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Pitchfork Music Festival 2021: Recap, Best Performances

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St. Vincent, particular excessive.
Picture: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Photos

Six weeks after Lollapalooza barreled forward regardless of rising issues concerning the Delta variant and COVID-19, little appears in a position to get in the way in which of music festivals this fall save Mother Nature herself and poor planning. Final weekend noticed one of the anticipated of the season return: Pitchfork Festival, the three-day Chicago occasion that showcases vital darlings and rising stars (but one way or the other no Peppa Pig!). Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent, and Erykah Badu topped a lineup filled with artists to please most music nerds — and one which delivered most of the standout performances {that a} discerning showcase like Pitchfork guarantees. Listed here are the highs, lows, and whoas of what we noticed over the weekend.

HIGH: Each type of rock fan had a cause to reach early.
A Friday-afternoon competition crowd will be skinny, between followers nonetheless ending up at work and people saving their stamina to final the weekend. However skipping this 12 months’s early-Friday units meant lacking a block of the very best rock music Pitchfork 2021 needed to supply. That kicked off with emo rising stars Dogleg, who introduced their standout 2020 debut album, Melee, to life with a ripping set tough sufficient to go away bruises, culminating in a closing efficiency of “Ender” the place the band’s ardour reached transcendent ranges. Chicago heroes Dehd — whose 2020 album, Flower of Devotion, was among the many greatest native releases of the 12 months adopted with a set of their groovy, offbeat rock, held collectively by enthusiastic singer-bassist Emily Kempf shaking her ass to “Haha,” getting the group to leap for “Flying,” and contorting her voice into new shapes.

The standout of the afternoon was Hop Along, a Philadelphia group that currently has been making the type of crisp, sun-kissed rock music excellent for a noon competition set. Moderately than test-run new materials (the band’s final album, Bark Your Head Off, Canine, arrived in 2018), Hop Alongside caught to what it knew: catchy catharsis anchored by the arresting rasp of singer Frances Quinlan, who made the most important notes appear easy, all the way down to the tremendous closer, “Tibetan Pop Stars.” The noisy English rockers in black midi adopted, and even when their music was a bit too dense for me, witnessing them twist wonky riffs out of their guitars and carry out alongside one rocking saxophonist was undeniably spectacular.

HIGH: Fiery Furnaces’ reunion was much less ceremony and extra dance social gathering.
Presumably the most important shocker of the 2020 lineup was a reunion set by Fiery Furnaces, the quirky, theatrical art-rock duo with roots within the Chicago suburbs. Greater than a 12 months later, when that reunion lastly bought to occur, there was little pomp and circumstance about it. Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, outfitted with two drummers and two wildly dexterous keyboardists, carried out free renditions of songs all through their playful early catalogue (sorry, Widow Metropolis followers), with 2020 single “Down on the So and So and Someplace” seamlessly slipped in. After a day of guitar solos and powerhouse vocals, Fiery Furnaces gave the indie youngsters a essentially low-key dance break.

HIGH: Massive Thief performed like nobody was watching.
The opening of Big Thief’s set, closing out day one’s Crimson Stage, felt like stumbling upon a non-public second. The 4 members crowded right into a half-circle at heart stage, performing a mild, beautiful rendition of the unreleased track “Modifications.” It was fascinating. The band channeled palpable chemistry into the set, with the members gathering within the heart to jam out a track or Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek locking eyes throughout a vocal concord. They performed extra unreleased songs, together with a rollicking tackle “Spud Infinity” and a particularly hefty closer. Previous hits like “Masterpiece” and “Shark Smile” rocked, whereas Lenker turned “Not” into an absolute fever dream, with possessed screams and a minutes-long guitar solo. Essentially the most spellbinding second of the evening got here afterward, because the crew switched out James Krivchenia’s kick drum. Lenker carried out “Orange” by herself — first accompanying on guitar however ultimately simply singing a cappella, commanding the stage over the bass from Yaeji’s Blue Stage efficiency and sirens on the streets behind. It jogged my memory of one thing Meek had stated to the group earlier whereas the band tuned guitars: “My good pal as soon as advised me that actual friendship is one through which you can share silence, so thanks for that.” For an hour, Massive Thief handled a crowd of 1000’s like they had been outdated associates.

LOW: Coachella desert, transfer over.
I returned from the primary day of the competition with a layer of grime masking my legs and an irritated, dusty nostril (even after masking up!), owing to the late-summer dryness of Union Park. A excessive if you happen to’d been lacking the Coachella desert, however not for me.

LOW: Jay Electronica was nowhere to be discovered, once more.
We’re used to being stood up by Jay Electronica at this point, however that didn’t soften the blow when the enigmatic rapper canceled his set hours earlier than gates opened on Saturday owing to “unexpected circumstances.” Not solely did that imply lacking out on considered one of Jay Elec’s first performances since lastly releasing debut album A Written Testimony in 2020, it threw the Blue Stage into disarray, giving followers an entire new slate of set conflicts to plan round.

