Of all the music festivals in Chicago, and there are many, the Pitchfork Music Festival is the one most focused on music. There are no gimmicks with Pitchfork: no dance tent, no vodka-branded lounges, no designated selfie areas, no other tricks that make you pay more attention to your smartphone than the moment you are in. Pitchfork is about the music and the music only. Which is straight-up refreshing.
Any why not be about the music when you have a three-day line-up packed with the greatest musicians of the moment?
With that said, let’s break the three days down into categories:
Best of the Blue Stage
The Blue Stage at Pitchfork is kinda the off the beaten path stage. While fest-goers can watch awesome performances flip back and forth between the Red and the Green stages without moving from their spot, the Blue Stage must be sought out. It offered lesser established, but still badass performers. Acts like Jamila Woods, Cat Power and Yves Tumor put on amazing sets. However, the best one might have been Georgia Anne Muldrow. Alone on stage, Muldrow hit the keyboard, produced groovy beats while rapping, singing (sometimes bombastically) into numerous microphones. Taken all together the performance seemed like a crazy, funky, fever-dream that the audience didn’t want to wake up from.
There were many awesome sets while the late-summer Chicago sun was still shining. Acts like Ty Segall & the Freedom Band, legend Kim Gordon, The Fiery Furnaces, and Danny Brown put on really memorable shows. However, the best sunny show was from Thundercat. Playing a bass guitar as big as a surfboard (with 6 strings!), Thundercat ran through a bunch of pulsating tunes. His “good-time” vibe radiated into the crowd, and he even sang a song about his cat!
The Headliner of the Headliners
This year all three nights were headlined by female artists (GIRL POWER!). Friday night Phoebe Bridgers rattled the bones (pun alert! as she was wearing her skeleton get-up) of everyone in the Pitchfork crowd. Her set dreamy set pulled mainly from her excellent 2020 album Punisher – she managed to play the whole album during excellent set.
Sunday night, Erykah Badu took the stage with her big-ass hat. Badu is one of the most original and inventive signers of our time – and she put it all out there on Sunday night. Using her excellent voice to combine soul, funk, hip-hop and even psychedelia, Badu showed the Pitchfork audience her fearless artistry.
Even with those two amazing headliners, the Headliner of the Headliners was clearly St. Vincent. Her dynamic live show could be confused for glam-rock, or maybe Prince-style 80’s funk, or even sugar coated pop…but one thing is for sure: it rocked. Mostly because St. Vincent is a bona fide guitar-hero. During one dramatic part of the set, St. Vincent walked off stage only to reappear with a shiny blue guitar, ripped off a perfect solo and then through the guitar on the ground as if to say, “I’m through with you.” Very, very rock n rock!
With three full days of outstanding music, Pitchfork was successful in its goal of presenting music by the very best artists.
Photos by K. Joseph Fotos. Full Gallery HERE.