Pitchfork Music Festival was held this past weekend in the sweltering Chicago heat celebrating its 10th anniversary. Its in a great spot where the fest has been around long enough to leave almost no room for any logistical problem. And they displayed this professionalism admirably on day two when the event had to be temporarily shut down and the park evacuated due to a brief, but strong rain. No one was hurt and everyone got to come back in and enjoy the rest of the muddy day. All’s well that ends well.
This year’s lineup featured a healthy crossover of genres especially apparent in the three headliners – Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, and Chance The Rapper. This is what Pitchfork is really good at – a seamless merging of worlds and generations, which saw Union Park filled with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Navigating the park was a real treat as we discovered some amazing artists at rock poster show Flatstock 50, devoured the ridiculously good watermelon lemonade at one of the food stands (something I made a point to have once a day), and made personalized shirts at Ray-Ban’s booth. There was something for everyone. The extreme weather guaranteed some early afternoon pass outs and whatnot, but the security staff were very much on top of it. Most of the things you’d complain about were either caused by mother nature or human nature.
Third day headliner Chance The Rapper felt like the satisfying conclusion that Chicago deserved after a crazy and eventful weekend. The hometown hero represented his city well and went far beyond expectations with outrageous visuals, a gospel choir, costume changes, and inspiring energy. The young rapper displayed quite clearly that night that he was on top of his game.
Second day headliner Sleater-Kinney provided impeccable consistency throughout their set. Corin Tucker’s powerful voice dominated the packed venue as Carrie Brownstein powered through with her seemingly lightweight guitar as she jumped and danced all over the place. Janet Weiss proved herself again as one of the best drummers out there and was just a joy to watch. They made thousands happy.
Wilco surprised everyone on day one and performed their amazing new album Star Wars first before serving up the classics like “Impossible Germany” and “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. Bands don’t just hang around for this long for no reason and the rockers have perfectly cemented themselves in a comfortable spot on everyone’s favorites list. Their music was the perfect sentimental companion as the day slightly cooled down.
Pro tip: If the men of Future Islands are playing, go see them. This was my third, maybe fourth time catching these guys and I felt just as impressed as the first time. I need to know Sam Herring’s secret to life. He was engaging, intriguing, and all eyes were on him until the end. This was supposed to be their 1000th show or something and factoring that into their consistently powerful performances made me admire them even more.
The New Pornographers sounded pretty freaking great during their set, which almost got axed by the rain. “We’re just so happy this show is even happening,” frontman A.C. Newman said to the crowd. Goofy crooner Mac DeMarco couldn’t help remarking how stupidly hot the day was on day one, but soldiered on effortlessly. Scottish band CHVRCHES made a triumphant return to the US after a long while and played some new tunes to eager fans.
Singer-songwriter Natalie Prass made men and women swoon, while Tobias Jesso Jr. caused grown adults to cry. Courtney Barnett looked like she was having the time of her life as she played with friends and it was hard not to smile during her set. Also, to the folks who were commenting on her “weird singing,” it’s called a foreign accent. I don’t normally feel warm and fuzzy after a hip hop show, but Run The Jewels made me feel just that after their set. I loved the brotherly chemistry between Killer Mike and El-P. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib provided some welcome edge to day three as he played to a huge crowd.