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Pitchfork Music Festival 2021: Day 2 in Review

Day two of Pitchfork Music Festival started off as a slightly warm day before turning refreshingly cool by late afternoon. The genuinely pleasant day with a stellar lineup had pretty much everyone wondering “Why isn’t the festival always in September?”  And quite honestly, aside from September being stacked with festivals on a normal year, it’s not a bad idea…

One of the biggest takeaways this year has been just how fantastic the early starting bands on the main stages have been. It’s been great hearing these newer bands make the most of their spots on the lineup. Hopefully this is another thing Pitchfork continue in following years and lineups.

You can read our review of day one of the festival here and our our review of day three of the festival here!

Bartees Strange
The moment I left the photo pit I texted a few of my musically inclined friends and demanded to know why they hadn’t put me on to Bartees Strange. I’m honestly flabbergasted I hadn’t heard his sound until now, but now that I have, I’m am utterly entranced wit it. A mix of genre styles coming together for something incredibly unique and entrancing. “Kelly Rowland” evoke hip hop flows that rival anyone you can think of while the opening song “In a Cab” sounds like a lost TV on the Radio track. ON top of the ever shifting sounds, Bartees Strange’s stage presence is wonderfully energetic and engrossing. The man just has a crazy amount of charisma to back his musical talent. He finished off the set with “Lemonword”, a The National cover off his EP Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy that is entirely comprised of The National covers, and “Boomer”, a track that is exuberant and an excellent primer for this incredible artist. If you haven’t caught on by now, you should be listening to Bartees Strange.
– Julian Ramirez

Maxo Kream
It’s no surprise that the crowd was at their wildest during Maxo Kream‘s set. The rapper came out donning a pair of Off White Air Force One  Lemonades with a matching yellow sweater. He announced to the already hot crowd he wanted to see them get wild: “I want to see moshing”. And mosh they did, kicking up a small dust storm as they slammed into one another. Not the safest during these COVID times for sure, but that intense energy is expected with a Maxo Kream set.
– Julian Ramirez

RP BOO
With Jay Electronica bowing out of the festival due to unforeseen circumstances, the Blue stage schedule was  all pushed ahead leaving a midday spot open.  His replacement turned out to be RP BOO, the Chicago mainstay and innovator of the Footwork genre. To say this was a worthy replacement would be a severe understatement. Every time I’ve had the chance to see RP BOO perform it’s been a pleasure and this was no different. His energy while on the decks is so genuine and with a pair of dancers dishing out their best footwork moves, this set was on a whole different level. The second “Banging on King Drive” blasted out you knew the dance party was in full effect.
-Julian Ramirez

Waxahatchee
You honestly can’t get much better than Waxahatchee for a midday set. Her gorgeous melodies, which have delved even further into country territory with Saint Cloud, seem tailor made to keep a festival crowd invested in the day and all the more happy to have heard them. While Katie Crutchfield and her band mostly stuck to Saint Cloud tracks, the few outliers were exciting highlights. “Recite Remorse”, one of my favorites of her phenomenal Out in the Storm, was an excellent shift. The set closer “Light of a Clear Blue Morning”, a Dolly Parton cover and part of 3 new songs added to Saint Cloud this year, was a pristine and wonderful way to send the crowd away to their next spot.
– Julian Ramirez

Ty Segall
What the crowd desired was what they received with Ty Segall & Freedom Band. After a cunning little soundcheck as Saint Cloud closed their set on the red stage, Segall had everyone’s attention with not one, two, but three micro soundchecks of bustling voltage. Chants of “let’s go” and “yeah baby” were uttered by the amplified audience.

