Pitchfork Music Festival Unbiased Review – 2015

Chicago Illinois’ Pitchfork Music Festival rang in the 2015 summer with ten years of contemporary music acts under its belt. Featuring alternative rock performances, rap and hip-hop, electronica, and dance music acts over the years, the festival has also included in its lineup acts from experimental avant-garde rock, hardcore punk, and jazz artists.

This internationally acclaimed event presented over forty bands over a duration of three days. Festival goers paid either $65 for a day pass, or $180 for the full three day pass to enter Chicago’s Union Park for the tenth annual Pitchfork Music Festival in 2015. It was not without it’s share of ups and downs – particularly when it came to the weather, but overall the event was a smashing success.

The Pitchfork Music Festival aims to highlight the cream of the crop in new and emerging artists in a wide range of musical genres, and feature some of the more established international acts we all know and love.

Artists featured on the Pitchfork Music Festival 2015 bill included Chicago’s indie hometown heroes Wilco, the Pacific Northwest’s Sleater-Kinney, and Chance the Rapper headlining 2015’s installment. Other notable artists

Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney

included Canada’s Caribou, American hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, Scottish electronic favourites CHVRCHES, Future Islands, Panda Bear, Canada’s Mac DeMarco, and longtime indie act The New Pornographers.

Also taking to the stage: American singer-songwriter Kurt Vile, Seattle’s Perfume Genius, London’s Jamie xx, Courtney Barnett from Australia, Chicago’s own hip hop recording artist Vic Mensa, Tobias Jesso Jr., Parquet Courts, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, How to Dress Well, The Julie Ruin, Viet Cong (who have, since the Pitchfork Music Festival, pledged to a change of name,) Jessica Pratt, Waxahatchee, ASAP Ferg, Sophie, Natalie Prass, Ought, and Iceage – a Danish punk rock band from Copenhagen. Just to name a few!

The independently operated Pitchfork Music Festival has proven since their 2005 inauguration to be one of the most successful, reasonably priced, and vital weekends of North American musical experiences.

Welcoming more than fifty thousand festival attendees of all ages from forty five different states and twenty six countries, the Pitchfork Music Festival offers a varied array of activities beyond the musical performances. Hosting fifty individual vendors, as well as specialty event fairs, this festival helps to inject a healthy dose of cash into local businesses and economy.

Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival also helps to promote and support the Chicago arts community as a whole, the event maintains a commitment to its patrons in keeping the festival’s ticket prices at a reasonable rate, just enough to ensure they cover costs, provide festival goers with important and beneficial amenities, and working with the city’s local vendors each year.

Concerts aside, the Pitchfork music Festival also hosts a record fair that is both organized and managed by local Chicago community radio station CHIRP Radio. The record fair is an event where people can buy, sell, or trade vinyl records. It’s quite an event for those who are searching for rare records, out-of-print, difficult to find, or limited releases.

 

 

Day One

Mac DeMarco: Mac DeMarco is far from an artist who takes themselves too seriously, and he took to the Pitchfork Music Festival stage on day one, July 17, with a warm and endearing attitude. He was there to have just as much fun as the audience, and his onstage antics loosened up the crowd.

Warming up the Pitchfork Music Festival crowd, DeMarco moved about the stage in theatrical and comical motions, enjoying himself as much as the audience seemed to enjoy watching him. He cracked jokes, made fun of himself, and took the edge off any apprehension the audience may have had going into the event’s first day of performances.

Promoting his new album and then telling the Pitchfork Music Festival crowd he didn’t care if they download a leak, and dedicating his version of Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years” to “all the dads out there” really endeared festival goers to this Canadian singer-songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta.

Whether you like DeMarco’s music or not, it hard not to appreciate his stage presence. Pitchfork  Music Festival featured a lot of musical talents, but DeMarco stood out as the event’s most fun and friendly act.

Panda Bear: Despite Panda Bear, aka Noah Benjamin Lennox’s obvious talent and  large following, his Pitchfork

Panda Bear, aka Noah Benjamin Lennox

Panda Bear, aka Noah Benjamin Lennox

Music Festival set left something to be desired, only because he had the cards stacked against him from the get go. The American experimental musician’s lackluster reception was chalked up to a few factors… a 6:25 p.m. set time,  playing the Green Stage – which is the main stage –  and the fact that Lennox was essentially lost on the large stage by himself, obscured by a mass of wires which obscured most of his face. The set-up didn’t play out as intended, leaving the festival audience detached and easily distracted by anything else that caught their attention during the performance.

