Festivals

Pitchfork Music Festival 2019: Day 1 in Review

Ah, Pitchfork Music Festival. This is honestly one of my favorite festivals thanks to chill back atmosphere, but the weather decided throw a wrench into that. Temps in the high 90s with a real feel topping 111 made the day a bit of slog. Thankfully, P4K accounted for the heat with 2 water stations (which were missing day one last year), water bottles galore, cooling buses, sunscreen, and ice buckets to dunk bandanas and towels in.

Despite the weather’s best efforts, P4K and the music reigned supreme. Nearly every artists remarked on the tremendous heat, but it was never enough to falter their performances. A pretty solid start to the three day festival.

Be sure to check out our coverage of the rest of the weekend! Recaps of Day 2 are here and Day 3 are here !


Great Black Music Ensemble
The large group lead by Ernest Dawkins came to the stage in the same way they would eventually leave it: confidently singing an entrancing chant. It felt like a religious experience as the ensemble arrived to their positions to treat the early festival crowd with a nuanced and enjoyable opening set. Their set was an amalgamation of sounds that ranged from the fluidity of jazz improvisation to moments of pure funk, urging festival attendees to dance as much as they could. While those more extreme jazz moments may have been to much for some parts of the crowd, it certainly hit the right notes with the majority of those in attendance.
– Julian Ramirez


Rico Nasty
Mosh pits, smiles, and undeniable charisma flooded the Blue Stage for Rico Nasty’s set. This was easily the most energetic and heart pounding set of the day with the crowd going absolutely nuts. Two songs in and Rico and her DJ opened up a mosh pit sending the crowd into one of them most understanding moshpits I’ve ever seen. The heat seemingly brought out the best in people as they jammed out throughout the pit. I couldn’t catch the entirety of the set as the heat had reached a ridiculous level by this point. I retreated to a nearby cooling bus and could listen to Rico Nasty’s great show from relative comfort.
– Julian Ramirez

Grapetooth
It’s pretty impossible not to like Grapetooth. The sound is just so inviting: sweet synths laid under perfect drums while a guitar riffs into your head and refuses to leave. Add to that Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni’s frantic stage presence and you have a perfect festival set. They took no time to get to it as Frankel announced to the crowd “we make dance music”. And that they did, kicking things off with “Violent” which proved to be a great starter for the crowd as Frankel’s woo’s mixed with his screeching vocals and Bailoni’s expressive presence cut through the searing heat. Said heat definitely restrained portions of the crowd from going all out, but dancing was practically mandated by the sounds. They finished off with “Trouble”, sending everyone off with one of their most recognizable jams.
– Julian Ramirez

Sky Ferreira
Of all the bands I though would have a 25 minute DJ set, Sky Ferreira was not one of them. And yet she did adn it kinda deflated the crowd, which is literally the opposite of what a DJ set should be. Call and response moments were met with silence as the overheated audience just want to hear Ferreira. Once she stepped on stage, audio issues plagued the set, causing starts and stops in the middle of songs. The expected songs were played and the few times they made it through with out issues they were great, but unfortunately this set came off very underwhelming.
– Julian Ramirez


Earl Sweatshirt
Last year, Earl Sweatshirt had to cancel his Friday set at the last minute and left a lot of people disappointed. So when it was announced that he would be on the lineup this year, I’m sure everyone was waiting with baited breath that he would be able to meet essentially two year of anticipation. This is how you make up for a last minute cancellation. Earl Sweatshirt tore through his set with the commanding stage presence you’d expect from a performer twice his age. His rapid fire set focused on Some Rap Songs, getting the crowd appropriately amped up. Even though he complained about the heat, it honestly didn’t seem to affect him. if anything made him more determined to fight through and give the crowd an amazing set.
– Julian Ramirez

Julia Holter
It was still sweltering when Julia Holter began her set at 5:30. Parked at a red keyboard on the blue stage, accompanied by an upright bass, a violin, drums and a trumpet, she laughed off the heat— “This is just some chill music. You guys are fun.” Her music has an odd whimsy, bringing to mind Joanna Newsom, and tunes like set closer “I Shall Love 2” are lush and wandering a la Arcade Fire. Holter wryly slid across her keyboard throughout, leading the band in an emotive and energetic performance— after a swirling finale she picked up her backpack and looked out at the audience, and said, while leaving the stage “Until next time Chicago.”
– Matthew Nerber

Soccer Mommy
While debuting a new song called “Lucy,” which was recorded this March in Nashville, Soccer Mommy, aka Sophie Allison, said “My mom really likes it. Hopefully you’re like my mom.” Donning a turquoise guitar dolled up with Lisa Frank stickers, Allison and her band delivered a set of hazy, introspective guitar rock under a brilliant blue Chicago sky. All eyeliner and pigtails, Soccer Mommy’s songs hit that sweet spot between teen angst and bittersweet heartbreak— recalling early Mazzy Star. On “Last Girl,” Allison and the band gave a particularly rousing performance, and set closer “Scorpio Rising,” turned out to be the real crowd pleaser, as patches of sweaty festival goers gleefully sang along.
– Matthew Nerber


Mavis Staples
Legends sets at Pitchfork can be a little odd, especially when the artists are far from their prime. Luckily this wasn’t the case with Mavis Staples whose sunset performance was incredible. The set was full of social commentary, giving her songs a punch that the day certainly needed (outside of the poets performing at the Blue Stage of course). Mavis herself looked overjoyed to be performing for a pretty packed audience. She laughed her way through songs, at time letting the deepest of her registers bellow out verses to the glee of the crowd. MAcis Staples is an icon for a reason and she didn;t need to prove it at Pitchfork, but boy are we lucky she did.
– Julian Ramirez

HAIM
“You know that thing where bands bring out the stools in the middle of the set and do the acoustic stripped down thing? Well we’ve never done that. So we’re gonna do that,” said Alana Haim, before the group launched into “Go Slow”— with a spotlight trained on the three sisters sitting side by side, HAIM proved, in their first festival headlining gig, that they are the real deal rock and roll band. The California group delivered a dynamic, muscular set filled with surprises— covers of Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait” (accompanied with video of the Dawson’s Creek opening credits) were simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming. The bands own hits like “I Want You Back” and “My Song 5” were crowd pleasers— and “The Wire,” a perfect example of their dense, rhythmic songwriting became a full blown stadium rocker. HAIM debuted a new song called “Summer Girl,” which recalls Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” with a slinking bass line and saxophone accompaniment. To close the set the sisters, each at their own kit, launched into a ferocious drum line— it was a spectacular finale to Pitchfork’s first, jam packed day.
– Matthew Nerber

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