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Audiotree Music Festival 2018 Recap

The Chicago-based audiovisual tastemaker company Audiotree set up camp in Kalamazoo, Michigan during the weekend of September 22nd and 23rd for their annual music festival. This year, the fest’s lineup showcased a diverse lineup of talent from across the spectrum. Artists ranged from up and coming bands from the Chicago or Kalamazoo areas to the likes of Real Estate, Local Natives, and Father John Misty. With just two stages that never had overlapping set times, the festival allowed the attendees to really focus on this music and appreciate the art without any overcrowding or over-scheduling.

The event also remained a safe space the entire time, with the organization Our Music, My Body tabling the festival so that concert-goers had someone to talk to if they felt violated, or if they just wanted to get further educated on consent and keeping everyone comfortable in public spaces. Throughout the weekend, bands like Diet Cig and Stuyedeyed began their sets announcing that any behavior that made others feel unsafe wouldn’t be tolerated.

If you missed out on the weekend, relive the experience with our photo recap below.


Day 1 featuring Stuyedeyed, V.V. Lightbody, Melkbelly, NE-HI, The Regrettes, Diet Cig, Michigander, Basement, Khruangbin, and Local Natives

Day 2 Featuring Common Holly, Major Murphy, Lume, Palm, REZN, Post Animal, Pool Holograph, Slow Mass, Chicano Batman, Real Estate, and Father John Misty

Artist Portraits

PHOTOS: Half Acre's Big North Festival with Post Animal, DEHD, and Divino Niño

Half Acre's annual Big North festival returned for its third year at the brewery's Balmoral location. In addition to endless beer and burgers, the fest also highlighted three of the city's best bands: Post Animal, DEHD, and Divino NiñoCheck out our photo gallery of the musical portion of the fest below.

Live Recap: The Inaugural Bellwether Festival

Bellwether Festival made its debut over the weekend, bringing some of the freshest names in indie music as well as some celebrated classics to the festival site, which usually plays home to a renaissance festival. The first-time, two-day festival encountered some setbacks, like a storm that forced the cancellation of Friday's headliner MGMT, but Bellwether also excelled in other ways. Limiting its grounds to feature only two stages within easy walking distance and limiting the lineup to rule out any schedule overlap allowed for the festival attendees to focus on the music and see every artist.

If you missed out on the fest, check out the top five moments of the weekend below. 

"Golden Days" Met The Golden Hour During Whitney's Set

Following the success of their debut project Light Upon The Lake, Whitney toured relentlessly for the better part of two years, playing several headline runs and appearing on the major festival circuits. Their early evening set at Bellwether marked a rare live set from the group this year, as they've been slowly, but surely chipping away at their sophomore effort. Beginning with a quick sprinkle of rain, Whitney's set revisited their beloved first album, including their popular single "Golden Days." The band performed the anthemic break up song just after the sun had broken through the rain, delivering the perfect soundtrack to Friday's golden hour. The set also included a Neil Young and NRBQ cover, as well as Whitney's unreleased song "Rolling Blackout" that has become a staple of their live shows. As the set closed out, lead singer Julien Ehrlich left the crowd with the promise of new music soon; "See you next time. With a new album. We've been working on it...we're happy about it."

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Local Natives Egged on the Rain

Like Whitney, Los Angeles' Local Natives are between albums at the moment, but lead singer Taylor Rice also teased their next album. "We're almost done with the fourth record. We can't say much but we like it," Rice told the crowd. While the news gave the audience something to look forward to with the future of Local Natives, the crowd also got a chance to celebrate the past with the band. Kelcey Ayer of the band reminisced on the band's history, noting that they just hit their ten year anniversary. "In honor of that we're gonna close the set with a few Gorilla Manor songs," the band announced before revisiting songs from their first album. Just before playing their final song of the set, "Sun Hands," Rice commented on the fact that they'd managed to hold off the rain despite the lightning filling the sky behind them. "If it rains, just go crazier. It's our last song so give it everything you've got," the frontman said, egging on the inevitable storm brewing, which let loose just as Local Natives left the stage. 

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Japanese Breakfast Invited The Flaming Lips to Olive Garden

Fronted by Michelle Zauner, Philadelphia outfit Japanese Breakfast has been hitting the road consistently following the release of Soft Sounds From Another Planet last summer. Despite their taxing tour schedule, Zauner and her band brought their usual energy and witty stage banter to their Bellwether Fest set. Between songs, Zauner called attention to the fact that the festival site also hosts a renaissance fair; "I should have worn my John Snow Outfit," she joked, adding that she was hoping to see more capes in the crowd. She also shared the band's excitement to be a part of the small but mighty lineup, expressing her admiration of that night's headliner, The Flaming Lips. "If they're here, we would like to extend an invitation to the Olive Garden," Zauner said about Wayne Coyne and co before ending the set with an explosive, high energy jam with her band. 

