Oh baby, Sunday (9/12) was a fun one at Pitchfork Music Festival 2021. Here’s a bunch of photos from the day, organized in alphabetical order by artist: Andy Shauf, Caroline Polachek, Cat Power, Danny Brown, Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, Keiyaa, Mariah the Scientist, oso oso, Thundercat, The Weather Station, and Yves Tumor. Check them out below!
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Please enjoy this collection of photos taken on Saturday (9/11) of Pitchfork Music Festival 2021. It includes the following artists, in alphabetical order: Amaarae, Angel Olsen, Bartees Strange, Divino Nino, Faye Webster, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Horsegirl, Jamila Woods, Kim Gordon, Maxo Kream, RP Boo, St. Vincent, Ty Segall, and Waxahatchee. You can find them all below!
Here’s a collection of photos taken on Friday (9/10) of Pitchfork Music Festival 2021. It includes the following artists, in alphabetical order: Animal Collective, Big Thief, black midi, DEHD, Dogleg, Ela Minus, The Fiery Furnaces, Hop Along, Kelly Lee Owens, Phoebe Bridgers, The Soft Pink Truth, and Yaeji. Continue past the jump to see them all!
After two long days of live music, I needed a little extra rest in order to make it through Sunday at Pitchfork intact. Unfortunately, that meant missing an act like Special Interest, who I was excited to see but also had one of the first sets of the day. I’m sure Tomberlin would have been wonderful too, but it just wasn’t quite meant to be this time. Here’s a recap of all the artists I did end up seeing on Sunday, which basically amounts to everyone else on the lineup.
I arrived at Union Park a little bit into KeiyaA‘s set, which was going strong on the Green stage. Upon wandering over and listening to a handful of songs, it was generally quite lovely. She had a three-piece band with her, which I think helped flesh out the R&B songs from her album Forever, Ya Girl a bit more than the recorded versions. While that generally meant a more energized delivery, and KeiyaA’s voice was operating at full power, I’m still not sure it was enough to really grab my attention and snap me out of an early Sunday afternoon haze. The sun was out, a breeze was blowing through, and I just wanted to sit down somewhere and relax to her music.
Meanwhile oso oso looked a little crowded together on the Blue stage. They’re not a large band by any stretch of the imagination, but their multi-guitar attack paired with a singer just looked like there wasn’t much room to move around. They tried though, which is more than I can say for the crowd watching them. oso oso songs are fun pop-punk throwbacks, and should have inspired some jumping around. Maybe a mosh pit or crowd surfing too. Instead, everyone just kind of stood there and listened as the band tried to liven things up a bit. Maybe it was successful early on in the set (which I missed), but the last few songs were met with a lot of crossed arms and shrugs.
Guitars and powerful voices were the two things that absolutely dominated Pitchfork on Saturday. There were great sets all around, but especially in the early and late parts of the day. Here’s a comprehensive summary of all the amazing things I witnessed during Day 2 of the festival.
Technically speaking, Chicago trio Horsegirl only have three songs to their name so far. It was enough to get them signed to Matador Records, but not enough to fill a 40 minute festival set opening up Saturday at Pitchfork. The great news is that Horsegirl do in fact have more than just three songs, and they played enough of them to prove there’s lots more greatness to come. Despite forming shortly before the pandemic and not having a lot of live shows under their belts, they still managed to sound better and operate more tightly than bands who have been around for a while. Their unique blend of shoegaze and post-rock might have felt more at home under cloudy skies and stormy conditions, but a sunny day with a cool breeze was almost as effective. Can’t wait to hear/see what they do next.