For their 55-minute set, the band blended its influences of garage, indie, blues, and psychedelic rock in their ten-track set. Careful curation was the theme here, with the front arrangement focusing on the 2021 LP Harmonizer and a back half selection with songs like ” The Only One” and “Love Fuzz.” Not a glimpse of energy or voltage was left behind, as the group’s synchronized instrumentality made you feel like this was a full-throttle journey – ready for the back half of the evening. The pacing, melodies, and heart-healthy response of the audience made this Saturday set a statement and roar to remember.
– Michael Kocourek

Kim Gordon
Co-founding member of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, brought an expected and fulfilling experimental show, a set very similar to her night prior at Thalia Hall. Years ago, when I worked in the radio department in college, I knew about Sonic Youth, but not the great musicians that made up the band. It’s no mistake that Gordon resists music formulas or standards with unique backdrops of rain, forestry, and car driving, which had a minimal complement to song delivery. The band’s third track, “Paprika Pony,” brought their elements into a very concentrated zone, where the audience joined the wave. In some respects, this may have even been an even better opener. Gordon’s attire of a white blouse, black leather skirt, and shiny silver pointed boots made the statement, “I’m still in this game.” 38-years later, she proved it to our very eyes and ears with ease. Although she stopped mid-song during “Hungry Baby,” it made no difference to the band. After a brief pause, apologizing to the crowd, they picked right back up and nailed the landing to close.
– Michael Kocourek

Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen is no stranger to the Pitchfork crowd as the masses gathered around the Red stage for her set. Dressed in a bright yellow suit, it took little time for Olsen to grab a hold of the crowd with her first show back since COVID closures. Olsen hasn’t missed a step as she playfully bantered with the crowd “I just wrote this song last night” before blasting out “Shut Up Kiss Me”. I honestly don’t think she could have picked a better song to trick people with than that one.

There is just something so mesmerizing about Olsen and this set was a prime example. All Mirrors took the majority of her time, but lesser heard covers like Marvin Tate’s “Sidetracked in Miami” or her newer cover of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” were welcome surprises. She ended her time at Pitchfork’s Red stage with another great and unexpected treat. Olsen brought out recent collaborator Sharon Van Etten for “Like I Used To”, serenading the crowd with the duo’s delectable harmonies. On a day full of great performances, this one was particularly special.
– Julian Ramirez

Jamila Woods
This is the second time that Jamila Woods has had her set time bumped to a later time at Pitchfork. And just like the first time, she rose to the occasion. This time she didn’t shift stage, remaining at the Blue stage and gaining that intimacy her beautiful music deserves. Woods’ songs are poetic and incredibly emotive, enveloping anyone who happened to be near the tucked away stage at the festival. “Lonely”, which interpolates Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait”, was an early highly in a set full  of them. You just can’t help but jam out to Jamila Woods, even as she’s singing about heavy themes.
-Julian Ramirez

St. Vincent
It’s pretty safe to say that St. Vincent, the incredible musical pseudonym of Annie Clark, has a flair for the theatrical. Her last few albums (I would argue it’s been happening since her collaboration with David Bryne) have embodied a completely different persona, each one seemingly more involved than the last. Daddy’s Home, her last album, has sent her headlong into a 70s style of music,  set decor, and dress style, making the stage look unstuck in time for her headlining set.

The set kicked off with back up singers strutting out, quickly joined by a doppelganger version of St. Vincent. The ruse was quickly up as she ultimately revealed herself behind a wall which rotated on stage. It was all so much, feeding into the crowds massive cheers as she started her set with “Digital Witness”. There was nice contrast happening with the song and stage presence, Clark evoking her throwback look while singing a song taking down the digital age.

While the set was obviously heavy in tracks off Daddy’s Home, she touched upon nearly all her albums. “Actor Out of Work” shone in the old-school setting. “New York”, which always felt slightly out of place in the neon colored Masseduction era, another track that just felt at home here. Clark has reached a level of pure greatness that it’s no surprising just how well every track comes off. Everything was just clicking with this excellent finish to Pitchfork Music Festival’s second day.
-Julian Ramirez

Photos by Julian Ramirez and Michael Koucorek (Ty Segall and select Kim Gordon)

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