Rain held off as Pitchfork weekend started July 14 in Union Park without a hitch.
The first performer of the day, Madame Gandhi, graced the stage with her ensemble, which included an all-female band consisting of dancers, a DJ, a vocalist and a percussionist. Halfway through her 1 p.m. set, she began reading lines from the “Feminist Utopia Project” book, truly embracing her part-activist, part-artist persona. Her lyrics, such as “the future is female” challenged the status quo. Although she had an early afternoon performance with a small crowd, there’s no denying her ambition could soon give her greater acclaim.
Technical difficulties kept California rapper Vince Staples from shining on stage. Though he started as scheduled, troubles with the sound made it difficult to hear his voice over the bass.
Still, Staples was the embodiment of cool, acting as if nothing was amiss while he stared into the crowd with vigor. The peak of his performance came when he performed his recent collaboration with the Gorillaz, “Ascension,” but what was supposed to be one of the highlight performances of the festival ended up being a letdown. His songs, including “Blue Suede,” “Norf Norf” and “Big Fish,” showcased his incredible ability to rap, but he didn’t seem to emit an overwhelming amount of energy.
One highlight of the day for any indie rock fan was the chance to see Thurston Moore, leading member of seminal rock band Sonic Youth. Not only did the 5 p.m. appearance feature the former band’s guitarist, but former drummer Steve Shelley also accompanied him on stage. The ear-shredding guitar riffs were a nostalgic glimpse at the history of indie rock and art punk and a great addition to a Friday night lineup.
One of the more recognizable names on the lineup for younger generations was Detroit rapper Danny Brown who played the Green Stage at 6 p.m. No one else sounds quite like Danny Brown. The rapper tends to squawk over crooning beats that have lurching bass lines. His sexually explicit lyrics, maniacal flow and extroverted persona made the biggest stage at the festival seem small. The 36-year-old’s charisma on stage was tangible, yet the unpredictability that was characteristic of his early career was missing, causing him to lose one of his most attractive qualities as an artist.
One of the best performances of the day was Oakland rapper/singer Kamaiyah. Despite playing a 6:30 p.m. set, her crowd was small, but it didn’t feel that way once she came on stage. The rapper hit the ground running and stormed onto the stage followed by a hype man — whose too loud mic nearly overpowered her. Kamaiyah continued through a multitude of hits on her recently released mixtape, “A Good Night In The Ghetto.” The energetic crowd meshed well with the fast-paced trap-influenced beats.
The first day of Pitchfork Music Festival 2017 overall had its highs — including smaller crowds and no rain — and lows — Vince Staples’ disappointing set and the lack of sound quality.