awesome. Sadly, I did not see him at the Pitchfork Music Festival.

Finally, I arrive at the hotel. I call up two of my friends, The DJ and Gurt Spaghetti, but apparently they’ve gone out to buy alcohol. Luckily, Taiwanese Ian Curtis comes down and gets me while his girlfriend M holds down the fort. The room is small but pleasant; I find no disgusting stains or any evidence that someone was once murdered here. Thumbs up.

Taiwanese Ian Curtis and M run off to see the Friday night concert: Built to Spill, The Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise. The rest of us stay back and drink because we don’t care. Whatever.


Waking Up Early: 2.3 / 10

Car Ride to Airport: 5.5 / 10

Plane Ride: 7.4 / 10

Not Finding Soulmate on Plane: 1.4 / 10

Hotel: 7.9 / 10

Day Two: Saturday, July 18th

I think I had to wake up early again. Ugh.

Taiwanese Ian Curtis and M don’t have tickets for today, so it’s down to The DJ, Gurt Spaghetti, and myself. We get to the festival in time to see Fucked Up take the stage. The singer is a large man who likes to yell and rip beach balls apart with his teeth. He seems like he could benefit from some anger management classes or yoga. The music is okay.

We decide to check out The Antlers at the B stage. They sound terrific live, though I still resent the singer for recording the vocals on Hospice with ten times the necessary amount of saliva. Come on dude, I don’t want to feel like I’m actually inside your mouth when I listen to your music. Let’s just keep this one platonic.

Next, we decide to hit up the record tents. I head over to the Ghostly International table, where I ask the guy about the upcoming Lusine album because I want to show that I’m cool and know about these things. Our conversation is short, awkward, and mostly pointless. I retreat to the food stands and sob into my vegan ice cream.

Gurt Spaghetti and I head over to the B stage at 3:35 for Bowerbirds. Gurt says Beth Tacular is really attractive and I concur, though she’s not really my type. I guess if she hit on me, I’d probably have sex with her, but whatever. I’m a busy guy. Oh yeah, and Bowerbirds sounded good, I guess.

Over at the basketball court, there’s a booth set up where people can try to set records. Some of these include shooting a marble out of your bellybutton the farthest distance, complimenting the most people in 30 seconds, or the fastest recitation of the lyrics to some MC Hammer song. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have a slot for Sexiest Man On the Planet With the Best Taste In Music Ever, so I’m out of luck.

It starts raining, so I quickly head over to an umbrella-covered table by the Nintendo DS station. An attractive girl wearing a Nintendo shirt sits down and asks me if I want to play Mario Kart. This is basically my ultimate fantasy, so of course I say yes. I win the race easily. She does not give me her phone number.

I meet up with The DJ and Mr. Spaghetti at the A stage for MF Doom, where we argue for 15 minutes over what the “MF” stands for. I contend it stands for “Most Friendly,” while The DJ claims it stands for “Metal Face.” We agree to disagree and focus our attention on Doom, who’s prowling around the stage wearing his trademark metal mask, as well as what appears to be either leafy camouflage or the skin of a Chia Pet. He has a companion that shouts certain phrases and tries to pump up the crowd. I kind of wish I had his job. Does Sufjan Stevens need a wingman?

At 7:25, I wander over to the C Stage for Beirut. He’s good… needs about 30 more accordions, though. After further wandering, I come across a screen-printing station set up by a local boutique. Inspired, I ask if they can make me a shirt that says “Hipster Wife Hunting.” After shooting me a look that’s equal parts amusement and disbelief, the woman behind the table says they can do it. High-fives all around.

We hit up the Black Lips at 8:30, just to see if anything insane happens. Someone smashes a guitar; we cheer, because smashing guitars is cool. After picking up my finished “Hipster Wife Hunting” shirt, I head toward the exit with The DJ and SeÒor Spaghetti. On our way out of the park, we glance over at the A stage where The National is headlining. They sound okay. Whatever.

We return to the hotel, where I don my new shirt. It makes me look even more awesome than usual, which I didn’t think was possible. After heading out to find an after-party, we run into Taiwanese Ian Curtis and M, returning from their day of sightseeing. Boring. They go back to the hotel, while The DJ and Admiral Spaghetti and I go get drunk at a noisy bar. I fail to find a hipster wife. C’est la vie.


Waking Up Early Again: 1.7 / 10

Dude From Fucked Up Attacking Beach Balls: 8.9 / 10

The Antlers: 7.4 / 10

Conversation With Guy at Ghostly Intl. Table: 5.5 / 10

Bowerbirds: 7.9 / 10

Hot Nintendo Girl Playing Mario Kart With Me: 9.2 / 10

Hot Nintendo Girl Not Sleeping With Me: 0.0 / 10

“Most Friendly” Doom: 7.6 / 10

Beirut: 8.1 / 10

Getting a Shirt That Says Hipster Wife Hunting: 10/10

Black Lips Guitar Smash: 8.4 / 10

The National: 7.whatever

Noisy Bar After-party: 4.8 / 10

Day Three: Sunday, July 19th

The final day [cue some sort of dramatic music]. I’m wearing my “Hipster Wife Hunting” shirt and feeling like Pauly Shore: he knows everyone’s looking at him, but he can’t tell if they’re laughing with him or at him (confession: I am laughing at him). We arrive in time to catch Blitzen Trapper on the A stage, playing their signature brand of rootsy classic rock. It’s good stuff, but Gurt is unimpressed and there are no potential hipster wives in the band, so we leave.