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The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen Evoked 80's Nostalgia

After Japanese Breakfast's set, the lineup turned back to the era of The Breakfast Club, with back to back sets from post punk bands The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen. The Psychedelic Furs kicked off the nostalgic streak, attracting zealous fans to the front rows to chant frontman Richard Butler's name just before they took the stage. Their set had fans from all generations singing along to the hits like "Pretty in Pink" and "Love My Way," and the band sounded as tight as ever. Butler's signature vocals remained strong throughout the whole set, and the band's saxophone player added some spice to the songs. Echo & The Bunnymen kept the post punk train rolling during their set, frontman Ian McCulloch also sounding great as the band played through their hits. Again, fans from all different generations flocked to see the iconic group, one fan in the front even donning a Donnie Darko mask as a nod to the band's song "The Killing Moon" being featured on the film's soundtrack. 

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The Flaming Lips Covered MGMT 

While the weather forecast showed a chance of storms all weekend, the rain managed to hold off most of Saturday. Despite the clear skies on day two, the muddy grounds and disappointment of headliner MGMT's cancelled set lingered in the air and reminded the festival goers of the previous night's storm. The festival staff offered some perks, like free Saturday entry for Friday ticket holders, to lessen that sting, but The Flaming Lips were the ultimate festival heroes when they covered MGMT's song "Kids" at the beginning of their set. Lead singer Wayne Coyne set up the cover saying that the cancellation from the rain was obviously no one's fault, and MGMT had left him a note in the green room. The "note" ended up being lyrics to "Kids," which Coyne began reading slowly, before the band pitched in with the melody and Coyne began singing. The cover came after the group had opened their set with "Race For The Prize," which they paired with a confetti cannon, giant balloons, and lots of fog. The theatrics continued nonstop for the entire show; the bright lights and colorful props lifting the spirits of everyone at the festival and ending the weekend on the most magical note. One of the absolute highlights of The Flaming Lips' production came towards the end of the set, when the band covered Bowie's "Space Oddity"; Coyne stepped inside of a giant bubble and floated along the top of the crowd during the performance. As Coyne said, the rain that had put a damper on Friday's headlining set was no one's fault, and the spectacular close of Saturday night outweighed the set backs. 

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Check out more photos of the whole weekend below, featuring Whitney, Dr. Dog, Local Natives, Allah-Las, Japanese Breakfast, The Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen, and The Flaming Lips. 

Bellwether returns next year on August 9th and 10th. Get more details here

Live Recap: The Wombats Bring New Music, The Hits, and Infectious Energy to Their Lollapalooza Aftershow

This past Thursday night, The Wombats closed out the first day of Lollapalooza 2018 with a sold out aftershow at Lincoln Hall


As the clock struck midnight, hoards of music fans had piled into Lincoln Hall to celebrate the end of the first day of Lollapalooza with The Wombats. Although they had just performed out in Tinley Park with The Pixies last month and at Lollapalooza earlier that day, the last time The Wombats had performed as a headliner in Chicago was more that two years ago, when they played The Metro in support of their album Glitterbug. Despite the late start time of the aftershow, old and new fans of the band buzzed with anticipation during the moments leading up The Wombats’ entrance to the small stage, everyone anxious to hear some of their old favorites as well as the freshest material from this year’s Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life.

The set began with the new; The group opened with “Cheetah Tongue,” the first track off their fourth studio album, but from there on, the setlist took twists and turns through The Wombats’ extensive catalog of material. Following “Give Me a Try” from Glitterbug, the band threw it back to 2011 and 2007 with “1996” and “Kill The Director.” While The Wombats did a great job at compiling a setlist of songs that highlighted each of their album eras, one of the best experiences of the show was looking around and seeing fans scream the lyrics along with lead singer Matthew Murphy and dance throughout the night with unwavering gusto, during every single song. Murphy and bandmates Dan Haggis and Tord Øverland have continuously mastered creating music that blends clever and sharp narratives with danceable melodies and grooving bass lines, allowing for fans to connect with the lyrics while dancing it out.

