If you’re attending all three days of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and are anything like me, by the time Sunday rolls around you’ll wake up even though your body will definitely not want to. The thought that you’ll have to spend another full day standing around will seem like the worst idea in the world. Take an extra hour to rest if you must, but then you’ve got to push through and get moving, because music waits for no human. Which brings me to a couple of quick tips on surviving your weekend at Pitchfork without winding up in a medical tent or the hospital. Priority one is hydration. It’s going to be hot outside, and you’ll be standing on your feet for extended periods of time, so do yourself a favor and drink plenty of water. Save the majority of your alcohol consumption for the early evening hours when it starts to cool down. The next tip is to sit and find shade whenever possible. Yes, you want to see as many artists as up close and personal as possible, but don’t put your body at risk any more than you feel you have to. You know your limits, so be sure to keep close attention on how you’re feeling and rest when and where you can. You’ll still be able to hear the music while seated under some shady trees, even if it’s across the big field in Union Park. Wear sunscreen and bug spray. You know why, and will pay the price for forgetting. Lastly, be prepared for weather. I’ve already mentioned the heat, but currently the forecast is suggesting scattered storms pretty much the entire weekend. Definitely don’t forget a poncho, and consider an umbrella too even though you’ll likely annoy fellow fest-goers if you leave it up while standing close to a stage. Also, mud. If it rains, Union Park will turn into a large mud pit, so wear appropriate shoes you’re okay with potentially trashing at the end of the weekend. So that pretty much wraps up my Pitchfork tips. Join me after the jump for the Sunday Preview Guide!
If you missed my previous Pitchfork Music Festival 2015 posts, go here to hear/see/download songs from every artist on this year’s lineup. If you’ll be at Union Park on Friday, you may want to look over my preview guide for that day by going here. Last but not least, go here for my preview guide for Saturday.
Note: Artists are color coded by stage. All artists marked with a ** are the recommended pick(s) for that particular hour of the day.
Bitchin Bajas [1:00]
Single Mothers [1:00]**
As you wander into Union Park on early Sunday afternoon, your eyes half open as you ride the struggle bus, what’s required is something to wake you up. Sure, a good dose of caffeine might help, as would a hit from a defibrilator. In lieu of or perhaps in addition to those things, a loud and raucous band might be the perfect prescription. Of course it could also make a hangover worse. So I suppose who you see as your first band of the day should be dependent on how you’re feeling and what you’re in the mood for. It’s the third day in a row a Chicago artist has the opening set, and Bitchin Bajas are built for the relaxed calm early Sunday might bring. Their sound is best described as 60’s-style psychedelic, with a majority of songs drifting with hazy purpose for a good 10 or so minutes. If you want to take a nap on the grass somewhere, it should be nice even though their music isn’t exactly intended as a sleep aid. If you’re high, it should be great as well. But say you want to get your blood pumping and maybe even find a mosh pit. Single Mothers have you covered there. Their muscular punk rock sound and highly intelligent yet dark lyrics are set to feed the need for aggression. Whether you choose to embrace it is entirely up to you. I’d argue that Bitchin Bajas are the better band on record, but Single Mothers are the better band for a music festival like this one.
Viet Cong [1:45]**
So I’ve got a little project going called The Class of 2015, in which I keep a close eye on 10 artists I’m expecting to do big things this year. Three of those artists are playing sets on Friday (Natalie Prass, Jessica Pratt and Tobias Jesso Jr.), and two are playing sets on Sunday…right around the exact same time. Yes. both Viet Cong and Mourn are two of the most promising new bands you’ll hear in 2015. You should watch as much of both of their sets as possible, though as the ** indicator shows, I’m giving Viet Cong the official recommendation for this time slot. Here’s some kind of justification as to why. I was lucky enough to see Viet Cong perform earlier this year, and that set falls among my Top 3 shows of 2015 so far. Their self-titled debut album is a glorious work of post-punk that’s equally punishing, beautiful and experimental. Their 11-minute album (and set)-closing opus “Death” leaves my jaw on the floor every single time I hear it. If you had the chance to listen to and enjoy the band Women when they were around, most of their key members make up Viet Cong, which is yet another reason to love them. As for Mourn, they’re a group of teenagers from Spain who listened to a lot of 90’s PJ Harvey and Sleater-Kinney growing up, and have taken to that sound with exceptional power. Their self-titled debut album is ferocious but also remarkably immature in the best sort of way. It’s a great reminder of what it felt like to be young, alive and ready to take on the world, just as soon as we can get past that fight with our best friend and that ex who treated us so poorly. This will be Mourn’s first show in Chicago, and considering how much attention they’re starting to pick up, it definitely won’t be their last. Expect their set to be very fun and full of youthful energy, which should earn them even more new fans.
