Pitchfork Music Festival: Day Three in Review

All photos by Julian Ramirez By the time NE-HI played their reverb-soaked garage tunes, the sun came out. The last day of Pitchfork began with Kilo Kish smashing a briefcase on stage and ended with Solange’s elaborate choreography. The festival tied the weekend together well, even though the long weekend strained our legs by the end. While the Avalanches canceling their set disappointed many—which they announced due to a severe family illness—Jamila Woods moved to the Green stage and seized her moment. Pitchfork thrives as a boutique festival, curating the experience with a selection of 40 bands that span from rock to rap and electronica to experimentalism. During this weekend, we were particularly thrilled with the prominence of women-led groups and a varied-yet-focused lineup that granted different experiences while not feeling disjunctive. We can’t wait for what next year brings. Kilo Kish Yup, it's official, the openers this year were absolutely killer. Kilo Kish's set was a theatrical marvel, putting the same amount of emphasis and thought into on stage presence as she does to her music. She emerged onstage clad in a red suit, holding a New Yorker, and sat in a chair looking uninterested in the festivities. As her music blared her look continued until suddenly destroyed the magazine and popped into full view. She proceed to incorporated a variety of prop including a telephone and briefcase, casually destroying them throughout her set. None of this ever felt completely spontaneous; if anything, it felt incredibly rehearsed, but that didn't detract too much from the performance. - Julian Ramirez Colin Stetson At some point during the first lengthy song of Colin Stetson's set, I thought to myself, "This is the most impressive thing I've seen this weekend." (What I actually thought was a much cruder version of this.) Stetson blends tight arrangements with the free jazz fluidity to create epic compositions. They are enthralling drones that find some pretty beautiful melodic niches that are often left unexplored. He does this, mind you, eight to to ten minutes at a time, controlling his breath with the accuracy of a machine. Every muscle in his body looks like they're working in perfect tandem to assist his ability to blast these monolithic songs through his bass and tenor sax. It was a sight to behold and truly captured the just how much effort goes into Stetson's art. - Julian Ramirez NE-HI Local band NE-HI thrive best as a live band. You just can’t see vocalist Jason Balla stage dive down with his guitar on the studio recordings. And for a fairly new band, they played the Green stage in the early afternoon with impressive conviction. NE-HI propelled energy forward, and the crowd couldn’t help resist shaking along to the stomping rhythm of “Drag." With the shoegazing “Offers,” the raucous breakdown of “Out of Reach,” and a refreshing cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire,” NE-HI earned our full attention. - Colin Smith Joey Purp Although it was poor planning that Pitchfork billed Isaiah Rashad roughly at the same time as Joey Purp, local Purp still demanded a large crowd at the Blue stage. Purp’s set became a celebratory party of Chicago hip-hop, as he included Knox Fortune, Towkio, and even Vic Mensa on stage. To boot, they had SuperSoakers and confetti cannons. Thick bass and colorful samples propelled his set as Purp confidently worked the crowd. - Colin Smith Hamilton Leithauser Sometimes, beautiful music is not enough to make a great festival set. Much is the case with Hamilton Leithauser, whose songs are tender rock ballads that sprawl out with his recognizable yells and cool cadence. "A 1000 Times" and "1959" have a dreamy quality that is underlined by Leithauser's way with his voice, but just standing around with a few arm flourishes doesn't really captivate a crowd. Maybe if it was a little later with the sun setting and his tunes crafting the evening mood, his set would have been a little more entertaining. Instead, we get an incredibly proficient performance with little fanfare. - Julian Ramirez Ride Technical difficulties with a few pedals prevented Ride from coming out on time, delaying their set 25 minutes. It's was a pretty contentious wait with fans clapping for technicians to hurry up and said technicians calling out fans (jokingly or not, I'm unsure). Once everything got worked out, the band delivered a wonderful set of shoegaze excellence. Their sound has such a driving quality to it, relentlessly pushing  forward as the crowd completely ate it up. It seems odd that this fuzz-heavy sound would work so well in a festival setting, but it succeeded in ways that most other rock bands faltered. It also helped that a strong contingent of die hard fans made up the audience, slowly dancing along to the driving music. - Julian Ramirez Jamila Woods Having been scheduled at a prime time during the evening, it was unfortunate that the Australian collage wizards the Avalanches cancelled. As the festival shifted local artist Jamila Woods from the smaller and more enclosed Blue stage to the larger Green stage, she lost intimacy but gained the larger stage and crowd she deserves. Woods performed 2016’s HEAVN along with snippets of her poetry, elevating her music and crowd with layers of harmonies and jazz-inflected bass lines and drum splashes. Even if some of the crowd was waiting in the mass of people for Nicholas Jaar or camping out for Solange, attendees across Union Park couldn’t help but move along to her soulful singing. - Colin Smith American Football Seminal emo band American Football reunited after 15 years. They recorded one album and toured for a few years before splitting up. After reuniting, they recorded a second album last year, also self-titled. Fortunately, American Football didn’t just feel like an old band reliving their glory days, especially with Mike Kinsella’s emotive singing and the band’s shifting meters keeping us on our toes. Unfortunately, Nicholas Jaar’s cinematic-yet-anticlimactic set bled over too much. Their music might be a bit sleepy for the late evening to a festival, but they reminded us why their cult status has lived on. - Colin Smith Solange Solange's set, or how to properly end a festival, was absolutely wonderful. Bathed in bright red lights throughout, Solange's performance felt like synthesis of everything that made this year's festival so good. Big theatrics that didn't distract but instead added to the ambiance, expertly choreographed dance moves, and a beautiful voice that left nothing behind as it soared through beautiful songs (with "Cranes in the Sky" of course being a highlight). Solange even made it out into the crowd during "F.U.B.U," adding the magical essence that permeated during her time on the Pitchfork stage. This is now two years in a row where artistry, elegance, and a strong vision lead to a perfect finish and an overwhelming standout in a sea of great performances for Pitchfork Music Festival. - 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.