Smile Politely

Pitchfork Music Festival 2017 in review

A few of us made the trek up to the Windy City to check out what Pitchfork Music Festival had to offer in 2017.


The very first set of the weekend on the shaded region of the park, the Blue Stage featured Dawn Richard (you might remember her from Danity Kane from back in the day). Her new project started out the weekend with an absolute bang, tons of lights and upbeat electro-pop to get things moving. Even though people were still trickling into the park (usually the festival starts at 3ish p.m. on Friday in year’s past — but this year they moved it up to a noon start), things jolted with energy right away. (PS)

As soon as I walked past check in I was swallowed whole by the ambient ringing of a guitar and knew exactly who was it was coming from… Thurston Moore. The crowd honestly wasn’t near as big as I thought it would be for someone as legendary as the frontman to Sonic Youth. It makes a little sense, the majority of the concert goers at Pitchfork are probably in the 20’s to 30’s, I’m sure most of them have heard of Sonic Youth, but they might not even know who Thurston Moore is.. that’s beside the point. 

As I get closer to the stage I see why this guy has been around for so long and you can definitely tell he’s been around for a while. He’s still got the long hair, the soft voice, and the old beat up guitar, it was quite the sight to see. The music seemed to pour out of these musicians in a very soft, elegant manner, where it seems like a lot of other musicians are forcingly belting it out. It was definitely a relaxing feeling to be able to walk into Pitchfork and hear such smooth tunes coming out of such a legend, something I won’t forget anytime soon, or how as his set ended he slowly bowed and graciously walked away with his band.. everything I ever thought it would be. (RG)

Directly after Moore walked off the stage, I made my way to over to the blue stage that Frankie Cosmos was well into her set. Unfortunately, it was so packed that I missed my opportunity to snap a few pictures, but instead took her in from the edge of her giant crowd. (RG)

Cosmos is a very chill, laid back performer. There’s nothing too flashy about her stage presence, the only that someone might bat an eye at is her buzzed head, but what she might lack in stage presence is definitely substituted back into her vocals. She had one of the best voices at the festival and really knows how to connect to 20-somethings through her lyric choice, referencing “scraping by” and “not sure how to be young” in her hit song “Young,” it’s no surprise how well she drew. (RG)

Vince Staples is hot off the release of his new record, Big Fish Theory, and his set had no shortages of new tracks from that release. Not only that, but he threw in the new Gorillaz feature “Ascension”, so the set on paper delivered a lot of newness throughout. While a lot of his tracks are very high energy, some of the Summertime ’06 tracks, while good, are a little odd to put into a live set — “Lemme Know” featured a lot of Staples standing at a mic stand and not really moving at all during the song. That said, the new ones sound even bigger than they do on record. (PS)


Next, I switched genres altogether and headed over to watch hip-hop artist, Kamaiyah, hailing from Oakland, California. Kamaiyah ran out to a hyped crowd, full credit goes to her DJ, he was playing all the right tunes for the crowd. Kamaiyah and her partner really kept the crowd on their feet, running from side to side of the stage, they were really fun to watch.

I honestly haven’t been to many hip-hop/rap concerts, but they might be my favorite type of concert after this weekend. Kamaiyah put all her effort in throughout the set, keeping the audience interactive and working with her wingman to keep the level of show high. Their set never allowed for an awkward or boring moment, which isn’t something that every performer is able to do. I recommend seeing her live if you ever get the chance. (RG)

Sure, LCD Soundsystem has headlined basically every festival in the world over the past year or so since they got back in the game after a five-year hiatus — so one’s eyes might glaze over with the sight of them atop another festival bill. However, just as they did in 2010, LCD headlined a night and literally made everyone dance during their set. When the drop came on “Dance Yrself Clean”, there was a point where all in the VIP stands stage right were dancing full-force. Sprinkle in a few new tracks from their forthcoming LP, that disco ball up top still works in the best of ways. (PS)


Weyes Blood: I can’t say she/they were my type. She’s very old fashioned in her singing style, honestly a great singer, but just a little too slow and a bit boring for me. Which contradicted her flashy dress jacket, but you can totally dress flashy and not act flashy. If she were at the peak of her career in the 70’s I have a feeling she’d be even bigger. (RG)

After almost falling asleep, I walked into my second favorite set of the weekend over at the blue stage, Cherry Glazerr. The band walked out, but the singer was nowhere to be seen… until finally she was spotted on all four crawling and hissing as she approached the microphone while wearing an all white dress (it kind of looked like a nursing outfit, or maybe more accurately a mental patient uniform). When she finally stood up and grasped the mic, she absolutely tore her vocals apart with a ghostly scream. 

