The first day of Pitchfork Music Festival 2016 began with a drizzle and ended in the fog-laden crooning of Beach House. Early performances by Whitney and Julia Holter drew sizeable crowds to kick things off, but day one was an overall tranquil transition into Pitchfork weekend. Still, whether it was the clouds parting during Julia Holter’s performance of “Feel You,” slow dancing to Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year Old Girl,” or catching Twin Peaks singing “Call Me Maybe” during a photo session backstage, Friday brought some magical festival moments.
Whitney‘s easygoing, Americana indie rock found an ideal setting in the Blue Stage grove. The Chicago band, including former Smith Westerns members Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich, offered a daydreamy jam session cut with Will Miller’s horn. Fans and fellow Chicago musicians packed the shady stage, sending up smoke signals to the tune of “Dave’s Song.” – Jessica Mlinaric
While grim skies and a slight drizzle formed at the opening of 2016’s Pitchfork Music Festival on Friday afternoon, beams of light cascaded out from the clouds by the fourth song of Julia Holter‘s dazzling set on the Green Stage. Upon arriving on stage, she briefly reflected on the sheer madness and grief inflicting the globe and opened with an old piece, “Why Sad Song.” Her performance continued in a gentle breeze and included magnificent cuts from 2015’s Have You In My Wilderness, an album filled with mysterious and romantic excursions. Joining Julia on tour for an organic live translation were Devin Hoff on upright bass, Dina Maccabee on viola and vocals, and percussion from Corey Fogel. Julia embraced her Nord Stage 2 keyboard throughout and shined on “Betsy On The Roof,” sending shivers down to a captivated, tranquil crowd before segueing into “Sea Calls Me Home” and closing out near-perfectly with the intoxicating jazz and enigma of “Vasquez..” Julia Holter brought a solid atmosphere of intriguing warmth and clarity to kick things off at Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend and it will be a set to cherish for months to come.
– Brett Hayes
I first saw Twin Peaks a few years ago at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park, and the Chicago garage rockers haven’t changed much. Their shredding guitar and pounding keyboard brought energy to a crowd drenched with weed and cigarillo wrappers. Twin Peaks is definitely still a punk rock band, but they did incorporate saxophone into their set when Whitney’s Will Miller joined them on stage. Their gear isn’t the only thing that has been upgraded since the first time I saw them (their pianist/guitarist now has multiple sets of keys and a couple of guitars within reach). The band’s schoolboy swagger is still pronounced, but they’re more sure onstage. I hope to see Twin Peaks continue succeeding, along with their efforts to bring other Chicago acts up with them. I’m looking forward to seeing them continue to grow along with their marquees. – Casey Forquer
Carly Rae Jepsen
In 2012, you couldn’t escape “Call Me Maybe.” When friends talked about Carly Rae I would quietly mention that she was a great songwriter (“Tonight I’m Getting Over You” is the best track on that album). I was one of the people who bought Kiss, her second studio album, and loved it. Yet I was nervous about her Pitchfork performance as I’ve seen many bands with amazing recordings utterly fail at live shows. But Carly Rae, sporting a mullet-like haircut and with the addition of backup singers to her band, put on an amazing set. Starting with “Run Away With Me,” she played through most of her Emotion album, with the obligatory addition of “Call Me Maybe.” The crowd (including me) sang along with Carly as she belted out “Emotion,” “Warm Blood,” “Boy Problems,” “I Really Like You,” “When I Needed You,” “All That,” and “Let’s Get Lost.” Unlike her show at the Metro this spring, she didn’t have any outfit changes. If you are a fan, I can assure you that her performance is amazing and matches her recordings at outdoor music festivals as well as indoor concerts. If you’re not a Carly Rae fan at this point, there’s only one thing I can say to win you over – go see Carly Rae. – Casey Forquer
Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene returned to the stages of Pitchfork Music Festival on Friday evening bringing their eclectic sensibilities and, as usual, an unforgettable live performance. There was a distinct emphasis on 2003’s inimitable You Forgot It In People with opener “Pacific Theme” and the moment all collective minds were lost when “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Girl” began. The band made a triumphant return after five years of silence on U.S. stages (their first show was the previous night at Chicago venue Metro) and enlightened fans with a new song (“Gonna Get Better”) from a forthcoming album. The family was all there: Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Amy Milan, Ariel Engle, and of course, Kevin Drew. They instantly made their love of Chicago clear with a shout out to Damen and Division (the site of Soma Studios, where they recorded 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record with famed multi-instrumentalist John McEntire). Good things come to those who wait, and we’ve all waited five long years for a beautiful night filled with vibrant classics reverberating through the summer air of Chicago. – Brett Hayes
When I think of Beach House I fondly remember lounging on the Union Park lawn during golden hour, soaking up their reverb witchcraft. The mood lands differently at night, let alone a headlining set. Cloaked in a shimmering black cape, Victoria Legrand cast lyrical spells from behind her keyboard making it difficult for fans to see much. Still, the band commanded a massive crowd with their celestial synths, and the payoff for songs like “Myth” and the summery “Sparks” was worth it for those who stuck around.
– Jessica Mlinaric
We’re looking forward to exploring the Pitchfork grounds during the longer remaining festival days and sucking down Goose Island’s Natural Villain until it runs out. The “garage lager” is a collaboration with Twin Peaks, and despite the name it’s crisp, mildly hoppy, and too damn drinkable. We’ll see you at Union Park!