Speaking of up and coming talent, Bartees Strange came charging right out of the gate like he had something to prove to an early afternoon crowd at Pitchfork. Rest assured, if anyone there hadn’t heard of him prior to his set, they absolutely knew who he was by the end of it. The man is a multi-talented wonder, capable of thrusting his guitar into the air while tearing into a killer solo as well as singing with deep conviction through an energized rock song or a tender ballad. He played most of the songs from his debut album Live Forever, most of which sounded as good if not better than the recorded versions thanks to his beefed up band. He also covered The National’s “Lemonworld”, which was part of his early 2020 EP featuring five songs from the popular indie band titled Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy. “Boomer” wrapped things up and sent the crowd into an excited frenzy. Expect bigger stages and better time slots for Bartees Strange in the very near future.
Pitchfork Music Festival made its glorious return to Union Park on Friday afternoon, two years and two months later than usual. In that time, some things have changed.
The pandemic is the main point of concern, as it resulted in the festival’s cancellation last year and could very well have canceled it again this year were a number of safety precautions not in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. Among those precautions? Requiring all attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken at an approved vendor within 24 hours of entry. Masks are also strongly encouraged. By all accounts, everyone in attendance followed proper procedure, and there were no major hiccups at the entrance gate (outside of a very long line). Once inside, I was pleased to see that close to 50% of people were wearing their masks when not actively eating or drinking. Unfortunately that percentage dropped significantly the larger the crowd got throughout the day. By the end maybe 25% of people kept their masks on, which honestly is still better than Lollapalooza back in July, where fewer than 10% of people were masking. Lolla didn’t result in a super spreader event (that we know of…), so hopefully the same holds true at Pitchfork.
Outside of the pandemic, everything else was nearly exactly the same as previous years. There’s a basketball court behind the Green stage that typically has snacks/fun booths from sponsors and such, but this year that area is covered by a large tent and has picnic tables inside instead. In fact, there appear to be far fewer sponsors this year overall. No booths giving out free bottles of antioxidant flavored water or kefir ice cream or custom screen printed shirts. Goose Island is the beer sponsor. White Claw has their own area, as does Door Dash. Not a whole lot else beyond that. Same goes for food vendors. There are about 5-6 booths when there would normally be a minimum of 8-10. It’s a bit weird to see things stripped down that much.
Lastly, there are fresh signs of gentrification in the area. Right between the Red and Green stages, you can see three brand new high rise buildings under construction, located about 2-3 blocks away. Let’s hope it doesn’t have any effect on park business such as the multiple music festivals (including Pitchfork) that happen there every year. I get the feeling new residents might not like loud music blasting up to their balconies for multiple weekends each summer.
So that’s the basic outline of what’s new at Pitchfork this year. Now let’s get to the music. Here’s a recap of the performances I witnessed over the course of Friday. It was a pretty solid day overall, with a couple of real standout sets.
And just like that, the 2021 Pitchfork Music Festival officially kicks off tomorrow afternoon. It’s been a long road to get here, and things will certainly feel a bit different this year, but let’s appreciate the fact that it’s able to happen. My introduction to the Sunday preview guide always includes tips on how to enhance your festival experience, so here’s the 411. If this were happening in mid-July as usual, I’d say that your top priority should be staying hydrated. Technically that remains true in September too, just the temperatures will be more manageable and you won’t be sweating as much. Drink plenty of water and you’ll feel better every day. Wear sunscreen and bug spray. It seems obvious, but people forget. Bring a poncho, ideally one you can keep folded in your pocket. Rain is always a possibility, even if it’s just a pop up shower. And of course have your mask and either a proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test at the ready because you won’t get in without them.
If you’re not interested in watching performances all day long and need a bit of a respite, there are other activities on the grounds of Union Park to distract yourself. There are lots of food and beverage options. You can stop by sponsored tents/kiosks with games you can play or free stuff being given away. The CHIRP Record Fair has plenty of vinyl and other music goods you can check out. The Flatstock Poster Fair brings in artists from all over the country showing off and selling posters they’ve created for concerts and other things. There’s also the Renegade Craft Fair, which showcases a bunch of handmade goods from artisan crafters. You may just find a cool little tchotchke to carry around with you for the duration of the festival and beyond. So yes! If you’re headed to Union Park this weekend, I hope you’ll have a blast and stay safe for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. For those of us focused on the music, here’s the guide to what you’ll see and hear on Sunday.
