So This past weekend, I went to my first research site- The Pitchfork Music Festival, in Chicago.
During a course I took in winter term, Public Folklore and Cultural Programming, I learned a bit about field research, and that the best way to prepare, etc. Because my visit to Pitchfork was a bit last-minute, I wasn’t able to prepare a list of topics to observe, etc. but I have been following Pitchfork Media as a personal and educational case study for almost a year now, as they use a variety of mediums from twitter to online streaming to playlists to traditional album reviews, and of course, the music festival, to convey their brand narrative.
The following are just a few points that I noticed about the festival. It did not end up being a site where I could glean a lot of observed research, because Pitchfork really only highlights music during its festival, although it did add a comedy stage this year. At this point in my research, I am not sure how the comedy aspect relates to my idea of ‘transmedia,’ so I’m keeping it on the backburner for now.
- The one big difference between Pitchfork Music Festival and many other festivals, and the one thing that Pitchfork really promotes, is that the musical acts do not overlap. Going into the festival, I thought this was a very unique and good idea, but once I arrived, I realized that it meant that everyone at the festival is in the same place watching the one band all of the time. It also means that if you do not like the band who is playing, you’re kind of out of luck for an hour or so (but you can easily fill that time…keep reading).
- Another aspect to Pitchfork that sets it apart is the small space. Union Park, where the festival takes place, is very, very small. But this meant that everyone is crammed into a confined space. Even more than usual, it was difficult to travel from place to place while at the fest.
- Speaking of crowds…they were everywhere. From an around-the-block line to pick up my tickets from will call to an estimated hour-long wait to get a drink (first you had to go to the “beverage tickets” line, then the actual drink tent line), to the sardine-like situation in the used vinyl tent (maze), it was really crowded. I didn’t arrive at the park until the sun was down, but during the heat of the day, I’m sure it was even more uncomfortable.
- It was kind of up to the attendees to explore and find everything. There was a tent with some vendors, including a lot of used vinyl, as well as a variety of food and drink vendors, but you had to meander around to find them. Pitchfork sent out an email the week of the festival with the list of “attractions,” but if you bought your tickets through another avenue, you wouldn’t have even gotten that.
- I walked up to the comedy stage just as the last act was ending. The comedy stage was on the opposite side of the park from the music stages, and the programming was during the musical acts, so attendees had to choose to miss some music in order to hear the comedy. I guess this is a good option for those who didn’t like the band that was playing, but I’ve never been one to watch stand-up, so it wasn’t really an interesting addition to me.
- That being said, I think that it’s interesting that of all the “other” media Pitchfork could have chosen, and even already employs on its website, they chose comedy. The addition kind of baffled me, because Pitchfork Media is all about music.
So overall, I found the festival to be a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t very helpful in my research, which was disappointing because Pitchfork Media has been one of my go-to websites for transmedia implementation. I have two more festivals in the near future, MidPoint Music Fest, which is in Cincinnati, Ohio, September 24-26 (which I am probably going to have the opportunity to volunteer for leading up to the festival), and Treasure Island Music Fest, in San Francisco, CA, October 16 and 17.