Live, the trio translates their records to life with a keen stage presence and unmatched chemistry, which stems from their years and years of playing music together. Despite their grueling tour and travel schedule as of late and the fact that they had played Lollapalooza earlier that afternoon, The Wombats never skimped on the energy during their show at Lincoln Hall; Øverland still delivered his signature kicks and jumps as he played bass and Murphy often paraded around the stage with his guitar. The entire room was already beaming from ear to ear as the set came to a close, but the band still had one more surprise up their sleeves. During iconic tune “Let’s Dance To Joy Division,” three people dressed up head-to-toe in wombat suits rushed the crowd and stage to close out the night, and everyone (even the wombats) clapped along to the athemic bridge of the song.

Following the humorous guest appearance, The Wombats (the band) returned for an encore, bringing along the costumed wombats again. The three song encore consisted of one of their recent singles, “Turn,” “Tokyo-Vampires & Wolves” from their earlier days, and “Greek Tragedy” from their third album, once again equally representing all of their eras. No matter what year your favorite song from The Wombats comes from though, there’s no denying their music and their live show has a timeless quality to it; it will always be a challenge to find anyone having a bad time at a Wombats show.

Check out photos from the show below, and see where you can catch The Wombats next here. 

Listen to Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life in full below.

Pitchfork Festival Recap 2018

Thousands of music fans returned to the familiar stomping grounds of Union Park for another successful Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend. Looking at the thunderstorm-filled weather forecast during the days leading up to the festival, many of the festival goers speculated if the schedule would stay on track and if any sets would be canceled, but surprisingly the weather turned out to be close to perfect with minimal rain and lots of breeze. In addition to the ideal festival weather, P4K 2018 also featured more Chicago artists than it ever has in the past, and they also had a fair balance of female and male performers, which is something many other music festivals have failed to provide with recent line ups. If you missed out on the festival this year, dive in below to see what other standout moments happened over the weekend. 

Friday

Julie Byrne and her her harpist eased the crowd into Day 1

Friday morning and early afternoon did end up having some rain showers, but by the time singer songwriter Julie Byrne took the stage just before 3PM, the drizzle had died down, leaving a cloudy, cool breeze in the air. Bryne's mellow music and ethereal vocals perfectly complimented the gray skies, giving everyone a tranquil introduction to their festival weekend. Byrne's live band also included a rare harpist, which further hypnotized the crowd and eased them into what would inevitably be a long weekend of lots of great music. Byrne also gave a shout out to Chicago when she reminisced on her time she spent living here, before playing her song "Melting Grid" from her 2017 album Not Even Happiness

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Julien Baker Captivated a Large Crowd on her Own

Most of the time when solo artists perform live, they're joined by a live band to help them fill out the arrangements and make a more dynamic performance, but Julien Baker took the stage at Pitchfork completely alone at the beginning of her set. Armed with her guitar and her powerful vocals, Baker completely captivated the large crowd that overflowed the area around the Blue Stage, opening with "Turn Out The Lights." After performing the title track of her latest album, the chilling track "Appointments" from the same album, Baker was eventually joined by a violinist, who added a special touch to Baker's narratives. Again, it's rare to witness a solo performance as powerful as Baker's but with her vocal gusto and emotive stage presence, her shows are always something special.

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SYD Celebrated The Internet's New Album

Lead vocalist of The Internet and solo artist SYD hit one of the festival's main stages in the early evening hours, bringing her silky smooth vocals and effortlessly cool demeanor to the growing crowd. Earlier that day, The Internet had released their brand new album Hive Mind, and fans and Pitchfork were eager to see if any of the new songs would make it into SYD's solo set. After performing songs like "All About Me" and "Got Her Own" from 2017's Fin, as well as her Kaytranada collaboration "You're The One," SYD did in fact bring out some of The Internet to perform a few of their brand new tracks. The hypnotizing set finished with one of The Internet's most popular tracks, "Girl," allowing for the audience to get the full experience of SYD's discography. 

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Big Thief Made a Comeback

It seem's like the members of Brooklyn's Big Thief never take a day off; after releasing full albums in 2016 and 2017 and touring in between, Buck Meek of the group also somehow managed to release his debut solo album and tour it this year. Buck Meek has played a couple of times in Chicago as his solo project, but this performance at Pitchfork was the first time the full band had played a show in town this year, and they were welcomed back by the Chicago audience with open arms as they performed crowd favorites from both of their albums. Their show stood out among all of the performances of the weekend with lead vocalist Adrianne Lenker's emotive delivery of her narratives and the magnetic chemistry among the group.