Saturday at Pitchfork 2021 should be a little weird and a little fun, which honestly is kind of right in this festival’s wheelhouse. The diversity of artists increases from Friday, but the number of genres represented decreases overall despite a few acts that blur a lot of lines with experimentation. The day builds in energy early but then hits a small speedbump in mid-afternoon before picking back up again to close things out. The Blue stage is the place to hang out if you’re interested in high quality rap and R&B, while Red and Green will focus largely on rock acts. Unfortunately there aren’t really any electronic acts on Saturday, but if you really want to dance I’m certain you can find a way.
There are some major schedule conflicts on Saturday that may be difficult to navigate for the astute music listener, however the good thing is that the stages are close enough you can easily split your time between them and not have to worry about missing too much. I’ve done my best to help you make some hard decisions with some descriptions and recommendations below. Perhaps the best advice I can give is to challenge yourself in some way by checking out an artist you’ve never heard or seen in concert before. If you’re not enjoying a set, just walk away. There’s almost always another stage in action, and if not, you can explore the grounds of Union Park a bit and maybe get some food. Don’t hesitate to seek out “Better Distractions”, as Faye Webster would call them. Here’s a closer look at Saturday’s lineup, broken down by hour and conflicts.
On paper, and perhaps in execution, Friday seems like it’ll be a somewhat strange day at Pitchfork Music Festival. The lineup and the way it’s organized is kind of all over the place from a genre perspective. Rap that tests the limits of the art form, electronic stuff to get you dancing, hard-nosed punk to rev up the energy, psychedelic/experimental to cool you down, and of course emotionally heavy indie rock that may bring tears to your eyes. That level of sonic diversity is not for the faint of heart, but pays dividends to those willing to explore and test their own limits. It should be a whole lot of fun, too!
If you’re planning to attend the festival and are at all unsure about what artists to see during what time of day, my hope is that this preview guide will help you make some critical decisions. I’ve broken Friday’s lineup down by hourly time slot, and included my personal recommendations on what’s worth checking out in case you need it. Really though, it’s all pretty fantastic and there are no wrong choices. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss on Friday, which basically amounts to encouraging you to show up early.
Welcome once again to Pitchfork Music Festival week here at Faronheit! It’s always a genuine thrill to provide wall-to-wall coverage of this 3-day live music extravaganza, but especially so in 2021 following last year’s pandemic-related cancellation. Of course the pandemic is very much still happening and conditions are not ideal for tens of thousands of people to gather close together and watch performances, however vaccines and masking have greatly reduced the chance of contracting COVID-19 and even breakthrough cases are highly unlikely to result in hospitalization or death. Of course there’s also the possibility of infecting your friends and loved ones. It’s important to note that attending any large scale public event these days comes with certain risks, and before purchasing a ticket you should determine how much you’re willing to accept.
We’ve once again reached the halfway point of another year, and as such it creates a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past six months just to check in and see how things are going so far. You don’t need another recap of pandemic fatigue, vaccine distribution, and the “return to normalcy” while our democratic institutions remain in constant peril. That’s not what this site is about. Everyone is stressed out enough already, so let’s take a moment to remember the good things, like music. Oh hey, remember music? It’s that thing you can play to soundtrack your life and enhance your emotional state. The right song can turn your entire day around, for better or worse. A fond memory can be triggered by a song, or an uptempo beat can somehow make a sunny day that much brighter. Great stuff, right?
After the last 15 or so months that we’ve had, your relationship with music may have changed. Perhaps staying home without constant obligations inspired you to revisit some favorite albums or go digging for something new to expand your horizons. Then again, maybe like some other activities, listening to music just doesn’t ignite the same spark within you it once did. I absolutely get that. Live music in particular has been a constant source of joy in my life, and not attending a single concert in a year and a half left a hole no livestream could ever fill. I’m excited to get back to shows and festivals later this summer, and to share some of those experiences with you here on this site. Part of me also worries it won’t be the same or at least inflame my passions as easily as it used to.
