Pitchfork Music Festival. The best summer music festival you’ve never heard of. Well, at least once upon a time. The beloved indie fest celebrated it’s ten year anniversary this year. Ten years of pierced noses tipped high, of bands your friends have never heard of — ten years of them actually getting it right. As much as we all like to knock Pitchfork, they usually come out on top because the majority of the time, they know what the fuck they’re talking about.
Union Park remains a prime choice for a festival with its just-right size, it keeps each stage and most vendors within sight, and no bathroom or bar ever seems too far away. The festival garnered three stages, the larger stages — Red and Green — side-by-side, alternating with the smaller, shade drenched Blue stage.
Friday’s temperatures hit the high 90s which made the free water at the festival a saving grace. Saturday was a flashback to Governor’s Ball 2013 with a sudden torrential downpour in the afternoon causing event producers to temporarily shut down the festival (preemptively avoiding a Randall’s Island fiasco). And finally Sunday, the last and most perfect day, weather in the low 80s with a perfect summer breeze.
Pitchfork’s first inaugural show in 2005 featured artists such as Broken Social Scene, Andrew Bird, and The Decemberists. Time will only tell what lies ahead for our favorite acts. Here’s our breakdown of the unforgettable sets of Pitchfork 2015.
- Dragonflies magically buzzing around overhead.
- FREE WATER
- FLOR, a modular carpet design company gave out free “tiles” at the festival creating a perfect landing for your booty.
- Mac Demarco couldn’t give zero fucks if you rip his new album for free.
- Courtney Barnett wore shorts onstage for the second time ever.
- Wilco released a surprise album entitled “Star Wars” on Saturday and played it in its entirety.
- $6 Goose Island.
- Sleater Kinney, period.
Our favorite rogue Canadian, Vice-Roy poster boy, and riff monster, Mac Demarco played exactly the show you expected he would. The 25-year-old star of the Captured Tracks label really blew up upon his 2014 release of Salad Days. Demarco and his rag-tag crew had their usual fun –teasing the Red Hot Chili Peppers who were up next and leading the crowd in Happy Birthday to his beloved long-time girlfriend, Kiki.
While his set was mainly split between Salad Days and some of his older favorites from 2 and beyond, he did play a couple new tracks off his upcoming release, “Another One” that leaked a couple weeks ago. In true Mac fashion, Demarco made a point of stating he couldn’t give less of a shit if you download it for free. Be sure to listen to the last track of his new album, “My House by the Water” in its entirety. He could be making you a cup a joe before you know it. (Maria Bhim)
Those looking for some angsty post-punk (or just not fucking Wilco) found their way to the Blue Stage for Friday night’s last set. The crowd belted as Montreal quartet took the stage, only to realize they were meekly setting up their instruments. Even with their recent critical acclaim and attention that followed, it was great to witness a DIY spirit in them. Each song has it’s own special way of frantically building tension until Wheeler’s eventual manic release.
Ought played us two songs from their upcoming September release, Sun Coming Down, including their newly released (almost) 8-minute single “Beautiful Big Sky” and another stellar track that went unnamed. “Habit” and “The Weather Song” sent the crowd into instantaneous motion. As their set was coming to an end, Wheeler eased in the mic and let the crowd know that he’d let us go soon to catch the end of the Wilco set. Some booed, few left, most stood eagerly waiting for the next three songs. And those that did were rewarded with the most riotous version of “Gemini” I’ve ever heard. (Maria Bhim)
Chvrches came on strong and stayed that way for their entire set. Electronic beats drove danceable tempos underneath Mayberry’s playful voice and served up joy for the entire crowd. Not all electronic music works well in a festival environment, but being in a crowd outdoors on a beautiful summer day was the perfect way to experience their music. Concert-goers shared huge grins as the band led them through uplifting anthems delivered by Mayberry’s charisma and synthesized joy. (Kurt Drury)
Playing one of the first opening sets at a festival is hard for any artist, especially for one with a voice as delicate as Jessica Pratt’s. When she took the stage, it turned out that hearing her would be a strain. Then, about three songs in, the baseline from ILOVEMAKONNEN boomed from the next stage over. Pratt’s voice wavered, looking for something to bounce off against. But she never found it, and she knew it, because she cut the set off early. (Danielle Fleischman)
On her recently released “Ivy Tripp,” Crutchfield sounds like an artist about to find her voice. On stage, her voice looses that fearless quality and she becomes just another track on a generic American singer playlist. Perhaps, it was because Pitchfork placed her on one of their bigger stages, but she seemed surpassed by the vastness of her own set. Crutchfield is still a young artist with a lot of promise, so maybe she just needs a little more time to get her insecure sound to confidently fill a room. (Danielle Fleischman)
Noah Lenox took the stage on a humid afternoon and transformed Pitchfork into a jungle dance party. As his stage name and alma mater (the hipster powerhouse Animal Collective) suggests, Lenox borrows heavily from the influence of nature. Bird chirps, monkey hollers and swamp sounds all puncture his electronic leaning music. But most impressive is Lenox’s voice, which blends in with the instrumental beat like an impossible tribal chant.
On the screen behind Lenox was an almost too on the nose reference to his new album “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper,” with an oddly psychedelic grim reaper pointing a skeleton finger into the crowd, beckoning them to come hither. (Danielle Fleischman)
Courtney Barnett may only be 27 years old, but this firecracker from the down under knows how to hold down a stage. With only four years experience in the mainstream of indie music, Barnett took her cut off shorts and guitar and played one of the most rock and roll sets of Pitchfork. Barnett’s witty lyrics and deadpan singing was a perfect accent to the energy of her music. She pleased both new fans and old by playing a healthy selection of songs from her two albums. (Danielle Fleischman)
One can always expect a great show from Future Islands. Sam Herring is a born entertainer and like him or not, it is truly difficult to tear your eyes away when he is onstage. Though this was my fourth time seeing the band, it was my first time to see them play an outdoor venue. And through and through, their best shows are at night, indoors, music up. The weight of Gerrit Welmers’ synth only carries so far and as I found myself farther back in the crowd for this show, the sound washed out in front of me. But alas, Future Island fans are die-hard and good vibes still managed to transfer through the crowd. (Maria Bhim)
Of the plentiful riot girl representation at P4F this year, Kathleen Hanna took the Blue stage Saturday afternoon as the fucking godmother. With 25 years of feminism & punk rock behind her, and responsible for the origins of both Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, Hanna bears the torch for many including Sleater Kinney and Courtney Barnett. “I am 46 years old,” Hanna announced half-way through her set, and though the greater crowd was watching Waxahatchee on a bigger stage, the Julie Ruin truly had the greater show. Concert-goers informally attended an episode of VH1’s Storytellers as Hanna prefaced most songs with either a story, a lesson, a joke, usually some combination of the three. The sincerity of her stories truly juxtaposed the mocking nature of her voice as she wailed ferociously in every song. (Maria Bhim)