Saturday at Pitchfork this year has the benefit of being one of the most balanced lineups I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s just heavy hitter after heavy hitter stretched across an entire day. There’s an unfortunate lack of hip hop (with the exception of 700 Bliss), but otherwise a solid amount of guitar-focused music rendered in interesting ways. Those who like a little experimentation in their rock can catch one of the final performances from the Philly band Palm, plus the unclassifiable Vagabon and the deeply moody melodies of King Krule. Black Belt Eagle Scout and MJ Lenderman do a ramshackle folk-adjacent thing, with a little more surging power later from Snail Mail and Julia Jacklin. You can also dance a bit thanks to Panda Bear & Sonic Boom as well as Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul. Then to cap off the night with Big Thief? Chef’s kiss. It’s a bit tough to single out some recommendations out of all these great sets, but somebody’s gotta do it. Read on, and try your best to plan out your day.


A playlist featuring every artist on the 2023 Pitchfork Music Festival lineup

Friday Preview Guide

** = Recommended Artist

[1:00pm – 1:40pm, Green Stage] Deeper

Chicago rock band Deeper have been around for nearly a decade, assuming you’re familiar with the local music scene. They’ve earned a reputation as one of the city’s most talented bands, and after giving us some music on the Fire Talk label, they’ve now signed to Sub Pop for a new album titled Careful! that will be out this September. Some early track previews have showcased some sharp refinements to their angular guitar sound, which tends to fall somewhere between post-punk and psych-rock. I’ve heard people compare them to Deerhunter, and since that band is currently inactive it’s comforting to have Deeper making excellent music. Their live show kicks all kinds of ass too. You’d be wise to show up early on Saturday to see these guys, because they’re only going to get bigger from here!

[1:45pm – 2:25pm, Red Stage] Palm**

Oh man, Palm! What a great and cool band heralding from Philadelphia. Frequently described as experimental art-rock with psychedelic leanings, that’s really because people struggle to box them into pre-defined labels and categories. Sometimes a band just does its own sort of thing and we the listeners are compelled to follow them down whatever rabbit hole they feel like exploring at the moment. Palm have built a career on this, and last year’s Nicks and Grazes really distilled everything wonderful about them into their best record to date. Which is why it felt so unfortunate when they announced a breakup is imminent. Pitchfork will be one of the final chances you’ll have to see them live, so show up early and don’t miss their set!

[2:30pm – 3:15pm, Green Stage] 700 Bliss**

700 Bliss is the project of Philadelphia poet/rapper Moor Mother and New Jersey’s DJ Haram. Together they’ve given us an EP in 2018 and a debut full length Nothng to Declare that was one of last year’s best records. Really their whole vibe is this often harsh sense of experimentalism, where DJ Haram delivers these nasty, loud, discordant beats and Moor Mother nonchalantly raps over them. It’s eloquence in the face of confrontation, and while it can be difficult to listen to at times, there’s also enough accessibility to engage with even the laziest listeners. There are club beats, Caribbean rhythms, and even flashes of R&B mixed in amid the aggro bass and drones. More than anything I’m just interested to see how it all comes together on stage and what kind of a performance it’ll be.

[2:45pm – 3:30pm, Blue Stage] Black Belt Eagle Scout

It’s easy to try and lump the music of Black Belt Eagle Scout (Katherine Paul) in with the sort of spectral “sad girl” rock that’s been prevalent these last few years. Think somewhere in the range of a Lucy Dacus, a Phoebe Bridgers, a Julien Baker (so basically boygenius), but also Mitski and Skullcrusher, as examples. Of course Paul has her own distinct voice, knows her way around a hook, does some exceptional lyrical work, and ties much of her identity to being an indigenous queer person. For my money, her 2019 album At the Party with My Brown Friends marked the sharpest and best thing she’s ever done, despite sanding down some of the more political and harder-driving edges that permeated her debut. While I am slightly worried about the amount of energy a Black Belt Eagle Scout set might bring to Union Park, the music itself should be a joy to hear even if you want to take a break and sit down in the shade by the Blue stage.