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Courtney Barnett Had a Hype Man

Before Courtney Barnett performed as the second to last act on Friday, flocks of fans had gathered in front of the red stage, anxiously buzzing for the Australian singer to take the stage. A lone fan started a chant for their apparent favorite song off Barnett's new album Tell Me How You Really Feel: "Nameless, Faceless." Before long, the majority of the crowd was chanting the song title along with the no longer lone fan and the anticipation for the show peaked. Barnett and her band rewarded the enthusiastic audience with another stand out set of the weekend, amplifying the already high energy on the studio versions of Barnett's records. 

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Tame Impala Made it Rain

Following Courtney Barnett's set, fellow Australians in Tame Impala hit the Green stage, closing out the first night of the festival. Before they even walked onstage, trippy lighting and visuals illuminated the stage, prefacing their psychedelic rock tunes. A couple of songs in, the rain that had been looming in the forecast all day finally fell upon the massive crowd watching Tame Impala, falling just after the band had already showered the front rows with confetti. The rain couldn't put a damper on the infectiously jovial mood of the audience, and the rain even added another dynamic layer to the multicolored visuals swirling around on the stage screens. Just as soon as it hit though, the rain had passed leaving the crowd to dance around in the aftermath of the storm. 

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Saturday

Paul Cherry Played His Debut Album in Full

Chicago's own Paul Cherry checked a huge accomplishment off his bucket list when he opened up the second day of the festival. Cherry brought his dreamy psych-pop debut album to life with the help of a full band, which included Kevin Krauter from Hoops and Mat Roberts from Mild High Club. The super group performed the 2018 album Flavour in full--"even the instrumentals," as Cherry pointed out. Although the early set definitely had a thinner crowd than the later performances, plenty of festival goers made sure to get there on time and show their support to one of their own. 

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Zola Jesus Made a Theatrical Entrance

Singer songwriter Zola Jesus took the stage in the early afternoon to suspenseful introduction music, donning a layered red dress that covered her entire body and face. She began her set singing through the garment, eventually pushing the red veil back to reveal her face. The extensive catalog of Zola Jesus explores different sonic pockets, ranging from delicate piano melodies to ominous synths, but her powerful and evocative vocals always stand out on her records. During her Pitchfork performance, Zola Jesus and her band brought all those aspects of her records to life, pairing them with a simple yet theatrical production featuring her outfit and choreography. Despite the heaviness of her songs, between them, the singer made light-hearted banter with the crowd, shouting out any audience members from Wisconsin, where she had attended college. 

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Moses Sumney Walked the Catwalk

Moses Sumney's incredible vocal range and live band lineup that even included orchestral instruments would have been enough to make his set stand out as a highlight, but his showmanship and interaction with the audience is what really set his show apart from others. Sumney worked the entire stage as he played songs from his 2017 album Aromanticism and his latest single "Make Out in My Car," giving the whole audience his attention throughout the show. Towards the end of his set, Sumney got even more up close and personal with the crowd when he left the stage to walk up and down the catwalk barricade in front of the stage. 

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Girlpool Reminisced About Myspace

Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, better known as Girlpool took the Blue Stage on Saturday afternoon, providing festival goers a chance to sit back and relax to their laidback indie rock tunes. Girlpool have a sound that's instantly like-able, drawing in a huge crowd of both their avid listeners as well as curious passerby looking to discover new music at a festival. Between songs, the pair made witty banter to keep the entertainment rolling; Harmony Tividad even reminisced about Myspace at one point, sipping Gatorade and recalling that she had once included the drink in her Myspace bio. The duo's natural stage presence continued to add another layer to their performance, making them a fan favorite.

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 Blood Orange Brought a Production and New Music

Dev Hynes, known by his stage name Blood Orange, returned to Pitchfork Music Festival this year, delivering a full production and new music. Hynes and his full band performed in front of revolving videos being projected on the screen behind them. In addition to the visual layer added to the performance, Hynes added choreography and dance moves as well as backup singers to fill out the layered production. While most of the set consisted of tracks from his 2016 album Freetown Sound, Hynes threw a couple of new songs in, including "Charcoal Baby" from his upcoming album Negro Swan, out August 24th. 

