Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Day 2 in Review

After a slightly rainy Friday made use of all the Lyft ponchos that were being handed out at one corner of Pitchfork Music Festival, Saturday felt a lot nicer. The sun was out (sometimes), the grounds were dry (relatively) and the bands were out in full force (actually accurate). Day two featured the least amount of local talent (with only Paul Cherry, Circuit des Yeux, and their respective bands representing our town), instead most of the attention going to the touring acts. Not surprising considering the amount of anticipation acts like Fleet Foxes and The War on Drugs.  But there were plenty of surprises that stole the day early on, something that Pitchfork's excellent up and coming bands tend to do! Paul Cherry Starting the day with a little Paul Cherry was exactly what what Saturday needed. It wasn't the all out wake me up of Friday's openers, but rather a chill session of slick R&B infused pop ballads.  Playing the entirety of his latest album Flavour (something that he admitted he thought would never actually happen at Pitchfork Music Festival), Cherry and his band laid down some of the jazziest and soulful songs of the day. Like getting lost in a psychedelic washed '70s time portal, the performance and sounds emanating from Cherry set the tone for the festival's middle day, which emphasized soulful singers and lush instruments. - Julian Ramirez Zola Jesus Festivals are opportunities for acts to go all out with their performances. You have a huge crowd at your fingertips, take advantage of it. Of course it would be the consummate performer Zola Jesus, the musical pseudonym Nicole Hummel, who took the opportunity to dazzle the Pitchfork crowd with some dark theatrics early in the day. Zola Jesus' music is just as important as its presentation as she came to the stage draped in a huge red veil, obscuring her face momentarily before bursting out much like her music: methodically dark and full of driving energy. Darting around stage, every element of her presence (her long hair thrashing about, her wavy red ensemble) added to the dynamic performance. - Julian Ramirez Nilüfer Yanya Easily one of the highlights and biggest surprises of the day was Nilüfer Yana and her incredible guitar-driven set. She started off with a relatively simple but absorbing song that highlighted her beautiful voice. She was then joined by the rest of her band, filling out her sound with keys, drums and a saxophone that melted together into incredibly catchy tunes. It's honestly hard to nail down just what her style is: a mix of '90s guitars, modern soul vocals, and melodies that groove in any setting are found throughout, making for a great set. I was mesmerized by the performance that was truly greater than the sum of its parts, and considering just how good every part of it was, that is saying something. - Julian Ramirez Circuit des Yeux At this point in Haley Fohr's tenure as Circuit des Yeux, it should be no surprise that she's going to give you an amazing show. Her low, visceral voice rises from her and is encapsulated by a backing band that knows its every feature, enhancing every timbre as it appears. This was another one of those hypnotic sets that just grabbed a hold of me and stuck around throughout the rest of the day. - Julian Ramirez Moses Sumney Despite playing in the afternoon when plenty of festival-goers were making their way to Union Park, Moses Sumney demanded a crowd. Subtle and sparse, his band hits notes to create abstractions. Sumney and his band captivate listeners with a spell — his fleeting, ethereal vocals didn't hurt. This Moses also parted a sea, but this time it was a made of people. He drifted through the audience, helping set his show’s intimate tone. - Colin Smith Girlpool Because my roommate went to college with the drummer of Girlpool, I had the distinct honor of lending the band my guitar capo, which is the best stage my capo has experienced yet. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, the creative brains who make up Girlpool, play raw and powerful rock music that takes from ‘60s pop groups and ‘90s indie-rock alike. Although the band began without a drummer, their evolution to a full group has not diluted their spirit — it has only enhanced their live energy. - Colin Smith Blood Orange Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, is a visionary. After playing an early evening set at the festival two years ago, which followed the release of 2016's Freetown Sound, Hynes has also further perfected his craft. This time around, too, he dug into a few new songs off of the upcoming Negro Swan, which is planned to release next month. Performing '90s-influenced R&B, Hynes injects a healthy dose of jazz and funk into his art. On the screens behind the band, videos celebrated black culture with imagery of dancers, dirtbike drivers, and emcees. Clearly, we have a lot to look forward to next month. - Colin Smith Fleet Foxes During my first Pitchfork Music Festival ten years ago — before I was able to drive a car — I waited during the afternoon at the green stage for Fleet Foxes. This was back when everyone just started to freak out about them, back when bearded guitar players started becoming ubiquitous. Mixing Crosby, Stills, and Nash harmonies, My Morning Jacket chamber-pop, and resonant themes of innocence, they took over a good part of the indie scene after the late 'aughts. But as they got older, their hair has been cut shorter, their beards got trimmed, and their songs have matured, too. They played a variety of songs from their three full-length records as well as their very first record, the EP Sun Giant, which felt like marathoning a saga or episodic trilogy. Besides the hits, like "White Winter Hymnal" and "Ragged Wood," the band also forged into more progressive territory with songs off of last year's Crack-Up, like the hypnotically repetitive "Mearcstapa" — that is, progressive without being prog-rock. They also moved into Curtis Mayfield cover, dedicating it to playing in Chicago. But they couldn’t end their set with a cover, could they? No. Though many festival-goers started making their way to the exits, Pecknold came back to center stage, grabbing his acoustic guitar. Just like their first appearance at Pitchfork ten years ago, he ended with “Oliver James,” as we, too, made our way through the rain. - 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.