The Julie Ruin [2:50]**
This is a nightmare for feminism. Both Waxahatchee and The Julie Ruin offer some of the strongest female voices all weekend, and they’re overlapping one another. Waxahatchee is the work of Katie Crutchfield, who’s put out three great albums in the last few years. Her highly confessional lyrics matched with heavy 90’s-style alt rock guitars makes for a powerful combination both on record and in a live setting. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen her and her band a couple of times recently, and she puts on a really great show. Of course it’s not quite the wild spectacle The Julie Ruin are set to put on. The band led by former Bikini Kill frontperson/all-around legend Kathleen Hanna were forced to drop out of last year’s Pitchfork Fest when Hanna had a Lyme disease relapse. She’s all better now, and I’ve got a feeling they’ll want to give the crowd a little extra effort as an apology. Then again, even a standard Julie Ruin show is a party. Their sound reminds me of The B52’s but with heavier guitars, more screaming and no Fred Schneider. If you don’t want to dance along to feminist anthems with a light touch of punk rock rebellion, then maybe you should just go home. Whether you like their music or not, there’s something truly special about Kathleen Hanna. You need to see her perform at least once in your life, if only to say you saw such an icon in person.
Madlib & Freddie Gibbs [3:20]
Perfume Genius [3:45]**
The first sign of hip hop on Sunday comes in the form of a collaborative set between Madlib and Freddie Gibbs. Together the two are unofficially referred to as MadGibbs, and their 2014 album together Piñata was met with some of the strongest reviews of either artists’ career thus far. They inspire one another, or rather Madlib’s experimental beats/melodies push Gibbs to explore new lyrical territories and styles. In the end it’s a talent showcase of the highest order. As for what can be expected from their Pitchfork set, they’ll likely divert a bit from the standard crowd pleasing anthems that populate other hip hop shows to instead offer a journey that touches on soul, funk, R&B and prog as Gibbs adapts to each. There will be energetic fun stuff, but also slower, somber moments of reflection too. Similar things could be said about Perfume Genius’ set, though Mike Hadreas, the man behind the moniker, makes music that’s pretty much the antithesis of hip hop. While he’s primarily been known for the somber piano ballads that populated his first two full lengths, 2014’s Too Bright saw him taking a decidedly pop turn. There are moments of triumph and celebration as he fully embraces his own unique personality and place in this world. Synths, guitars and beats build to releases and strong, memorable hooks. Quite frankly it’s exciting to hear him become this force of nature, and it feels that much more earned when watching these songs performed live. I’m not entirely sure how well his show is going to work in a mid-afternoon outdoor festival setting, but if anyone can pull it off, Hadreas can.
Courtney Barnett [4:15]**
How to Dress Well [4:45]
Courtney Barnett has spent the last year growing into stardom. It’s something that was always waiting in the wings following the release of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas in the fall of 2013, but didn’t officially start gaining real traction until about a year later. I feel lucky to have seen her completely underplay at the 160 capacity Schubas last July, followed by a packed house at the 1,100 capacity Metro three months later. With the release of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit in March, the spotlight on her has reached a fever pitch. Yet she’s handling it like she does everything, with a smile and a relaxed attitude. While her rock songs and signature talk-singing are very strong, what truly pushes her into another realm is her incredible guitar work. It’s weirdly subtle when you watch her play, but if you focus exclusively on the audio it quickly rises to the surface. Between her high energy, great sounding performances and the summery vibes her songs evoke, Barnett was made to excel at outdoor festival shows like Pitchfork. How to Dress Well, by comparison, should put on a nice set of experimental R&B. Chicago’s own Tom Krell is the man behind the name, and over the course of three albums he’s really gained a lot of confidence and come a long way from the very insular minimalist arrangements that initially earned him attention and a fan base. As his voice pushed to the front of the mix, the beats became more insistent and the hooks that much stronger. Last year’s “What Is This Heart?” was the most critically acclaimed of his career thus far, and it might be considered more pop than R&B. I’m intrigued to see what his live show is like today as a result. Expect it to be good, just not quite at the same level as what Courtney Barnett will be doing.
Jamie xx [5:15]**
As the sun begins to set on the final day of Pitchfork 2015, the festival will enter into a two-hour electronic block. The guitars will be put away for a majority (or the entirety) of Jamie xx’s set, that’s for sure. His album In Colour is one of this year’s best releases, and contains two songs that might as well be considered summer anthems. It’s a lot more fun and upbeat than his more collaborative efforts as part of The xx, though it remains a fun question mark wondering if his bandmate Romy will show up at Union Park to contribute some vocals and guitar. Let’s say there’s about a 50/50 chance of that happening, which would provide that much more compelling of a reason to check out his set. Things should be nearly as fun over on the Blue stage, where Chris Clark aka Clark will likely be pumping out BPM’s at a rate to keep you dancing for 45 minutes straight. The guy’s an extremely talented producer with a massive catalog, but I can’t help but wonder how well his knob twisting behind a table full of equipment is going to go over in the late afternoon where a light show is rendered ineffective. Similar things could be said about Jamie xx, but at least he’s got plenty of guest vocals and more traditionally structured songs to work with. If you love to dance, you’re sure to find something to your liking during this hour.
