Intonation Fest Offers Musical Bang For The Buck

The Intonation Music Festival opened its gates at Chicago's Union Park over the weekend (July 16-17) and managed to achieve a goal for all first-year festivals: it sold out.

The Intonation Music Festival opened its gates at Chicago's Union Park over the weekend (July 16-17) and managed to achieve a goal for all first-year festivals: it sold out. Headliners included the Decemberists, Tortoise, Les Savy Fav, Death From Above 1979, Broken Social Scene and DJs Diplo and Jean Grae.

According to event promoter Intonation LLC, the two-day event sold its allotment of 15,000 tickets each night and had to turn away latecomers willing to pay the day ticket price just to see each evening's final band.

While mainstream festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo book chart-topping headliners, Intonation rounded up 26 acts selected by music Web site Pitchforkmedia.com, all signed to such independent labels as Kill Rock Stars and Secretly Canadian. Single-day passes cost $15, while a two-day pass sold for $22 (78% of pre-sale orders opted for this option).

"I don't know if it's necessarily that we wanted to keep ticket prices cheap or rather that everybody else tends to keep them high," Intonation LLC partner Mike Reed told Billboard.com.

Keith Nelson and a friend, both 16, came down from Park Ridge, Ill. Fans of both the Arcade Fire, who is playing this weekend's Lollapalooza being held two miles down the road, and Deerhoof, who graced one of Intonation's two stages, they had to choose between festivals. "You can spend the same money at Intonation for a ticket, like six CDs and a t-shirt for the price of just a ticket to Lollapalooza," Nelson said.

"Pitchfork had a lot too do with us getting an audience at first," Decemberists singer/songwriter Colin Meloy told Billboard.com. "When our first record [2002's Castaways and Cutouts] came out nobody knew us -- they read about us in Pitchfork, which started everybody coming out to our shows. It's nice to know that you don't have to be on the radio to get a big crowd at a festival or show."

"It's refreshing to see newer bands get a good slot," added Four Tet's Kieran Hebden backstage before his schizophrenic electronica set on Saturday. "Playing experimental electronic music on the main stage of a festival to 15,000 people is sort of a unique thing for me. Normally at the big U.K. festivals I'm put off to the side in the 'weirdoes' tent. So, I guess this is the festival where it's just the 'weirdoes' headlining!"

No announcements have been made about next year's plans for the festival.