Music

The Music Beat: Pitchfork Music Festival Got Me Out of My Music Rut

Mary Grace Ritter | The PhoenixIndie-rock band HAIM performed at Pitchfork Music Festival Friday, July 19.

I’m not the type of person who will play one song on repeat until I get annoyed with it. I have enough foresight to know I’ll be upset if I make myself hate a fantastic song. I am, however, the type of person who will play one artist on repeat for months on end — Bastille in early-2014 and Waterparks in mid-2018 — and it still has essentially the same effect.

I’ll tire of a whole artist at once. But they’re all I’ve known for so long. How do I move on?

Usually I don’t, putting me in a music rut. In such times, nothing is quite what I want to listen to, but I need to be listening to something. Being left in silence all the time? Seems like a lot — no thanks.

With my years of experience on the matter, I’ve found the best cure to being stuck in a music rut to go to a concert to see what an artist is truly all about.

Seeing how an artist translates a song to the stage and interacts with a crowd, bringing it to life and feeding off of its energy is the best. It takes me back to Lollapalooza 2017 seeing Glass Animals for the first time — but wait, we’re here to talk about Pitchfork.

Pitchfork Music Festival, which took place at Union Park (1501 W. Randolph St.) July 19-21, was exactly the creative boost I needed to remind me how many frickin’ talented people are pushing boundaries and having a great time doing it. The ever-changing lighting and madness on stage challenged me in terms of my photography. Baby’s first festival photo pass!

One of the first sets we saw that weekend was Grapetooth’s which was honestly so good for my soul. The Chicago boys’ synth-powered madness got to the root of why I love live music so much.

Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix Chicago duo Grapetooth performed at Pitchfork Music Festival Friday, July 19.

I had listened to a bit of Grapetooth when it was in rotation at WLUW — shameless self-promo: listen to my radio show Mondays noon to 2 p.m. for the summer — but I could never really get into it. Seeing them on stage with wide smiles and wiggly dance moves made the studio versions infinitely more meaningful.

HAIM had a similar soul-healing effect with its indie rock, girl-power anthems. As I walked into the photo pit, I got to see two of my friends on the barricade. That little moment, connecting my professional pursuits with the people I care about was a fun one for little ol’ Mary Grace.

Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix Indie-rock band HAIM performed at Pitchfork Music Festival Friday, July 19.

Anyone that knows me knows I live in the world of pop punk romps with overly dramatic lyrics and often-whiney vocals. It’s not a phase, Mom. That being said, actively listening to rap music is pretty new to me, but JPEGMAFIA’s insanity on stage made that process a whole lot easier.

The Baltimore-native rapper brought me out of my music and photography comfort zones and I loved every second. He burst out onto the stage running from end to end, and by the second song he was in the audience.

Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix Rapper JPEGMAFIA performed at Pitchfork Music Festival Sunday, July 21.

It’s artists like JPEGMAFIA that make my job as a photographer so challenging, but at the same time so incredibly simple.

No matter where I was in the photo pit the rapper was putting on a show for both the audience and cameras. From sitting atop the speakers to jumping into the crowd and hugging security guards, he was creating shots for me where all I needed to do was click the shutter.

The problem was he moved so fast that he’d blow by my camera before I’d even have a chance to do so. It’s always frustrating knowing I missed what could have been the perfect photo, but this isn’t Pokémon. You can’t catch ‘em all.

Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix Rapper JPEGMAFIA performed at Pitchfork Music Festival Sunday, July 21.

Robyn’s headlining set Sunday was a unique one as the photographers had special instructions to minimize distractions for the audience. At first I was a bit annoyed by the disruption from the norm I’d come to know over the weekend, but I have to respect the awareness she has for her live show.

Mary Grace Ritter | The Phoenix Electropop singer Robyn headlined Pitchfork Music Festival Sunday, July 21.

As all us photographers stood in confusion waiting for guidance, some of us got to talking. There is seemingly nothing more intimidating than talking to someone doing the same job as you, especially knowing they have more experience. But commiserating and gathering advice from people who get it was refreshing.

Since then, I’ve jumped around my kitchen to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” more than once. If anyone else is in their own music rut, a little dancing on your own — or in a crowd of thousands — might be just what the doctor ordered.

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