As we pass by the Sparks tent, we have a moment of silence for our dearly departed drink. For those who have been living under some sort of non-alcoholic rock, Sparks was once a magical beverage bestowed upon humanity by some benevolent god, capable of both energizing the body AND impairing the mind. It was a beautiful combination, and it tasted like a bizarre mix of beer and orange soda. But then Big Safety came along and demanded that Sparks remove the caffeine from their beverage, because apparently it was helping drunk drivers stay awake at the wheel instead of falling asleep in the parking lot. Sparks could’ve refused, standing up to authority like the Rosa Parks of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Instead, they decided to capitulate, removing everything that made Sparks important and reducing it to a gross version of Smirnoff Ice. Thanks a lot, guys.

We catch Women at 3:35; they play “Black Rice” and I’m satisfied. Commander Spaghetti and I leave to check out The Thermals on the A stage. On multiple occasions I am accosted by girls asking to take photos of or with me, though none of them seem willing to commit to a relationship. Whatever.

I meet up with another friend of mine, The Narcoleptic, who also came out for the festival. She lends me some beer tickets and we head over to get a good spot for The Walkmen at the C stage. This turns out to be one of my favorite show of the entire festival; the band plays a lot of songs off their recent (and awesome) album You & Me, and singer Hamilton Leithauser is in top form, belting out the words until his face turns red. An excellent set from an excellent band.

It’s about time for dinner, so I head over to the food tents to grab some grub. I end up getting one of those double boneless rib sandwiches, the kind that’s basically just pork fat compressed into a vague rib-like shape. So delicious. For dessert, I have five successive heart attacks.

At this point I’m trying to jockey for a good position for The Flaming Lips, who don’t go on until 8:40, but already there’s a massive crowd forming around the A stage. Major General Lieutenant Spaghetti and The DJ and I grab a half-decent spot behind the sound tent, watching from afar as Grizzly Bear rocks out on the C stage. They sound great, even from a distance. Meanwhile, a random woman tells me that her friends voted my shirt the best one at the festival, and asks for a photo of us. I feel bizarrely proud, maybe even more proud than that time I won a poster contest in 2nd grade and got a free television set. The random woman doesn’t give me a television set (though I do get her admiration, even if that has little to no resale value). Moral of the story: even an unpopular nerd with bad acne can grow up to have his semi-ironic t-shirt designs lauded by the fashionable hipster community. Work hard enough, and you can achieve your dreams too.

Finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for: The Flaming Lips take the stage. Their set contains, in no particular order: explicit female imagery, Wayne Coyne crowd-surfing in an inflatable plastic ball, approximately 5000 metric tons of confetti, bizarrely costumed dancers on the sidelines, awesome video feedback effects, and a whole lot of balloons. It was alright, I guess.

After the show, we head back to the hotel and brainstorm about what to do next. It’s the night of M’s 21st birthday, so we decide some kind of bar celebration is in order. However, it’s Sunday night and we’re in Chicago, which means nothing is open. Luckily, we run into a couple hippies sitting outside a hotel; they tell us the hotel bar is closed, but invite us to come up to their hotel room for birthday shots of vodka. We think about this for a minute, weighing the chances of this being awesome vs. the chances of us ending up on Unsolved Mysteries. We finally decide to take them up on their offer; on the elevator ride up, I briefly recall Liz Lemon’s advice: “Never follow a hippie to a second location.” But these turn out to be friendly hippies and we have a fun night, though I’m not really sure what happened between the hours of 11 PM and 3 AM. Whatever.


Blitzen Trapper: 7.3 / 10

Uncaffeinated Sparks: -50 x 10^23 / 10

Women: 7.6 / 10

The Thermals: 7.5/ 10

Girls Who Love My Shirt But Not Me Personally: -1.2 / 10

The Walkmen: 9.2 / 10

Double Boneless Rib Sandwich: 9.0 / 10

Cardiac Arrest: frowny face / 10

Grizzly Bear From a Distance: 8.9 / 10

Random People Voting My Shirt The Best At The Festival: 11.4 / 10

The Flaming Lips: 9.5 / 10

Naked Psychedelic Woman On a Giant Video Screen: priceless

Random Hippies: 3-point-shoe / ????


Day One: 2.6 / 10

Day Two: 8.1 / 10

Day Three: 9.0 / 10

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– Matt Diamond


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