The Wake’s Coverage of Pitchfork Music Festival 2017
Situated in the heart of Chicago, Pitchfork Music Festival is not one you drive up to. Instead, you take public transit straight to Union Park. It’s a universal fact that one of the best ways to listen to music is on public transit, so it was a little symbolic to exit and immediately be immersed in all things music.
Pitchfork hosted 40 bands and artists (The Avalanches, unfortunately, had to cancel) over three days, and they all brought different sounds, attitudes, and audience experiences. What follows are some of the high points—musically and performatively— from the festival.
Vince is a force. He knows what the audience wants to hear, and he might throw you a bone, but he’s going to do what he wants first. He performed a collection of songs with the majority coming from his recent release, “Big Fish Theory.” Everyone ate it up, this most likely being the first chance they got to hear these songs live. “745” translated great to a live setting, and was the set’s highlight. Rather than banter, he commanded a good time from the audience. Throughout “Norf Norf” Staples repeatedly told us, “Louder.” When you go to a Vince Staples show, you are going to Vince Staples’ show; do not confuse that. Vince was the refuel many needed in the middle of the day.
Greta Kilne, known by her stage name of Frankie Cosmos, became the most relatable artist when she told the crowd she was a bit overwhelmed because it was the biggest she’s played for. If that doesn’t convince you, One song in her set was “My I Love You,” which is about her dearly departed dog, Joe Joe. With her lilac guitar and her soft voice, she performed a soothing collection. Whether you were there for some easy-listening, or you were a fan that finds Kline’s songwriting to reflect your own experiences, this set was bliss. Any incessant thoughts were forgotten, and instead, we hummed along and sang the lyrics to ourselves and others. Her set reached a hand out to anyone that needed it and told them, ‘I feel these things too, so let’s drop them and appreciate that we’re not all alone in them.’
Not everyone knew Kamaiyah, but after opening with her newest single, “Build You Up”—a track about confidence and self-love—everyone quickly knew what she was all about. She brought a contagious energy to the stage that flowed through the front row all the way to those leaning against the back fence. It would have been painful to try and not enjoy this set. She rocked Champion sweat-overalls, and the 90’s throwbacks didn’t end there as her catalog is heavily influenced by 90’s beats. Kamaiyah told us to “Fuck it up” in her most popular song, and everyone left with the motivation to do so.
If the huge disco ball hanging from the top of the stage didn’t indicate what type of set you were about to experience, then everyone around you surely filled you in. My favorite moments not only came from dancing to LCD classics, but also from seeing the crowd filled with people sharing a common joy—this is a special shoutout to you, group of 30-year-old frat boys turned men: you knew every word and all of the instrumentation. You have my respect.
Cherry Glazerr came to do whatever they wanted and didn’t care what you thought about it. This was indicated by lead vocalist and guitarist, Clementine Creevy crawling onto the stage for their entrance and later yelling “Shut the fuck up!” jokingly at the applause following a song. Cherry Glazerr was the band that amped me up so much it made me lean over to my friend and say, “Hey! We could probably start a rock band if we tried!”
Mitski was my most anticipated artist for the weekend. Mitski’s catalog has been a steadfast emotional pillar, so I was eager to see how she would translate it to a live show. Mitski performances of “I Want You” and “Drunk Walk Home” were bone rattling to say the least. She was stoic throughout every song with either her bass or guitar strapped to her, but when she spoke between songs she expressed completely pure and genuine gratitude, thanking the crowd again and again. My heart swelled every time she spoke, and I wanted to thank her right back.
Angel Olsen is, as her name suggests, heavenly. On stage, she told us “It’s hard to be real with people,” as if we were just sitting down for a drink and conversation with her. She walked onto the stage with a swagger that would make most look silly, but not her. She talked with the crowd candidly, telling us “I have a lot on my mind.” Olsen was confessional and confident just like her song “Shut Up Kiss Me,” which was a crowd favorite. My highlight came from the endlessly-building opus that is “Sister.” The instrumentation and journey it takes makes it a song that was meant to be played live.
Kilo Kish is the most theatrical performer I’ve had the pleasure to see. She fills the space on stage as if an entire Broadway ensemble was on stage with her. Kilo performs with a narrative, and if you took your eyes off her for a second you’d miss an important point in the plot of it. She’s utterly captivating to watch.
Isaiah Rashad brought good vibes on Sunday. Everyone was having a good time, and it didn’t matter if you were up front or further back lounging on a blanket, enjoying the midday sun. He let us know he would play the hits, but not before he got to do his personal favorites. Rashad’s time slot was perfect for everyone. Some found their second wind, and others got to vibe along and chill. Everyone got to make it what they wanted.
Part of what makes Pinegrove special is that no one can easily describe them. Evan Stephens Hall, lead vocals and guitar, is a wordsmith that conveys confusing and flustering emotions with unprecedented eloquence—using words like ‘ventricles,’ ‘sublimate,’ and ‘labyrinthine.’ The band immediately built a relationship with the audience. It was heartening to watch everyone shout the lyrics that meant most to them. The crowd loudly sang out “One day I won’t need your love. One day I won’t define myself by the one I’m thinking of,” from “Aphasia” and it was obvious the words meant something deeply personal to everyone there. This set represented the unbridled beauty of words and the power of live music.
In the middle of her headlining set, Solange paused to thank the crowd for letting her do the work. And the work she did. Solange arranged and choreographed the entirety of her set. She was an ethereal presence but incredibly grounded—getting down with the first few rows of fans throughout. Solange’s presence was visible all three days with her multidisciplinary project Saint Heron onsite. She put in the effort to connect with the festival-goers, so when she hit the stage Sunday night it was like reuniting with a close friend. She furthered this sentiment by going into the crowd herself to sing with fans during “F.U.B.U.” Solange put in the work, built her world of art, graciously shared it with us, and we embraced it wholly.
Solange represents what Pitchfork Fest was meant to do. Solange brought us into the world she crafted; invited us in with a warm embrace. She created a place for us to retreat to and reside in. We could find whatever we needed there—protection, comfort, motivation, joy, relief, grace, closure—similar to what public transit can offer us. Very much like public transit, Pitchfork Fest, and all the artists that performed over the weekend, gave us a pause from our own lives. For that time we were there, it was solely about what we made with it.