The lineup at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival was impressive to say the least and important to say the most. Past lineups have been solid, (Sufjan Stevens in 2016 was the greatest thing to happen) but they have been mainly white indie boy bands. This year there were significantly more rap, R&B, and soul artists taking the stages and more importantly more women of color, with Solange headlining on Sunday night.
On Friday the first act I saw was Vince Staples. I had seen him in Indianapolis earlier in the spring this year touring his Primadonna EP and his visuals for that tour were themed around the Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic. This time around for Big Fish Theory, Staples opted for a minimalistic LCD screen with nothing but the color orange being projected on it. A great set which consisted of tunes from his latest release as well as his EP from last year, and crowd pleaser “norf norf”.
Later in the day at the same stage Danny Brown performed his set. The energy at this crowd was wild and Brown played off of the people in the audience throughout running around on the stage and aiming the microphone towards the crowd. He never seemed to tire delivering perfect bars throughout and without a backing track.
Arca, Dirty Projectors, and LCD Soundsystem took over Union Park as well that night. Arca got the crowd going coming onto the stage wearing stiletto heels. LCD Soundsystem lived up to their hype of being great performers with the crowd singing along throughout.
Saturday was seen as the “Ladies Day” with Weyes Blood, Cherry Glazerr, Mitski, and Angel Olsen performing. Weyes Blood kicked off the day at the Green Stage in an all blue ensemble, a staple for the artist at this point. Meanwhile, Cherry Glazerr was at the Blue Stage and they gave an energetic performance. After their first song Clementine commanded the crowd “be quiet” and then eased the tension with a story about smuggling in a can of beer in her underwear when she attended the festival as a teenager. After that they continued their solid set and then made way for the next act: Mitski.
Mitski was my personal favorite of the entire day. She came out on stage wearing a “She Shreds” t-shirt and then later revealed a navy blue bra top which she paired with orange pants (a nod I’m assuiming to the Beats>Bullets project) and metallic gold platform sandals. She put on an emotional performance. Every time she made eye contact with me (which I think was a lot) I would tear up. She performed “Franci Forever”, “Townie”, and “First Love/Late Spring” from her previous LP and plenty of songs from Puberty 2 such as “I Bet On Losing Dogs”, “Happy”, and “Your Best American Girl”. She closed out her set thanking the crowd for letting her live out her dream.
Angel Olsen was next on the agenda. Over at the Green Stage Olsen sauntered into the spotlight with a drink in her hand and carried on a conversation with the crowd. In between songs she would continue this dialogue and at one point told the crowd “I wanna be inside you,” Olsen was feeling pretty frisky. Her backing band put on a great performance and it was a successful return to Chicago for the singer.
The headliner for this day was A Tribe Called Quest, and consequently so it was probably the most crowded days at the festival. This was a big get for the festival and attracted crowds of all ages. The energy given off by Q-Tip, Ali Muhammad, and Jarobi White was incredible, with a lone microphone set up for the late Phife Dawg. It was an absence felt by the band, and the crowd as well throughout the performance. Something about this set was just so special though, Tribe really delivered and had a good time up there, you could tell. And even in the way back, where I ended up after leaving the press pit, people were dancing, singing along, and enjoying the show.
Sunday was a busy day. So many good acts to see. We got to the festival as soon as it opened to catch Kilo Kish’s set. She was the first act of the day. I saw her open for fellow Pitchfork performer Vince Staples (a frequent collaborator) in Indianapolis in the spring. I was eager to see her set because even when she was opening she put on such a great performance. She opted for an all red pantsuit ensemble and a simple chair as her props. Kilo performed in some sort of a persona with wide eyes and a blank stare and exaggerated arm movements. Not only was it live music, it was live theater; performance art. She put on a play in some aspect, with different acts in which she is reading a newspaper and carrying a briefcase. She later on takes off her coat, throws the briefcase and stumbles around the stage. It was stunning. She delivered perfect live renditions of her songs not needing a backing track and never needing to catch her breath even with all that running around. A true talent. She closed out her set by simply saying her name is Kilo Kish.
NE-HI, who have visited Bloomington for a WIUX hosted show once, took the stage next. Putting on a fun and easy going-performance the Chicago natives were a much appreciated mood elevator on the last day. Joey Purp also got the crowd hyped up despite it being Sunday with a vibrant stage presence, and water balloons which he threw into the crowd throughout his set. Everyone in the audience loved it and it was an overall solid show.
The heartbreak of the day was the announcement that The Avalanches had to cancel their set due to a personal matter. So many people around me were so visibly upset since they were unable to see this band who so rarely performs live. In swift move Jamila Woods moved her show over to the Green Stage where The Avalanches were supposed to be. Woods put on a fun and pure performance, with people who were probably still bummed about The Avalanches having a great time. Woods has an impressive voice and her backup singers sounded incredible too. At one point Woods brought out two dancers who performed hiplet, a new form of dancing which originated in Chicago.
Finally the time had come for the highlight of the festival; Solange.
I feel as though my recap of this performance will not do any justice and for that I’m sorry, you really had to be there. Her visuals were stunning to say the least. Her color palette was warm, being filled with oranges and reds. A minimalistic set despite the hype, with simple shapes and figures as her props. Solange and her band all wore simple turtlenecks and slacks, all the same shade. They looked sleek. The choreography was so sharp and mesmerizing, it was later revealed Solange was the sole choreographer for everything. Her high notes she hit when she slowed down “Mad” honestly blew me away, I didn’t know she could go THAT high. Later on in the show she came down off the stage and sang to a woman in the crowd a foot away from me it was so breathtaking.
It was such a great performance.
This was one of the beset lineups I have seen Pitchfork present, and one that really included and put the spotlight on hip hop artists and specifically women of color. I enjoyed being able to go.