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Riot Fest 2019 came to a close on Sunday with yet another stacked day. Check out photos from some of the best sets, including White Reaper, Village People, Against Me!, The B-52’s and American Football.
The 15th anniversary of Riot Fest continued on Saturday with another packed day. Some of our favorite sets of the evening included The Struts, Rise Against, Andrew W.K. and Bloc Party—check out photos of those bands below!
Riot Fest 2019 kicked off yesterday on Friday the 13th. We caught sets from Caroline Rose, Mat Kerekes, Hot Snakes, The Get Up Kids, Violent Femmes, Dashboard Confessional, Descendents, and The Flaming Lips. Check out the photos below and stay tuned for galleries for Saturday and Sunday.
Pitchfork Festival’s final day rolled around on Sunday, featuring a lineup packed to the brim with some of my favorite artists to close out the fest. Throughout the weekend, the weather forecast for Sunday had gone back and forth— varying from raining all day to showing clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. When the morning rolled around, it looked like we might have gotten stuck with cooler temperatures and rain—especially when gates were postponed nearly an hour with rain and threats of lightning. However, after the morning and brief early afternoon storm, the gates opened and the rest of the day went smoothly and according to plan.
Sunday’s theme definitely revolved around the camaraderie in the Chicago music scene, with incredible sets from some local artists that featured multiple guest appearances. In addition to the Chicago music community, here are the rest of the day’s highlights.
London’s Black Midi played the Green Stage in the early afternoon, getting the energy ramped up for the day with their experimental hard rock. The festival site by the main stage had flooded with the early morning rain, but despite the puddles, fans watching Black Midi didn’t let some mud get in the way of their fun. The band’s high energy was matched by the crowd, who started a muddy mosh pit early on in the set.
Next up, Chicago’s Tasha made her much-deserved Pitchfork Festival debut over on the Blue Stage. Tasha’s 2018 album Alone at Last showcases her smooth and soulful indie pop, and her set at Pitchfork provided a tranquil escape for festival attendees. I’ve seen Tasha perform captivating solo sets several times throughout the last year, but her festival set was one of the first times I’ve seen her with a backing band. The addition of the band gave her intimate songs a layered and more full sound. Tasha also treated fans to some brand new, unreleased songs, which she performed solo.
One of the best things about music festivals is that you can go in with expectations of what bands you’re seeing and what time, but you’re always given the chance to see a band you’ve never seen perform, or even listened to before. On Sunday of Pitchfork, rapper JPEGMAFIA was that artist for me. I wandered over to JPEGMAFIA’s set with no expectations, having never seen him before, and his stage presence was one that immediately drew me (and everyone else) in. After making his way onstage, it didn’t take long for the performer to become very close with the audience; He began his set giving photographers and people in the crowd hugs ,and shortly after, crowd surfed. Throughout his set, he probably spent more time in the crowd than onstage between all of his surfing and standing on the barricade to dance with the audience. JPEGMAFIA is a performer who demands your attention and puts all their energy into keeping your attention for the duration of the show, and he put on one of the best sets of Pitchfork Weekend.
Ibeyi is a duo of French twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, and while I’ve listened to them for years, I unfortunately never had the chance to see them perform before their set at Pitchfork. Ibeyi’s performance at the fest was well worth the wait and reinforced how much of a fan I am of their music. They started their set and immediately brought positive vibes and good spirits with their kind energy and smiles, but it was their sisterly harmonies and strong vocals that gave me goosebumps. My favorite part of their set was when they used their music to share their political beliefs, performing their song “No Man Is Big Enough For My Arms,” which samples part of a speech by Michelle Obama.
Texas trio Khruangbin has also been a favorite of mine to see live, and their set at Pitchfork Festival was no exception. While they’re a band of few words and play a lot of instrumental jams, they were able to capture a large crowd with their entrancing blend of funk, soul, and psychedelic tunes. Khruangbin has an effortlessly cool stage presence, making them the perfect Sunday afternoon act.
Hometown heroes Whitney made their return to Pitchfork Festival, following up their 2016 performance at the fest with a kickoff to their new era. Earlier this summer, the band announced their highly anticipated sophomore album Forever Turned Around would be released August 30th, so naturally their first hometown show in almost a year featured some never before played songs. In addition to the new material, what really made Whitney’s set special was the sense of community—both onstage and offstage. When the band performed their popular tune “Golden Days” from their debut album, they got a little help from their friends, including Pitchfork acts Ric Wilson, Tasha, Chai, Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy, and Lala Lala. The audience also sang and swayed along to all of their old favorites from Light Upon the Lake.
Charli XCX was definitely one of the more mainstream artists to play Pitchfork Festival this year. As a pop artist, Charli XCX is an artist whose songs are everywhere— songs that you’ll know 99% of the words to because they’re so catchy they stick with you after only a couple of listens. Despite the larger than life pop anthems that she’s known for, Charli’s stage set up was actually pretty minimal. Two massive yellow cubes acted as a backdrop, and the singer made her entrance onto stage by herself, sans a backing band. Though her setup was simple, her fanbase proved to be mighty; Fans camped out at the Red Stage all day to get a prime spot, they wore pink cowboy hats and held up signs with references to her songs. The dedicated fans helped make the set so powerful— as they danced and sang along, the positive energy radiated throughout the crowd.