WHOA: Bartees Unusual took us to rock church.
Bartees Unusual’s 2020 album, Stay Without end, was one of the assured of the 12 months, pulling from arena-rock, emo, worship music, nation, and rap for one thing really singular. He took the Crimson Stage on Saturday with that very same confidence, working by way of a set that confirmed all sides of his musicality, from rock rippers like “Mustang” to the low-key bars of “Kelly Rowland.” As nice because the guitars and synths sounded, the true draw was Bartees’s voice, which commanded consideration on stripped-back ballads like “Going Going” and stadium-level songs like “Stone Meadows” and “Boomer,” which he carried out with near-spiritual fervor. It was the type of set that might make you a believer — if you happen to weren’t already among the many Bartees trustworthy.

HIGH: Waxahatchee and Faye Webster chilled out within the afternoon solar.
The most important upside to Jay Electronica’s cancellation? Followers of sun-kissed, easygoing people rock might catch each Waxahatchee and Faye Webster, with Faye’s Blue Stage set pushed later into the night. For Waxahatchee’s Inexperienced Stage set, singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield introduced the jangly ramblers and contemplative ballads off her 2020 album Saint Cloud to dazzling life, backed by members of Detroit band Bonny Doon. Webster adopted up with an much more low-key set within the shaded Blue Stage, crooning the lazy love songs off I Know I’m Humorous haha, launched in June, alongside a band that included reside pedal metal. Both set made for the right second to stretch out on a picnic blanket and roll a joint or sip a beer — just like the refreshing peach lager that Webster created with Goose Island solely for the competition.

HIGH: Chicago confirmed out on Saturday.
Pitchfork tends to do a greater job than Chicago’s flagship music competition, Lollapalooza, at really reserving native expertise. Specifically, Saturday emphasised all the town’s music scene needed to supply. The rising teen rockers of Horsegirl kicked the time off with their skillful no-wave, which sounded particularly large outdoor in Union Park. Colombian American rock band Divino Niño adopted shortly after with a spaced-out set that sounded vibey in one of the best ways. Jay Electronica’s dropout opened up a slot for last-minute addition RP Boo, a pioneer of the town’s transcendent footwork scene, who introduced two dancers as agile as his beats for a set of pure leisure.

Later, forward of St. Vincent’s headlining set, followers couldn’t go fallacious with two of the town’s greatest singer-songwriter exports, Angel Olsen (who moved to Asheville, North Carolina, in 2013) and Jamila Woods. I caught the early a part of Olsen’s set, which opened with a large efficiency of her track “All Mirrors,” full with strings gamers; she additionally performed rousing takes on “Shut Up Kiss Me” and “Forgiven/Forgotten,” together with debuting her brooding cowl of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.” Then I ran to Woods’s set, which she held down with a band that stayed eternally within the pocket as they ran by way of songs off her 2019 album, LEGACY! LEGACY!, covers of Nirvana and Tracy Chapman, and a young new love track known as “Headfirst.” She and her band appeared to go away every little thing on the stage after their finale efficiency of “SULA (Paperback),” but they obliged the group with an encore efficiency of “MUDDY” that sounded heavy sufficient to please its namesake. As disenchanted as I used to be to overlook Sharon Van Etten’s surprise appearance to shut Angel Olsen’s set with their duet “Like I Used To,” Woods’ efficiency was value sticking round for to the top.

WHOA: Phoebe Bridgers and St. Vincent performed previous the headlines.
Phoebe Bridgers’s Pitchfork-headlining set was a coronation. Over the previous 12 months and alter, Bridgers’s second solo album, Punisher, rocketed her from rising singer-songwriter to indie icon, resulting in a Saturday Evening Stay efficiency, top-tier collaborations, and accolades like Grammy nominations and best-of-list spots. Even with a bigger, six-piece band behind her and pop-up-book projections accompanying her Punisher songs, Bridgers’s headlining set wasn’t too flashy — usually, a couple of members of that band sat idly as she performed trustworthy renditions of the quiet songs that bought her thus far. There have been a couple of large moments, largely courtesy of strings and horns on the outro to “Scott Road” and the bridge to “Moon Music.” However whereas the extra intimate songs, like “Smoke Alerts,” sounded fairly, they didn’t fairly command a headlining set (particularly after following an act like Massive Thief). The explosive closer, “I Know the End,” was greater than definitely worth the wait — there’s really no match to experiencing that scream in individual — though it additionally confirmed that Bridgers is greater than able to the bigness she’d been avoiding for the previous 70 minutes.