Thankfully, the well of freshly recorded songs and albums has yet to run dry. Things weren’t looking so great for a couple of months this past spring though, as it appears a number of high profile artists chose to hold off on announcing new records until it became clear the world was reopening again and they could go out on tour. Don’t get me wrong there was still plenty of good stuff being released, you just needed to dig a little deeper some weeks to find it. When I began composing this mid-year playlist, my concern was over finding enough quality tracks to make it a worthwhile endeavor. Were there 50-100 songs from the past six months that I truly loved? I wasn’t sure, and it took a few weeks of searching through my library and checking the calendar for release dates before the answer became clear.
Below you’ll find 100 songs (6.5 hours of music) that I genuinely love from the first half of 2021, in both embedded Spotify and linked YouTube formats. They are very much all over the place in terms of genre, mood, tempo, and any other qualifier you may consider. Some great representation from Chicago’s local music scene in the mix too. As always, you’re unlikely to agree with all of my choices. I’d also be extremely surprised (and impressed) if you’ve heard all of these songs before seeing them on this playlist! For every Lorde or Lil Nas X there’s an Alicia Walter or Geese. My hope is that you’ll press play on something completely foreign to you and fall in love with it. Explore a bit! Hit shuffle and see where it takes you! Or find an artist/song you already know and like, then listen to the one in order before and after it. Everything is organized by genre/vibe and purposely not ranked, so please scroll down and give those later tracks some spins too. Enjoy and Happy Summer!
The Chicago music scene had a very good year, despite everything that happened in the world (gestures broadly at the flaming dumpster that’s been 2020). Seriously, I’m incredibly thankful for the many, many artists that work hard and make their city proud by releasing wonderful music that inspires and radiates with feeling. While many of these releases came out or were recorded pre-pandemic with an obvious eye on touring to support them, the tragedy of all that getting cancelled was lessened primarily because the albums themselves were so wonderful. It’s been a pleasure to live with these songs and absorb them in ways we otherwise might not have been able to had the hustle and bustle of a normal year gotten in the way. In lieu of concerts and events and social engagements, I got to press play on that Dehd record for the tenth time or drop the needle on Ohmme’s latest until the groove started to crackle a bit due to frequent wear and tear.
As this is a Chicago-based site, I felt it was particularly important to give some additional representation to some of the local artists and bands that helped make my year much more bearable. Many of them are scraping by and doing their best given the circumstances, and they could use your support! Buy some vinyl, downloads, and/or some merch if you can afford it – especially on Bandcamp Fridays (the 1st Friday of every month) when the site waives their cut of fees so more money goes back to the artists. You can also stream their music, which is helpful but doesn’t pay nearly as much. Some also have Patreon pages and accept direct donations on Venmo or CashApp, so look into that too if you’re interested. Most of that information can be found on their social media pages.
When it comes to this list, it doesn’t feel right to assign anybody numbers or claim that some records are better than others. I’d be doing a disservice to the community that is the Chicago music scene by ranking and encouraging competition. My hope is that you’ll check out all of these albums, because each one is worth your time and consideration. They cover almost every conceivable genre, and often play with your expectations by taking some wildly fun detours. So here are my 20 favorite LPs released by Chicago artists in 2020. Can’t wait to hear each one performed live at some of our legendary local venues once it’s safe to do so again!
If you’re reading this, I’d like to congratulate you on surviving the first half of 2020. To say the past six months have been challenging would be putting it mildly. Pandemics and protests are only the start of our troubles. And even though most of us have been spending a whole lot of time at home, we could still use a break from everything. While I can’t sit here and tell you that the world will somehow magically get better and there’s light at the end of this extremely dark tunnel, my hope still remains intact that life will improve sooner rather than later.
