Posted by Webmaster on July 20, 2019
In life, certain things are inevitable: death, taxes, and blistering heat at summer music festivals. With temperatures reaching 100 degrees, this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival felt like it would be a test of physical endurance more than usual. Armed with sunscreen and plenty of water bottles, we came ready to face the elements and find what the first day of the festival had in store.
Rico Nasty kicked it off in the most appropriate way. Her rowdy, self-assured anthems were echoed by the sweaty crowd gathered around the stage in the afternoon sun. The aggressive mosh pit in the equally aggressive heat lead to an almost comical constant stream of people taking a break from the crowd, red faced and dripping in sweat. Rico commanded the stage with a masterful swagger. The rapper performed tracks from last year’s debut album Nasty and several of her popular singles like “Smack a B*tch”, “Tia and Tamera,” and “Trust Issues.”
A highly anticipated set for many of the festival attendees was the long awaited return of Sky Ferreira. It’s been six years since the singer has released an album and in that time she’s worked to keep a low profile. The gravity of the show for Sky and her fans was tangible. Opening with fan favorite 24 Hours, it was clear that Sky’s hiatus did nothing to temper the love of her listeners. She played mostly songs from the 2013 album My Night My Time. The well loved songs felt like hymns while sung from the voices of people who had grown up loving them. Dishearteningly, though, Sky’s set was riddled with technical issues. From her vocal mic cutting out several times and her in-ear monitor failing, Sky’s frustration was visible. At one point she shared a nervous smile and said to the crowd, “Literally every single thing that could have possibly gone wrong has.” Nearing the end of her set, Sky introduced a new song. Within the first verse, she motioned to her band to cut off. It became clear quickly that was due to more technical issues. “I’m not going to play this song unless I can get it right and I really have to play this song.” Sky confided to the crowd. Throughout the technical issues, the crowd continued to cheer and shout out “We love you”s and “You’re doing great!”s. It felt almost like encouraging a much loved friend to persevere in spite of troubles. Right as the time was winding down in her set, the sound held up long enough for her to perform the new song, “Ascending.” It felt like a treat to get let in on something so rare and desired by so many-- new Sky Ferreira music. The song held much of the pop sensibilities and haunting lyricism that the singer is known for but with a newly mature sense of melancholy. While on stage she promised that single would be coming out soon, a phrase that her fans know all too well from the past six years but something about seeing Sky up on the stage, vulnerable to technical mishaps and nerves made it feel believable.
Another remarkable performance came from Pusha T. The 42 year old rapper emerged onto the stage after his DJ had primed the crowd. Without any greetings or formalities, he took the mic and spit out the opening verse to the crowd favorite song “If You Know You Know” without any instrumental. When he got the chorus, the beat played triumphantly and the crowd responded with bombastic cheers. Much of his set centered around last year’s Kanye West produced Daytona. Push demonstrated the breadth of his rapping chops by never having a vocal track on his beats and spitting out every single bar with intensity. His charisma was palpable throughout the set and his cool demeanor was refreshing on a sweltering day.
In the midst of the constant frenzy that is music festivals, Minnesota band, Low, provided a welcome moment of peace. After spending 8 hours running from stage to stage, making sure to never miss a second of any of the artists playing the festival, Low provided the perfect soundtrack to sit in the grass at Union Park and reflect. During a lengthy guitar driven noise breakdown, the crowd watched the band with rapt attention—no festival schedules or twitter feeds could distract from the wall of sound.
Closing out the day was a set from California trio Haim. The group played several of the biggest indie rock hits of the 10s like “The Wire,” “Forever” and “Want You Back.” The three sisters’ relaxed and charming personalities made for a dreamy sunset in Union Park. People spread across the park, abandoning the usual crowding that happens during headlining sets in a final attempt to stay cool. Many danced around in the grass with genuine smiles and twirled each other around to the tunes. The breezy openness of Haim’s set felt like both a reward for sticking through the hot summer day and an incentive to get up and do it all again the following morning.
Posted by Webmaster on July 21, 2019
After having evaded sunburn and heat exhaustion from day one, it was time for another day at Pitchfork Festival. Starting off the afternoon, Japanese four-piece Chai delivered a performance unlike any other at the festival. They wore matching hot pink pants and played instruments painted the same shade. The set began with the single “CHOOSE GO!” off their latest album Punk. Their unique brand of the energetic, sugary pop translated perfectly in the festival setting. For the duration of their 45 minute long performance, Chai maintained their bubbly energy and synchronized dance moves. Their constant beaming smiles were contagious and soon after they began, the entire festival was bobbing their heads and smiling too. Before their last track, they adorned matching hooded jackets and danced in unison to a track that chanted “C-H-A-I,” over and over. This dance break was incredibly well received and met with a shower of applause. As they left the stage, they brought out a bright pink tub filled with water toys and tossed them out to the sweaty audience, a much needed gift in the 97 degree sun.
