Neon Indian’s impressive kickoff party performance at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge was a good forecast of the Pitchfork Music Festival weekend. Indie and hip-hop acts battled 90+ heats to perform to a crowd of roughly 18,000 people in Union Park for the next three days.
This year’s Pitchfork may have had the strongest supporting cast yet, but in all honesty, the lineup was confusing to sort out. Annie Clark, or St. Vincent, played a emotionally absent set leading up to digital-reggae duo Major Lazer, who performed to a sear of sweat dripping hipsters. And before pop star Robyn and her 80s’ dance moves, the crowd was raging to experimental rock band Liars. The diversity of the lineup was definitely there.
First up for me at the festival was Tallest Man on Earth, who I had wanted to see since missing him in Bloomington last May. The Swedish folk singer-songwriter performed Friday afternoon to a quiet and small crowd. His apparent jet-lagged soul claimed he hadn’t slept in two days, but you sure couldn’t tell with his flawless vocals. He performed both tracks off Shallow Graves and Wild Hunt including “King of Spain,” “Gardener,” and “I Won’t Be Found.” Hands down, my favorite performance of the day.
Next up was Liars, who I had never heard before Friday. But when lead singer Angus Andrew came onstage in a cutoff baby tee and short “swishy” gym shorts, I was suddenly intrigued. Robyn’s vivacious performance overshadowed headliner Modest Mouse, who delivered a lackluster set. But Friday’s performances from Tallest Man on Earth, Liars and Broken Social Scene were enough for the night to come out on top.
Saturday started out feeling like a day full of small supporting acts as everyone anticipated hearing James Murphy belt out “Losing My Edge.” With two rappers on the lineup, Raekwon and Freddie Gibbs, plus Dam-Funk, the hip-hop was very much alive.
Panda Bear seemed to bore a sleepy audience; either the crowd was frustrated he wasn’t playing more tracks off Person Pitch or they were just saving all their energy for LCD Soundsystem. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Titus Andronicus, and Wolf Parade put on solid shows, but the biggest surprise of the day came from Spanish alternative band Delorean, who ignited dancing crowds early on in the day.
As soon as LCD took the stage, everyone, even the vendors, lost it. Amidst the baseball diamond dust, the crowd threw glow sticks and girls danced on top of trashcans with strangers. But to say strangers’ feels almost wrong, considering Pitchfork was probably the most intimate band-to-crowd festival I have attended.
I headed over to the B stage early on Sunday to catch Bethany Cosentino’s sassiness in surf pop duo Best Coast. Their fuzzy two-minute tracks about boys, smoking weed and California were refreshing amongst the darker performances of the day including Beach House. But the scariest moment came from noise-rock band Lightning Bolt’s drummer who performed in a haunting mask.
Girls performed their 50s’ surf-pop vibes without much complaint. St. Vincent, or Annie Clark, rocked out to a distant crowd. Washed Out and Neon Indian both campaigned for their chillwave genre, just before Sleigh Bells took the stage. But Sleigh Bells had to battle through vocal and guitar equipment trouble to play their disappointing short set. The crowd wanted more, but lead singer Alexis Krauss didn’t have anything to give.
“How many of you have our album?” she directed to the crowd as they responded with cheers. “It’s only 32 minutes,” she said in her defense.
Next up, Major Lazer. Could someone please explain to me what was happening on stage? Chinese dragons, a ladder and a ballerina are all I got out of it. But the beats were hype and a great way to lead into the best and most energetic performance of the entire festival, Big Boi.
If you haven’t heard Big Boi’s new album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, please go out and buy it right now. It is that good. Camping out all day in front of the C stage to stand front row to Big Boi’s performance was probably my best decision all weekend. Mixing old with new medleys and a full band, Big Boi let loose instantly with Outkast hits “Rosa Parks,” “BoB” and “Ms. Jackson.” Off his first solo album came “I like the Way You Move.” Finally he performed his rambunctious recent single “Shutterbugg.” Vonnegut joined Sir Lucious on stage for “Follow Us,” which is just one of the many tracks on the new album featuring guest vocals. Take me back to that 45-minute set please.
Pavement’s calm set ended the festival perfectly. You could say it was as if you were winding down after running a three-day long Pitchfork marathon; Big Boi was the last stretch and Pavement was the walk you needed afterward. Look forward to seeing you next summer Pitchfork!