Summertime brings two things: heat and a cavalcade of music fests. It has been a few years since I hit up the later, so I decided that it was time to return to the festival circuit by attending the annual Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The line up for the three day indie music explosion was a nice mix of style, and Union Park turned out to be the perfect setting : not too big, easy access to various forms of transportation, relatively inexpensive drinks, and a tightly run schedule.
Below are the highlights and lowlights of my time in Chicago, with a few bonuses thrown in.
Pitchfork Fest Day One (Watch Day 1 Here)
Star of the Day: Big K.R.I.T
A smallish crowd that was very enthusiastic for the performance, I instantly began to bob my head to the beats and resisted the temptation to throw my hand in the air. There was a lot of dancing and swagger in the audience, including some moves I never thought possible. His set was very tight, voice clear, and lyrics sharp. I especially appreciated his show of support of Frank Ocean (“Ya’ll know about getting Orange Crush right?” Crowd cheers. “That’s all I’m gonna say about that”). I’m not familiar with his EPs, but his show was true Southern flavor hip hop at its best. He’s got a new fan in me for sure. See the entire set in the 2nd video below!
New Music of the Day: Clams Casino
One of our group has a few remixes by this DJ so we decided to check them out. Trance seasoned with a house flavor, with sprinkles of known hooks mixed in (aka a snippet of Bjork). This was definitely the first of many opportunities for a solid contact high at the Blue stage. “Not bad for an opener” as one of my friends put it, but they didn’t have a strong festival big stage feel. This would be great music at 2am rave time, not so much late afternoon.
Disappointment of the Day: Dirty Projectors
In a small venue this band would be great, if they could sing in tune. This is a huge problem for me and instantly kills enjoyment of a show. I was very much looking forward to seeing them, but I couldn’t make it past the first four songs because of the vocal issues. This is another group that falls into “not bad for an opener” category and I am probably going to pass on a chance to see them later this year. An adapt summary from another friend of mine after we finished watching the end of the set: “We all like summer, but we need to have winter to show us how much we appreciate summer when it comes around.”
WTF of the Day: Purity Ring
This was my second time seeing them this year, and unfortunately technical difficulties cut their set down to about 20 minutes. For many in my concert crew, this was the first time for them to see the band, and they enjoyed the Bjork like vibe and sound this band can produce. The duo was able to hit all of their big songs from the EP and the two singles from the new album. They too, suffered from some out of tune and phasing problems like Dirty Projectors which made the ending of the set rough.
Bonus of the Day: Gigamesh at Berlin Night Club
I missed this Minnesota DJ at the Rio Room in my hometown of Dallas recently, so I took the opportunity to see him this time around. Fun set with a funky remix of “Disco Inferno” and “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” being the highlights of the set. Two of my group saw him in Dallas and were disappointed that he played many of the same remixes but they still enjoyed themselves second time around. Personally, it was a tad too much house for me, but I still had fun.
Day Two: (Watch Day Two here)
Best 60s style dream pop of the day: Cults
Mellow was the theme for most of Saturday’s sets, starting with the Cults peppermint and incense 60s sound. Songs from their album are actually much better live and come across with more energy than through speakers at home. Cults had some amusing intros to song, with a particularly slow and dreaming sounding tune dedicated to drinking with members of Sleigh Bells. The highlight of the show was watching an enthusiastic female fan in a large floppy hat dance by herself to every song with pure joy. Catch the entire performance below.
Discovery of the day: Wild Flag
The only moment of pure punk rock at this festival for me was from this all girl band. Comprised of members of other bands, such as Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag took you back to a place where rock was the dominate sound on the music charts. They had a tight set of material from their first album and covers that won over many of the crowd, including myself. Their entire set can be seen below.
Star of the Day: Sleigh Bells
This is my second time seeing this dynamic duo this year, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Incredibly loud, they drowned out whoever was playing on a nearby stage without effort. Alexis was in full swagger mode, whipping the crowd into frenzy during the opener, “Demons”, and didn’t let up throughout their show. Sleigh Bells is a rare band for me, in that all of their songs have a similar sound and style, but I continue to enjoy them over and over. I will always recommend you see them live, no matter the venue. Despite already seeing them, I’d have to say this was the best show of the festival.
The Reason I Got Tickets to Pitchfork: Hot Chip
A friend of mine turned me onto this band a few years ago and I fell in love. The mix of lush harmonies and smoothly produced effects under surprisingly complex lyrics sucked me in without fail. This was the best place to catch them on their limited tour of North America so I jumped on the chance and they lived up to my expectations. High energy jams on stage kept the crowd dancing without fail (including myself). I felt a few chills during “One Night Stand” and chocked up a little during my favorite song, “I Feel Better”. Toss in a great cover of ”I Want to Be With You Everywhere”, and it makes for one of the best sets of the festival. Watch all of their performance below.
Bonus of the Day: Hot Chip DJ set at Beauty Bar
For a mere $5 my friends and I traveled to Chicago’s version of this chain bar to catch Al Doyle, Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor spinning their mix of underground dance and pop to a small but excited crowd. I was easily able to make my way to stand next to the DJ booth for a bit and dance up close with my fellow fans. Al seemed to be especially into the music they were mixing, shouting, jumping and fist pumping throughout the two hour or so set.
Day Three (Watch Day 3 here)
Miss of the Day: Kendrick Lamar
I was planning on going to Kendrick Lamar but misread the schedule. Too bad since I could have caught a glimpse of Lady Gaga chilling on the stage during his set.
WTF of the Day: AraabMusik
I passed on a chance to see this talented producer/DJ earlier this year so I made sure not to miss this set. A brilliant blend of hip hop, reggae, dance and house had the crowd swaying and jumping for a full 45 minutes. And the dazzling display of hand dexterity was mesmerizing on the big screen. That’s until the end of the set, when he brought out up and coming rapper Chief Keef and his crew. Suddenly the fun stopped and the mumbly shouts of profanity began, and then quickly ended as everyone wandered off stage. We were all left scratching our heads as to what just happened.
Chill Moment of the Day: Beach House
I was able to catch most of the set for this band, and will probably see a full show later this year. A big change in style and sound from the groups before, the mellow vibe was much appreciated. I have just become a fan of this band, and their new album translated well in this large venue. The area in front of the stage was surprisingly packed and I looked for the dancing fan of the Cults but didn’t see her. I think their sound will be even better in September, when I see them in a smaller environment.
The other reason I got tickets to Pitchfork: Vampire Weekend
The indie darlings from New York made their first festival appearance in several years to close down Pitchfork. Cue rabid and crazy dancing by everyone around me. This was my first time seeing them live, the fifth for members of my crew, who informed me that their set hadn’t changed much since the last show a few years ago. The band was tight and seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit, despite repeated claims about being rusty on stage. All of their hits and fan favorites sounded great, including my personal faves “Oxford Comma”,” Diplomat’s Son”, and “Give Up the Gun”. I was able to catch part of their surprise encore as we waited for the train, comprised of songs from the first album. They were fun but let’s face it, you need a face melter to close a festival. Sleigh Bells anyone?