Photography by Nina Corcoran
When looking back at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, the first thing that will come to mind might just be the torrential thunderstorm that forced the temporary evacuation of Union Park midday Saturday. Early in the evening, the sky cracked open, heavy raindrops tilted sideways in the wind, and the sky turned black. Some fled, others hunkered under whatever shelter they could find. Modular carpeting company FLOR had been handing out samples to use as seating on the grass, but they soon became makeshift umbrellas and patches to cover the mud pits.
Watching everyone run back in through the gates after the brief exodus was perhaps the most exuberant moment of the tenth edition of the festival. The rain did produce its share of hiccups: Vince Staples was stuck in a Detroit airport and Sophie’s set was cancelled (presumably weather-related, but as of typing I haven’t heard official word). But those that stuck around were rewarded greatly.
But more importantly, it should be remembered that all that cataclysmic weather couldn’t damper the spirits of the thousands of music-hungry attendees. That was only one of three days, after all. The rest of the weekend held up to the festival’s typical standard, combining tried-and-true festival staples with explosive new talents, jumping genres and pumping out jams.
Ten years into its tenure in Chicago’s Union Park, Pitchfork Music Festival shows no signs of slowing down. The party continues to grow and the crowd with it. With that sort of growth and change, we decided to take a look at our ten favorite sets of the weekend and guess at what they might be up to ten years from now, as well as dish out some details on what exactly went into their performances.
Best Internet-Leveraging Demonstration
In 10 More Years: Makonnen is as well known for his endeavors in cosmetics and fashion as his music.
Set in Five Words or Less: Big dreams web-hustled into realities
Songs Performed Twice: “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” and “Tuesday”
Loudest Crowd Reaction: “I Don’t Sell Molly No More”
Attendees Made Up Like the Makonnen Mannequin: multiple
Lyric Inciting Longest Pause: “I lost my friends in ’07”
Lead-In To “No Ma’am”, His Mother’s Favorite Song of His: Makonnen FaceTiming his mother and panning the phone across the audience with, “I love you mom, thank you for your support. Shouts out to all your moms as well.”
Things ILoveMakonnen is Best at Teaching: 1) how to whip it, 2) how to embed ideas into the public consciousness by releasing, promoting, and connecting online. –Steven Arroyo
In 10 Years: Proudly headlining festivals like this one
Set in Five Words or Less: Won’t Be Outdone By Wilco (Jeff Tweedy and co. dropped a full album after CHVRCHES released a single, and then immediately followed them on the big field at the festival — but the Scottish synthpoppers stepped up to the challenge and excelled)
Harshest Words for Chicago Summer: “We’re all too British for this sunshine shit.”
Best Assessment on Smoking: “It’s bad for you, mate”
Non-Black Articles of Clothing On Stage: 0
Biggest Hook of the Set: “Gun”. No, wait, “Recover”. No, wait, “The Mother We Share”. It’s too tough a call. The trio just has too many powerful choruses and dance party grooves to choose just one.
Best Way to Introduce an Upcoming Album: Start a huge festival slot with the early single, as CHVRCHES did with “Leave A Trace”. Lauren Mayberry’s always-impeccable vocals led the way for this one, a glistening track that bodes well for Every Open Eye.
Best Women’s Soccer … I Mean Football … Shout-Out: Mayberry asked for a beach ball and then kicked it into the crowd after congratulating the US women’s World Cup win. –Adam Kivel
Most Significant Institutional Milestone
In 10 More Years: Wilco has maintained the same six-piece lineup for another 10 years and released three more studio albums, one of which is really, really good.
Set in Five Words or Less: Unprecedented insta-classic from Chicago giants
Songs Performed: 22
Songs Performed for the First Time Ever: 11
Genuinely Surprising Moves Wilco Had Made Since Launching Their Own Label in 2011: 0
Genuinely Surprising Moves Wilco Made Between Thursday and Friday Nights: 4 (dropping an unannounced LP, naming that album Star Wars, releasing it for free, and performing it in full)
Other Times Wilco has Performed an LP End-to-End: 0
Odds of Star Wars and/or its Debut Performance Earning Some Commemoration at Chicago’s Upcoming George Lucas Museum: 14% –Steven Arroyo
Most Made with Least
In 10 More Years: Jamie xx slots higher at this festival than his own band The xx.
Set in Five Words or Less: “There’s gonna be good times”
Minutes Before Jamie xx Played Something From his New Masterpiece, In Colour: roughly 20
Number of Times he Teased “Loud Places” Before Finally Ending on it: 3
Albums Spun: 0
Laptops Used: 0
Knobs Turned: many
Set in Five Words or More: A giddy curation of samples, many of which were spoken-word, that illuminated the thought behind his Gil Scott-Heron remix album We’re New Here as much as it celebrated his recent triumph on In Colour. –Steven Arroyo
Most Inspirational Punk Rock Dance Party
The Julie Ruin
In 10 Years: Considering 16 years passed between Run Fast and Julie Ruin, there should be at least one more album from Kathleen Hanna and co. Plus, Hanna will continue to be one of the most inspiring artists and people, so maybe her patron saint-hood will get promoted to full saint status.
