Despite bigger audiences and longer lines than the previous day, cramped conditions failed to dampen the spirits of Pitchfork Music Festival’s nearly sold-out Saturday crowd.
The first highlight of the day was Mitski, who played the Blue Stage at 4 p.m. Although much of her material sounded the same in that her songs were moody, dark and solemn, Mitski’s seriousness and level of emotion on stage indicated some deeper issues at hand. After cranking out her popular songs, including “Your Best American Girl” and “Townie,” Mitski broke down into tears and said being on the big stage was one of her wildest dreams. Mitski’s intensity paired with her primal screams and keen ability to play guitar made for an intriguing late-afternoon set.
Later on, Francis Starlite took the stage with his DJ manning a laptop in the back corner. The Kanye West and Chance the Rapper collaborator showed the whole package on stage. Not only did he use his falsetto singing voice with flair but he also exuded some of the most absurdly entertaining dance moves. Sweating like crazy and storming around the stage engaging in acrobatics, Starlite had full control over the crowd.
At around 6:30 p.m., veteran hip-hop producer and DJ Madlib took the stage without much crowd interaction. Quickly diving in, Madlib began mixing and spinning tunes from several genres: blues, reggae, funk, rap, pop and groove. In what ended up looking and sounding like a high-level college course on the art of spinning and mixing a DJ set, Madlib’s laid-back disposition was an added benefit to a set that became an example for other DJs. His use of crisp transitions from song to song and unpredictability in drops and rises of the beat created an endless flow of multi-genre music that provided for an evening set to bob your head to.
In the sub-headlining spot of the evening on the Blue Stage, the Austin, Texas synth quartet SURVIVE began their set with a supernatural rumble accompanied by dark hues of blue and red lights on stage. SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein created the haunting score for “Stranger Things,” leading to an abrupt spike in their popularity. But Saturday night at Union Park, the group summoned the dark ambiance of its 2012 debut album. On stage, Adam Jones, Michael Stein, Kyle Dixon and Mark Donica stood in a half-moon arc behind a wall of synthesizers. Their faces emerged from and sank back into the darkness as they took a collective dive into the eerie, hypnotic tones of songs such as “A.H.B.,” “Floating Cube” and “Copter.”
In one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, A Tribe Called Quest closed out the Green Stage at 8:30 p.m. With this tour dubbed the band’s farewell — a tribute to co-founding member Phife Dawg — it seemed the group was still dead set on making its mark in the world rather than fading into nonexistence. After playing songs from its 2016 album “We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service,” the band disappeared behind the stage at 9:50 p.m. Ten minutes later, the instrumental for their most popular song of all time, “Can I Kick It?” began. In one of the most memorable moments at a Chicago music festival in recent years, the legendary rap supergroup was able to bring some nostalgia to massive Pitchfork crowds.