Following Chai were performances from Radio K favorites Cate Le Bon and Jay Som. Welsh singer Cate Le Bon enchanted the crowd with her quirky style of chamber pop. Much of her set was comprised of songs from her newest record Reward. Thematically, the album revolves around the joy of solitude so hearing the tracks in the crowded park felt like sharing in an intimate secret with Le Bon. Indie rock favorite Jay Som drew a considerable crowd to her performance. She played several songs off her upcoming album Anak Ko, including the two already released singles “Superbike,” and “Tenderness.” The enthusiastic sing along during the new songs reflected how highly anticipated new music from Jay Som has been.
Drifting towards the stage through a sea of bleached hair and cut off black jeans, it was easy to guess that Parquet Courts was about to play without glancing at the lineup. The texas garage rock band delivered a tight and energetic performance until about 30 minutes into their set they stopped and announced, “Looks like old man weather is cutting our set short so this is our last song, we’ll make it a good one.” Immediately, they burst into the high energy title track off their latest album, Wide Awake. The audience jumped along to the bouncy bass line and catchy shouted chorus. Before the track could even conclude, a robotic voice announced over top of the rock band “Due to forces beyond our control, Pitchfork Festival will be closing in 20 minutes. Please evacuate immediately.” This message was met with noisy complaints and confusion, the clouds were dark but not a single raindrop had fallen yet. Begrudgingly, people began filing out of the park. Within minutes, a sharp clap of thunder tore across the sky and rain began falling in torrential sheets.
The break in the day from the weather evacuation was an unexpected joy. After two days of sweltering heat and frantic schedules, the possibility of losing the rest of the day’s music served as a reminder of how special the festival is. An hour and a half later, the weather cleared up and the festival gates reopened. Immediately Stereolab took the stage. Their specific brand of strange delight matched the mood of the re-entering festival crowd perfectly. It was one of the group’s first performances following a decade long hiatus and plenty of people filing directly from the entrance gates to the stage audibly expressed gratitude to get to see the band play.
As the sun began to dip near the horizon, Belle and Sebastian took the stage to play the entirety of their 1996 album If You’re Feeling Sinister. From the very first track, the much loved “Stars of Track and Field,” it was evident how significant the album was to the attendees of the festival. The classic album has become a staple in the indie rock world over the past two decades and the memories that so many people have tied to those songs was evident as they sang along emphatically. Dozens of couples gazed at each other during the emotive “Fox in the Snow,” and the jaunty chorus of the title track “If You’re Feeling Sinister” was echoed enthusiastically. The encore showcased a different side of Belle and Sebastian’s musicality. Band leader Stuart Murdoch ditched his guitar and donned a fedora and the set took on a much more lighthearted tone. The encore began with the danceable “Party Line” which featured Murdoch playfully jumping around the stage, climbing atop instruments and engaging with the audience. During their final track, “The Blues Are Still Blue,” Murdoch made use of the catwalk that cut through the audience and performed much of the track from a platform in the center of the audience.
Closing out the night was a special 60th anniversary set from The Isley Brothers. The presence of the iconic group on the festival lineup was a pleasant surprise for many. Lead singer Ronald Isley acted as a sort of guide throughout the show, sharing stories and giving the crowd a slice of context to grasp on to. Throughout the set, there were many moving moments, with songs dedicated to the late Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Prince. At one point, someone in the crowd shouted, “This is church!” The sounds of The Isley Brothers have permeated music culture for the past six decades in a way few others have. Even for someone who had never heard the name “Isley” in their life, they provided an hour and a half of familiar music. From ubiquitous hits like, “Summer Breeze,” “Shout,” and “It’s Your Thing,” to guitar riffs that have since been sampled many times. According to whosampledwho.com, The Isley Brothers’ music has been sampled in over 800 songs ranging from Thundercat to Mac Miller to J Dilla. The gratitude of the smiling audience was palpable as the historic group shared their classic jams. Nearing the end of the set, guitarist Ernie Isley took an extended solo, flexing the guitar playing chops that have been honed and praised for so many years. He strummed chords with his teeth and breezed through complicated melodies behind his back, all met with the appropriate cheers and shouts from the awestruck crowd. The group concluded their set with “Shout,” complete with enthused jumping from the backup dancers on stage. With a gracious bow, the ensemble walked off for the night and the second day of the festival came to an end.