Set in Five Words or Less: Empowering honesty with a smile
Kathleen Hanna’s Favorite Crowd-Shirt: Hanna took special time out to point out a dude in the VIP area with a tee that read “You Make Me Feel Like Danzig”
Best Groove: Kathi Wilcox’s concrete bass and Carmine Covelli’s snapping percussion on closer “Oh Come On”
Best Inspirational Speaker: Whether she was offering thoughts on feminism, inclusion, the best ways to stoke the fires of social movements, or just cutting toxic people out of your life, Hanna seemed to glow with thoughtful warmth
Best Way to Undercut Your Totally Sincere Inspirational Speech: After Hanna’s effusive praise for the young people making art against all odds, she smiled: “Young people. That made me sound like a camp counselor.”
Unknowing Sponsor of the Set: Ativan. Big Pharma probably didn’t expect to get a shoutout for helping the punk quintet get to Chicago, but knowing the storm they had to fly through to get to Chicago on Saturday and their bouncy energy on Sunday, the anti-anxiety meds Kenny Mellman and Hanna shouted out seem to have done the trick. –Adam Kivel
Best Squad Celebration
In 10 Years: Still playing the grittier, more raw counterpart to friend/rival Chance, but with the massive following to match
Set in Five Words or Less: Didn’t stick around? U mad?
Muddiest Stage: The small field around the Blue Stage gets roughed up on an average Pitchfork day, but the tons of teens crowding in tore the post-rain grass apart
Most Appropriate Lead-In: An announcement of the cancellation of Sophie’s set and the replacement of a “special guest” got the chatter going prior to Shamir’s excellent set, and when Towkio shouted his name from offstage, the Savemoney celebration truly began
Number of False Starts Before Finally Jumping In On “U Mad”: At least four, I lost count in the heated anticipation just like everyone else.
Amount of Cash the Molly-addled Dude Next to Me Bet Me Yeezy Would Be Showing Up For “U Mad”: $20
Amount of Money I Received: $0 (Kanye never showed, but the guy slipped off into the night without paying up)
Number of Savemoney Crew Members and Friends On Stage at Set’s End: Dozens, all celebrating the first of two stage-closing performances from their ranks. –Adam Kivel
Best Shouting Teens
In 10 Years: The oldest member of the Barcelona quartet will still be under 30 a decade from now. Seriously, they’re really young. Oh and also probably touring on the back of a fourth or fifth excellent indie rock LP.
Set in Five Words or Less: Righteous, pummeling, thrilling teenage fury
Collective Age of Mourn: Seriously, all four together have amassed 73 years of life.
Musical Age of Mourn: Significantly older than any single member. Whether taking on elements of Ramones-y punk, PJ Harvey’s vicious streak, interlocking Sleater-Kinney grooves, or shoegazey darkness, there’s a remarkable breadth to Mourn’s sound, and none of it sounds false or unnatural.
Biggest Reaction: Leia Rodriguez Bueno’s lightning-quick bass solo during a “new, new, new, new” song
Most Succinct Show of Appreciation: “This is crazy. It’s cool. Thank you!” All delivered with a smile by guitarist/vocalist Jazz Rodriguez Bueno. –Adam Kivel
Most Authority Established
Madlib & Freddie Gibbs
In 10 More Years: Gibbs is a label head; Madlib is releasing his latest collaborative record with Chance the Rapper.
Set in Five Words or Less: Not one “solitary fuck” given
Gibbs Siblings brought Out on Stage: 2 (one brother, one sister)
Times Gibbs Put Festival Organizers on Blast: 2 (for past bookings of artists he dislikes and for putting him and his heavy-smoking crew up in a facility clearly intended for children)
Times Gibbs Put his Own Crew on Blast: 1 (for having no blunts or tequila readily available)
Length of Gibbs’ Blistering A Capella Verse on Attention-Securing Second Cut “Shitsville”: 45 seconds or so
Percentage of Set for Which Madlib Dropped his Beat to Turn Gibbs Loose: roughly 40%
Encore Cuts Performed: 3 –Steven Arroyo
Best Dance Set
In 10 More Years: Dan Snaith regularly plays the festival-headlining sets he deserves today.
Set in Five Words or Less: Smartest slotting of the fest (for going on the adjacent stage immediately after the comparably dance-happy Jamie xx)
Minutes Before Caribou Played Something Not from his New Masterpiece, Our Love: Roughly 25, after extended versions of “Our Love”, “Silver”, and “Mars”
Total Colors Worn by Band Members on Stage: 1
Total Colors on Stage Backdrop, the Cover Art from Our Love: countless
LP-Opening Tracks Performed Back-to-Back: “Odessa” and “Can’t Do Without You”
Best Combo: “Odessa” and “Can’t Do Without You” –Steven Arroyo
Most In Touch With Audience and Setting
Chance the Rapper
In 10 Years: Too early to say Mayor of Chicago? If so, let’s go with selling out stadiums.
Set in Five Words or Less: Hometown hero’s good ass job.
Number of Costume Changes: 3
Guestlist: The Chicago Bulls Bucket Boys, poet/vocalist Jamila Woods, and gospel legend Kirk Franklin
Most Unexpected Sing-Along: Franklin’s “Revolution”
Number of Times the Teenaged Girl Behind Me Let Loose an Adorable “Awwwww”, and their Causes: 5; Chance telling the audience it was their show, Chance talking to his mother, Donnie Trumpet appearing in coattails, Chance saying “you’re all my family”
Next Year’s Most Ordered Bulls Jersey: The “The Rapper” number 15 that Chance wore at the set’s close
Best Treat for Longtime Fans: A medley of 10 Day tracks sandwiched between Acid Rap staples and Surf highlights
Most Down-to-Earth Way to Announce You’re About to Boss Up: “This is the last show in Chicago in this part of my life. I’m growing up.” –Adam Kivel
Photographer: Nina Corcoran