The set got even better as she instantly slung a guitar over her shoulder as her second song began, immediately tearing into a heavy solo. These are the sets that I really enjoy, where the visual performance is just as interesting as the music is good. A unique set, to say the least, tearing through her hits such as “Had Ten Dollaz” and “Told You I’d Be with the Guys.” (RG)

After their insanely good set, I ventured around the park to take everything in. If you’ve never been to Pitchfork, as I hadn’t, it’s quite different than other festivals, kind of small for its reputation and the big acts they book, which is honestly really nice. There were only three stages, but tons of vendors, which makes for short walks to get to each performance and pretty reasonable wait times for food and drinks. They also had a pretty sweet couple of tents setup for all kinds of vendors, but the vinyl table really stuck out. Talk about a diverse selection, it was vinyl heaven. 

After coming back to reality, I made my way back to the blue stage where Mitski was setting up. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a tiny crush on Mistki, as well as her music. She reminds me a lot of The Cranberries, the way she can easily blend beautiful vocals with crunchy rock all in the span of three minutes. Her hit “Your Best American Girl” is a great example of this. You would’ve thought I would have crammed to the photo pit to snap a few pictures, but I really just wanted to sit back and enjoy it at this point in the day. (RG)

Eventually, I made it over to see Angel Olsen and her band on the green stage. I’m not sure why, it was probably a request from A Tribe Called Quest to enhance their light show, but this stage was raised in height quite a bit, making it incredibly tough to get a good picture of anyone’s set, but here’s one anyway.

Angel Olsen is another singer that can really transition well from soft to almost punk rock in an instant. This band was really fun to watch, in matching light blue suits and really having a good time. They couldn’t have been positioned in a better spot during the weekend. Olsen’s songs are very catchy yet keep a very artsy style as well. They’re very relaxing yet get your blood going at the same time, it’s nice. (RG)

My favorite set of the weekend came at the end of Saturday night… I bet you can’t guess who it was… for fuck’s sake, it was A Tribe Tribe Called Quest. How could it be anyone else? 

I believe it was one of their first public performances without late member, MC Phife Dawg. Man did they give him the best send off that he could’ve ever wished for. They drew the largest audience of the festival and brought such a different vibe than any other set of the festival. I’m not sure if that was because of how big of an impact their work has had or if it was also the eerie feeling of hearing Phife Dawg’s word come through the sound system while the video feed concentrated on a mic stand set out just in remembrance of Phife. It really felt like he was on stage and pumping his lyrics into the crowd.

Q-Tip and the rest of the group kept the crowd on their toes the entire show. They seemed to have the same energy you would expect a group of 20-year-olds to have, it was really a once in a lifetime show.  Their old hits and their new hit equally hard, which isn’t something every group can do. Plus it was really cool to see one of the most diverse crowds I’ve ever seen at a festival in attendance to this show. (RG)


I’ve been kind of obsessed with NE-HI after seeing them at The Accord last year, they’re just so damn catchy and that damn lead singer sticks out like a sore thumb with his high waisted pants and bowl cut, but in a good way. They’re also from Chicago, apparently within a couple blocks of Union Park, which is really cool that they get the opportunity to play one of the largest festivals in their hometown. They always give it their all, spinning around and playing sick guitar riffs throughout their sets, its such a fun time. I highly recommend it, I’m sure they’ll make it back to town sometime. (RG)
Chicago’s Joey Purp is a part of the SAVE MONEY crew — one that features Chance the Rapper, Saba, Vic Mensa, and more — and he made this hometown visit count on the Blue Stage. The sun began to come out right before his set started during what was initially a very overcast morning. While there was some initial thought that Chance might make an appearance, he brought out Vic Mensa during “Winner’s Circle” — which was more than enough, as he didn’t really need any help carrying the weight. Even though there was some tension building when he started performing “Girls @”, which features Chance on record, it didn’t disappoint. Dude crushed it on a Sunday afternoon in the park. (PS)
Pinegrove, do I need to say anything else? They’ve been crushing it this past year after releasing their album Cardinal and performing on Audiotree. I was really interested to see how their performance would go over live, and I wasn’t let down. They actually put a lot more energy into it than I expected, most of their songs slowly build up, but they really put it all into it. I thought they might be one of those bands that are only amazing on vinyl, but not so much live, clearly I was wrong. (RG)
While it is tough to be upset about this, The Avalanches canceling was one of the biggest disappointments of the weekend, as this would’ve been their first Chicago play ever. 

Jamila Woods‘ set moved to where the Avalanches were supposed to perform, and the day moved forward. Nicolas Jaar‘s experimental tunes made way to the Red Stage prior to American Football‘s set back in the trees on Blue. On the coattails of their album release in 2016, these guys are firing on all cylinders — another hometown band doing the good work. They sound as good as they’ve ever sounded, and a good one to round out the weekend’s Blue stage action. 
Solange‘s set was very heavy on the tracks from A Seat at the Table, a masterpiece of an album from last year. While the performance was stunning visually — plenty of dancers on stage, the beautiful red backdrop and other visual stimulants — this wasn’t what one would call a banger of a way to close out the festival. However, Solange’s delivery was what was expected: a wonderfully crafted performance to close things out in 2017.
All write ups by Ryan Graves and Patrick Singer. Photos by Ryan Graves and Ally Henreid.

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