Pitchfork emanates a special type of diversity not always seen at today’s music festivals. The three-day event set in Chicago’s Union Park is not just diverse in the wide array of artists that are booked, but also in its attendees. Compared to its Chicago festival counterparts such as Riot Fest or Lollapalooza, I saw more diversity in age, race and gender — the latter almost equally distributed. But at Pitchfork there was also diversity in the types of music fans present.
The day started with the likes of ILoveMakonnen — you’ve probably heard his Drake-remixed radio hit “Tuesday” — and then immediately followed by the gap-toothed and playful indie singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco. A little later and across the field, the electro-pop euro sensation Chvrches played the main stage and filled the park with booming base and Lauren Mayberry’s lilting voice.
I saw all groups of fans packed together in a single field between the two main stages for these genre-
spanning artists. You could look to your left and see a couple frat boys jamming to DeMarco, and then 10 minutes later in the same spot you could find a chilled out Rastafarian dude vibing to Panda Bear, an experimental artist and co-founder of alternative rock band Animal Collective who filled the park with his smooth electronic dance music tunes in the afternoon.
Saturday was off to a great start until a few minutes after the gates opened, when the festival was interrupted by severe thunderstorms and heavy rain which caused minor delays but minimal loss in spirits. Punk rock fans gathered early in the day to see the all-female group Ex Hex absolutely kill its set with a display of unadulterated girl power. A$AP Ferg played an energetic set on one of the smaller stages a few hours later, with a crowded VIP section and fans who knew every single lyric, none of which can be repeated here.
The guys in Future Islands played next, with their notable frontman’s eccentric dance moves in abundance and his theatrical voice. With awesome sets by Vic Mensa, up-and-comer Shamir and veteran indie band The New Pornographers, Saturday festival-goers had no reason to even remember the monsoon from earlier in the day.
The day closed out with my absolute favorite set of the weekend, another all-female rock band, Sleater-Kinney. The group blew away nearly everyone in the audience with its power and energy, playing on the largest stage with the Willis Tower peeking over in the background. Sleater-Kinney had the most dedicated fan base by far, having formed in 1994 they have had quite some time to gather some diehards, I saw many women in their mid-30s rocking out to the trio.
Sunday rolled around and I wasn’t sure that anything could top the previous day. I arrived a little late, halfway into the set of remix god Jamie XX and saw hundreds of bodies jumping around to a small man with a DJ setup and disco ball. He had the crowd enthralled to say the least, and he helped set good vibes for the rest of the day. The next artist to take one of the main stages was Caribou, the onstage name of music producer Daniel Snaith, who produced some insane beats that I thought would never drop – but when they did it was nothing short of epic.
I saw Run The Jewels next, a rap duo that had an impressive and energetic set with some extremely enthusiastic fans in the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs to every word.
To end my wonderful weekend experience at Pitchfork, I ran across the field to the other main stage to make sure I snagged a great spot in the press line for Sunday’s headliner, Chance the Rapper. The Chicago native, by far the youngest and newest artist to headline the weekend, seemed to be the main event and talk of the festival. Not only was his stage setup spectacular, complete with a group of dancers to warm up his stage, but he also had an elevated area with his band – in matching outfits – and an amazing screen flashing images of cop cars and the phrases “Got Damn” and, of course, “Chance the Rapper.” He entered the stage with a smile, a few crazy dance moves and a confidently phrased “We back.” Not only did he bring out veteran Kirk Franklin, but he also played “Sunday Candy” from his recent release Surf with a full gospel choir — I felt very close to heaven indeed. He hinted at bigger things to come and left the thousands in the crowd thirsting for more. My ears filled with praise and guesses for the future of the young rapper as I walked out of the park for the final time.
Pitchfork was a cultural and musical experience, and I would highly recommend my fellow Ramblers to make the trip to the West Loop next summer. It’s cheaper than Lollapalooza, but it still allows you to see experienced artists right along with those who have just started to make a name for themselves. The lineup for next year is coming out winter 2016, so be sure to check out pitchfork.com for the latest information