While Pitchfork Music Festival got off to a relaxed, slightly rainy start on Friday, Saturday’s sunny weather and solid performances provided an ideal festival day. The crowds were bigger and the artists were amped, with the exception of a certain Beach Boy. It was a jam-packed day of music in Union Park and every set we saw delivered.
Digable Planets took us on a fantastic voyage back to the ’90s with their funky, summer-worthy rhymes. Opening with “Graffiti,” Butterfly, Ladybug Mecca, and Doodlebug were joined by a live band to accentuate their jazzy take on hip-hop. The trio grooved through “What Cool Breezes Do” and breakout hit “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” before reminding the crowd to “make some noise” in the face of the world’s injustices.
– Jessica Mlinaric
Impeccable drumming and driving bass fueled Savages’ set on Saturday afternoon. Every member of the London four-piece was stunning, and they were my favorite band of the festival so far. Ayse Hassan might be the best bass player alive. Frontwoman Jehnny Beth captured and controlled the audience the moment she grabbed the microphone. Gemma Thompson’s guitar work could have been a solo show. Fay Milton is so talented on the drum kit that I don’t think hyperbole is possible.
The band has an unrelenting energy that demands your attention, and it is worth giving it to them. Each member of this band is worth seeing solo, and together they amplify each other. Savages are the kind of band pulls you into rock – that makes you want to pick up a guitar or drumsticks – and I cannot wait to see the next batch of kids inspired by their music. – Casey Forquer
A few years ago, I noted that Blood Orange was Prince’s heir apparent and Saturday’s Pitchfork performance coronated Devonte Hynes as such. He opened at the keyboard with “By Ourselves,” but was scarcely in one place for the rest of the set. Hynes brought a liquid energy to the stage alternating between vocals, dance, and guitar. When his band introduced the fat basslines of “You’re Not Good Enough” and driving percussion of “Chamakay” of 2013’s Cupid Deluxe my feet were ignited to break it down in the photo pit. Hynes was joined by Carly Rae Jepsen for “Better Than Me” as well as Empress Of on “Best to You” off his recent Freetown Sound LP as synth-fueled pop and R&B overtook the captive crowd. – Jessica Mlinaric
My first live experience with The Beach Boys has finally come: Brian Wilson performing his 1966 musical masterpiece Pet Sounds. I’ve been a fan of The Beach Boys ever since I can remember. Songs such as “Good Vibrations,” “Fun Fun Fun,” and “Barbara Ann” would be blasted from the tape deck of my Dad’s 1982 Pontiac Phoenix on the way to little league practice.
I was caught off-guard by an early set start. With packed festival grounds, faint sounds of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” could be heard in the distance while I was grabbing a bite to eat. It was only 7:19pm (his set was supposed to start at 7:25pm). I hurried to get closer, but people talking around me drowned out the sound. Finally, one of my all-time favorites, “Sloop John B,” was audible as I moved closer to the stage. My energy started picking up, and it felt like I could now properly experience the show.
“God Only Knows” was a Pet Sounds highlight. The song that Paul McCartney once called “the greatest song in history” lived up to its emotional potential. The instrumental arrangements also transferred well to the live set, with one member switching between baritone, tenor, and alto saxophones, as well as flute, harmonica, and clarinet.
The jam-packed crowd didn’t seem to mind the obvious volume issues. Brian Wilson, now 74, didn’t have much of a stage presence beyond sitting at the piano and looking up at the crowd. The real energy came from Beach Boys guitarist Al Jardine, a nice surprise to the ensemble. After the Pet Sounds portion of the set concluded, Al took over the show, belting his vocals and jamming on his guitar. At this point, the band really dialed up, and the audience was moving and singing along. Crowd favorites like “Good Vibrations” “Barbara Anne,” and “Surfin’ USA” really saved the set, and seemed to remind people why we all love the Beach Boys in the first place. – Dave Zagar
Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals
I waited out Anderson .Paak‘s 20-minute delay because I suspected he might be the most excited act of the weekend. When he did appear, Paak was a force of nature, spitting “The Season | Carry Me” and circling the stage with the urgency of a cyclone. Chicago hip-hop artists Joey Purp and Mick Jenkins watched from the side stage as Paak and his band the Free Nationals urged every hand in the air. When Paak jumped behind the drum kit his thunderous energy confirmed this was a full on rock show. – Jessica Mlinaric
I last saw Sufjan Stevens at the Chicago theater for a gorgeous, heartfelt, and emotional performance touring on 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. Last night, he announced a more upbeat set after touring on this heartbreaking record for a year. I expected nothing less than consummate technical and creative artistry from Stevens, which he delivered along with a whimsical jolt of DayGlo vitality. Feathers, tinsel, and flourescent animations accompanied Stevens on “Seven Swans” and “Too Much.” Before beginning “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” he announced, “Chicago was my first love.” A few quieter moments during “Should Have Known Better” and “For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti” provided breathing room. It was a headlining act worthy of the name, closing with the triumphant “Chicago.” – Jessica Mlinaric
We spent the day ping-ponging between inspiring acts, leaving little time to wander the corners of the festival grounds. When we did pause for food, we found Big Delicious Planet‘s thai beef tacos ($9) to be tasty and filling fare.
We’re looking forward to an earlier start to Sunday to soak in those Pitchfork vibes and do a little crate digging. Keep up the good energy in Union Park!