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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

PHOTOS: Julia Steiner, Buck Meek, and Sam Evian at Schubas 6.14.18

Schubas Tavern hosted a trifecta of singer songwriters on Thursday night. First up, Julia Steiner of Ratboys mixed in some brand new songs with some Ratboys favorites, her bandmate Dave Sagan accompanying her on most songs. Next up, Big Thief's Buck Meek  and his band warmed up the stage playing songs from his solo debut, self-titled album before returning to the stage again to accompany Sam Evian. By the time Evian hit the stage, the room had completely packed in, and the musicians all exuded a magnetic chemistry as they played through songs on Evian's new album You, Forever. 

Check out photos of all three of the sets below. 

See all of Sam Evian's upcoming tour dates here, and listen to You, Forever in full below. 

PHOTOS: Big Thief at Tralf Music Hall 6.29.17

Photo gallery of Big Thief at Tralf Music Hall in Buffalo New York on June 29th, 2017.

Listen to Big Thief's new album Capacity in full below. Chicago, catch them at Millennium Park on July 17th, as part of the free summer concert series


Can't get enough Big Thief? Check out our review of their set at TNK Fest 2017 here. 

Big Thief Deliver a Powerful Set at TNK Fest Night One

The Brooklyn-based band headline a sold out Schubas as part of Chicago's annual Tomorrow Never Knows Festival

“Best song of 2017!” exclaims at audience member, after the Brooklyn based band Big Thief finish their popular track “Paul.”  It’s a Wednesday evening at a completely packed Schubas Tavern, and the first night of Chicago’s annual 5-day festival Tomorrow Never Knows.  “We’ve got a long way to go….I hope we can make it,” lead singer Adrianne Lenker responds. 

Forty minutes prior to this exchange, give or take a few minutes, the usually four-piece Big Thief made their way on stage sans guitarist Buck Meek, opening with a new track “Cut My Hair.”  It’s nearly midnight by the time the band starts, headlining a stellar line up of Campdogzz, Hoops, and Sam Evian, but from the minute Adrianne sang out the first line of her narrative-style lyrics, the crowd was mesmerized.  After playing new tracks called “Those Girls” and “Shark Smile,” Big Thief played some crowd favorites, “Vegas” and “Real Love” from their debut album Masterpiece.  The title track of the debut album immediately followed, the crowd singing along with Adrianne’s cutting, yet delicate vocals. 

Big Thief at TNK Festival 2017

Big Thief at TNK Festival 2017

The streak of older tunes ended and more new tunes followed, each still possessing Adrianne’s signature story-telling structure and emotive delivery.  Before playing the tune “Parallels” from the first album, Adrianne addressed the heavy presence of new songs on the set list, saying “We’re doing a lot of new songs, and we’re gonna do a few more…but not at this moment.”  Cut to the band playing “Paul,” and the exchange that happened between an enthusiastic fan and Adrianne.

Despite the fact that they were missing a band member, the remaining three bandmates all displayed incredible musicianship, with a no frills stage set up (they even had handwritten set lists) that allowed for the crowd to focus solely on the music.  Adrianne chatted briefly a few times between songs, connecting with the audience, but the rest of the time it was like Adrianne, James, and Max were in their own world with a magnetic energy coursing between each of them on stage.  The band managed to further lure in their audience by being so well connected and in-tune with each other.  

The hour-long set winded down with a couple more older tracks, including “Velvet Ring” and the single “Humans.”  Adrianne chatted to the still-mesmerized crowd before their final song, thanking everyone for coming out and mentioning they already have a new record finished.  “We’re just getting ready to make some copies of it.  It’s gonna come out in the spring, and a lot of these songs will be on there,” she continued.  The set wrapped up around 12:50AM, with a new track shown on the set list as “Terminal.” 

Keep up with all the latest on Big Thief and their upcoming album by heading to their website and signing up for the mailing list.  To hold you over until you can hear the new stuff, grab a copy of Masterpiece here.