Pitchfork 2021 - Day 2Sep 12, 2021
The second day of Pitchfork was just as action packed as the first, featuring back to back sets of phenomenal performances and charismatic artists who filled Union Park with wailing guitars, dreamy vocals and memorable outfits. After a slightly rushed train ride, the Radio K team spilled out of the Green Line, slightly exhausted but mostly excited for another day on the ground covering the notorious festival. The day was a lot hotter and the crowds a little more relaxed as we eased into the weekend, but the lines for food, merch and notably the water bottle refill station were just as long as the day before.
Following an amped-up kickoff performance from native Chicago rockers Horsegirl, fellow Chicagoan Bartees Strange took on the Red Stage for an incredibly passionate and energizing performance. Performing a set packed with songs from his latest album Live Forever while delivering rap verses between guitar strokes, Bartees brought the energy and soul to invigorate the Pitchfork crowd and help start Day 2 right.
Heard about love at first sight? Divino Niño was love at first sound. The psychedelic dream-pop band entered the scene with some throbbing bass lines and effortlessly cool outfits to get the crowd excited fast. In no time heads were bobbing and people were grooving, easily influenced by the phenomenal stage presence of the band members who danced around the stage with flair. With so many of the songs blending English and Spanish lyrics into danceable masterpieces, Divino Niño brought infectious energy and incredible talent to a memorable set that will be on my mind long after this festival ends.
Picking things up again at the Red Stage, West African artist Amaarae radiated an aura of cool. Dressed to kill, she brought her smooth and mesmerizing R&B to the hypnotized crowd, lacing her set with bright bursts of energy that the audience eagerly matched. Her live band added layers of groove to the backing track and Amaarae’s sensual vocals, with the groove spreading to the crowd as they danced along to the infectious rhythms and luscious melodies.
The Pitchfork crowd found a warm solace of calm as Waxahatchee took the stage. With their microphone stands wrapped in a layer of flowers and a sky full of clouds projected behind them, it was as if they brought Pitchfork to their favorite meadow to unwind. Soft acoustic ballads flowed from the band as the crowd took in the moment, swaying to the music and adding their voices to singer Katie Crutchfield’s soft and intimate vocals.
Faye Webster entered the blue stage in a cobalt dress with an electric guitar and a dreamy voice reminiscent of a 21st century soft indie angel. Her confident stage presence was undeniable and it was entrancing to watch how she interacted with both her band and the audience. Drawing towards the end of the hottest period of the day, Faye’s set had a melodic quality to it that eased the festival into a comfortable warmth, perfectly paired with a cool breeze. Ethereal in sound, the crowd couldn’t help but sway to the soft guitar and angelic harmonies.
A roar of fuzzed out guitars blazed to life at the Red stage and blasted across the fields. People all over the festival grounds turned their heads to see what kind of beast had awoken - it was none other than psych-rock lord Ty Segall accompanied by fellow garage rockers Mikhael Cronin, Emmet Kelly, and the rest of Freedom Band. In his first Pitchfork Fest appearance since 2012, Ty blasted song after song full of searing guitars and powerful melodies, wielding his metal-necked guitar like a flamethrower as he blew our collective minds. Highlights included the cannon-blast of an opening song “Squealer,” and to the delight of the crowd he broke out some older tracks like “Finger,” a song he had performed 9 years earlier at the same festival.
The first of the headlining acts was none other than former member of Sonic Youth and consistent boundary pusher Kim Gordon. Beginning her set with a selection of tracks from her most recent album No Home Record, her voice crackled with tension and energy delivering surreal and biting lyrics on top of tracks like “Sketch Artist” and “AirBnB.” With her backdrop consisting of looped footage of moments of domestic life (crosswalks, airplanes landing, etc), her set was anything but domestic and the crowd eagerly drank in her erratic energy and commanding presence.
Jamila Woods was a sight to be seen in a sequined top and cargo jeans, drenched in blue lights but with a voice that feels like the last warm days of September. Her set came towards the end of the evening and her effortlessly smooth voice poured over the crowd embracing the devoted onlookers. Her backup singers proved to be the perfect partners as they created wonderful harmonies with Woods and added even more charisma to the stage. Matching the tone perfectly, Jamilia’s movements were fluid and alluring as she danced in a world of her own creation that the audience was frequently invited into, and boy were we happy to be there.
As night fell, a crowd assembled at the Red stage alive with anticipation as violins heralded the arrival of Angel Olsen. This headlining performance played out like a movie scene, with a backdrop of black-and-white Victorian stair landings and literal orchestral accompaniments to Angel’s set as violins and pianos embellished her entrancing vocals. The crowd from the moment the lights went dark was all-in, and moments of the set like the song “Shut Up and Kiss Me” featured their collective singing drowning out Angel’s own voice. Her set contained tracks from all across her discography, including a surprise appearance from Sharon Van Etten to join Angel in a duet of their recent collaborative single “Like I Used To.”
As Angel Olson finished up her set, the green stage transformed into the world of Daddy’s Home, St. Vincent’s latest album. One-dimensional wooden houses and a skyline backdrop set the stage as three backup singers walked out looking straight out of the 70s. After they took their place, St. Vincent appeared and stood next to them — or so the audience thought. Soon after, the real St. Vincent came out on stage and banished her doppelgänger before jumping into “Digital Witness.” She continued with “Down,” which got the crowd energized and put the theatrical aspect of her show on full display. Sporting a suit with “Daddy’s Home” emblazoned on the back, St. Vincent gave stage presence a whole new meaning as she seamlessly switched between beautifully belting lyrics and shredding her 60s-looking guitar. St. Vincent’s performance was the highlight of Day 2 and certainly the most extravagant performance of the festival so far. As we prepare for Day 3, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the performances compare.