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Sunday

Kweku Collins Had High School Classmates in the Audience

Evanston rapper and producer has been buzzed about in Chicago for a couple of years now, but his early Sunday performance marked his Pitchfork Chicago debut. Despite his 2:30PM start time on the third of the festival and the rainy morning, Collins still drew a large crowd of enthusiastic fans. Among the throngs of festival goers echoing the lyrics back to Collins, he recognized some of the audience members as his former high school classmates. Being 21, Collins admitted that his high school days weren't that long ago, but you could tell it meant a lot to him to have some hometown support. Collins also used his performance time to put his platform to good use; during his set he addressed one of the common issues at music festivals. "Guys watch your space. Your presence is not a burden until you make that shit a burden," continuing on to add that if we all go about it the right way and be respectful, everyone can have a great time. His statement set the tone for the final day of the festival and left everyone walking away with a smile. 

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RAVYN LENAE Made the Crowd Pinky Promise

Immediately following Kweku Collins' performance, another young Chicago artist took the Red Stage across the way: Ravyn Lenae. The R&B singer certainly made an entrance when she sauntered onstage draped in a sparkling fringe dress and carrying a microphone covered in red faux fur. Lenae's impressive range and vocal chops backed up her glittery stage set up, and she quickly had the crowd wrapped around her finger. Early on in her set, Lenae asked for the audience to raise their pinkies and promise to dance and sing along to her music, and they happily obliged. 

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Japanese Breakfast Collaborated With An Old Tour-mate

Michelle Zauner, known under her moniker of Japanese Breakfast, made her Pitchfork Festival debut with her usual exuberant stage presence, projecting that positivity out into the crowd. Following her incredible set that featured songs from her two albums as well as a cover of "Dreams" by The Cranberries, Zauner returned to the Blue Stage a short time later, this time joining her former tour mate (Sandy) Alex G during his set. The two had toured together in 2017, and at Pitchfork they reunited to perform the crowd favorite "Brite Boy."

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Chicago Artists Made the City Proud

Chicago remained the name of the game on Sunday at Pitchfork; following the performances of Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Kweku Collins, and Ravyn Lenae, the Chicago acts just kept rolling. Rapper Noname delivered a special show with her full backing band and a few guest appearances from her fellow Chicagoans Ravyn Lenae, Smino, Saba, and Joseph Chilliams. The guests during Noname's set showcased the collaborative nature in this city's music scene. 

The legendary Chaka Khan, another Chicago native, took the Red Stage next, keeping the hometown theme going. Her set consisted of nonstop hits, from her solo songs like "I'm Every Woman" to "Ain't Nobody," as well as songs from her funk band Rufus, the crowd never stopped singing along. 

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Lauryn Hill Actually Showed Up

Throughout the entire day and even the entire weekend, festival goers continued to speculate if Lauryn Hill would show up, and if she did show up, how late she would be. The legendary artist has earned herself an infamous reputation for cancelling shows last minute or showing up hours late. Needless to say, no one really had high expectations as the night began to come to a close and the headliner was scheduled to begin, but everyone got a pleasant surprise when Ms. Hill's DJ took the stage right on time. After about thirty minutes of hype brought on by the DJ and her other band members who began to trickle onstage, Lauryn Hill finally graced the Green Stage, rewarding the swarm of eager fans that spanned multiple generations. The weekend ended on a high note as the festival goers got to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill with the icon, who has since cancelled some of her upcoming tour dates. 

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Check out more photos of the entire weekend below

Audiotree Music Festival Returns to Kalamazoo September 22nd & 23rd

Chicago’s Audiotree returns to Kalamazoo, MI to host yet another incredible weekend of music at Audiotree Music Festival 2018. The lineup this year includes plenty of Audiotree alum and some newcomers. Acts include Local Natives, Father John Misty, Post Animal, NE-HI, The Regrettes, Diet Cig, Melkbelly, Michigander and more— you can check out the full lineup below.

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Grab your tickets here and get ready for the fest by re-visiting the highlights of ATMF 2017.

5 Hometown Acts to Show Up Early For at Pitchfork Festival 2018

Pitchfork Music Festival returns to Chicago's Union Park this year, once again bringing a diverse lineup featuring both up and coming and established artists of different genres. For the past few years, the lineup has continued to feature some of the best talent in the city; In 2016, Whitney, Mick Jenkins and Twin Peaks performed, and last year's lineup included Joey Purp, Jamila Woods, and NE-HI. This year, the stacked lineup features even more local artists, including well-versed names like Saba and Noname, but there's several other Chicagoans playing throughout the weekend. Check out our five must-see hometown acts that are worthy of an early arrival to Pitchfork Festival.

