15 Picks for 2011's Pitchfork Music Festival

The Pitchfork Music Festival goes down in Chicago's Union Park this weekend, with nearly four dozen acts making the trek. Here's just a few of our favorites.

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Erika M. Anderson—EMA to you and me—racked up a Best New Music nod for her recent solo debut, Past Life Martyred Saints. The stark, passionate LP is one of the year's best debuts, and as Anderson proved time and again with her little-heard ex-band Gowns, what she does onstage borders on the transcendent. She'll hit the festival's Red Stage at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Wildly eclectic ukulele-toting noise-pop mish-masher Merrill Garbus brings her tUnE-yArDs to the festival's Blue Stage at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Her recent LP, the kaleidoscopic w h o k i l l, received a Best New Music designation from Pitchfork, and her live show's as good or better as her work on record.
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There are indie rock legends, and then there's Guided by Voices. The recently reunited "classic lineup" of these beer-swilling Ohio scuzz-pop icons will bang out a wild and wooly set of underground classics to delight the drunken masses on Pitchfork's Green Stage at 6:25 p.m. Friday.
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Huge-voiced alt-country crooner Neko Case disappointed the Pitchfork faithful when she skipped out on an appearance with Canadian indie-pop supergroup New Pornographers in 2007. But those still stinging from the slight will get plenty of concession Friday when Case brings her impressively knotty wordplay and those killer pipes of hers to—where else?—the Red Stage at 7:20 p.m.
If Pitchfork has a favorite band, it's probably Animal Collective. These classification-defying electronic bliss-merchants are best known for their forward-thinking LPs, but their live show's every bit as daring, often serving as a springboard for their newer, even further-out material. They'll close out Friday night on the Green Stage at 8:30 p.m.
Los Angeles noise-punk duo No Age will surprise you; one minute, you'll be blissing out on one of their sumptuous, floaty drones, and the next, they'll thwack you with a little burst of hardcore squall. One thing's easy to predict, though: they will, as ever, put on one heck of a live show when they hit Pitchfork's Red Stage at 3:20 p.m. Sunday.
For years, the thesaurus-thumbing wordplay of dapper Dan Bejar's Destroyer seemed to doom the group to cult status. But all that changed on this year's breakthrough Kaputt, a swank, sultry masterwork that matched Bejar's slippery lyrics with lite-disco and 80s cheese-rock and won him a well-deserved Best New Music from Pitchfork. He'll hit the festival's Red Stage at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.
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Blistering hardcore punk supergroup OFF!—fronted by Circle Jerks founder Keith Morris and featuring members of Redd Kross, Earthless and Burning Brides—will whip Pitchfork into a veritable frenzy when they hit the Blue Stage Saturday at 4:45 p.m. Just watch out for Morris' epic four-foot-long dreadlocks; they'll get ya.
Washington, D.C. spazz-rock legends The Dismemberment Plan reunited to massive acclaim early this year after nearly a decade away. Their 1999 landmark, Emergency & I, received a rare perfect score from Pitchfork upon its rerelease this winter, and their recent live shows find them in fine, raucous form. They'll hit the festival's Green Stage at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
By day, DJ Shadow can be found scouring the world's record crates. By night, he transforms those bits of sound into sultry, sweltering soundscapes, a smoky mix of dusty soul and classic-era hip-hop. The incomparable Shadow takes the fest's Red Stage at 7:25 p.m. Saturday.
The city of San Francisco's seen a resurgence in sturdy 60s garage-rock throwbacks of late. Few marry the sounds of the past with a decidedly modern outlook like the slack songsmiths of The Fresh & Onlys, and nary a one pens tunes as catchy. Though they may not look like early risers, they'll open Pitchfork's Green Stage on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
When Philly folkster Kurt Vile hits the festival's Green Stage on Sunday, he'll be the only act to ever play Pitchfork two years running. Sound problems marred Vile's otherwise fine showing in 2010, so expect his spindly classic-rock-indebted tunes—including plenty from his Best New Music-garnering Smoke Ring For My Halo— to sound especially pristine in the Sunday afternoon sun. Vile plays at 2:30 p.m.
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Whether you want to give them the finger or just shout "swag" in their general direction, it's hard to not have an opinion on L.A. rap provocateurs OFWGKTA. These polarizing pottymouths will inspire a spectacle one way or another; and their Pitchfork appearance will be accompanied by both frenzied fans and protesters. Make up your own mind on the Red Stage at 3:20 p.m. Sunday.
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Indie rock institution Superchunk returned to the studio after nearly a decade's hiatus to crank out last year's killer Majesty Shredding, proving they hadn't lost a step in their years away. They'll bring their gnarly, time-tested power-pop to the festival's Red Stage at 5:15 p.m. Sunday.
Aussie dance-poppers Cut Copy's 2008 fest-ending Pitchfork set is the stuff of legend; a delayed plane ride found them arriving at the park with mere minutes before curfew, but they gamely took the stage and dazzled the ravenous crowd. Travel permitting, they'll get the chance to stretch out a bit—and show off this year's killer Best New Music recipient Zonoscope—when they hit the festival's Red Stage at 7:25 p.m. Sunday.
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