[3:20pm – 4:10pm, Red Stage] MJ Lenderman**

MJ Lenderman is a character. Not a character as in “fictional person”, but rather just the kind of person you’d see or hear and think, “Okay wow, he seems interesting.” Last year’s Boat Songs marked something of a step forward for Lenderman, as it was his first recorded in a professional studio after the previous two were done with a barebones home setup. It elevated his alt-country songs to another level, bringing a ramshackle charm to the tragicomic stories that permeate his lyrics. He reminds me a little bit of Mac DeMarco and Kurt Vile, but with a bit of Built to Spill and Drive-By Truckers in the mix as well. Perhaps it’s simply the sheer force of his personality, but Lenderman has built a remarkably strong following over the last year, even more so when you realize he’s also the guitarist in the band Wednesday, who have been having an incredible year themselves!

[4:00pm – 4:45pm, Blue Stage] Vagabon**

If you’re hanging around by the Blue stage on Saturday afternoon, watching back-to-back sets from Black Belt Eagle Scout and Vagabon will be a genuine treat. The two artists have a lot in common, despite having wholly distinct sounds. Talented lyricists that often write about their experiences as POC in the world of indie rock. Voices that stand out for their range and emotional resonance. One of the things I also love about Vagabon is how unafraid she is to experiment a bit, moving beyond a lot of the guitar-focused compositions of her 2017 debut Infinite Worlds to incorporate synths and some choirs, among other things. We’ll be getting a new Vagabon record in September, and if the couple of tracks released from it so far are any indication, we’re in for a real treat and further exploration of new sounds.

[4:15pm – 5:10pm, Green Stage] Panda Bear & Sonic Boom

Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) & Sonic Boom (Peter Kember) have been in each others’ orbits for quite a few years now. Kember is a bit older than Lennox, and his work both as part of Spacemen 3 as well as Sonic Boom were formative influences on both early Panda Bear and Animal Collective recordings. But the two linked up in the early 2010s, as Sonic Boom ended up producing a couple of Panda Bear records. Despite their technical collaborations, they didn’t actually share equal billing on an album until last year’s Reset. It’s a fascinating pastiche of electro-psych that draws a lot from ’60s samples amd generally feels like two incredible artists falling into sync with one another. No doubt they’ll put on a strong set on Saturday, though given their penchant to stand static behind their equipment it may not be the most visually exciting thing to watch.

[5:15pm – 6:10pm, Red Stage] Snail Mail**

Snail Mail is the project of Lindsey Jordan, a singer-songwriter who uses sincerity like a weapon. Her songs are immensely relatable, echoing sorrow and disappointment in a relationship for example, but also clear-headed and armed with the sense that these frustrations are only a minor bump in the road. Both of her albums have been among the year’s best when they were released, even as 2021’s Valentine saw her take things in a more pop-driven direction. She writes with the wisdom of someone at least twice her age, and has built of a strong fan base of mostly young but also some older folks as well. Jordan notably attended Pitchfork Fest in 2014 as a fan in the crowd, then earned an early evening slot on the smaller Blue stage back in 2019. It’s exciting to see her continue to level up and grow as an artist, with this graduation to the Red stage another sign of how far she’s come.

[5:15pm – 6:00pm, Blue Stage] Julia Jacklin

Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin really shouldn’t be forced to face off against Snail Mail for attention in the same time slot. Both artists are remarkably talented lyricists who often sing about love, heartbreak, and life’s general struggles. In an ideal world, they’d tour together because they complement one another so well. But perhaps Jacklin’s music is more suited to a slightly more mature audience, and there are some really exciting and intense build-ups you don’t get quite as much from an artist like Snail Mail. If you ask me, maybe it’d be best if you split your time between stages or just pick whichever you like more. Personally, I’ve seen Snail Mail four times and Julia Jacklin none, so I’m interested to find out exactly what she’ll bring to the table at Pitchfork.