Paul Cherry

Who: Singer, songwriter, musician and producer extraordinaire Paul Cherry has become a staple in the Chicago rock scene with his dreamy bedroom psych-pop tunes. While rejuvenated psych rock has been done by many over the last few years, Cherry stands out with his signature reverb vocals and quirky textures used on his debut album Flavour, released March 31st by Feeltrip Records. Following the album release, Cherry spent weeks on the road promoting it, joining Post Animal for a leg of their last national tour. With his recent announcement of a European tour, it doesn't look like Paul Cherry's tour schedule will be slowing down any time soon, so make sure you catch him in town this weekend. After his Saturday set at the festival, you can catch an official Pitchfork aftershow at Schubas on Sunday, July 22nd featuring Paul Cherry, Bunny, and Slow Pulp--get tickets here. 

Fun fact: Paul Cherry produced Anna Burch's album and sometimes plays in her touring band. 

When: Saturday, 1PM on the Green Stage

For Fans Of: Mild High Club, Post Animal, levitation room

Start With: "Hey Girl," "Like Yesterday," and "So Easy"

Kweku Collins

Who: 21-year-old rapper, producer, songwriter, and Evanston-native Kweku Collins makes his Chicago Pitchfork Festival debut this weekend (he played the annual Pitchfork Paris fest in 2016), and it certainly seems like it's been a long time coming. Despite his young age, Collins' discography holds a certain depth to it, which makes sense when you consider he grew up in a musical family and has been playing music for essentially his whole life. Collins' air of experience mixed with his refreshing take on hip hop has earned him endless praise for his debut Nat Love (2016) and the more recent grey EP released in 2017. The traction he's gained has taken him on to tour the country and play major festivals like our own Lollapalooza, so do not miss him this Sunday. If you're not going to the festival, you can also catch Collins at Schubas on July 21st--grab tickets here. 

When: Sunday, 2:30PM on the Green Stage

For Fans Of: Vic Mensa, Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean

Start With: "Lonely Lullabies" "Stupid Rose," "Vanilla Skies" 

The Curls

Who: Self-proclaimed art rockers The Curls have created a stand-out sound in a scene that can sometimes seem oversaturated. With multiple vocalists and the incorporation of different instrumentalists, the group has a chameleon-like quality, pulling together aspects of genres like psych, pop, and jazz to craft something of their own. Their last record, 2017's Super Unit, boasts ten tracks that sound nothing alike, in the best possible way. Their flexible and varying sound will be sure to keep audience members on their toes during their Pitchfork set, so make sure you don't miss it. Just in case you might get stuck at work and miss the very first set of the entire festival, you can also catch The Curls at The Hideout on Friday night with Deeper--get tickets here. 

When: Friday, 1PM on the Green Stage

For Fans Of: OHMME, Lala Lala, Palm

Start With: "Prickly Feelings," "I Can't Tell U," "Do It Right"

Melkbelly

Who: Noise-rock group Melkbelly has continuously garnered buzz among the masses in Chicago's DIY scene since 2014, when friends of artistic and musical backgrounds came together to create this new project. After releasing their debut full length Nothing Valley last October via Wax Nine Records, the outfit has performed all across the city; From Thalia Hall to the Empty Bottle and Schubas to The Hideout, you'd be hard pressed to find a venue Melkbelly hasn't played. This weekend, the band can tick one more landmark achievement off their bucket list when they play Pitchfork Fest. If you've hit your Friday afternoon slump, this band will be sure to crank up the volume and get your blood flowing during their early Friday afternoon set. You can also check out Melkbelly with fellow Pitchfork performer Nnamdi Ogbonnaya at their official aftershow on Saturday, July 21st at SubT--grab tickets here. 

When: Friday, 1:45 PM on the Red Stage

For Fans Of: NE-HI, Flasher, Wolf Alice

Start With: "Kid Kreative," "Off the Lot," "Greedy Gull"

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya

Who: Songwriter, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya has become a seasoned musician playing in bands like Monobody and Ittō, but when he's not behind the drumkit, he's working on his own solo project. As a solo artist, Ogbonnaya doesn't shy away from the strange, creating completely unique eclectic hip hop tunes, like those on his 2017 album DROOL. His exuberance and busy beats will be sure to get you moving early on the final day of the festival. Like all of these artists, you have a second chance to catch Ogbonnaya if you find yourself running on empty on Sunday morning; he'll be playing with Melkbelly on Saturday at the SubT. Grab tickets here.

