Best New Music - Pitchfork Music Festival 2k19
Ah, Pitchfork Music Festival, the reliable 3 day excursion in Chicago where we all stop pretending we're not being spoon-fed by this website and give into seeing all the band's we were told to listen to, lining the pockets of the impressive journalistic machine that is Pitchfork.
I've been on and off since freshman year of college in 2008. This year my childhood music bud Jeff and I met up for the weekend, and I got to see Saturday and Sunday's sets.
And let me tell you... It fucking ruled.
Lala Lala totally impressed early on. Their sound had a ton of depth and the dynamics of their songwriting and performance changed a lot between songs. One chorus felt krautrock-y as it was chanted by the entire band. Another felt like a 50’s pop song, with a saxophone blaring a smooth melody as the band sang about lost love or something. It was really good, the highlight being their cover of Perfume Genius’s Slip Away. It felt like the perfect cover, being performed by the band gave it a huge, Arcade Fire at their most dramatic feel. Sometimes it's hard to see the continuum in rock music, and this performance helped me see it. It felt like Lala Lala are a band crafting their own sound with familiar elements.
Caught the tail end of Ric Wilson's set. He was really fun, having us do a huge congo line during one of his last songs. It felt like a performance where he needed to win over the crowd and totally did.
CHAI was next and they were just so lovely! They delivered on pretty much everything I wanted, being cute and charming as they danced over a backing track in these flamingo looking hoodies and then being epic and dancey, almost like a Phantagram or Kero Kero Bonito.
So then it got weird. We chilled in the shade for awhile and then caught Parquet Courts. I was feeling them pretty hard. They were tearing through a set list that was similar to the last time I saw them. But the vibe was great, and I originally was far back but decided to rush the pit.
I’ve seen Parquet Courts three times now, once in 2017 after Human Performance, and then again in 2019 after they released Wide Awake. I personally resonated with Human Performance more, and by the time 2018 came around I was sort of over Parquet Courts. Their songwriting topics had changed from being very personal to being a bit more outwardly focused. I was still dealing with a fair amount of emotional turmoil in 2017, so it was music that hit at the right time. In 2018 I still wasn’t ready for songs about the instability around us, and felt like it was a less interesting direction for the band to go on. Punk songs had always been about politics, but hearing them about one's own emotional issues felt refreshing. But a year later, I’m in a better place and our country is in a worse place. Chanting along to “Total Football” felt right. Turns out I’m pretty fed up, and this felt like an anthem for that feeling.
Unfortunately the set got caught short, right in the middle of “Wide Awake”. I had been staying towards the back for most of the set, but couldn’t contain myself and rushed the pit right after "Dust". Wide Awake hit after a relatively chill portion of their set, and damn we were ready for it. Everyone was jumping up and down. Then the sound got cut, except the band's monitors. The announcer tells us we got twenty minutes to leave the premises. Meanwhile the band is raging on. The announcement ends and the band is still playing. You could feel the sound team wonder what to do, put the music back on the main speakers or let the band keep playing only to themselves. I’m imagining they felt how badly we wanted to just let out for the rest of this song and granted us that. Everyone suddenly is jumping with the weight of 4 performances for the minute we had left.
So we bounced, and it started pouring. We were soaked, and schlept back to the hotel.
We washed up and went to a bar. We were about to order some grub when we got the tweet that the doors were gonna reopen in 30. So we hailed a Lyft and ran back in to catch Freddie Gibbs.
Now, Ive seen rap music at Pfork before, and have always been underwhelmed. I saw MF Doom lipsync a set a few years back. I also saw Odd Future right when they hit, and while it was fun and high energy, I wasn't super into it. I probably even saw Das Racist awhile back, and definitely saw Big Boi. Hell I even saw A Tribe Called Quest two years ago. The thing with Pfork is it's very white, especially on nights where esteemed and aged indie rock bands perform pandering sets to older hipsters (looking at you Belle and Sebastian). What I want to see is a rapper come out and try to win that crowd, and on that front I think Freddie Gibbs killed it. He's not a hipster rapper, he's a thug that makes good rap music. But since he's not a hipster, he's gotta get the crowd to bend a little. And he did. He went accapella a ton throughout the set, which got the crowd super into it. He also had a hype man, and had a ton of family on stage. It was great. It was kinda funny cause some of his family were not getting into it, like they were just kinda chilling there. But Jeff left the set really upset. He was expecting the crowd to be more into it, and he was let down by their relative lack of enthusiasm.
Anyways, I bounced before Freddie played some song from his latest album for the second time to get a good spot for Belle and Sebastian.
They were great. I saw them a few years back and that really satisfied the itch I had to see them. Despite playing If You're Feeling Sinister the entire way through, my favorite album of theirs, my favorite song they performed was probably Party Line, during their unplanned encore. It was really impressive how dance-y they got, especially after hearing their first album not really contain any of that.
Finally, it was time to time travel and see the Isley Brothers. My millennial ass hasn't even heard of them, but they apparently we're a big deal. Their set was a pleasant, groovy throwback to 60's jingle jangle pop, and they played some energetic versions of songs we all couldn't even pretend to not know. It got a little muddied trying to figure out what they had written and what they were covering, but we were all really into it.
That was day one. I'll post some thoughts about Sunday's performances soon.