[6:15pm – 7:15pm, Green Stage] King Krule**

It’s tough to precisely describe King Krule’s (aka Archy Marshall) sound. Woozy and lethargic are words that come to mind, but if somebody told me that I’d probably be turned off and not want to hear a single note. Somebody once referred to his music as “ambient grunge” and honestly that’s not far off. But Marshall is a true craftsman when it comes to music. Even when his songs sound like they’ve been given a sedative but are trying like hell to fight against its effects, there’s something rewarding to find on every King Krule record. It’s ultimately his voice and the lyrics that elevate the material most, particularly when frustration gets the better of him. While his last couple of albums haven’t been quite as great as his first two (one could argue fatherhood has mellowed him a bit), his talent remains undeniable. Nobody does it quite like him. And given how rarely he plays shows in the U.S., an appearance at Pitchfork feels like a particular treat.

[6:30pm – 7:15pm, Blue Stage] Yaya Bey**

Last year, Brooklyn-based artist Yaya Bey gave us a masterpiece titled Remember Your North Star. It remains a beautiful and occasionally heartbreaking record, filled with stories, characters, and the sort of specificity you only get through lived experiences. She’s searching for connection, knows there are no easy answers, and allows us to explore that uncertainty with a tour through R&B, jazz, soul, and reggae-infused melodies. This past spring Yaya Bey followed up her best record to date with the Exodus to the North Star EP, essentially expanding on the album, but with a little more hopeful mentality. All of which is to say we’re lucky to have Yaya Bey making music right now, and even luckier she’ll be performing at Pitchfork on Saturday.

[7:25pm – 8:25pm, Red Stage] Weyes Blood

To be clear, I love Weyes Blood. Natalie Mering makes incredible music; just these gorgeous, slow-moving masterpieces that occasionally sojourn into more up-tempo pop-like territory. The last three Weyes Blood albums have ranked quite highly on my “best of” lists the years they’ve come out. My gripe is this: Weyes Blood doesn’t particularly work as a festival act. I’ve seen Mering and her band three times now, and the two non-festival sets were significantly better. It’s really that her music makes you want to sit down and quietly contemplate life, and it’s tough to do that when you’re out in a field with a bunch of people who have been drinking all day. Will Weyes Blood deliver a great set at Pitchfork on Saturday? Undoubtedly. Will it resonate with the festival crowd? I guess we’ll find out.

[7:45pm – 8:30pm, Blue Stage] Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul**

Now here’s a set that should be a whole lot of fun. Belgian duo Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul delivered their debut LP Topical Dancer last year, and it was met with strong praise and placement on numerous “best of” lists. They make electro-pop, most of which you can dance to, but also experimental enough you’ll never be completely sure where a melody is headed until it gets there. That’s part of the charm, along with their often absurdist and wryly funny lyrics on topics you ordinarily shouldn’t be laughing at like racism and misogyny. I’m not saying this could end up being one of the best sets of the weekend, but if you don’t have a great time watching Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul do their thing then maybe you’re the problem.

[8:30pm – 9:50pm, Green Stage] Big Thief**

It’s been a wonder watching Big Thief grow into their own indie monstrosity these last few years. Their last four albums have all made my “best of” lists, and they just keep chugging along like musicians possessed with passion for their craft. Back in 2018, Big Thief made their Pitchfork Music Festival debut on the small Blue stage in the late afternoon. I recall it being one of the most impressive and emotionally stirring sets of the entire weekend. Then just two years ago in 2021, they were back but on the Red stage performing right before headliner Phoebe Bridgers. All respect to Ms. Bridgers, but Big Thief may have given us a slightly better performance. Or at least one with a little more energy despite their usual folk-tinged sound. So yes, I love Big Thief. I am always happy to see Big Thief perform. Do I think they’re popular enough to headline this festival? That’s where I’m a little torn. No doubt they’ve earned it through hard work, determination, and great music, but I don’t think they’re any bigger than they were two years ago in a sub-headlining slot. This is what fate has dealt us, and I will enjoy every second of their set, reservations or not.