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Pitchfork 2019 Recap: Sunday, July 21st

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.

Morgan Simpson of Black Midi

Morgan Simpson of Black Midi

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.


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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.





JPEGMAFIA on one of his many trips into the crowd

JPEGMAFIA on one of his many trips into the crowd

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.




Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz of Ibeyi

Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz of Ibeyi

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.


Laura Lee, Mark Speer, and Donald Ray "DJ" Johnson of Khruangbin

Laura Lee, Mark Speer, and Donald Ray "DJ" Johnson of Khruangbin

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.


Julien Ehrlich of Whitney

Julien Ehrlich of Whitney

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

Charli XCX

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 closing out the festival

Robyn closing out the festival

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

Pitchfork 2019: Local Spotlight

Pitchfork Music Festival kicks off this Friday, July 19th and as always, there’s no shortage of Chicago musicians and bands slated to perform this year. Before you head out to Union Park to experience another packed weekend of live music, brush up on our favorite Chicago artists performing this year.


Ric Wilson

Photo By Michael Salisbury

Photo By Michael Salisbury

Ric Wilson’s bouncy, disco-inspired raps have an infectious energy about them, which carries over to his charismatic stage presence. Blending funk, R&B, and smooth hip-hop, Wilson’s work on his EPs BANBA and Negrow Disco, as well as his latest single “Yelllowbrick,” offers a little something for everyone. While he’s able to connect with listeners through his lyricism, Wilson connects best with his audience during his interactive live performances— there’s no doubt he’ll have the full crowd dancing along to his Pitchfork set. Plus, with an extensive catalog of collaborations with fellow Chicago musicians, chances are we’ll have a special guest or two pop up during Wilson’s set.

For Fans Of: Kweku Collins, Joey Purp, Saba

Start With: “No Hands,” “Hang Loose,” and “Yellowbrick”

Where To Catch Him: Saturday, Red Stage at 1:45-2:25pm


Lala Lala

Photo By Alexa Viscius

Photo By Alexa Viscius


Fronted by London-born, Chicago-based singer songwriter Lillie West, Lala Lala has performed at just about every venue in the city and toured nationally, sharing the stage with bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Frankie Cosmos and Wolf Parade. Lala Lala’s music has connected with a wide-array of audiences thanks to West’s knack for honest and introspective storytelling through her lyrics and her fearless exploration of different sonic landscapes on the 2018 album The Lamb. Make sure you get to the festival early on Saturday to catch a set from West and her band, which will likely be packed with veteran musicians of Chicago’s scene.

For Fans Of: Madeline Kenney, Jay Som, Soccer Mommy

Start With: “Water Over Sex,” “Scary Movie,” and “I Get Cut”

Where to Catch Them: Saturday, Green Stage at 1:00-1:40pm


Tasha

Photo By Alexa Viscius

Photo By Alexa Viscius

Chicago singer-songwriter Tasha has been on a roll since releasing a stunning debut Alone at Last in 2018 via Father/Daughter Records. The record garnered praise from listeners and critics with Tasha’s blend of soothing vocals, gentle melodies and poetic lyrics. This year, Tasha has embarked on her first national tour, playing with artists like Helado Negro and Hand Habits, as well as performing at SXSW. Tasha’s self-described “bed songs” that combine indie pop with a soulful touch will ease Pitchfork goers into the third day of the fest, allowing for a tranquil moment to start the final day.

For Fans Of: Gia Margaret, Jamila Woods, Sir Babygirl

Start With: “Lullaby,” “New Place,” and “Winter Song IV”

Where to catch her: Sunday, Blue Stage at 2:45-3:30pm


Grapetooth

Photo by Alex Hupp

Photo by Alex Hupp

A collaboration between Twin Peaks’ Clay Frankel and producer/songwriter Chris Bailoni, Grapetooth’s synth-heavy, new-wave sound translates into a spirited and raucous live performance, which make the perfect Friday afternoon act to get everyone ready for the long weekend ahead. Since Frankel and Bailoni teamed up and released their first single in 2017, they’ve followed that up with a debut full length release via Polyvinyl Records and played sold out shows across the city. From Lincoln Hall to Thalia Hall, each of Grapetooth’s shows have no shortage of dancing and shenanigans— most of their shows have ended up with the audience joining the band onstage for their closing song, “Trouble.”

For Fans Of: New Order, Knox Fortune, Broncho

Start With: “Trouble,” “Blood,” and “Red Wine”

Where to Catch Them: Friday, Blue Stage at 4:00-4:45pm


Whitney

Photo By Olivia Bee

Photo By Olivia Bee

Whitney is returning to play their second Pitchfork, having first played in 2016 following the release of their debut album. Besides already playing Pitchfork, Whitney has also played Lollapalooza and sold out, back-to-back shows at venues like Thalia Hall, so chances are you’ve seen them play at one point or another. However, this show at Pitchfork marks their first Chicago performance of the new era; Whitney’s second album Forever Turned Around is slated for release on August 30th. Their set at the festival will undoubtedly feature the live premiere of some of the new music, so don’t miss out on the Chicago kick off for Whitney’s highly-anticipated new music.

For Fans Of: Kevin Morby, Durand Jones & The Indications, Courtney Barnett

Start With: “Giving Up,” “Golden Days,” and “No Woman”

Where to Catch Them: Sunday, Green Stage at 6:15-7:15pm


Full Pitchfork Festival Schedule 2019

Courtesy of Pitchfork Festival

Courtesy of Pitchfork Festival

Get your tickets to Pitchfork Music Festival here before it’s too late, and catch up on Pitchfork years past below!