And we back, and we back, and we back…for yet another year of Lollapalooza. I haven’t missed a single day of the festival since it settled in Chicago back in 2005, so 2019 will mark my 15th year in a row of this madness in Grant Park. No, I’m not sure when I’ll finally decide to scale back and start skipping days or the festival entirely. Yes, I’ve slowly become older than most of the people who attend Lollapalooza these days. But the combination of age and experience leads to wisdom, which is something I’m happy to share with anyone planning to spend time at the festival this upcoming week/weekend.
The most basic advice I can give is to know your limits and practice rigorous self-care whether you’re in Grant Park for one day or all four. Drink lots of water (more than you want/need to), wear sunscreen and bug spray, and don’t be afraid to find a spot and sit down for a bit. The number of people I see collapse due to exhaustion, dehydration, or too much alcohol/drugs every year just makes me shake my head. Wear comfortable shoes (NOT flip flops). Avoid bringing a bag or purse if you can, because there are separate security lines at the entrance for bags vs. no bags and I’ll give you one guess as to which one moves at least 3x faster than the other. If you absolutely have to bring a bag, make sure you’re aware of the Allowed and Prohibited Items list before packing it. Also be very mindful of the bag’s size, shape, and number of pockets because there are restrictions on those things too. These might seem like a lot of things to remember, but the good news is that most of them are common sense anyway. Just be smart about it, and you should be fine.
But what about the music? Navigating sets from 180+ artists over four days isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, and the best advice I can give you for scheduling is to map out your day in advance and avoid going from one end of the park to the other too often. The walk end-to-end through Grant Park takes about 15 minutes wading through clusters of people, and you’ll exhaust yourself quickly by doing it more than 2-3 times per day. If you’re facing a difficult time slot conflict between two or more artists, you’d be best off just picking the one at the stage closest to where you are at that very moment. Simple enough! Not familiar with enough artists to fill your schedule for the day? Let me try to help with a list of five performances you shouldn’t miss on each day of the festival. Here we go:
The first day of the 2019 Pitchfork Music Festival, all anybody could seemingly talk about was the heat. Chicago has been placed under an “Excessive Heat Warning” through Saturday evening, with temperatures reaching into the mid-90s though the “real feel” was just a touch over 100 degrees. So yes, it was hot. Everybody was sweating. Not much could be done about it, though some people took it upon themselves to find ways to keep cool. Fans, both paper and mini portable electric ones, were being used by many. Others brought mist bottles. Some simply felt they were wearing too much, and stripped down to the barest of essentials without resorting to outright nudity. The festival organizers were kind enough to offer up as much free water as you could drink, complete with giant ice tubs packed with bottled water free of charge, as well as water fountains in multiple areas of Union Park. At one point I spotted two large buckets filled with ice and a sign on them that simply said “DUNK”. A few brave souls just went right ahead and plunged their whole heads into them. There were also a few cooling buses available so people could have a seat in some air conditioning if they really needed it. Every time I walked past them they looked to be about half full.
One of the saving graces of the day was the Blue stage in general, because it’s a tree-heavy area with plenty of shade. Lots of people took it upon themselves to lay out blankets and just hang out there for much of the day. More than a few were napping somewhat comfortably. While I did see a couple of medical personnel carting somebody away in an ambulance at one point in the late afternoon, the medical tent itself appeared to be pretty quiet for most of the day. I didn’t spot a single person who had collapsed from the heat, and that’s kind of a regular thing that happens at just about every music festival no matter the temperature. People were smart and took care of themselves and others. It’s one of the things I love most about the Pitchfork Music Festival – everyone is super relaxed and friendly and wants to make sure you’re doing okay. We all look out for one another. Hopefully that’s the case again for Day 2 which is expected to be just as hot. But weather and cooling techniques aside, this is a MUSIC festival, and there are a bunch of performances to talk about. So let’s jump right in.