Posted by Webmaster on July 23, 2019
As we approached the festival grounds, we could feel the intense bass from Black Midi’s performance. The UK based band elicited mixed reactions from the crowd. The first few rows of people moshed in the muddy field and screamed along to the choruses while those further out seemed more perplexed by the abrasive stylings of the band. Based on the deliberately elusive persona that Black Midi has maintained, I think they liked it that way. Following Black Midi was the similarly aggressive rapper JPEGMAFIA. Balancing raw performance and easygoing charisma, he had the audience laughing together between the bouts of furious moshing.
After the intensity of those first two acts, the day had a subtle shift in energy. Day three drew a different audience than the first two days of the festival. With pop stars Charli XCX and Robyn playing in the evening, people dressed for the occasion. A clique of people dressed in hot pink cowboy outfits stood alongside some in head to toe sequins. The amount of glitter per capita was higher than I had ever seen at Pitchfork. This crowd was especially receptive to the performance of 20 year old bedroom pop artist Clairo. Her performance was riddled with sweet and sincere “Thank you”s and “I couldn’t do it without you”s to her rapidly growing fan base. When Clairo was in Minneapolis last spring she played for a crowd of 200 and as of Pitchfork she has one million followers on Instagram. She preceded playing her breakout single “Pretty Girl,” by humbling saying, “Now, here’s one of the songs you came for.” Much of her set was comprised of songs from her upcoming album Immunity, including the lead singles “Bags,” and “Closer to You.”
Not long after this, Snail Mail took the stage on the smallest of the three stages but still drew an equally large crowd. Because of the weather, it was only fitting she played “Heat Wave” for her opening song. Her stunning vocals were frequently overpowered by the crowd passionately singing and screaming along. She kept saying how nerve-wracking it was to play for a crowd so large and so excited to see her play. She played the majority of her album “Lush” and on the second to last song, when everyone heard the guitar riff of her most popular song, “Pristine”, you could hear a multitude of people confessing their likeliness of crying within the next few minutes. To no surprise, by the chorus, everyone in the crowd was emotional, many with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces. For the final song, Lindsey Jordan announced she was going to bring a very good friend of hers out to join her. Clairo walked out onto the stage and sure enough, the crowd burst with excitement and roaring screams. Their duet of “Speaking Terms” was filled with lots of laughter and giggles with the occasional breaks for some playful dancing. The two 20-year-olds’ performance of this song reflected the comfort and innocence of two best friends dancing around in their living room simply enjoying one another's company. It was the perfect set up for the excitement of the final hours of Pitchfork ahead.
Pop singer Charli XCX fits in a unique niche in the music community. First popularized for singing the hook on Iggy Azaelea’s “Fancy,” and for her own chart topping single “Boom Clap,” Charli has amassed a cult like following. Her fan base has as much in common with the indie music fans that Pitchfork Festival draws as it does with Top 40 fans. This uniqueness cultivates a certain sort of enthusiasm that was unlike that of any other performer over the weekend. From the second she emerged onto the stage in hot pants and designer sunglasses the crowd was shrieking. Not always along to the songs, or in customary concert cheers but more so elated screams for every dance move, sly smile, and catchy chorus that Charli delivered. A particularly fanatical moment came when she played her 2016 song “Vroom Vroom.” The crowd emitted a palpable frantic energy and people pushed their way around like a metal show. Each “vroom vroom” and “beep beep” from Charli was echoed from the crowd at twice the volume. Similar energy was maintained as the set went on, throughout songs like the new singles “Blame It On Your Love,” and “Gone,” as well as during fan favorite singles like “Focus.” Another highlight of Charli’s performance came when she was joined by Chicago based rapper Cupcakke to perform the track “Lipgloss” together.
As the sun set, Swedish pop star Robyn took the stage in her headlining slot. The stage was filled with a dreamy landscape of white gauze and musicians draped in a similar textile. Robyn exuded the measured power of a well seasoned performer. Her stage banter was limited, but towards the end of her set she took a moment to acknowledge that “much of [her] favorite music comes from Chicago.” Robyn’s unique brand of extra-danceable pop blended with elements of house makes for a timeless combination that had every attendee staying until the bitter end of the festival. Pitchfork came to a close with Robyn’s classic lovelorn anthem “Call Your Girlfriend.” Easily one of the most joyous moments of the entire festivals came when the crowds danced about the field to shout along to one of the most memorable pop songs of the decade.