Pitchfork: Saturday in Review

  Saturday at the Pitchfork Music Festival felt like a different place from Friday. Unlike the previous  cloudy and slightly rainy day, the sun warmed Union Park and the crowd seemed to have doubled overnight. No more easy wandering around the grounds, instead it was weaving through the audience in hopes of getting a good spot. Circuit des Yeux: If you've never seen or heard Haley Fohr perform, you might have ended up walking away from her performance befuddled. Fohr, who performs under Circuit des Yeux and Jackie Lynn, delivers guttural and raw vocals that require a hefty amount of  patience and can take some getting used to, but once you have it, her cadence can be addicting. However, her sound is more suited to darkened venues with moody lighting or at the very least a later spot at a festival. The bright sun looking down on her set was not the ideal setting for transfixing, although her songs were certainly a delight to my ears. - Julian Ramirez

23crkevinmorbyKevin Morby: When Kevin Morby walked onstage, it was as if Bob Dylan materialized from the album cover of Desire. With a Bolo tie around his neck and a long-brimmed hat on his head, he could have easily busted out playing “Hurricane.” Instead, he brought his own brand of Americana songs, kicking off the set with “Dorothy” from his recently released third album Singing Saw. His backing band could suspend his songs just as easily as loosening their playing along the syncopated groove in “Harlem River.” Three singers walked onstage about halfway through the set to lift the songs gently with harmonies. Morby moved from playing bass in Woods to co-songwriting songs with Cassie Ramone in The Babies to fronting his own band, and he belongs at the front of the stage. - Colin Smith

Digable Planets: It's good to see the return of Digable Planets, especially when they are as on top of their performance as they were at the Green Stage. After so many years not performing together, they are as cohesive and fun as ever, fitting in perfectly with the warm weather. There was tons of nostalgia steaming through the speakers as they implored the crowd to make some noise, in the literal and political/ethical sense. - Julian Ramirez

43crjennyhval13crJenny Hval: This was the oddest set of the weekend so far and I doubt anything will top its off the wall lunacy. Jenny Hval set was as much a performance art piece as it was musical. Starting off the set in white jumpsuits, Hval and her similarly dressed back up dancers made their way to the stage to shock and weird out quite a few members of the audience. The two masked dancers eventually disrobed revealed themselves to be dressed as clowns and started drifting around the stage in more frenzied movements. Strange rhythmic motions that were a mix of sexual and mechanical sent the whole thing over the edge. - Julian Ramirez

Martin Courtney: Martin Courtney played a low-key set with jangly songs that sounded reminiscent of The Byrds. But his pop-rock songs sounded a lot like his work in Real Estate without the excitement, energy, or enthusiasm. Still, his tunes are pleasant, even if it’s easy to zone out or feel disengaged. His set provided breathing room to sit in the shade before people marched toward Savages or Blood Orange. - Colin Smith

53crsavages1Savages: The London post-punk band Savages kicked off their set with a roar and ended the evening with a bang. Their drummer propelled the songs by pummeling beats while their guitarist created drones and echoes. On top of their rhythms and melodies, singer Jehnny Beth possessed us with her spell only to hiss, scowl, and exorcise the spirits within us. - Colin Smith

Blood Orange: Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound is not just one of my favorite records of the year so far, but it’s also a culturally significant record. As the days pass this summer, we’ve been bombarded with tragedies in the news, but Dev Hynes of Blood Orange gives us a broad perspective. And in making sense of his own world — and of his race, his heritage, and his sexuality — he sees a hopeful future. His performance sounded just like the album, which included carving every vocal detail in "Augustine." Hynes can also dance effortlessly while laying down full synth pads, even improvising along the band to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” And just when you thought it was over, Hynes pulls the tricks out from his sleeves: plenty of Prince-like guitar shredding and exchanging vocals with a few his friends, Carly Rae Jepsen and Empress Of. - Colin Smith 93crpaakAnderson .Paak & and the Free Nationals: I'm still reeling from Anderson .Paak's insane performance. He surged on to the stage with such force, bouncing around with reckless abandon. There was no stopping him as he seemed completely entrenched in the vibe he was building up. When .Paak is not going nuts all over the stage, he's behind the drum kit channeling all his energy into that confined space. Even then it's not enough to contain him, he's just too animated. He was easily the most energetic and exciting set of the day. - Julian Ramirez brianwilsonBrian Wilson: I was looking forward to hearing Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds during its 50th anniversary. But I felt uneasy at how lost Wilson looked onstage. While his band nailed each detail on Pet Sounds, even the bike bells on “You Still Believe In Me,” Wilson's singing often fell off the beat. Still, it was somehow reassuring to see original Beach Boys member Al Jardine smile, sing and play guitar onstage. Since they finished Pet Sounds in about 40 minutes, they ended their set with a few other classics, including “Good Vibrations.” Later, Wilson left the stage only to be redirected to the front to bow before the crowd. Hearing the masterpiece Pet Sounds live could have been a treat, but watching the legend Brian Wilson struggle was too difficult to stomach. - Colin Smith Holly Herndon: I'm glad I was able to see Holly Herndon during her stop at MCA Chicago because her set at Pitchfork was a no go. Herndon and crew were unfortunately held back by technical difficulties that completely broke down their set. Unlike the majority of electronic performers who have seamless and prepared performances that go off with a click of a button, Herndon relies on in-the-moment creation. Her music may seem like a cacophony of noise, but I assure you there is more to it than that. Unfortunately and to some slightly embarrassed looks, Herndon had to succumb to her computer's failings. Mat Dryhurst booted up iTunes to play mp3s of Platform and started the interactive visual art video while Colin Self sang, trying to add some life to the unfortunate situation. - Julian Ramirez sufjanSufjan Stevens: Stevens must have swung by Party City before arriving at Pitchfork. Many people assumed his set would be like the previous night’s pleasant, sedative Beach House performance. But we were wrong. At the end of the first song, “Seven Swans,” he smashed his banjo. The wings on his back expanded. The crowd raised their hands and gave their devotion to Stevens as if we were at a Christian rock concert. He owned the night with a splash of neon colors, choreographed dancers, extended brassy refrains, and a costume made out of balloons and disco balls. The performance was so over-the-top and yet sincere that it couldn’t be laughed at. While he played many older songs, including “For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti” and an extended “Chicago,” he made Union Park feel like one big Age of Adz dance party. Still, he mixed the electronic with the acoustic, even playing a poignant and stripped down “Should Have Known Better” from his last album Carrie & Lowe. And when he ended his set with a cover of the Prince song “Kiss,” he kept the audience wanting more. I’ve never seen so many enthralled, happy people singing along to songs about death. - Colin Smith   All photos by Julian Ramirez.
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Colin Smith

Colin Smith thinks that Chicago right now is the place to be for music. He works for Illinois Humanities, is a freelance writer, and plays psychedelic-pop songs with his band.