Sure, there may be a lot of downside to the modern music festival experience. But there are a lot of plusses too, chief among them the chance to discover up-and-coming musical talents before they begin gigging at giant venues with top-dollar ticket prices and soundtracking Hollywood blockbusters.
With the Pitchfork Music Festival set to kick off in Chicago's Union Park on Friday, we wanted to highlight a half-dozen artists playing the fest we feel are most on the verge of a breakout at the music tastemaker's signature annual event. We're guessing that, come 2015, you'll be glad you gave them a listen before your parents were listening to them too.
In five words: Glittering haze; sultry, soulful R&B.
For fans of: Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Solange.
New Jersey-raised songstress SZA has been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks, collaborating with names ranging from Jill Scottto Willow Smith and receiving a big shout-out from LA Weekly for her role in crashing the boys' party at Top Dawg Entertainment. SZA, born Solana Rowe, is both the first woman and the first R&B artist signed to the label put on the map by names like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. Her latest release -- an EP of 10 songs titled "Z" -- has been heralded for a fresh sound that wears its wide-ranging influences on its sleeve while still having a flavor entirely its own. --J.E.
Sharon Van Etten
In five words: Heartbreaking, world-ending lovelorn magic.
For fans of: Cat Power, The Cure, Jeff Buckley
That the 33-year-old singer-songwriter isn't universally acclaimed can only be explained one way: not everyone has heard of Sharon Van Etten yet. Though her star has continued to rise, Van Etten's ability to sing about love and heartbreak with both fragility and fierceness -- backed by some seriously haunting guitars -- means its only a matter of time before she's a household name. --K.B.
In five words: Soulful, smokey Southern hip-hop.
For fans of: Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Rick Ross.
For fans of: Black Lips, The Replacements, Big Star.
Chicago quartet Twin Peaks -- no, not that "Twin Peaks" -- have been winning over fans for years in the Windy City, well before they were of legal age to have an alcoholic drink at the bars where they were busy slaying sets. This band now appears ready to take on the world with their music festival-friendly beach-y, reverb-y rock 'n' roll sound. Their highly-anticipated second album, "Wild Onion" is due out Aug. 5. --J.E.
In five words: Grunge-tinged art rock brilliance.
For fans of: Pavement, The Pixies, The Breeders.
Even while giving you a million reasons to like them, Speedy Ortiz never comes off as trying too hard. Discordant guitars and whip-smart lyrics (thanks to frontwoman and songwriter Sadie Dupuis) sound like they could have nestled neatly in between Pavement and Liz Phair sets from a festival lineup 20 years ago. A refusal to repeat the same tricks keeps the tracks fresh -- like the just-released cut "Bigger Party" for Adult Swim's 2014 Summer Singles series. --K.B.
In five words: Sparse, futuristic trip-hop sexiness.
For fans of: Björk, The Knife, Portishead.
With two highly regarded EPs already under her belt, British electronic artist FKA twigs' first full-length release comes out on Aug. 12 -- and the music world is waiting with bated breath for another helping of the 26-year-old's adventurous and unusual work. Her otherworldly presence can't easily be compared to anyone else -- her songs combine elements of hip-hop, soul and R&B in addition to the trip-hop she is most often associated with. One simply can't look away. --J.E.