On a midsummer Friday, quiet, neighborhood Union Park transformed into one of the most anticipated music festivals of the summer: Pitchfork Music Festival. The notorious leader in all that is up and coming music held its annual three-day festival this past weekend, bringing a motley of audiophiles together for one common purpose: to hear and experience the industry’s rising stars of the indie music scene. Whether it was to enjoy hip-hop, rock, electronic, rap, or a mixture of different genres, all in attendance were guaranteed a diverse and full selection of talented artists to choose from each day. With three stages with only two at a time having performers on at the same time, the structure made for an intimate festival experience and allowed those in attendance to easily check out different artists throughout the weekend. If one needed a break from the music or simply wanted a change of pace, tents filled with poster art, records for sale, and thrift shopping populated the entrance of the festival for all to enjoy and peruse. The many different food and beverage vendors gave attendants a taste of local Chicago and something for everyone. Overall, the festival itself was well organized, making the different musical experiences easily accessible and readily enjoyable.
The following is a review of the sets experienced by the author in chronological order.
Friday, July 14th
Thurston Moore (Red Stage)
Former Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore graced the stage mid afternoon with a full band, allowing for the full rock sound the artist is truly known for. With his signature blasting guitar lines and impressionistic lyrics, he gave the die-hard fans in the audience a performance they will never forget.
Danny Brown (Green Stage)
One of the best features of this new hip hop artist is that fans know exactly when he is performing; his voice has a high pitch quality that makes him distinct from all other artists. His on stage presence as well made for a memorable set, making the crowd jump for joy during the set. His unique rap style and ability to get a crowd dancing will get him far in the hip-hop sphere.
Dirty Projectors (Red Stage)
The rebirth of Dave Longstreth’s project this year with his new self-titled album brought long time fans to the festival in order to see one of their favorite artists live for the first time in what seemed like ages. With the loss of Amber Coffman from the group, many were very curious to see how the new group dynamic would fare onstage, especially with the new style Longstreth was to debut this day. He definitely did not disappoint though. With polished vocals and well coordinated instrumentalists, he brought his new electronic R&B sound to life to the delight of everyone in attendance.
LCD Soundsystem (Green Stage)
As the headliner of the night, LCD Soundsystem brought the night to the perfect close. While many were hoping for a sneak peek of their new album coming September 1st, they did not disappoint with songs dating back to their first album, and giving everyone their favorites such as “Someone Great” and “All My Friends.” One of the highlights of the set was when everyone in the festival jumped in the air at the iconic drop during “Dance Yrself Clean.” Frequent chats with the audience and a full sound that one could only experience live made for a set all will remember fondly.
Saturday July 15th
Francis and the Lights (Blue Stage)
While Francis Starlite is new on the R&B scene with his project Francis and the Lights, his collaborations with Chance the Rapper and Bon Iver have garnered him much attention, and for good reason. His live performance proved him to be an energetic and captivating performer, all the while with only a DJ on stage with him for support. His ability to get a crowd on their feet and genre-spanning dance music made this set the perfect midday party.
Angel Olsen (Green Stage)
Angel Olsen has always been known for her beautiful voice, but now she has come back with her third album, proving herself to be truly rock and roll. With a full band and the ability to break through the chatter with seamless vocals, it became obvious that all in attendance positively received her new sound.
PJ Harvey (Red Stage)
PJ Harvey brought an unnerving performance to the festival that enraptured all. Her serious exterior, along with the support of her full band, brought to light the essence of her powerful songwriting and the impact it has had over the past years. Her impressive coordination with the rest of her band members was a sight to see in itself, and brought a mature and insightful moment to the festival.
A Tribe Called Quest (Green Stage)
The performance by the long awaited revival of A Tribe Called Quest was nothing short of legendary. This Queens rap group brought the perfect mix of hip-hop and jazz to the festival, all the while impressing the whole crowd with their fast paced anthems for change and equality. In memory of their fellow founding member Phife Dawg, they had an extra microphone on stage as if he were to appear at any moment to join the collective. This being the first performance since his death, it was an especially emotional night for all, marked with an a capella rap in memorial. This closing set proved to be a special treat for all at the festival, and noticeably brought in more attendees than the previous night. This closing set will be a reunion many will speak about for years to come.
Sunday, January 16th
Hamilton Leithauser (Green Stage)
Recently separating from the Walkmen in order to pursue his own solo work with the collaboration of ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij, Hamilton Leithauser has been on a journey towards finding his own unique sound, which he certainly brought to the main stage, along with his characteristic rough vocals. His new work was the perfect backdrop of this rare sunny Chicago day and noticeably brought a sense of ease to those standing by the stage and to those lying on the grass alike.
Ride (Red Stage)
The iconic 90’s shoegaze group brought a roaring performance to mild summer day. With the reveal of new songs and blasting guitar lines, fans rejoiced as the genre-defining band gave an unabashed performance. While it was noted that the group was late for their set time due to technical difficulties, their performance was not effected negatively at any time within the set and Pitchfork allowed for the group to play their whole set time to the delight of their fans in attendance.
Jamila Woods (Originally Blue, Moved to Green Stage)
To the surprise of many waiting to experience the sounds of The Avalanches on the main stage, Jamila Woods graced the stage with poise and a full band instead. This, of course, proved to be a very pleasant surprise; her beautiful vocals and unique take on R&B have always been the defining points of her music that bring joy to all who listen. Debuting music from her solo effort HEAVN was an especially noteworthy part of her set, which brought to light how far she has really come as a small up and coming Chicago artist.
Nicholas Jaar (Red Stage)
As one of the most eclectic electronic artists of our time, Nicholas Jaar brought a riveting performance to the festival. Minimalistic and a journey within itself, his new work Sirens brought to life on stage was fascinating to watch and experience first hand. This was definitely one of the most mind-bending and nuanced performances of the weekend.
Solange (Green Stage)
Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s equally as talented younger sister, is known for her beautiful vocals and soulful pop sound, but also for her stunning views on racial equality as shown through the lens of her celebrated 2016 album A Seat at the Table. Solange proved as the closing performer for the festival that she was indeed a force to be reckoned with. With a huge brass band, vocalists, and main stage instrumentalists, she organized beautifully choreographed numbers for each song, demonstrating that sophisticated performance art is indeed not dead yet. Performing her main hits such as “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair,” the crowd danced and sang along to each power anthem. She also took it back with such favorites as “T.O.N.Y.” and “Losing You” for the long time fans. With beautiful stage presence and maturity, Solange is a breath of fresh air in the pop and R&B performance world. Solange was a blessing to have as the final act to Pitchfork Music Festival, ending the weekend truly on a high note.