PHOTOS: Whitney and NE-HI at Millennium Park 8.12.18

The Millennium Park free summer concert series rolled on over the weekend, this time featuring NE-HI and Whitney. The Chicago bands revisited plenty of crowd favorites from their past albums, but both also debuted some brand new material to the crowded park. If you missed the hometown celebration, check out photos from the show 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: Whitney's Three Night Valentine's Day Run at Thalia Hall

Chicago sweethearts Whitney took over Thalia Hall last week for not one, but three incredibly special shows in honor of Valentine’s Day. The three night stint featured a mix of different support acts, with music from all different pockets of genres and styles. Night one featured local buzzy hip hop artist Kweku Collins warming up the stage, while night two had duo Ohmme and the band Deeper, both also from Chicago. Closing out the run of three shows, Thursday night featured Baby Blue and Kevin Krauter taking the stage before Whitney.

Whitney’s setlist all three nights featured some special gems and rarities all around, and each night had its own special touch. For the first two nights, the band decided to split up their show into two parts. The first part featured some Whitney staples like “Polly” and “Dave’s Song” from their album Light Upon The Lake, as well as some covers like “Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can)” by Dolly Parton and “On the Way Home” by Neil Young. When the band left the stage and came back for part two, they were joined by a string section. The strings layering with Whitney’s usual horn section rounded out the sound, adding even more warmth to Whitney’s already rich live show.

Part two of the set featured the gentle “Light Upon the Lake” and a new, unnamed song in addition to a few covers. The beautiful set came to a peak each night, with an epic ending thanks to special guest and friend of the band, Aaron (known as finally_aaron on Instagram).  Aaron took the stage following the crowd favorite “No Woman” each night, giving the band a hand with their rendition of the classic “My Girl,” which was perfectly apt for the occasion. The Pilsen concert hall gave a standing ovation each night to Aaron and the band, who complimented each other perfectly. The energy only amplified when Aaron stayed to contribute his powerful and soulful vocals to Whitney’s final song, “Golden Days.”

Whitney has been one of Chicago’s most beloved bands for a while now, but these three magical nights just further solidified how much this city loves Whitney. If you missed out on all of sold out shows, relive some of the magic by checking out photos from the Valentine’s day extravaganza below!


Keep up with Whitney on social media and listen to the demo versions of Light Upon The Lake in full below!

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

LIVE: Red Bull Sound Select Hosts a Packed Hometown Show for Whitney and NE-HI

Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in Chicago celebrated day 2 of their multi-venue, multi-day festival with Chicago’s own Whitney and NE-HI at The Metro. As guests filed into the city’s legendary venue, the room buzzed with anticipation for the hometown show, which was actually Whitney and NE-HI’s first performance at the Wrigleyville concert hall.

Philadelphia’s up and comers Mt Joy warmed up the stage for both Chicago bands, returning a few months after their Lollapalooza debut this past summer. The band eased the audience into the evening with their blend of indie folk and rock tunes, including their popular tracks “Sheep” and “Astrovan.”

After a quick changeover of sets, NE-HI walked onto stage to a whopping welcome of cheers and applause. The local four piece commanded the audience’s attention immediately with their fervent performance of their fuzzy rock songs. Lead singer Jason Balla’s distinct vocals and the band’s signature guitar styling have given them a unique sound, which has caught the attention of music fans across the country. Just this year, the band have toured nearly nonstop, playing SXSW, Daytrotter Downs, and Pitchfork Festival. Live, the band add another layer of vehemence and eagerness to their music, with Balla thrashing around the stage and guitarist Michael Wells jumping up and down throughout their set. Set highlights included their songs “Stay Young,” “Since I’ve Been Thinking,” and the title track of their 2017 album Offers. By the time NE-HI walked off the stage, the crowd was full warmed up and ready for Whitney’s first performance at Metro.

Just before Whitney took the stage, the front few rows were handed roses as an ode to the album cover of Whitney’s debut record Light Upon The Lake, and to add another special touch to the night. Whitney have turned heads with their layered and cinematic tunes; Their folk rock songs often featuring a horns section accompanying Ehrlich’s telltale falsetto vocals, both of which put a signature stamp on their music. The band also stands out with their unique stage setup, as lead singer Julien Ehrlich also drums during their live performances. Whitney’s hour long set at Metro featured some of their most popular tracks, but early on in the night Ehrlich told the audience that their set that night would be a little different than most nights. Their performance also featured a few covers of legendary artists, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Although the set started off minimal with Ehrlich performing the first song at the keyboard before moving over to his drum set at center stage, the energy built up as the night went on and the band were joined onstage with a live string section. The addition of the strings added another level of richness and warmth to the show, especially combined with the horns section. Whitney’s stunning and special hometown performance wrapped up past midnight with a three song encore, consisting of “Golden Days,” “Rolling Blackout,” and their most popular track “No Woman.”

The electric energy that filled The Metro at the end of night reflected the captivating quality of the Red Bull Sound Select shows. The shows have brought some of the best bands and musicians around to the city this month, and the lineup at this show particularly appealed to Chicago music fans, most of which felt a burst of pride at seeing the success of their fellow Chicagoans.

Check out our gallery of all three bands to relive the incredible evening, and head here for the scoop on the rest of 30 Days in Chicago.

Mt Joy

NE-HI