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Last year's inaugural Intonation Music Festival was a collaboration between indie-rock Web site Pitchfork, concert promoter and musician Mike Reed, and event-planning company Skyline Chicago, but despite the festival's spectacular success its organizers split up before the start of planning for the 2006 installment. Pitchfork and Reed have launched the Pitchfork Music Festival, which debuts at the end of July, and Skyline has announced that it will continue Intonation with a different musical curator each year. This weekend's bookings are the work of Vice, the label owned by the tastemaking lifestyle magazine of the same name.

The festival will again be held in Union Park (1501 W. Randolph), and both audience entrances are on the east side of Ashland south of Lake. The 26 acts range from psych rock to electro-pop to politically radical hip-hop and will generally alternate between two stages: the Vice Stage, toward the park's eastern end, and the Virtue Stage, in its northwest corner, closer to Ashland and Lake. Purposefully awful comedian Neil Hamburger emcees.

A pavilion at the southeast end of the park will house a retail bazaar, a rock poster gallery from Screwball Press, and a zine market operated by Quimby's, among other things. Lining the southern edge of the grounds will be food vendors, water tents, assorted diversions--including live, audience-controlled boxing from local party organizers Mondo--and kiosks from festival sponsors like the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, PETA, and the Reader. (This being a Vice event, another sponsor is the tongue-staining alcoholic energy drink Sparks.) Outside food and beverages are prohibited, with the exception of two sealed bottles of water per person, and no reentry is allowed.

Tickets will be available at the north entrance: single-day passes for $20, two-day passes for $40. At www.intonationmusicfest.com, two-day passes are $35 in advance, and group packages of four two-day passes are available for $120. Children under 12 get in free. Gates open at noon on both days.

Local clubs will host several official Intonation pre- and afterparties: On Friday night Russian Circles, Oakley Hall, and the Favourite Sons play the Empty Bottle and MSTRKRFT, Chromeo, Bald Eagle, and Jordan Zawideh DJ at Smart Bar. DJs also spin Saturday night at Sonotheque and Sunday night at the Funky Buddha Lounge. --Miles Raymer

SATURDAY 24

1:00 Favourite Sons

This Brooklyn band got together in late 2004, but they sound like they've been around forever. On the few available songs from their upcoming Down Beside Your Beauty (due on Vice in September) they lift liberally from 90s indie rock and 00s post-Strokes alt-rock, weaving in a dreamy decadence, and somehow end up sounding like Iggy Pop--"best junkie on earth" Iggy, not "VH1 talking head" Iggy. MR a Virtue Stage

1:30 Erase Errata

Erase Errata's third full-length, Nightlife (Kill Rock Stars), has been a long time coming thanks to the band's complicated transition from four-piece to trio, but it's finally out in July. In the album's lush, angular disco-punk I hear bits of the obsessively spiky riffs of the Fall, the full-bodied, declamatory vocals of Siouxsie Sioux, the racing, California-desert drone of X, even a bit of Sonic Youth's subway-tunnel guitar turbulence--and personally I'm glad those have all been familiar sounds for a generation or so, 'cause otherwise so many flavors scooped into the same sundae cup might make me a little queasy. As players these women seem to have finally wrapped up their R & D phase: their music's as aggressive as old-time postpunk and sometimes calls to mind 90s girl hardcore like Pet UFO, but they've got a better feel for the sweet spot of a hook than either. The athletic rhythms and self-assured singing even make the polemical lyrics ("Murder, manslaughter / All funded by my tax dollar") sound righteous instead of shrill. AS a Vice Stage

2:00 90 Day Men

It's hard to pin down what genre these locals fall into, but forced to guess, I'd file them next to the bootleg tapes of the basement jams that Ian MacKaye, Nina Simone, and Glenn Gould did together--when their epic, squalling songs achieve liftoff, it's like a rock band ten generations down the line is sending you telepathic messages from the future. The 90 Day Men are no longer a full-time project, and before last week they hadn't played Chicago in 15 months--don't skip this set lightly. MR a Virtue Stage