It wasn’t that Lennox was pretentiously ignoring his audience and doing nothing – it was merely the dynamic of the Pitchfork Music Festival. Union Park is a very large space demanding a larger stage presence or visual appeal, and it was difficult for audiences to get into the sort of groove necessary to make the performance work while the sun was still beating down. A seemingly standoffish set that was easy to ignore while you made a run for the rest room didn’t engage the audience. It may have been more successful at a later time slot, but one can argue that the music should be able to stand on its own without the need for light shows and inebriation.

Wilco: Taking to the stage as the headliners of Pitchfork Music Festival on Day One, local heroes Wilco gave their fans a gift they couldn’t possibly have imagined experiencing merely 48 hours earlier: A play through their brand new album “Star Wars” just one day after releasing it. The Chicago hometown favorites performed every one of the 11 tracks featured on their ninth album.

Once finished with the run through of their new album, Wilco went on to perform 55 minutes of established favorites. They had played the Basilica Block Party only the weekend prior, so fans weren’t sure they would be experiencing anything new. They had a pleasant surprise, although reactions did seem to be mixed at first. Many Pitchfork Music Festival goers seemed to come for the hits alone, and were satisfied to receive them in the band’s second half of the performance.

 

Day Two

Ex Hex: Unceremoniously cut short, the D.C. garage rock trio Ex Hex was still lucky enough to nail several songs off their set list to the delight of the crowd before having to shut it down. The entire Pitchfork Music Festival was evacuated from Union Park as a torrential downpour began raining down hard on concert goers, crew, equipment and performers.  What started out as a little precipitation soon became great sheets of rain storming down and threatening the safety of everyone in the festival grounds. The great thing that came out of the events that took place? It left the audience wanting more.

Storms had been on the radar for several days preceding the event, yet there apparently were no evacuation plans in place for the festival grounds whatsoever. The predicament left thousands of Pitchfork Music Festival patrons scrambling for their lives out of the downpour and lightning in search of a source of shelter. The situation provided to be great news for anybody sneaky enough to try to enter the festival without any tickets –  you could stroll right back into Union Park without a pass after the rain storm had subsided and security were overwhelmed.

Kurt Vile and the Violators: Kurt Vile’s Pitchfork Music Festival Day Two set was also affected by the rain storm. American singer Vile provided the audience with a most appropriate segue from the storm back into the festival. The only drawback was the shortened set forced upon him by the circumstances that day, which was further made to feel even shorter by the 10 minute long song “Goldtone” taking up a fair chunk of his set.

Shamir: Shamir’s brand of dance music doesn’t seem to quite fit into any particular category, making it a performance to behold, but Shamir’s success is not just due to intrigue in his ability to defy classification. This Las Vegas twenty year old has a way with the crowd, the talent to back it up. After a 45 minute delay, Shamir injected some much needed energy back into the Pitchfork Music Festival and a restless Union Park.

Sleater-Kinney: These pacific northwest indie artists have reached a point in their career that it would almost be excusable for them to not feel the same urgency some of the newer musicians on the bill have to ensure their crowd is well satisfied, but Sleater-Kinney played with the same raw determination and energetic power expected by longtime fans of the Olympia Washington trio. The recent success of Carrie Brownstein’s award-winning satirical comedy TV series Portlandia alongside co-star Fred Armisen, gave Pitchfork Music Festival goers even more reason to want to get in on this longtime indie act’s performance.

Headliners Sleater-Kinney brought such an inspiring amount of enthusiasm and energy to the Pitchfork Music Festival that night, writhing and jumping amid a backdrop of cloth and lights, engaging the audience in their passionate performance.

 

Day Three

Caribou: Canadian electronic artist Dan Snaith, “Caribou” picked up Pitchfork Music Festival’s Sunday electronica set alongside his full backing band who have supported major names like Radiohead. His performance was everything Panda Bear’s wasn’t: An electronic act that engaged the audience and kept the festival goers’ interest. The Caribou band was what helped put Dan Snaith’s performance in a league of its own, each member knowing exactly how to motivate each other and please the crowd, closing their set with their song “Sun.”

Run the Jewels: American hip-hop favourites Killer Mike and El-P brought the Pitchfork Music Festival a much needed quality rap performance after what was widely considered to be somewhat of a disappointing performance by A$AP Ferg the previous night. The well-loved duo put on an extraordinary performance, despite claims that the sound was terrible toward the back of the festival grounds.

Chance the Rapper: Chicago’s own Chancelor Bennett, better known by his stage name Chance the Rapper, closed 2015’s Pitchfork Music Festival with major love to his home city of Chicago, donning a custom Bulls jersey and White Sox hat and bantering lovingly with audiences between songs. The American rapper reflected on what it meant to hail from the city of Chicago, and to express his gratitude for everything the city and supporters have done for him along the path of his successful career.  It was the perfect performance to wrap up another successful year at the Pitchfork Music Festival,