When: Sunday, 1PM on the Green Stage

For Fans Of: Shamir, Knox Fortune, Danny Brown

Start With: "hOp Off," "let gO Of my EgO," "nO drOOl"


If you've been snoozin', you can still purchase your 3-day passes or single day tickets to this year's Pitchfork. Single day tickets run from $75, or you can snag a 3 day pass for a discounted rate of $175. If you're feeling fancy, you can even upgrade to Pitchfork PLUS, which runs for $375. All ticket information can be found here

Eaux Claires 2018 Highlights

This weekend, my favorite festival Eaux Claires returned to the forest for round four.

Since year one, Eaux Claires curators Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner have worked with musicians and artists to cultivate a completely unique festival experience, with common themes of community, improvisation, and collaboration remaining present each year. At conventional festivals, the line up usually gets announced before tickets go on sale, the schedule is released weeks or months in advance... and that's that. At Eaux Claires, it's always been about the music and the bonds created by the artistic process, with secret appearances, pop up shows, and "artists in residence" who will play multiple times with different people throughout the weekend. This year, the festival one-upped themselves with their surprises and decided not to announce the lineup until the gates opened on Friday, which is certainly not for the faint of heart, but didn't stop the diehard music fans from making the annual trip. If you didn't take the gamble and make the trip to Eau Claire, check out the highlights of EXC 2018 below.

The Lineup Wasn't Announced Until 1PM on Friday

As I just mentioned, this year Eaux Claires organizers took the level of surprise and mystery surrounding the lineup one step further and didn't announce any artists until Friday afternoon, which acted as both a highlight and a downfall of this year's fest. Despite the air of mystery, regular Eaux Claires attendees had hunches as to who some of the performers would be, solely based on past festival line ups. Especially with the "Artists in Residence" aspect of the festival, there has been a network of certain musicians who have continuously come back to collaborate, play their own sets, or guest star with other artists (i.e Francis and the Lights, Sylvan Esso, Phil Cook, and of course Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner). With those traditions already set in, there were certain "usuals" that frequent EXC goers expected, and even the festival merchandise hinted at the usual players by making shirts that read "The Fourth Annual Family Reunion" and "It's Thanksgiving in the Summer." The curators still manage to keep the festival refreshing and unique despite that sense of familiarity by always bringing in a few of the year's best new artists and creating new collaborations and super group performances among artists. For example, one of the final performances on Friday night featured Vernon and Dessner's project Bid Red Machine playing in the round on the Flambeaux stage with a variety of guests like Julien Baker, Gordi, Chastity Brown, Bryce Dessner, and more joining them. So sure, you may have seen Big Red Machine at Eaux Claires the previous year, but you didn't experience it in the same way. All in all, the surprise lineup lead to many highlights throughout the weekend because it allowed for music fans to go with the flow and follow the music. There may have been a larger amount of criticism for the lack of new names or big names, but the fest certainly stayed true to its values of one-off unique experiences, regardless of the fear of backlash. 

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Francis Played Two Very Different Sets

This year, the festival also stepped up the art installation game by incorporating a few installations that actually had performances too. Early on Friday afternoon, Francis Starlite played The Jannette; which was essentially a triangular house with mirrors and a piano set in the middle of the woods. Fans of the singer songwriter, dancer, and frequent collaborator of Justin Vernon crowded around the small makeshift stage to experience a rare, stripped back performance of his songs. Later on, more fans got the chance to experience Francis in full capacity, along with some friends during the time slot on the schedule that was simply titled "Friends." (Again, there's that element of surprise...) Most people were savvy enough to figure out who would be playing during that time slot and again crowded around the round Flambeaux stage, where Francis climbed, crowd surfed, and danced with the audience to his own hits like "See Her Out" and "May I Have This Dance," as well as Kanye's song "Lift Yourself." While some of the second performance featured Francis performing solo again, he was joined by Justin Vernon and S. Carey for a few, including "Just For Us" and "Friends." 

Julien Baker Was Joined by Hanif Abdurraqib 

Singer songwriter Julien Baker played on just about every stage throughout the weekend, making guest appearances with the likes of The National and Big Red Machine, but her main performance on the Lake Eaux Lune stage acted as a stand out moment of all of Friday's performances. Baker began her set standing on the stage by herself, mesmerizing the large audience with her delicate guitar strumming and heartfelt narratives, before being joined by a violinist. Later, Baker was also joined by poet Hanif Abdurraqib, who read his poetry over the sounds of Baker's strums. Introducing Abdurraqib, Julien said, "This is a special festival with a special protocol, so I'm gonna bring out my friend Hanif." Once again, Eaux Claires presented a completely unique collaboration of artists-- not just musicians, but creators of completely different mediums and genres were able to produce something special.

