I went to Pitchfork Music Festival for the first time this past weekend. It also was my first time spending three full days at a music festival. While I thought that I might get more exhausted as each day went on, I woke up with excitement about who I will get to see perform each day. I left each day feeling exhilarated by the artists I saw and the energy they gave. I learned why Pitchfork is a Chicago favorite: the festival brings heart, quality and artistry. Here are my top moments from the weekend:
The Isley Brothers
I’d be remiss not to put them first. The Isley Brothers gave a historic, decadent performance. Ron and Ernie Isley, the remaining members of the soulful band, hit the stage in all white with two beautiful back-up singers in silver and multiple dancers in fuschia, blue and black. Ron Isley took the Pitchfork audience through decades of their music, starting with the 1950s. He spoke before the brothers played each song, giving backstories. He dedicated their 1975 record, “For the Love of You,” to the women in the audience. At one point, Ron Isley broke out into their 1974 cover of “Hello, It’s Me,” dedicating it to his late friend and R&B singer Luther Vandross. Ernie, a master guitarist, played the chords of their classics with perfection. His mastery shined bright during his guitar solos, tossing the guitar behind his back and playing it before bringing the guitar to his face to pluck the chords with his teeth. The audience couldn’t get enough of this, and neither could I.
For a majority white audience, you’d think The Isley Brothers and R&B and gospel singer Mavis Staples wouldn’t get the love that these legendary artists deserved. I thought that the crowd might have preferred to see more rock and pop performers such as Charli XCX or Scottish band Belle and Sebastian. But that wasn’t the case. The crowd adored her iconic range, and her ability to sing both low notes and high belts. Staples’ appreciated the love. You could see it in her eyes. She seemed excited to see the crowd dancing and singing along to her songs, showering her with shouts of praise and love.
The Blue stage
It’s the smallest stage at the festival. But this year, the Blue stage really brought its A game. On Friday, Rico Nasty kicked off the three-day lineup on this side of Union Park. She hit the stage in the middle of a heatwave, but that didn’t slow her down at all. All eyes were on her as she captivated audiences with her unmatchable energy. Singing fan favorites such as her 2018 collab with Doja Cat, “Tia Tamera,” and her 2018 track, “Countin’ Up,” Rico Nasty quite literally stepped on our necks with that performance. On Saturday, Jeremih took us back to the 2000s with his throwbacks, “Oui” and “Don’t Tell ‘Em.” I was only able to hear him in the distance as I waited in the photo pit line for The Isley Brothers performance on the Green stage, but judging by the screams of the audience with each song, Jeremih’s R&B vibes were a good break in the Blue stage’s rap-heavy lineup. On Sunday, Chicago singer-songwriter Tasha played an endearing set at her Pitchfork debut. “This song is for Black girls,” she said, before singing “Lullaby” from her 2018 album, Alone at Last. She followed with new music, leaving audience members with anticipation for what’s to come. She took out her baby blue electric guitar and was bubly with each song. Her smile and lovable energy was contagious. Sister duo Ibeyi came on stage after Tasha, and they proved to be one of the best performances on the Blue stage. Ibeyi, a Yoruban word for “twins,” played soulful music inspired by their Nigerian, French and Afro-Cuban roots. This pair is definitely a group to look out for. Their spirited performance is a top four moment for the weekend.
Jpegmafia is not like most rappers you’d hear on the radio. He’s experimental and alternative in his music and is well known by Pitchfork, which praised his 2018 album Veteran. His emo rap is music all hip-hop fans should take a listen to. The crowd adored Jpegmafia’s energy. It’s difficult to describe Jpegmafia in words. He’s the type of person you have to see in person. He jokes, interacts with the audience and feeds off their energy. Affectionately called “Peggy” by his fans, Jpegmafia specializes in experimental hip hop, screaming the verses more so than saying them. On top of encouraging the crowd to mosh, Jpegmafia came into photo pit multiple times to interact with the audience, within the first 15 minutes of his set. He ate up the crowd’s energy, matching them with excitement and intensity through his show. Bonus: Jpegmafia even crowd surfed a few times.