A.G. Cook [6:45]
Choosing between Caribou and A.G. Cook is a lot more difficult than it might appear to be on paper. Though Dan Snaith pieces together every aspect of every Caribou album, there’s a sharp difference between how each song is composed on record versus how it all comes together on stage. Instead of sitting behind a laptop or other pieces of button-based music technology, Snaith employs a full band to recreate every track and sample live. There’s something refreshing and exciting about taking that approach with electronic music. The use of live drums in particular can inject new life into an otherwise sterile track. It’s much more interesting to watch too. The band is the primary reason why I’m recommending you don’t miss Caribou’s set, though A.G. Cook will definitely be doing some interesting things on his end of the park too. As head of the digital label PC Music, Cook is arguably the leader of the future pop movement populated by names like Sophie, Hannah Diamond, Danny L Harle and QT. As such, his hyperactive and innovative take on modern pop is blissfully fun and insanely memorable. Should you get close enough to the Blue stage to actually hear what’s being played, don’t be surprised if a chorus winds up in your head and stays there a few days. Of course you may also become annoyed at Cook’s very alien and nontraditional approaches, as his music is not for everybody. So in short, Caribou will be hosting a live band dance party with a few tempo drags, while A.G. Cook will be blasting super happy sugar-coated pop that might rot your teeth and/or brain.
Run the Jewels [7:25]**
Todd Terje & The Olsens [7:45]
There’s no better opener for Chance the Rapper that I can think of than Run the Jewels. The duo of Killer Mike and El-P have put out two of the best hip hop records in recent memory, and offered both up for free download because they’re super cool/nice guys too. Their energy, their interplay, their personalities…all of it works, especially when they’re together on stage. The handful of times I’ve been lucky enough to have seen them could be regarded as performance clinics. Not only are they a whirlwind of beats and rhymes, but they manage to pump up the crowd through a cocktail of humor, insincere insults and issue-based messaging. Yes we can have fun and make fun of our friends, just don’t take it too far or put yourself into a dangerous or violent situation. Make sure everything you do comes from a place of love for yourself and your neighbor. That’s something we can and should all get behind. If you spent the previous two hours of your day at Pitchfork dancing up a storm and wish to continue doing so, Norwegians Todd Terje & The Olsens are happy to help. Last year’s It’s Album Time was a very compelling collection of experimental electronic music that often veered into unexpected territories. One minute you’re dancing to a nice disco tune, then it hangs a left into cocktail lounge territory, followed by a bit of elevator music (muzak), a touch of surf rock, and then tropical beach island rhythms. The WTF-ness of it all was part of the fun, but his ability to blend all of those different styles and genres proved his masterful grasp on music in general. After watching some live videos, it seems like Terje is able to make everything work thanks to the aid of his band The Olsens, who play a wide variety of instruments (including bongos, marimbas and chimes) to cover every whim that might strike them. You can bet it’ll be a good time, just probably not as good of a time as Killer Mike and El-P will be delivering on the other side of the park.
Chance the Rapper [8:30]**
This year’s Pitchfork Music Festival starts and ends with Chicago. Chance the Rapper has really made a name for himself in the three or so years since we first heard his mixtape Acid Rap. In 2013, Lollapalooza booked him for a late afternoon set at a tiny side stage, and it overflowed with so many people that major walkways and arteries in Grant Park were blocked. Last year they brought him back, and he headlined Sunday night on the massive Perry’s stage, which was pretty much packed to the gills once again. And this was all without an actual album out! You could call Surf, the record released at the end of May, the first official Chance the Rapper album, but it was released for free on iTunes and credited to Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment. So I don’t know what to think. Expect to hear a bunch of Surf tracks during Chance’s festival-closing set at Pitchfork. Expect to hear plenty of Acid Rap too. There’s probably a bunch of other stuff he’ll pull out as well. One of the things I learned in the three times I’ve seen him perform is that as his profile as an artist has grown, his sound and his band only get bigger. That’s great because they’re all talented musicians, but it also takes away a little bit from the raw power and talent that Chance puts on display. The band doesn’t outshine him, they just take the some of the pressure off of him to fully deliver a show worthy of his name and brand. While I didn’t find much wrong with Chance’s set the last time I saw him, lots of people around me were complaining that he kept letting the band jam for lengthy periods and bringing out guests, which kept his actual rapping to a minimum. If Surf is the main focus of this Pitchfork set, I can envision that happening again. At his heart though, Chance the Rapper is arguably the most talented hip hop artist to come out of Chicago since Kanye West. His recorded work speaks for itself, with the sort of creativity and innovation needed in the genre today. There’s no reason to think he won’t deliver that same quality on the stage at Union Park. I’m very excited about it, and you should be too.
Check back all weekend for daily Pitchfork Music Festival recaps!
Preview Guide: Friday | Saturday | Mixtape/Audio Streams