2:30 Devin the Dude

Most of the world only knows Devin the Dude from his cameo on Dr. Dre's Chronic 2001, but his self-lacerating humor and quirky, impeccable flow have earned him a devoted cult following. While Dre's struggling to keep up his platinum-gangsta image between Gwen Stefani sessions, Devin's smoking rival rappers casually, even lazily--the same way he smokes roaches out of the ashtray. MR a Vice Stage

3:10 Jose Gonzalez

This Swedish folksinger is already a mainstream star in his homeland thanks to his remarkable 2003 debut, Veneer, an indie-rock update of the melancholy musings of Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, and Paul Simon. Last year Urbana's Hidden Agenda label released Veneer in the U.S. (it was reissued stateside by Mute in April), and it's continued to attract critical praise on these shores. BM a Virtue Stage

3:50 Chromeo

Last week I was trying to describe Chromeo to a friend who hates synthesizers in a way that expressed my empathy toward people who hate synthesizers. "They're sorta like a honky version of the Dazz Band," I said, "except they're two nerds from Quebec and the singer is a grad student in French lit at Columbia and people who like them could probably be incited to physical violence if you dismissed the music by suggesting it might be even remotely ironic." Actually though, not only do I truly dig Chromeo, but I'm perfectly comfortable with the possibility that the things I like about She's in Control (Vice)--the vocals talk-boxed out the ying-yang, the bass grooves perfect for poppin' and lockin'--are "just" cheap, jokey nostalgia trips. There's gonna be some serious boogie-down action happening at this set--and if you can tell ironic dancing from the other kind, you're doing entirely too much looking. JN a Vice Stage

4:35 High on Fire

Whenever someone asks me to name the best live show I've seen lately, right off the bat I try to remember when these guys last came through town. Led by guitarist Matt Pike, who reimagined stoner rock on a colossal scale with Sleep, High on Fire plays thundering, uncut heavy metal that's no less devastating for being relatively straightforward. Bassist Joe Preston recently left the group, which is I suppose good news for fans of the Thrones; taking his place here will be Jeff Matz of Zeke. MK a Virtue Stage

5:20 Stills

I can't say for sure what's behind the Stills' recent stylistic shift, but if you'd put out a killer record like 2003's Logic Will Break Your Heart and ended up with a press kit full of Strokes references, you'd probably think about a new direction too. For their almost-as-killer Without Feathers (Vice), they've traded in the shimmering new wave of their debut for greasy classic rock that sounds like early Springsteen in tighter pants. MR a Vice Stage

6:05 Roky EricksonWith its visceral riff, its boomeranging electrified jug, and Roky Erickson's shrieking, uninhibited vocal, the 13th Floor Elevators' 1966 single "You're Gonna Miss Me" is a bona fide masterpiece of psychedelic garage rock. It was the Austin band's only real hit, but their three brilliant albums preached the gospel of expanded consciousness with biblical zeal. Unfortunately the Elevators' volatility wasn't confined to their music, and both Roky and the band were already falling apart when a pot bust got Erickson locked up in the Rusk hospital for the criminally insane in 1969. If he wasn't mad when he went in, he was by the time he got out: since his release in '72 his bursts of musical activity have been like oases in a desert of destitution and dysfunction. Despite his illness, he's still got it, at least when he can get it together: the 2005 retrospective I Have Always Been Here Before (Shout Factory) is packed with great songs, including post-Rusk numbers like the Buddy Holly-esque ditty "Starry Eyes," the paranoid meltdown "Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog)," and the twangy, defiant blues-rocker "Don't Slander Me." In the custody of his brother Sumner since 2001, Erickson is receiving the best medical and psychiatric treatment of his life; now 58, he hasn't recorded anything in more than a decade, but he's played several Texas shows in the past year and here makes his first appearance outside the state since 1982. BiM a Virtue Stage

