Pitchfork Chicago Music Festival did it right this year with women powerhouse bookings from Chaka Khan to Lauryn Hill, Julia Holter and Ravyn Lenae and a mix of eclectic underground indie and hip hop acts to blend it into the perfect weekend.
With more than half of the acts performing at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival being women, we applaud Pitchfork for bringing such a diverse mix of soul, rock and roll, DIY artists and indie all wrapped into the grassy field of Union Park.
Braving the elements, Pitchfork patrons were prepared to take on the rain and sardine-packed crowds gridlocked in puddles of mud. Looming grey skies threatened us with (yet another) potential rain delay but this didn’t stop fans from seeing their favorite artists perform at one of the most intimate music festivals in Chicago.
As her faithful legion of fans have come to expect, Australian Indie folk rock darling Courtney Barnett delivered a savage performance at Friday’s festivities to kick off Pitchfork Music Festival. The backdrop of the iconic Chicago skyline lent itself fittingly to Barnett’s raw, visceral energy on Pitchfork’s Red Stage. Amidst an amped-up crowd hanging on for dear life to her every inflection, Barnett thrashed her hair and abused her guitar with reckless abandon like the mother fucking rock star that she is! Barnett’s whimsical lyrics and strong-yet-deadpan sound reverberated throughout Union Park while the band soared over one of the city’s loudest elements, the “L” train passing by intermittently behind the stage.
Barnett started her 13 song set list with several tracks from her latest LP Tell Me How You Really Feel–a more heady and introspective cache of tunes. Her set worked its way from a simmer to a boil when Barnett unleashed “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch,” vehemently erupting into“I try my best to be patient, but I can only put up with so much! Shit!/I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch!” The crowd was sent into an absolute frenzy.
Barnett further revved up the crowd with more hits from her stellar earlier EP’s and emotionally charged album, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015). Fans were especially excited to hear “Elevator Operator,” and “Depreston.” Barnett finished off her killer set with two of her most explosive tunes “History Eraser” and “Pedestrian at Best,” driving the crowd absolutely bonkers and feigning for more from one of our generation’s most talented artists.
Despite our delayed flight, we made it in time to see the wondrous psychedelic acid rockers that consume our generation of music lovers, Tame Impala. Tame Impala sent their fans into euphoria with the rock beats of “The Moment” while a light rain started to fall.
With Currents being their latest album coming out three years ago, it was without a doubt that the fans knew every word off the record, singing along to hits like “Let It Happen” and “Eventually.” They played hits off Innerspeaker and Lonerism sending the crowd in a sweaty mind melting ritualistic state. As the rain drizzled over the beautiful Chicago crowd, laser beams swayed among the fans as singer Kevin Parker belted out his beloved music without skipping a beat. Bravo to Tame Impala for ending Pitchfork Festival with a bang while creating a space for our generation to lose their shit dancing to the tunes that have stolen our hearts.
The War On Drugs
War on Drugs’ performance at Pitchfork Chicago this year was the nothing short of what we would’ve expected. Their set–fluid, cathartic and mesmerizing–generated an omnipotent synergy between artists and event goers. Front man Adam Granducieli melted our hearts with his melodic, perhaps nostalgic, Petty/Spingstein-esque vocals that sent shivers down your spine with every lick and lyric. The band’s effortless transition from “Brothers” to “Red Eyes” was a true testament to Granduciel’s evolving lyrical presence. David Hartlley (guitar), Robbie Bennet (keyboard), Charlie Hall (drums), Jon Natchez (saxophone/keyboards), and Anthony LaMarca (guitar) also nailed it with their kinetic stage presence and intermittent solo performances. Their lengthy guitar riffs and sax solos were a solid reminder of why we attend outdoor music festivals.
Alternating between tunes from A Deeper Understanding (2017) and Lost in the Dream (2014), the crowd got exactly what they needed: a perfect balance of harmonious tranquility and vivacious vibes. War completed their set with a short-lived but much appreciated harmonica solo during “Burning” which set the crowd en fuego!
Whether you’re a longtime fan or discovering War On Drugs for the first time, the band’s emotionally overwhelming performance left any music enthusiast with the warm fuzzies before heading over to Fleet Foxes, for Saturday night’s final act.
If you could wrap up the soulful jams of the 80s, add in some modern day dance beats and sprinkle it off with some delightful grooves that keep your ear hairs flared, then you would get Blood Orange. The solo project of Dev Hynes sent fans into a blissful trance as he opened his set with Sky Ferrari’s “Everything is Embarrassing.” Playing hits “Chamakay” and “It Is What It Is” off his 2013 Cupid Deluxe, Hynes took hold of the audience as his vocals pierced their Achilles’ heels, making them weak in the knees. His collaborations with Solange, Foals and writing the soundtrack for Gia Coppola’s “Palo Alto,” have helped Heynes stay true to his creativity and passion that he poured out for the Chicago fans at the Green Stage.
If you came to see some dance moves then you hauled ass to the Blue Stage at Pitchfork Music Festival Sunday afternoon to see electro-pop artist Alex Cameron shake his tush. He gained popularity after his 2014 hit, “Happy Ending” off Jumping the Shark. After touring with Mac Demarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Angel Olsen, Secretly Canadian took notice of the star and re-released his album in 2016. Recently he collaborated with Olsen, Brandon Flowers (The Killers) and Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado. Cameron’s Pitchfork performance was nothing short of “A Stranger’s Kiss,” and aren’t those truly the best at music festivals? 😉
The legendary R&B funk star summoned the crowd into euphoria this past Sunday at Union Park in Chicago. With jazz loving parents who named this powerhouse, Yvette, after a Stan Getz song, it’s no wonder she was destined for greatness. “Through the Fire,” through the limit, through the wall, well damn we’d risk it all to see you perform like that, Chaka. Your soul and powerful essence over took the crowd into sexy and sultry vibes as we shook our asses and appreciated your greatness. This legendary star brought it all to Chicago’s Union Park, leaving behind her radiant energy for the diverse mix of old and new fans. Thank you Pitchfork for booking this woman powerhouse.
Notorious for being late, the crowd patiently waited for Ms. Lauryn Hill to overtake Chicago’s Union Park. As a DJ spun our favorite 90s jams, the star finally came out in an oversized plaid shirt and white toule skirt. She got the crowd feeling all kinds of things when she played her hits, “Everything is Everything,” “Ex Factor” and “To Zion.” With this tour being her 20th year anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, this legend didn’t miss a beat and hit every note. The importance of her music was shown among the tears of fans in the audience. We overheard people talking about her impact and empowerment for young African American women everywhere. Closing out the show, Lauryn did it with respect, you know it’s only human, so thank you Pitchfork for picking such a diverse women headlining festival bill, we salute you.