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Hand Habits Played a House Show at at Festival

Similar to the installation that Francis performed at earlier in the day, musician Meagan Duffy's brainchild Hand Habits performed later that evening at another art installation deemed the Music Box Village. The installation looked like a cross between a house and a playground structure, allowing for festival goers to walk through it when a show wasn't happening, but it also acted as a completely unique stage. "It's cool to play a house show at a festival," Duffy remarked about the installation, perfectly describing the rare set up. The Music Box Village hosted other artists like Phil Cook, Gordi, and Julien Baker throughout the weekend, providing the perfect little nook to watch bands in a relaxed and stripped down setting. This space still allowed for fans to have a good vantage point, unlike some of the smaller stages in the woods, which often got too cramped to allow most fans to enjoy the performances. 

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Phil Cook Said It's Okay to Talk to Strangers

Eaux Claires regular Phil Cook's Friday evening set easily tied with The National's show for my favorite show of the weekend. Growing up in Chippewa Falls, Cook has been a part of the Eaux Claires process since its beginning due to his ties to the community, but this year he had a brand new album called People Are My Drug to perform to the EXC family. Cook's band for this performance, which happened to also be the band he made his latest record with, included Chastity Brown and Amelia Meath from Sylvan Esso, among others. "Everyone that was on the record is playing this show. This is the only time this is gonna happen," he told the audience. Cook also gifted the crowd with an inspiring speech, calling attention to the support of his tight-knit community, but also encouraging everyone in the audience to share their stories and absorb the stories of others. "Talk to strangers," he said, mentioning that his dad's record collection gave him access to the outside world via stories in the songs he heard, but he has gained so much from talking to strangers. In addition to his new music and motivational speech, Cook also had Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso come onstage to perform their song "PARAD(w/m)E" in honor of his son's birthday, and the set closed with an infectious, mood-boosting cover of "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher."

Francis Led a Dance Lesson....Again

Last year, early arrivers of the festival got a notification shortly after the gates opened that Francis Starlite would be teaching dance in 30 minutes, and those with the festival app or those that wandered by were treated with a last minute surprise that acted as a highlight of the entire weekend. The impromptu dance lesson was so successful that this year it was actually penciled in on the schedule that rolled out on Friday afternoon, and the Saturday dance lessons ended up drawing more people for a 2PM time slot than most early performers at major festivals. This time around, Francis amped up his dance lessons, jumping into the crowd a few times to dance with the groups of people hoarded around the stage, as well as cartwheeling and doing the splits in front of the crowd. The dance class set the tone for day two and left everyone walking away from the stage exuding positive energy. 

Phoebe Bridgers Started a Cult

Saturday marked Phoebe Bridgers first time at Eaux Claires, but she certainly made the most of her time by playing her own set before singing as a guest with The National and the People Mixtape performance. During her own early evening set at the Flambeaux stage, Bridgers attracted a large audience at the round stage, all eager to hear her witty and honest lyrical tales. Despite the serious and sometimes somber tone of her narratives, Bridgers and her band lightened up the mood with funny banter between songs. For example, Bridgers invited her friend and singer songwriter Christian Lee Hutson up and joked that they were going to start a cult together-- "a fun, woods cult" she said. "Not a kill yourself cult. A die-of-natural causes cult," Hutson added. The beautiful harmonies between Bridgers and Hutson were certainly mesmerizing enough to make me want to join their cult, and I'm sure most of the crowd agree, since everyone walked away from the show raving about how incredible it had been. The pair kept the lighthearted jokes going when Bridgers gave the spotlight to Hutson to sing a song he had written after playing in her band for only a week. 

Moses Sumney Got the Crowd to Assist With a New Song

Moses Sumney returned for his second Eaux Claires, having performed back in 2016. With his incredible vocal range and captivating live show, it's no wonder Sumney got asked to return again, and he came back with some new music to share with fans. For one of his new songs, he sang out a low note and asked everyone to sing it back to him and keep it going like they were "trying to make the stage fall down." The audience obliged and Sumney and his band built up the rest of the song's beat as the crowd held out the note. Sumney mentioned that during his live show, he doesn't use any backing tracks or prerecorded sound thanks to help of his band, and little moments like a festival crowd holding out a note add to the organic and unique nature of live music and the community surrounding it. Sumney's entire set felt inclusive and stayed true to the core values of Eaux Claires festival.