Ah yes, the inevitable “weather” day at Pitchfork. Seems like it happens every couple of years. Storms roll through, a bunch of rain falls, and sometimes there’s an evacuation. Such was the case on Saturday this year. It started with an early afternoon delay that shut down Palm’s set. No rain fell, but there was apparently lightning in the area so the music had to stop as a precaution. A couple hours later, everything shut down again, but this time the entirety of Union Park had to be evacuated. That was a particular bummer for fans of Vagabon, Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, as well as Snail Mail. At least Vagabon got a song and a half in before the shutdown. Somewhere around 90 minutes later, the storms had cleared and the festival gates were re-opened. While rain did fall during the pre-headlining sets, the music did not stop, and I’d like to think it made the performances even better. More on that in the recap below. This has been a weather report, basically. Read on to hear about all the great sets that happened on Saturday at Pitchfork!

700 Bliss
700 Bliss, the duo of DJ Haram and poet/rapper Moor Mother, probably shouldn’t have been given one of the main stage slots, even if it was still pretty early in the afternoon. That’s not so much to say they’re undeserving of such a placement, but more that the kind of music they make might be better enjoyed on a smaller scale at somewhere like the Blue stage. As it stood, the Green stage had a small but devoted crowd eager to absorb whatever 700 Bliss might conjure up. And conjure they did, with drones, white noise, industrial rhythms, and other obtuse sounds mixing with issue-focused poetry and rapping. I admired what they were doing, and feel it’s the sort of thing more people need to be exposed to. Perhaps one of these days the world will better understand what art they’re giving to us.

Black Belt Eagle Scout
If the crowd for 700 Bliss was a bit underwhelming, the crowd over by the smaller Blue stage for Black Belt Eagle Scout was the exact opposite (hence why I felt the placements were wrong). Were people really into BBES, or were they simply trying to avoid 700 Bliss? It’s tough to say, but from what I saw, BBES made one hell of an impression. I’ve heard her songs and enjoyed them, but when performed live they felt fresher, rawer, and louder than on record. Plus, an overlooked detail is just how much Katherine Paul shreds on guitar. I walked in a casual fan, and walked out excited to see BBES the next time she comes through town.

MJ Lenderman
Was the crowd for MJ Lenderman massive because of his growing popularity, or was it more because he didn’t really have any time slot competition for a majority of his set? I’d like to think it was the former, particularly since there were so many people cheering loudly and singing along to every song. The man has become a phenomenon in his own right, even as his band Wednesday continues to make major strides this year too. Lenderman’s set was about what you’d expect if you’re familiar with his music. He had a group of dudes playing on stage with him, everyone was dressed kind of like slackers. They played mostly faithful renditions of his songs, with maybe a little extra flair here and there. It reminded me a lot of Wilco. Speaking of which, Spencer Tweedy sat in on drums, which was cool.

Poor Vagabon. She only performed a song and a half before being cut off due to a weather emergency. I witnessed that full song and a half, and it was lovely. Would have loved to have heard more, but such are the fates we’re dealt sometimes. Just wanted to give a shout out to Vagabon because Vagabon is awesome.

Julia Jacklin
Post-weather evacuation as people were still making their way back into Union Park, Julia Jacklin decided to hop on the Blue stage all by herself, even though her time slot had technically passed. The hope was that artists like Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, as well as Snail Mail, might still find their way onto a revised schedule. Instead organizers just gave Jacklin a short set and then continued on with the rest of the day’s schedule as planned. So yes, by my count, Jacklin only got to play four songs. Per her on-stage comment, she skipped right through and only did “the hits”. The crowd for it was huge, and most were singing along. Kind of nice to have that communal moment once the music began again.

King Krule
It felt to me like Archy Marshall (aka King Krule) took the stage at Pitchfork in a bit of a mood. Maybe you could chalk it up to the weather, the storms having just passed and all. Whatever the reason, he seemed angry at his guitar and angry at the world. If you know King Krule’s music, you also know this can only be a good thing. The noise he and his band made coming out of the speakers sounded turbulent and full of fire. His voice was raw, but not in a worn down kind of way. Hitting “Alone, Omen 3” and “Dum Surfer” within the first few songs felt like we were collectively being led to the slaughter. It sounded really fucking awesome and I loved it.

Yaya Bey
I was a little upset Yaya Bey started her set with her single “alright,” mostly because I arrived at the Blue stage during the final 30 seconds and it was the one song I hoped to hear most. It’s typically the sort of song an artist would save until the end! But Bey was not messing around, that much became clear from the get-go. Her songs soared, along with that incredible voice that absolutely drove the Pitchfork crowd nuts. Despite the smiles and great music, Bey also had a lot on her mind. “I feel like we should all just go on strike,” she explained about halfway through her set. “I don’t want to work to live. I have been working to live for too long, and I don’t want to do it anymore. So let me know when the revolution is, because fuck this.” That received a giant cheer, as did the moment when she accidentally flashed the crowd in a wardrobe malfunction from dancing too hard. “Now all of Chicago knows I have pretty titties!” she joked. It was a pretty great performance, too.

Weyes Blood
One of my biggest concerns heading into Weyes Blood’s set on early Saturday evening was whether her generally slower-paced catalog would be difficult to enjoy in a festival setting. Natalie Mering has played Pitchfork a couple of times before, always mid-afternoon and it usually made a good soundtrack for relaxing in the grass. Indeed, as things began with single “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” there was a lethargic element at play that left me wanting more. By the time “Everyday” came in at mid-set, things had perked up considerably. Add in some rain showers, and suddenly there was an almost ineffable magic spreading as Mering twirled around the stage in a caped dress. Then “Do You Need My Love” kicked off a finale trilogy in which a glowing heart activated at the center of her dress, and I couldn’t help but think it was all so cinematic and beautifully poetic leading into the perfectly appropriate closer of “Movies”. I wasn’t bored at all; I was mesmerized.

Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul
If I could have partied with anyone at Pitchfork this weekend, I would have wanted to party with Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul. They delivered the kind of set festivals were built for. The kind of set you wished wouldn’t end, and once it did, you immediately asked when you could do this all again. The rain was coming down, but nobody seemed to care. Adigery and Pupul invited us all into their world, and people just wanted to dance their asses off for 45 minutes. The stage lights were flashing, the beats were hitting hard, and the energy soared in the best possible way. The 1-2 combo of “HAHA” into “It Hit Me” just absolutely slaughtered, particularly as the crowd sang along. Let me know when they come back through Chicago next. I’ll be there.

Big Thief
Perhaps more than any other artist performing all weekend, it was clear that Big Thief has a following. It’s not something you’d notice just walking around the festival – I didn’t see many people wearing Big Thief shirts or anything – but when the band hit the stage to close out Saturday night, the cheers and the sing-alongs were close to deafening. There’s a large number of people who have a deep, deep love for this band, and I admire that passion almost as much as I admire the passion with which the band actually performs. To be clear, Big Thief isn’t the flashiest band around. They stood in a close-knit line at the center of the stage the entire time and had a very basic lighting setup. It wasn’t exactly the most engaging thing to watch. But the songs themselves are rendered so lovingly, and when they pull out numbers like “Certainty,” “Simulation Swarm,” “Not,” and the new single “Vampire Empire,” there’s this extra level they go to that feels very do or die. Like if singer Adrianne Lenker doesn’t get the words out, it’ll obliterate her. Those special moments are what you wait for. Some of the stuff in between doesn’t always hit as well, and a few long pauses between songs for tuning and other nuisances didn’t help either. Overall though? Big Thief set out to prove they earned their headlining slot on Saturday night, and for the most part I’d say it was a success.