6:55 Boredoms

When I saw the Boredoms in 1994 they were the total embodiment of exuberant chaos, playing hacked-up guitar skronk while band members took running leaps at each other from opposite ends of the stage and body slammed in midair. These days, though, they play long, flowing jams, and most of the players are seated--the lineup they're using now has three drum kits. It's hard to imagine a band changing more dramatically, but there is one common denominator: the fearless physicality and riveting charisma of bandleader and front man Yamatsuka Eye, who's always a mesmerizing focal point. BiM a Vice Stage

7:50 Ghostface Killah

The Wu-Tang dynasty may have fallen, toppled by paranoia, death, and a terrible Fox sitcom, but Ghostface Killah endures--his solo career has done nothing if not prove him worthy of the alias "Ironman." The bonkers, stream-of-consciousness flow on his latest triumph, Fishscale (Def Jam), is self-evidently the creation of a man who's half cranky elder statesman, half insane genius, and who wears a robe to work. MR a Virtue Stage

:45 Lady Sovereign

The British musical hybrid called grime--two-step's rhythmic stutter married to the guns-and-thugs drama of American hip-hop--found a new stateside ambassador last year in the unlikely form of a tiny white teenager named Lady Sovereign. She might look like a novelty act, but the cheeky, twisted rhymes on her EP Vertically Challenged (released in the U.S. on Chicago's Chocolate Industries label) are so good they got Jay-Z's attention: her debut full-length is due later this summer on Def Jam. MR a Vice Stage

9:20 Streets

Yep, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (Vice/Atlantic) is Mike Skinner's "perils of pop stardom" album. But remember, the previous Streets album was a masterpiece about a schlub misplacing a wad of cash. Skinner has a knack for extracting both significance and perfectly timed jokes from the banal--and what could be more banal than the perils of pop stardom? The MC comes off a tour to discover he left the iron plugged in, blows his cash on a pinstripe track suit, and finds that fame hasn't made it any easier to date. It's like if Us Weekly's "Stars--They're Just Like Us!" feature were actually funny. And funky. And true. KH a Virtue Stage

SUNDAY 25

1:00 Tyrades

These local garage punks, Horizontal Action favorites practically from the moment they moved here from Buffalo back in 2002, draw heavily on the sounds of female-fronted late-70s California bands like the Avengers, the Bags, and the Alley Cats. They've released several records of their high-velocity racket, notably an excellent 2004 seven-inch on the local Shit Sandwich label. BM a Vice Stage

1:30 Bill Dolan

Out of action for much of the past seven years, former Five Style and Heroic Doses guitarist Bill Dolan is back: he's written a set of new material, which he'll perform here with original Five Style drummer John Herndon and bassist Matt Lux. See the Meter for more. BM a Virtue Stage

2:00 Panthers

The Panthers play burly postgrunge streaked with psychedelic 70s radio rock--they may look like dorks, but on Things Are Strange (Vice) they sound like Mudhoney rolling with a drugged-up biker gang. MR a Vice Stage

2:30 Constantines

Every band playing rock 'n' roll in any form tries to make it sound like it matters--though way too many just seem prone to tantrums. These Canadians hit the nail on the head almost every time: there's nothing groundbreaking about their current album, Tournament of Hearts (Sub Pop), but its weary, beautiful ballads and righteous stompers have an earnest, disciplined soulfulness that makes you feel like there's some things you ought to come clean about too. MK a Virtue Stage

3:10 Rhymefest

Rhymefest's best known at this point for cowriting Kanye's "Jesus Walks" and complaining about how little money that made him, but his long-awaited major-label debut, Blue Collar (Allido), ought to change that. If the Kanye-produced single "Brand New" is any indication, he's got the potential to blossom from a rapper's rapper into an icon even a mall rat can recognize. MR a Vice Stage

3:45 Annie

In 2005, when this Norwegian singer and DJ put out her debut, Anniemal, in the U.S., club kids and indie rockers latched onto its candy-coated electro-pop with a fervor you rarely see music snots display for that sort of thing. The obvious, superficial comparison is Kylie Minogue, but Annie's album has more musical and emotional depth--in fact it's more moving than most records by turbo-sincere sad-guy troubadours. MR a Virtue Stage

