Chicago in the summer is a very interesting place to be. For three very special months the city is transformed into a hotbed of outdoor activity set to the score of music festivals, with the weather so ideal that most of the workforce is released early from the suit and tie confinement thanks to the cities “summer hours”. Our short term memory becomes oddly warped. Chicagoans don’t dwell on the sub-zero temperatures that carved their names into the record books during this past winter that earned Chicago the daunting title of
“Chiberia.” Rather they take to the outside and understand the importance of making the most of sunny mid seventy degree weather. To aide in this effort to maximize outdoor fun, the Windy City is inundated by music, culture and the arts and none of them more revered locally than Pitchfork Music Festival. Chicago is a town that likes to support its own and Pitchfork is one such entity.
Pitchfork, the international music taste-making platform was started in town, and the festival is a local favorite. Situated at the intersection of Ashland Ave & Randolph St, in Union Park on the West side, Pitchfork is perfectly situated to accommodate all of Chicago. Entertaining the eclectic crowd that passes through its confines, it does a wildly successful job.
The gates opened on Friday afternoon and began casually until the work crowd piled in just after 6pm. The mellow and relaxed mood was set by Neneh Cherry with the accompaniment of RocketNumberNine. Making their first appearance in the States in over a decade, the half-sister of Eagle Eye rolled through a danceable and jazzy rap/electro performance. Cherry bopped around the stage rattling the curls in her hair to beat of her band. The next act to take the stage and continue on the chill direction the day had been going was Sun Kil Moon. Headman Mark Kozelek accompanied by his band, took a seat on stage and slowly and laboriously took the crowd through the group’s beautiful album “Benji”. With the afternoon sun in his face Kozelek crooned his tales of melancholy for the late afternoon crowd, with an acoustic set.
Kozelek himself slumped over his guitar in a Spanish style gave an emotional and somber performance. After being put into a lull by Sun Kil Moon it was finally time for the festival to wake up and Giorgio Moroder was ready to begin. The show by the Italian Septuagenarian was one of the most highly touted of the festival, and he did not disappoint. The man once dubbed with creating the “sound of the future” proved that tracks he had innovated decades ago sounded as if they could have come out of the EDM scene yesterday. On stage with only the company of his turntables and DJ equipment, Moroder hypnotized the crowd. Giorgio with over forty years of material found no shortage of ways to get the crowd moving. In addition, Mororder himself put moves on display that would make any elderly person at a dance party envious; looking on almost as a proud grandfather happily clapping to the beat and even doing some high level pointing. Watching Moroder maraud through hit after hit it was astounding to witness the impact the man has had on modern music. Finishing his set with the song that reinvigorated his career, Moroder exclaimed to the crowd that this was some of the most fun he has had in career, wrapping up strong with Daft Punk helmed Giorgio by Moroder.
Now that we had been woken up and energy was high, it was time for the night’s headliner Beck to take the stage. Beck at home with the Pitchfork and alternative crowd did not disappoint. Coming out to “Devil’s Haircut”, Beck had no reservations about playing the hits and giving the crowd what they wanted. Hansen dressed in a suit praised the Pitchfork gods for bestowing such ideal weather upon us. After a fun high intensity set playing many hits and the occasional track off his new album, Beck rolled out the police tape and declared the stage a crime scene for what he had done to it. After deeming it safe again to play again, Beck finished out day one with a feedback heavy buzzy bang, sending everyone off into the night in good spirits anxious for the next day of the festival.