Robyn closed out the whole festival with one of the most fun and cathartic shows I’ve ever seen. Robyn’s set up featured a delicately draped backdrop and backup singers, but at the center of her incredible performance stood her legendary electro-pop songs. Getting to experience the live performance of songs like “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dancing On My Own” in a huge crowd of both friends and strangers all singing and dancing along was the best way to close out the festival weekend.
Photos of Flasher, Black Midi, Tasha, JPEGMAFIA, Ibeyi, Clairo, Khruangbin, Whitney, Chari XCX, Snail Mail, and Robyn
The second day of Pitchfork Festival started off with the same sweltering heat as day one, but a fair amount of festival goers showed up as gates opened to take in the full day of music. The forecast showed continuous sunny skies all day to accompany the heat, but the fest ended up being suddenly evacuated around 5PM by a storm that came out of nowhere. The festival organizers were able to make the call just before torrential downpour hit the park, and most attendees were able to seek shelter in nearby bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, Kurt Vile and Freddie Gibbs sets were cut during the storm, but the festival did reopen after an about an hour of downtime, continuing the night with good weather. Despite the evacuation, day two still proved to be a great day with plenty of highlights. Read about my favorite Saturday moments below!
Lala Lala, the project of songwriter and musician Lillie West, opened the second day of the festival with the same all-star band roster that had performed the night prior at Metro, which included V.V. Lightbody, KAINA, Sen Morimoto and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya playing alongside West. Despite having the first set of the day, the heat, and the fact that they were coming off playing a late show the night prior, the entire band sounded as flawless and refreshed as ever. The early day crowd listened intently, even during some of the quieter moments of the set, like the performance of “Scary Movie." Lala Lala’s set also included a cover of “Slip Away” by Perfume Genius, who has also previously performed at Pitchfork Festival. Lala Lala has continuously been one of my favorite bands to see play around the city, but this set was my favorite from them to date.
Ric Wilson kicked off the Red Stage for the second day, and his set was hands down my favorite of the day, if not the entire festival. Wilson’s set had literally everything you could want from a festival show; an interactive dance party, guest appearances, and a positive message. The Chicago based artist immediately let the crowd know that he doesn’t tolerate any hate by starting his set with a call and response chant where to told the crowd “no racist, no sexist, no homophobic, and no bullshit” behavior would be tolerated here. The positive vibes continued as Wilson danced across the stage with a beaming smile. A few songs into the set, the first guest appearance came from collaborator and Pitchfork Festival alum, Kweku Collins, who played the festival last year. The energetic performance also featured an appearance from the Lane Tech marching band. And finally, Wilson closed out his set with everyone in the crowd participating in a Soul Train style dance off, which left everyone walking away with a smile on their face to enjoy the rest of the festival.
After taking a break to cool down, I moved over to the shaded Blue Stage to catch an afternoon set from Los Angele’s Jay Som. The singer’s dream pop tunes provided the perfect mid-day, chilled out set for festival goers, acting as a retreat from the chaos of the festival and the blistering heat. Jay Som and her band played through trusted favorites like “Baybee” and “The Bus Song” as the audience echoed the words back to the singer. The festival set also included a couple of new ones from the upcoming album Anak Ko, out later this summer via Polyvinyl Records.
Parquet Courts played next on the Green Stage, and they brought tons of energy along with them. It took mere seconds into the band’s first song of the set for the crowd to get amped up and start moshing, even with everyone being drenched in harsh sunlight. Starting at 4:15pm, Parquet Courts’ set took place during the day’s sweet spot, when more and more people decided to start showing up. The band’s uptempo rock tunes like “Master of My Craft” and “Total Football” were perfect for setting up the tone of the evening ahead. Unfortunately about 15 minutes before Parquet Courts’ set was slated to end, they made an announcement to the crowd that weather conditions might cut them short. After playing the title track of their 2018 album Wide Awake, festival goers were asked to calmly evacuate the site and find shelter. While it might have been cut short, the part of Parquet Courts’ set that we did get to experience was definitely a highlight of Saturday.
Following the evacuation of the festival and the downpour of rain, the park opened back up around 6:30PM for sets from Stereolab and Belle & Sebastian. As both of these bands played their sets, the sun once again shone down on Union Park and all was right— almost giving the feeling that it was a completely different day.
Before long, the sun began to set on Saturday, and it was then time for the legendary Isley Brothers to close out the night. Their spot on the festival lineup seemed a little out of place between more contemporary pop acts HAIM and Robyn, who bookended the weekend as the other headliners. However, when the brothers and their live ensemble made their way onto the stage to “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince playing as their introduction song, it was clear that we were all in for a show. As the band began their set of throwbacks, even the younger audience members who might have been unfamiliar with the group’s music could recognize bits of the songs that have been sampled by other artists. The Isley Brothers instantly had the audience moving along to their soulful music, and onstage, they had extravagantly dressed backup singers and dancers to accompany them.
