My dad had no idea that A$AP Rocky was coming. But he was ready for Lil B.
Last summer, I brought my father to the Pitchfork Music Festival, that annual indie-rock utopia in Chicago's Union Park, and the first artist he watched in full was Lord Flacko and the rest of the A$AP Mob, back before "LongLiveA$AP" was named Best New Music by a certain alternative-embracing website. An attorney from South Jersey with an avowed distaste for hip-hop music, my father had never heard of A$AP before the first day of Pitchfork 2012, but he watched the Harlem MC writhe in the rain and loved every ounce of energy emitted from the stage and lapped up by his crowd. He appreciated how seemingly every fifth word was the f-word, and months later, he got a kick out of the title of Rocky's breakout single, "Fuckin' Problems."
When I asked my dad to come with me to Chicago last year, I had a nagging suspicion that my coverage of Pitchfork Fest for Billboard would somehow, at least tangentially, include his presence alongside me -- and then he watched A$AP Rocky, and I watched my 57-year-old dad rock to "Peso," and I realized that I wanted to know what he thought of every single group we were going to watch that weekend. He provided his unique, age-inappropriate takes on Feist, araabMUZIK and Big K.R.I.T.; I jotted each reaction down in my iPhone notes, completely unbeknownst to him. The morning after last year's festival ended, I showed him a draft of what became "Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Invading Hipster Central With My Father," and he was floored, and moved, that he had morphed into part of the story.
Fast-forward one year, and my dad is watching Lil B warble the line "You can fuck my bitch" an absurd number of times in a row while the irreverent Based God performs the song "Eat" to an audience that's almost exactly as ravenous as Rocky's was on the same stage in 2012. He gazes upon the stage-divers, drops his shoulder in time with the squelching beat, smirks at the lyrics being presented in a park that stands in the shadow of a Catholic church. But this time, my father's unexpected pangs of appreciation have him reaching for the pad and pen tucked in his gym shorts. He jots something down, puts it away, and listens to Lil B sing "You can fuck my bitch" again.
My dad, now 58, decided to make a return trip to hipster mecca after having a blast the previous summer, and I told him I was going to put him to work. Last year, I could record his secondhand musings while he remained unaware of my true subject, but this year, I wanted to read his own thoughts in his own words, for a unique perspective on a festival geared specifically toward younger, digital-savvy music fans, many of whom pride themselves on championing bands that don't have their albums available at the local Target, if they even have albums at all.
This year's Pitchfork lineup admittedly featured more veteran artists than last year's gathering -- headliners Bjork, Belle & Sebastian and R. Kelly all reached their commercial and critical peaks in the 90s. But it's not like my dad can rattle through Bjork's back catalog. When he walked into Union Park on Friday, he had probably heard less total material from its three days of performers -- a handful of Belle & Sebastian songs, Kelly's best-known singles, Sky Ferreira's "Everything is Embarrassing" and a few scattered tracks from the rest -- than compared to the 2012 incarnation of Pitchfork Fest. Like last year, I hoped to get a reaction to this year's slate of buzz bands from someone who has never used the term "buzz band" in his life, who never visits Pitchfork's website and who can base an opinion of an artist solely on the 45 minutes of live music being presented onstage, to see where exactly we differ. So, we both went to Union Park three straight days, we both took notes this time, and we both wrote up our notes when the festival had finally concluded in the shadows of R. Kelly's inflatable doves on Sunday night.
Beginning on the next page, a written dialogue between my 58-year-old dad and 25-year-old me about the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival.