Pitchfork Music Festival Recap
By Brian McMahon and Sarah Thompson
Ungodly heat waves brought a tamer crowd to the opening day of Pitchfork, it didn’t stop thousands
from attending, but it didn’t make for the most lively dance parties in the world. Friday kicked off with
fantastic performances from Wilco, Chrvches, Panda Bear, Mac Demarco, Tobias Jesso Jr, and many
Best Show: Wilco
Wilco definitely stole the show Friday night, after an ungodly hot afternoon producing a few
unfortunate passed out festival goers, the Chicago band made an unforgettable home coming. Just
hours before their headlining Friday night set, the band released a surprise full length album named Star
Wars. Wilco dazzled fans by playing the debut of the album all the way through with minimal crowd
banter in between songs. Front man Jeff Tweedy then modestly stated “well, that was Star Wars”, then
the band hit their stride. The incredible improvisational breakdowns of “Impossible Germany”, “I am
Trying to Break Your Heart”, and “Heavy Metal Drummer” blew the crowd away, while the intense drum
solos during a slow “Via Chicago” stunned the senses. Wrapping up the night with “I’m the Man Who
Loves You” touched the heartstrings and brought a well-fitted closer to the first night of P4K ’15.
Runner Ups: Panda Bear and Mac Demarco
The only reason Panda Bear didn’t strike me as the best act of Friday was simply because of the timing.
Half of the show relies on the trance Panda Bear’s visualizer accompanied with an over bearing strobe
light put on audience members. A 6:25 PM while the sun still shined heavily down on the crowd didn’t
give off the full effect of a Panda Bear show, granted his vocal and sound was incredible throughout the
set, it wasn’t a typical Panda show. Especially considering he played an amazing kick-off show the night
before at Thalia Hall. For me, Mac Demarco set the stage for the weekend. The groovy vibes and
entertaining crowd banter set Pitchfork off on a great foot, but it wasn’t as incredible as the late night
Wilco show. Then again, that might be as if I was comparing apples to oranges because of the two
drastically different environments the shows took place in.
Weird Thing I saw: Security guards spearing individuals attempting to jump the festival fences. I bet
most of them felt the wrath of wanna be college football players who I assume never got into good
music or have daddy issues.
Best Vendor I saw: Firecakes Donuts. I got a Glazed Donut Cherry ice-cream sandwich. It was warm on
the outside and cold on the inside, sticky and delicious.
The momentary cancellation of the Pitchfork early Saturday afternoon couldn’t keep the crowds away
for long, as many took shelter in the port-a-potties, made friends with vendors under tents, and
attempted to stay dry under the nearby L stop (frivolously might I add). Around 4:15 when those would
had followed directions and left Union Park were admitted back in the real party began. Pitchfork has a
no return policy, so tickets don’t scan more than once, so festival security had to permit basically
anyone into the festival, which made for some great mosh pits. The aftermath of shows like A$AP Ferg
appeared as if those closest to the stage had just spent a week in a trench the way they were covered in
mud. Regardless of weather, with a lineup consisting of Sleater-Kinney, Future Islands, Vic Mensa,
Shamir (who patrolled the fest grounds and was even front row for Mr. Twin Sister), The New
Pornographers, Kurt Vile and the Violators, and Parquet Courts it was difficult to keep fans away.
Best Show: Future Islands
Honestly, I cannot say I have witnessed a show where I believe any one band member or musician gave
as much energy or emotion as Samuel T. Herring put into their Saturday evening Pitchfork set. The
incredible dance/ hype moves Herring provided the crowd fueled a beautiful show. Imagine a young
Tiger Woods fist pumping after he won the US Open, and you may only get about one tenth of the
intensity Samuel T. Herring threw into some of his fist pumps, not to mention the points of his demonic
death metal snarls he threw his voice into while “singing” tracks. The ten song set took off after the
band played “A Dream of You and Me”. The followed up with two of their new tracks back to back, hit
emotional highs during a brief explanation of the song “Lighthouse”. When Future Islands broke down
into “Seasons” the crowd reciprocated one highest energy dance parties I felt all weekend. Ending with
“Spirit” sent the crowd on their way with rubbery legs, light hearts, and memory they won’t soon forget.
Runner Ups: Mr. Twin Sister & Vic Mensa
Mr. Twin Sister held down the 2:50 PM slot at the Blue Stage on Saturday afternoon and played just
until the massive downpour ensued. The at times down tempo electronic band killed the slot they were
given and embraced the rain, lead singer Andrea thanked the crowd for “getting wet with them”. The
rain didn’t seem to bother the early afternoon crowd much, I would even fashion to say the
precipitation empowered the crowd to dance even harder. Except unfortunately as soon as the show
ended all of the festival goers were notified Pitchfork would be closing in 20 minutes and then all hell
broke loose from the sky. The groovy five piece electronic band got the afternoon going, but after seeing
them just nights before at the Bishop, the outdoor festival set just couldn’t compare. Vic Mensa closed
out the Blue Stage on Saturday night with a wildly energetic set, which even put some fans partying up
into the nearby trees to get a better look. Vic held down the stage with grace and vivacity speeding it up
and slowing it down with ease. To my surprise Vic has an immensely talented voice which he displayed
on his rendition of Chance’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses”. Mensa also played a new track “No Chill” and ended
the set by mobbing with a near 20+ squad on stage for “U Mad”.
Weirdest thing I saw: A recycling bin went for a crowd surf during the A$AP Ferg set, eventually spilling
its contents all over fans. Hysterical, you literally cannot write stuff like that.
Shows I wish I would have seen: Vince Staples & Kurt Vile and The Violators
Sometimes it’s just not in the cards to see every show you would have wished to at a festival, be it your
friends, spots you want to get for another show, or just crappy timing. Vince Staples ended up being
stuck in another city and unable to make his slot due to travel delays, which is alright anyways because
he would have wound up being right during the momentary cancellation of the festival. As well, I would
have loved to see former War on Drugs member Kurt Vile, from what I have gathered he put on a
Best Vendor I saw: The Ray-Ban tent let you screen print your own speak the truth shirt with a phrase of
your choice as part of their “#Campaign4Change” initiative for free. I made one that said “Snack as facts
for your brain”.
Best part of the mud puddles: After the torrential down pour that sent many festival goers scrambling
for cover as lightning streaked the sky there were quite a few mud puddles. There puddles congregated
together into massive sections of mud that few dared to walk through, let alone stand in. But for those
whose shoes were already soaked to the core and who were dedicated to the artists performing, these
puddles saved seats, opened up swaths of land allowing for more breathing room while rocking out.
Sunday, debatably the best day for music, happened to also by far the best weather to attend the
festival in. Even though the sun beat down hot for the afternoon, shade could be found to enjoy shows
from slightly afar before getting close for desired acts. Individuals camped all day to see the
homecoming of rapper Chance the Rapper to close out the festival, while others hopped around seeing
the electro-dance power packed lineup. The live instrumented electronic music Todd Terje & The Olsens
and Caribou put all in ear shot into a dance frenzy, while the DJ stylings of Jaime xx sparked the sense of
revival of DJ’s who don’t set up a Mac and press play. Run the Jewels amazed the crowd with surprise
guests Zach de la Rocha and Gangsta Boo (which I was a fool and left early, but that’s beside the point).
Early afternoon performances by Madlib and Freddie Gibbs, Perfume Genius, Courtney Barnett, and Viet
Cong made Sunday arguably the best day of the festival.
Best Show: Todd Terje, Caribou, and Jamie XX
A three way tie wouldn’t usually wouldn’t constitute the best show, but it’s hard to differentiate
between who was better between these three acts. All three played amazing electronic music, but all
with different flavors and nuances. Jamie xx played earliest of the three and killed his one’s and two’s on
stage with a disco ball slowly rotating behind him. Opening with “SeeSaw”, hardly any of the tracks
following went note for note as one would hear them on his album In Colors, the former xx member
fused in and out of songs feeding off the crowd’s intensity. To a close listening fan a distinct introduction
sample of “Take Care” by Drake and Rihanna could be heard. Jamie spun one of his earliest singles “Far
Nearer” during the set and picked up and dusted off the “Good Times” vinyl to spin before launching
into “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”, sending the crowd into a full-fledged 70’s dance party.
Ending the set off with “Loud Places”, which he had sampled hints of throughout the show, left the
feeling Jamie xx’s name won’t be going away anytime soon. Up right after Jamie xx was Caribou on the
Green Stage, a finer example of why live instrumented electronic music might possibly be some of the
best live music out there. Caribou kicked off the set with an amazing “Our Love”, breaking it down and
jamming it out, into “Silver” and “Mars”. Individuals in the crowd front left of the sound stage couldn’t
help but groove when Dan Snaith and co-electronic pad drummer vibed off one another. The dueling
drum pads put the crowd into an absolute fever of flailing noodles for appendages (or maybe that was
just me). The middle of the set was filled with tracks off of prior albums, many of which the crowd may
have not known, but the dancing never ceased. Ending with “Can’t Do Without You” and “Sun” left the
crowd giving the four piece band a standing ovation. Ending off the Sunday dance movement, Todd
Terje brought more of a jazz aesthetic to the live instrumented electronic music. Opening with “Swing
Star, Part 1” the band immediately starting getting after it, the following set included some sweet, sweet
live sax and a plethora of other jazz-esque sample stylings. Finishing off with “Inspector Norse” where a
group of females and one bearded dude line danced on stage in white “robes” (for lack of better
understanding of fashion” adorned with Christmas light necklaces stunning the crowd.
Runner Up: Chance the Rapper
Perhaps many will be in disagreement with the call of not putting Chance as the best show of the day,
but not being up close into the crowd and having been first row in an Auditorium venue will do that for a
person. Don’t misinterpret, the production value of the show was incredible and the sound even better.
The live band was barely visible above the setup of the stage, but their sound could be felt all the way
back in the “nose bleeds” of the field. Donnie Trumpet’s horn dominated the stage during his solos,
while hits “Pusha Man”, “Juice”, “Cocoa Butter Kisses”, and “Favorite Song” had nearly every person the
in the audience singing all the words. Ending with “Sunday Candy”, Chance begged the crowd to make it
their show and thanked them for being with him since the beginning. The Chicago native also expressed
how this homecoming show was also the closing to a chapter in the story that is his career as an
entertainer, so who knows what will be in store from his music in the future