Day two got off to a similar start as day one, without a cloud in the sky and calm atmosphere. New York rapper Ka kicked things off with a gruff voice that sounded as if he had spent most of the day before in the front row yelling at his favorite acts. A little later on in the day highly anticipated Cleveland indie rock group the Cloud Nothings, took the stage. A welcomed return act from Pitchfork 2012, the Cloud Nothings jumped right in and tore through hits from their Attack on Memory Album. The band was eagerly met with a barrage of crowd surfers as their fan-base hurled themselves towards the stage for the duration of the set. On the adjacent stage Pusha T was slated to come on, hinting at the impressive hip hop offering of this year’s fest. Unfortunately King Push was late to hit the stage and was close to 30 minutes tardy. This forced the younger half of the Clipse to focus on a couple of his own hits but more so on features of other songs that he has recently been on. Coming off the disappointing showcase of Pusha T the crowd was ready for more, which is exactly what the Tune-Yards were prepared to give. Decked out in neon war paint each Tune Yard emerged with multiple instruments in hand – ready for Pitchfork. The merry band of musicians brought a fun and energetic set. Singing with all the range afforded to her, head lady Garbus sang, banged, and played the electric Ukulele all while she and her friends danced and pranced around the stage. Finishing with their hit “Water Fountain” the Tune Yards had the crowd singing along with them throughout the afternoon. With such a high energy performance, the bar was set very high for the next group and it was a good thing St. Vincent was up to the task. Taking the stage clad in high heel shoes in a precise march Annie Clark and
company were there to perform. Clark graced the stage with a commanding presence affixed with a guitar and an unflinching façade. Working though a rotation of guitars, Clark proceeded to shred each of them throughout the show. Acting as a fembot designed to crush guitar solos, Clark moved across the stage with robotic precision. Riding the increasing wave of energy Clark worked towards the end of a very high energy set by mounting the security guards in front of the stage and floating into the crowd all while playing the guitar at a hypnotically frenetic pace. Emerging back on the stage to finish out the hour, Clark channeled the energy of the crowd into her head, by bashing it into the drum kit. After inflicting sufficient damage Clark returned to the front of the stage still looking flawless, without a single hair out of place to yet again rock her guitar to end a powerful very tight set. This great performance was the perfect set up for the much anticipated reunion of a nineties indie cult favorite, Neutral Milk Hotel. Mangum and friends having years to plan their triumphant return to the world did not disappoint. With a robust brass section, Neutral Milk Hotel ripped through hits off of their two highly regarded indie classics sending a thick vibe of nostalgia through the crowd for many. An interesting headliner for day two of the festival, very much like St. Vincent on before them, they were able to reach most of the crowd through the wide range of music played uniting the crowd for the last show of the day. Yet again, the day two headliner was able to let the Pitchfork crowd leave with a feeling of fulfillment capping off a day of diverse music, but also allow them to be anxious for more on day three.
Day three and bathed in sun, Speedy Ortiz mounted the stage. The indie pop outfit set a light airy mood into the afternoon, rolling through a full set. Coming in to the serene mood that Speedy Ortiz had established was band Perfect Pussy, intent on taking a slight detour. Front woman Graves politely addressed the crowd before turning toward her band and tearing into the heavy sounds her hardcore act trades in. The set was loud, heavy, incoherent, and slightly incomplete. Despite making a lot of noise and dancing around the stage, the performance was lacking. Across the festival Earl Sweatshirt, another act intent disruption was about to go. Joined by fellow OFWGKTA affiliate Domo Genesis, Earl took the stage squashing the rumors that the west coast rapper wouldn’t make the show. With the dismantling of the Death Grips just days before the Festival the loss of Earl would have been a big hit to the show. The rap wunderkind pulled it together and pulled off a tremendous performance. Ripping hit after hit, Earl kept the crowd engaged and excited throughout the set. During his hard hitting set Mr. Sweatshirt sporadically took the time chit chat with the crowd and ask questions as if there weren’t thousands looking on. In true Odd Future fashion the rapper also picked out members of the crowd that weren’t participating correctly and cracked jokes from the stage. Across the park the Dum Dum Girls clad in matching black get ups put together a solid performance. The group put out a good showing, playing through the hits setting a great mood for the afternoon sets. Up next was one of the four T.D.E acts to play the fest, School Boy Q. Q took to the stage to give the crowd a taste of what was to come for the weekends headliner, label mate and west coast collaborator Kendrick Lamar. The man of the year had a captive crowd, having them bounce along and partying with him into the afternoon. As the afternoon started to fade it was time to welcome Pitchfork veteran Grimes to the stage. Setting up camp solo in the middle of the stage Grimes found herself at home flanked by her equipment with an industrial fan sending a strong breeze for the duration of the set. From the second she stepped on stage to the last beat, Grimes was constantly dancing, twisting knobs on her heap of electronics, and all over the stage. Eventually
joined by just two backup dancers, Grimes was able to hold her own and keep the party going all by herself cruising through many of the hits off of her album Visions while also giving the crowd a much anticipated taste of some songs that are in the works. As night fell, the stage was set for Kendrick Lamar as the main event. To set the mood, west coast rap classics were pumped in as crowds started to gather around the main stage from around the grounds. When he was ready, out walked K.Dot to the backdrop of his hit “Moneytrees”. Lamar jumped right into the song with an eager and electrified crowd. Backed by a full band fitting for a headlining tour Kendrick went on to rip through his good kid m.A.A.D city hit. The high energy set was a full multimedia experience, as a video monitor had accompanying visuals either of home-video or music videos to accompany the rapping barrage coming from the stage. During the course of the show Lamar took the time to declare his love for the city of Chicago, even referring to it as his second home. Lamar put on an emotional set that kept the crowd invested and engaged. Having the crowd put their cell phones in the air and receiving and eager sea of light, Kendrick thanked his fans, exclaimed how much love he felt, and closed out a very successful Pitchfork 2014 with a bang.
Written By Abe Mizrahi.