4:20 Lupe Fiasco

If the buzz on the oft-leaked Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (allegedly dropping this week on Atlantic) is to be believed, hip-hop's next big thing will be a devoutly Muslim skateboarder from Chicago. That may not sound too plausible at first, but wait till you hear Lupe's flow--it's like you're in Bizarro world, where Nas is a mellow dude who hates hip-hop stereotypes. MR a Vice Stage

4:55 The Sword

There's probably no name more elegantly appropriate for this Austin band, purveyors of epic, ostentatious Dungeons & Dragons metal so shameless and flawless some folks smell a put-on. I don't know why anyone would suspect that a song called "Lament for the Aurochs" might not be 100 percent sincere, but ultimately it's not worth arguing about--when a band can crush your skull like this, it doesn't matter much if they wink while they do it. MK a Virtue Stage

5:30 Blue Cheer

This late-60s San Francisco institution was once infamous as the loudest band in the world, but nowadays Vincebus Eruptum and Outsideinside don't sound like the freakish anomalies that superlative might suggest--they're more like cries of triumph from an infant musical tradition that'd just gone potty all by itself for the first time. Hawkwind's hard to imagine without the precedent of Blue Cheer, and so are scads of bands as different from one another as High on Fire and Acid Mothers Temple. Their reputation as self-indulgent knuckle draggers has been rethought in recent years--see the eloquent apologia "Caucasian Power Blues" in the online zine Perfect Sound Forever--but though they were fearless and anarchic in their salad days (which ended not long after guitarist Leigh Stephens left in '68), they've been pretty hit-or-miss since. The less said about some of the sub-Bad Company crap they cut in the 80s and 90s, the better--it doesn't exactly whet one's appetite for the album they finished late last year. Though Stephens unfortunately isn't part of the current lineup, original drummer Paul Whaley, the band's secret weapon, has just re-rejoined bassist-vocalist Dickie Peterson and longtime guitarist Andrew "Duck" MacDonald, and word from the road is encouraging. MK a Vice Stage

6:15 Jon Brion

Despite his slim solo output--just two discs under his own name--singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Jon Brion has had a tremendous impact on modern pop, working intimately with everyone from Fiona Apple to Kanye West. In April a bout of tendinitis forced him to cancel his popular residency at the Los Angeles club Largo, but Brion has apparently recovered sufficiently to make this rare live appearance outside his home city--and like his weekly Largo shows, his solo set here is likely to feature a few surprise guest stars. BM a Virtue Stage

7:15 Robert Pollard

The Guided by Voices leader has gone solo, but his beautifully besotted indie rock is as compelling as ever, perfectly fusing lo-fi aesthetics and arena-size hooks. Pollard's all-star backing crew includes power-pop cult hero Tommy Keene and Frank Black sideman Dave Phillips on guitars, Superchunk's Jon Wurster on drums, and Verbow vet Jason Narducy on bass. BM a Vice Stage

:15 Dead Prez

Dead Prez can sound as serious as a politically radical rap group is supposed to be, but they're even better when they sound like OutKast fresh from a Black Panther Party orientation. On 2004's RBG: Revolutionary but Gangsta (Columbia) M-1 and Stic.man's combination of ghetto manifestos and bangin' beats makes street revolution sound like the best party you can imagine. MR a Virtue Stage

9:05 Bloc Party

It seemed like music critics couldn't find enough ways to hand-job Bloc Party's 2005 full-length debut, Silent Alarm (released in the U.S. on Vice), but so far the hype hasn't generated much backlash. Maybe that's because the band's songs--despite the trendy dance-punk trappings they're tarted up in--are the kind of precise and overwhelmingly catchy mini pop anthems that feel classic right out of the box. A new album is in the works for a probable late-2006 release. MR a Vice Stage

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Stephanie Chernikowski, Indra Dunis, Ray Tamarra.

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