Saturday closer St. Vincent, in the meantime, is traditional Pitchfork fare, having beforehand headlined the Crimson Stage in 2014. However her most up-to-date album, Could’s Daddy’s Dwelling, was largely forgettable, dwarfed by the remainder of her singular discography. So if the query for Bridgers was whether or not she was able to headline, the query for St. Vincent was whether or not she was nonetheless value seeing as a headliner. She answered with a powerful sure, presenting an arena-level stage present full with a set, background singers, and a stellar band that lived as much as the expectations of the ’70s rock she channeled on Daddy’s Dwelling. New songs just like the title monitor and “Pay Your Manner in Ache” crackled reside, becoming proper in with rocking renditions of hits like “Actor” and “Cheerleader.” The set wasn’t with out some melodramatic moments, akin to when Clark put down her guitar to sing a karaokelike “New York” or carried out a dragging “Stay within the Dream” late into the set, however all it took was a fast guitar solo on the following track, and issues had been firing on all cylinders as soon as once more. For a performer who has at all times traded in shock and awe, Clark delivered each in spades.

WHOA: Stay bands carry visionary albums to life on day three.
St. Vincent’s Saturday-headlining set kicked off a pattern for Sunday: Stay bands completely killed it. Early within the afternoon, Chicago-born soul auteur keiyaA channeled the hazy songs on her debut album, Without end, Ya Woman, with renewed readability, reimagining them to suit her three-piece band whereas nonetheless retaining the give attention to her, thanks to large, impassioned vocal performances. Later, Tamara Lindeman debuted a fuller model of her band the Climate Station to understand songs off her provocative climate-change concept album, Ignorance, which sounded alternately groovy and haunting due to uneasy percussion and free-jazz saxophone.

On a file, Yves Tumor makes equally provocative rock music, however after they took the Blue Stage after the Climate Station, they had been merely able to impress. On their 2020 album, Heaven to a Tortured Thoughts, and up to date EP The Asymptotical World, they pivoted from enigmatic experimentalist to avant-garde glam rocker, and their efficiency was the total realization of that rock fantasy. The fuzziness of the guitars at first solely added to the sensation that this was a sweaty, rowdy bar set; Tumor’s mulleted guitarist deserves particular credit score for performing a number of the grimiest solos I’ve ever heard reside. Though the star was, in fact, Yves Tumor themselves, taking part in completely fascinating diva-rocker as they scowled and shrieked by way of their songs, clad in a Slipknot shirt with quick shorts and knee-high boots. They rocked to the final seconds of their set, with manufacturing ultimately chopping them off to everybody’s disappointment. I’d name it a star-making efficiency for Tumor, however the set made clear they already had been one.

WHOA: Yves fucking Tumor.
Simply in case you missed the earlier blurb, as a result of I can not say it sufficient.

LOW: The variety of rappers.
Even earlier than Jay Electronica dropped out, this 12 months’s Pitchfork lineup had a file low variety of rappers, few sufficient to rely on one hand — disappointing at a competition that, whereas it holds a fame for reserving nice indie rock, tends to be one of the omnivorous of the season. I’d guess the competition struggled to compete with Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash, the Gen-Z–oriented Chicago hip-hop competition that expanded to a few days this 12 months, together with the standard competitors from Lollapalooza; rappers like Freddie Gibbs (who performed Lolla) and Benny the Butcher (who performed Summer time Smash) would have match simply as snugly within the Pitchfork lineup. Nonetheless, the rappers who did take the stage proved to be highlights, like Maxo Kream, the Houston huge talker who spit a set of exhausting, energetic bars whereas getting the group to kick up some mud and mosh a little bit on the Blue Stage.

HIGH: Danny Brown, Cat Energy, and Erykah Badu shut the weekend with nothing to show.
This 12 months particularly, the stakes for the performances had been excessive, with many artists debuting materials reside for the primary time for the reason that pandemic. However the ultimate units I caught on Sunday entertained with no expectations. That started with Danny Brown, who warned the group in between laps across the stage that he had forgotten a few of his lyrics after spending quarantine toying together with his new air fryer relatively than training. He nonetheless managed to placed on a high-octane, hilarious, crowd-pleasing set, full with standout appearances for his Bruiser Brigade Information signees ZelooperZ and Bruiser Wolf and simply 4 (4) bars off his extremely anticipated album XXXX. Then, closing the Blue Stage, Cat Power deserted her guitar and piano for a free, shifting set, lulling the group right into a trance with outdated cuts from Moon Pix and The Best, together with a very affecting closing cowl medley of the people track “He Was a Pal of Mine,” Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Candy Nuthin’,” and Boys Subsequent Door’s “Shivers.” She even returned to sing “The Moon,” accompanied by simply her guitarist, telling the group, “I don’t do encores, so that is simply one other track.” And all of it constructed towards closing-night headliner Erykah Badu — 25 minutes late however instantly within the zone, working by way of her soulful classics alongside her nine-piece band. After all she sounded superb and was wildly entertaining, however with no expectation of recent music (and none delivered), her set was the right celebration to shut the weekend: an hour filled with dancing, singing, and grooving for minutes after she was advised to wrap.

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