(photos by Broccoli)
This year’s edition of Pitchfork Music Festival was yet another affirmation of what seems to be the event’s main goal: to highlight local and emerging talent, while also appealing to a broader audience with big name headliners and thoughtful experiential curation. Though the weather was not always cooperative, the festival thrived nonetheless with three days of music, art, and more, giving attendees a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of excitement at what’s to come for next year.
My Day 1 began with Standing on the Corner, who surprised audiences with a full stage of musicians joining the band itself, whose boundaries seem to be purposefully blurred in general. I saw the group open for King Krule in Detroit earlier this year, where they made an impression with boundary-pushing musicality and deliberate philosophical intimacy. Having also played a significant role in Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs, the group shows promise in their ability to explore and expand their sound.
I can’t lie, the hip hop acts at this year’s festival were a large part of the appeal of this year’s lineup for me, so seeing the fervent presence of Rico Nasty‘s set was an exciting progression in the day’s schedule. Detroit producer and label head Gulley recently put out a remix of one of Rico Nasty’s songs, which further primed me for a set that was as emphatic as it was well-received.
As an artist to watch out of Chicago since he emerged on the national scene only a few years ago, Valee has since become one of the most recognizable new voices in hip hop, provoking very plausible rumors about his influence on the culture and making extravagant assertions about the price of his produce, among other things. The hometown crowd ravenously awaited the arrival of the artist, who appeared with his signature flaming-red canine companion, and his welcoming reception was proof of his local report and a validation of the type of influence that has has allowed him to successfully make waves in one of modern music’s most competitive genres.
I am admittedly not very familiar with Sky Ferreira‘s music, but I do know that she co-headlined a pretty crazy bill at El Club Detroit on New Years 2017, sharing the night with one of my favorite bands that I discovered at Pitchfork 2015, Iceage. If that meant anything (which I’m still not sure it does given how eclectic that show was), I figured I might like her set, plus I gathered that her elusiveness breeds a fervor in her fans that was palpable from the moment she was supposed to take the stage. She was of course late, and a little flustered (she said as much herself), but the crowd was visibly grateful to see her play and I appreciated the chance to catch a rare performance.
Adding to the list of solid hip hop appearances at the festival was of course Earl Sweatshirt. His three full length albums tell a painfully open story about the progression of his career, from the care-free living in Odd Future’s heyday to the tortured confessional that is I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. That project came two years after Doris, and after another 3+ years we were blesses with Some Rap Songs, a wholesome and triumphant accomplishment for Earl that features some of his best lyricism, laid over jazz samples and live recordings that give a textured and emotionally detailed backdrop for his heroic return. Even if it’s not your favorite type of Earl, you can’t deny that it’s probably Earl’s favorite Earl; and besides, he’s been starting his sets with the RZA-produced “Molasses,” followed by “20 Wave Caps” with Samiyam and Domo Genesis. Spoiler alert: He does Dom’s whole verse too.
Pusha T has been one of the most formidable presences in hop hop for quite some time. Beginning with his days in Clipse and continuing into his massively successful solo career, King Push has consistently proven that legitimacy and raw talent will outlast anything the cheap thrills can bring. His latest album Daytona, made during Kanye’s most recent producing spree in the signature 7 song fashion, is a no-filling thesis on why Push is the God of “Luxury Drug Raps,” and his show in Detroit during the Daytona tour was easily the best rap show I’ve ever seen. His energy at Pitchfork 2019 was calm collected, nothing to prove and ready to show why he has become one of the greats; from “Grindin” to “Mercy” to “If You Know You Know,” his range is undeniable and his thrown is remains functionally unchallenged (sorry Drizzy).
One of my favorite things about music festivals is that I get the chance to see a lot of artists that I might not otherwise see. A full lineup will almost never be appealing to everyone, but I actually appreciate the fact that I end up seeing a lot of acts, many of them notable in one way or another and some that are massive in a realm I’m not familiar with. HAIM would fall into the latter category, being a band that I’ve heard of so many times but that probably wouldn’t convince me to buy a ticket to their headlining tour in my city (for the record, that’s not a diss and really more of a sobering realization that I am not made of money and am still working on creating a writing career out of thin air lol). That being said, I was told by a friend of mine that she thought I would like the way that HAIM performs, and she was right: the synchronized drumming, the sisterly banter, the stripped down version of “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?,” it was all news to me but it was a decisive confirmation that they occupied a well-earned spot as the first day’s headliner.