It was a mix of highs and lows for the 14th annual Pitchfork Music Festival held in Union Park this last weekend. Overall, this is the best Pitchfork that we’ve attended. There were so many special moments throughout the week. It’s a matter of seeing a handful of your favorite artists on the same day, hopping back and forth from the three stages, trying to make sense of it all. You’re diving into the mystic, and the best way of going about it for us was just playing it cool and going with the flow.
Friday was sticky with temperatures that felt like 105 F. We arrived just on time for MIKE’s set which was riddled with absolutely gorgeous production and heartfelt delivery. His latest album Tears of Joy speaks on his mother’s passing and how he’s reacted and transformed through the pain. We listened to the expressions of his emotions and just sat there in awe while he slipped in and out of different cadences. I started listening to MIKE when he released May God Bless Your Hustle which is another album about his mother living separate in London and the trials and tribulations of being a teen living in New York. At only 20 years old, he is already profoundly in touch with his identity, his art, and his rapping is way ahead of most both lyrically and rhythmically. Here’s an 8 bar from the opening track "Scarred Lungs, Vol.1 and 2":
“Staring at the clocktower, wonder what my moms on
I got power and I got a harsh tongue
All of me is not coward, if you tryna start some
That's how my heart thump
On stage, I'm praying that these bars count
For a large buck, wasn't chasing stardom
Starstruck, I disregard love
That's why my guard sucked”
We tracked down Low after we left Mavis Staples early. Right as they walked on stage, with echoes coming from the other stages, Alan Sparhawk mentioned, "You guys should ashamed of yourself that you're not seeing Mavis right now." The respect they have for her to begin a show like that speaks to who Low is. As soon as they started their first song, we were lost. Not that we waltzed away and couldn't find the stage, but rather we got so entranced with the cavernous echoes of strings and resonant taps of drums that we were completely lost. I've never seen them outside of Duluth before so it felt that simply through their playing, I was brought back home.
We managed to catch part of Standing On The Corner’s 22 person ensemble, led by Gio Escobar, ranging from elders to kids, each of them carrying themselves with confidence and unity in the summer heat. It was like an all-out war had broken out on stage when they began; the music drowned any attempt at understanding what was going on, so we simply were and existed in the moment with their performance as they went absolutely crazy. It was really inspiring.
After escaping the cacophony of the orchestra, we cruised over to the new queen of rage rap, Rico Nasty. Everyone in the crowd was involved in reciting after her, jumping up and down in a wave-like fashion. The wave soon turned into a tsunami when she started "Rage" and nearly everyone in the crowd was shaking downtown Chicago. In between songs, there were coo’s of “Rico!” and “Kenny!” from the crowd, see this for context. Rico was one of the main reasons we attended this year; she is so easy to love, constantly radiating positivity.
We saw him hyped about Valee backstage, and from that point we knew that Earl Sweatshirt was having a good time at Pitchfork. Without question, he's my personal favorite artist at this point. “Oh my god Chicago it’s so hot”. Ironically, the drop of "Cold Summers" probably turned the temperature of the park up a couple of degrees.
“The boy been gone a few summers
Too long for road runnin'
Trunk full of old hunnids
Of course my old lover was scorned
We grow from it
Don't tell me they don't hunt us for sport
I chose substances”
After Earl, we were blessed enough caught a powerful Pusha-T performance. Stoic and pronounced, he started with an acapella version of “If You Know You Know”. Someone screamed, “Play' Story of Adidon!'” (his Drake diss track) and Push replied with a smirk. I’m sure he gets that all the time. We decided to leave the park for the night and head over to East Room to catch Black Noise’s DJ set which was phenomenal.
The combination of all of these artists efforts surely made this my favorite day of the festival and perhaps my favorite day of music, ever, period. Full stop.
We were fully charged for day two and managed to catch Parquet Courts and Freddie Gibbs, but the festival got canceled in between! We huddled under a tent until we got kicked out and headed to a warm bar for an hour or so until the rain died down. Regardless of the rain, both performances had incredibly, seemingly endless energy. I’ve seen Freddie before and he has never missed a beat in the two times I’ve seen him. His delivery is almost flawless with how impeccable and perfectly timed his flows are, it’s beyond impressive. It felt like Freddie was almost reborn because we thought the day was over, so it was something truly special to see.
The Isely Brothers closed the night out and brought us back in time. Their songs have been sampled and repurposed hundreds, maybe thousands of times, most notably by artists like Lil Wayne, Dr.Dre, and Kendrick Lamar. It was an interesting dynamic to see these legends perform these songs that are both new and old. Their original purpose has so much meaning, but even the recycled version is beautiful. There were parents holding kids and older folks holding each others hands, all smiling as we watched the final performance of the night.
It was insane to see black midi perform since they’re so confusing. They stammer words and phrases that don’t exactly make sense, but they fall right into place. Their nonsense is sensical, somehow. They create something much, much bigger than the sum of their parts for a bunch of 19-somethings from London. If you haven’t dug into their latest, mind-melting album, Schlagenheim, then do yourself a favor and check it out.
jpegmafia was easily the highlight of the day. He was day 3. Peggy was in and out of the crowd for nearly every song. He existed as a part of the crowd, holding full control of us in his grip. When he told us to mosh, we moshed. When he played his last “Macaulay Culkin” and told us to sit down in yesterdays puddles and enjoy, we willingly sat down and enjoyed. This was perhaps the most beautiful part of the festival. The slow guitar over calming drum rhythms calmed an adrenaline fueled crowd and just as jpegmafia started rapping the sun came out from behind the clouds after 24 hours of bad weather. It was such a warm and genuine moment to wrap the festival.