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Pitchfork Music Festival 2021: Day 1 in Review

Pitchfork Music Festival is finally back! After one year away due to the pandemic, the indie focused festival has made its return to Union Park. The weather was utterly perfect, the grounds a little dusty, and the crowds were plentiful. But with vaccination/negative tests being checked at the gates, it definitely feels a little safer than it would otherwise.

A pretty eclectic set of acts set the tone for the day, amping everyone up early and rarely letting up. There were only a few snags along the way (sound issues here and there, DJ Nate arriving late to his set), but all in all it was a fantastic start to this year’s festival.

You can check out our day 2 coverage here and our day 3 coverage here!

Armand Hammer @ Green Stage & Dogleg @ Red Stage
If you ever need a reason to show up bright and early to this festival, these two performances are it. Easy some of the most explosive and energetic of the day, Armand Hammer and Dogleg dominated their stage for the “big for the 1:00pm” crowd.

Armand Hammer kicked the whole festival off with Billy Woods and Elucid letting their raw and sharp flows cut through the festival grounds. Woods, who’s face was distorted in the video projection behind him, looked utterly at ease as his bars had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Trading sections with Elucid the duo tore it up and set the standard for the day.

Not to be out done, Dogleg followed with their down right riotous and madcap performance. Particularly that of lead singer and rhythm guitarist Alex Stoitsiadis who was absolutely killing it. Whether he was belting out lyrics or cartwheeling around stage, the man was determined and succeed on delivering a memorable set.
– Julian Ramirez

DEHD I
f there was another good reason to be at Pitchfork early on Friday, it was to catch Chicago indie-trio Dehd bringing the late summer heat to the Green stage. I had been anticipating seeing them for a while now and they were also a leading reason why I decided to attend the fest this year. They kicked off the early afternoon with their fan favorite “Lucky” as well as some of the best tracks off of their latest album including “Loner” and “Flying.” Their coming-of-age-film sound, which includes beautiful guitar riffs and unique vocals, are something I had never heard quite like it. Lead singer Emily Knopf gave it her all on her vocals which sounded as defined and marvelous if not better than their studio recorded albums. “Flying” in particular was both intense and mind-blowing, it felt as if I transcended to a whole different state of mind! Dehd ate the performance and left no crumbs.
– Andrew Lagunas

The Soft Pink Truth
Nothing but good vibes were on display from Baltimore based artist The Soft Pink Truth. He noted how honored he was to play some House music in the city of it’s birth and warned the crowd “it might not sound like I’m playing anything at time, but that’s the beauty of a festival, you have choices.” That but of humbleness was unwarranted as his easy going and atmospheric sound was more than adequate for some mid day dancing at the Blue stage.
– Julian Ramirez

black midi
Familiar sounds of cartoon themes filled the air as they boys of black midi emerged from backstage carrying out a puke green sofa to the stage.  Geordie Greep, donning a heavy coat hiding a sharp suit underneath, looked the most serious and determined of the group as broke in “953”. The guitars shredded, the sax blared (thanks to Kaidi Akinnibi exhuberant performance) and everything felt like it should at a black midi show.
– Julian Ramirez

Animal Collective
There are tons of things you except from an Animal Collective set. You want to here your old favs, and you likely will, although they’ll be unique distorted for the live experience,. You expect new music too, because despite being able to rest on their laurels, the band is always evolving and adding to their impressive repertoire. And as they performed in the just beginning to set sun, Animal Collective delivered on all counts.

They ended their set with a bonkers, insane, manic, and utterly ludicrous performance of “Purple Bottle”.  The song ran at a faster paced than I ever could imagine, to the point where I was unsure of what I was even listening to at various points. But the song’s themes of love and togetherness (and some drugs and sex) shone through as Avery Tare’s voice reached near grating highs. The fun and ecstasy ridden woos of the song’s finished were more guttural and desperate at the Green Stage, sending the set off with a strange, but welcome feeling.
– Julian Ramirez

Kelly Lee Owens
I’m not sure why I was so surprised by Kelly Lee Owens set on the Blue Stage. I’m a huge fan of her albums but I didn’t think they would translate this well and expressively on stage. Yet Owens’ movements exuded energy that was impossible not to feel and send right back to her by grooving along with her performance.
– Julian Ramirez

Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers is riding that wave right now and it couldn’t be more apparent than this set. She and her entire band came to the stage in their glow in the dark skeleton onsie, a theme of her past year and one that many of the crowd emulated. Bridgers looked cool and confident, starting the set with “Motion Sickness”. The crowd immediately lost it and sang along with her with ease. Bridgers has truly reached this indie rock icon status after two albums of perfect sad girl songs.

The set mostly stayed on Punisher, Bridgers’ latest album that was released right in the midst of the pandemic last June. The album has become beloved in the past year, with every song getting a stellar reaction for the crowd. “This one is for my dad…fuck you dad” she uttered before she and the entire crowd dove into “Kyoto”. In a set full of high points, her covers of boygenius’ “Me & My Dog” (a band that she is in alongside Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker) and Bo Burnham’s “That Funny Feeling” felt particularly special.

Bridgers may be reaching over-saturation for some people at this point but quite honestly, it’s hard to not enjoy her antics and songs. While her songs touch on lack of confidence or bad times, Phoebe Bridgers’ performance exemplified the opposite. She knows exactly who she is on stage and the crowd loved her for that.
– Julian Ramirez

The beloved Phoebe Bridgers has grown to be a well known name in the indie world as she’s grown a significant following over the past year after the release of her second studio album Punisher. Bridgers took the Green stage Friday night for her headlining US tour rocking her classic skeleton suit. Bridgers had a whole ensemble on stage to better recreate her organic instrumentation including trumpet which many of her songs incorporate, especially the happy go lucky “Kyoto.” The trumpets echoed and wove throughout the crowd and were absolutely beautiful and majestic!

The one downside to having a performer like Phoebe Bridgers headline is that by the time it gets that late, everyone is already too intoxicated to really take in her mellow music and appreciate it for what it is. However she still managed to squeeze all the energy she could out of the crowd, closing out her set with her impending doom anthem “I Know the End.” I really didn’t think she was going to scream at the end of the song like in the studio version especially since she’s on a big tour there was no way she could scream like that every night… She proved me wrong. As the song slowly builds up, the trumpets in crescendo and Phoebe repeatedly singing “the end is here,” you’re almost convinced that your last moments on earth are near as the song swallows you in a deep and intense guitar solo and Bridgers distraught screaming, capturing the essence of the end of times (as well as the end of her set). There truly was no better song or way to end her iconic and first of many headlining sets
– Andrew Lagunas

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