Day 1Jul 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.