More photos of Saturday featuring Lala Lala, Ric Wilson, Jay Som, Parquet Courts, Stereolab, Belle and Sebastian, and the Isley Brothers
Stay tuned for more Pitchfork Festival coverage
In the week leading up to Pitchfork Festival, the forecast for Chicago showed a spike in temperatures, which only continued to climb higher as Pitchfork weekend inched closer. With highs of 98 degrees (without the heat index and humidity) and the promise of sunny skies, it was clear that this weekend would be one of the hottest of the summer and not necessarily the most ideal weather to spend all day outside watching live music. A couple of days before the fest’s kick off on Friday, Pitchfork Festival organizers announced that they’d be taking extra measures to keep festival goers safer in the extreme weather conditions; In addition to providing additional cooling buses and a misting station, the fest ordered 18,000 more water bottles to pass out for free to its attendees. While I knew there would be no way to feel comfortable in temperatures that felt like 110 degrees, these extra precautions at least eased my mind a bit going into Friday.
My afternoon on the first day of the fest began with Chicago’s own Grapetooth, who played the Blue Stage at 4PM. Tucked away in a tree-lined, shaded corner of the festival grounds, the Blue Stage remained the most comfortable viewing area of Friday, allowing for festival goers to retreat from the sun and still catch some great music. A relatively new collaboration between Twin Peaks’ Clay Frankel and producer/songwriter Chris Bailoni, Grapetooth became an instant hit with their synth-infused, new wave sound and their rambunctious stage presence. The crowd at Pitchfork welcomed them onstage with a rowdy chant and danced along to their opener “Violent,” despite the heat. The opening tune and a few others of Grapetooth’s singles featured an extended introduction, which added some new intensity to their live set. In the spirit of Chicago and the collaborative nature of the music scene, Grapetooth’s set also featured guest appearances from Lillie West of Lala Lala, OHMME, and more.
After a few songs of Grapetooth, I rushed over to the Green Stage to catch Sky Ferreira’s comeback show, marking her return to Chicago for the first time in years. Due to sound issues and gear malfunctioning in the overbearing heat, Ferreira made her way to the stage about 20 minutes past her scheduled time slot, but she was greeted with an overwhelming sound of applause by her many long-time fans. Unfortunately, the sound issues for Ferreira continued for the entire set, and it was clear that she couldn’t hear herself in the in-ear monitors. Despite the technical difficulties and all, Ferreira’s vocals sounded incredible and fans in the crowd screamed along with her when she performed old favorites like “You're Not the One” and “Everything Is Embarrassing.” Adding to the list of obstacles for the singer, Ferreira was cut short due to time restraints, but not before she made the live debut of new song “Descending.”
Next, it was back to the Blue Stage for Soccer Mommy, the project of Nashville songwriter Sophie Allison. All weekend long on the Blue Stage, the festival had different slam poets warm up the crowds for the next musical act performing. The addition of the poets was a great way to experience a different form of art at the festival, and it definitely worked well with an artist like Soccer Mommy, whose narrative-style lyrics have the same relatable impact as some of the words recited by the poets. Overall, Soccer Mommy’s set provided a chance for everyone to just kickback and enjoy a great performance from Allison and her band, who had incredible chemistry onstage from their extensive touring history. The set included favorites like “Last Girl,” “Cool,” and “Your Dog,” which Allison mentioned they hadn’t been performing lately but they were bringing it back in the spirit of Pitchfork.
The legendary Mavis Staples closed out the Red Stage for the first day, providing an instant mood boost for the entire audience and delivering my personal favorite set of the entire day. With her hearty and soulful vocals, which mixed with her grooving band and backup vocalists, Staples captured the audience’s attention and hearts from the very start of her set. A few songs in, the singer told the crowd that she wanted them to feel good, and judging by the infectious grins on everyone’s faces, it was clear she had succeeded in her mission. Staples gave me goosebumps as she sang in harmony with her live bandmates and when she belted out her roaring vocals, showing off the raw power and control she still has over her voice.
HAIM, the evening’s headliners, were up next on the Green Stage. As the sun set over Union Park, the three sisters [Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim] marched to take their places, as a real-time camera followed them on their walk to the stage. The set began with the siblings taking their places in front of drum sets, building up a suspenseful introduction to what would be their first ever festival headlining slot. Their set opened with “Falling” and “Don’t Save Me” from their debut album Days Are Gone, taking the audience back to the days of 2013—when everyone had that album on repeat. In addition to older material—both from their debut and 2017 sophomore album, HAIM also sprinkled in their new song “Summer Girl” and not one, but two Paula Cole covers: “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” and “I Don't Want To Wait.” HAIM’s festival headline debut allowed longtime fans to relish their older favorites while still experiencing a glimpse of what is to come in the band’s next era.
Friday Gallery from Pitchfork 2019, featuring Grapetooth, Sky Ferreira, Julia Holter, Soccer Mommy, Mavis Staples, and HAIM
Stay tuned for more Pitchfork 2019 Coverage