An evacuation, torrential downpour and hour and a half wait couldn’t keep fans away from day two of Pitchfork Music Festival Saturday July 20. After a little bit of chaos and a lot of rain, festival-goers returned to Union Park (1501 W. Randolph St.) to enjoy legendary The Isley Brothers’ headlining set.
With a thunderstorm moving in, organizers interrupted Parquet Courts and Jay Som’s sets to announce attendees needed to evacuate the park. As it was still completely dry at the time, one Pitchfork attendee said he had a hard time believing the news.
“I wasn’t sure if they were being serious when they said we were all going to leave,” said Michigan-native Jeff Myers.
The belief seemed to kick-in among festival-goers when a clap of thunder was followed by the skies opening. People were trying to keep dry any way they knew how — taking cover under the Green Line, wrapping themselves in a towel, even groups moving as one underneath a blanket. One man came prepared to take advantage of the desperate by selling umbrellas amid the disarray.
College student Katie Sullivan said she anticipated some rain, but not an evacuation.
“I was expecting it to rain — like drizzle — and for us to all be like, ‘Ah!,’ but [it would have been] fine like we’re all really hot,” Chicago-native Sullivan said.
Myers, Sullivan and their respective friends said they planned on waiting out the evacuation, which turned out to be the best course of action. The break in the music left many drenched, but created a break for people to spend a moment in air conditioned establishments and cooler temperatures outside.
Some embraced the newly muddied fest grounds once gates reopened, while others protected their kicks by tying plastic bags around them, but all seemed happy to be back enjoying the live music.
Freddie Gibbs — Blue Stage
Rapper Freddie Gibbs, whose real name is Fredrick Jamel Tipton, lucked out with the timing of his set. Around an hour and a half after Union Park was evacuated, gates were reopened — just in time for Gibbs’ banger of a show.
A high energy set was exactly what the Pitchfork crowd needed after getting rained on, and Gibbs provided just that. He hyped the crowd with sharp rapping and shirtless body, something that was expected of him.
Besides checking in with his crowd to ask how they were doing, Gibbs interacted with his audience in the most intimate way possible: jumping off stage to perform over the barricade, his sweaty body up against those standing front and center. For fans, it was a nice surprise.
Gibbs left the stage after his almost hour-long performance only to return, much to the crowd’s excitement, to perform “BFK,” — the opening song of his 2012 album, “Baby Face Killa” — after which he left for good, leaving audiences hyped and ready for their next show.
Jeremih — Blue Stage
It’s one thing for a rapper to have a hype man to warm up the crowd for a brief minute, but it’s a whole different game when that disc jockey entertains a crowd for half an hour. Having been slated to start at 7:45 p.m., Jeremih, known otherwise as Jeremy Felton, didn’t emerge until around 8:15 p.m., before which his disc jockey DJ KnockOut attempted to engage the crowd of people gathered before the stage.
Many were left with bored, blank stares on their face even as the DJ played songs including Lil Nas X and Billy Rae Cyrus’ “Old Town Road,” “Antidote” and “SICKO MODE” by Travis Scott and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” — remixed with Soulja Boy’s iconic pronunciation of “you.”
Once Jeremih did emerge, he went straight into singing “Mile High Club.” The short set was bursting with sexual innuendos, from the moment a scantily dressed flight attendant emerged on stage to lip sync the airplane’s regulations.
Jeremih, donning a version of a Chicago Bulls jersey — being a native of Chicago — asked festival-goers whether they preferred to hear old or new songs, because he hadn’t prepared a setlist. Despite no apparent lineup of songs, the singer’s backup dancers were not only in sync with each other but with the music.
As people throughout the crowd gave into Jeremih’s seductive lyrics in songs such as “Birthday Sex,” “Down On Me” and “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” women working with the KIND vendor walked around carrying buckets of snacks. Audiences appreciated the snacks after all their dancing.
The Isley Brothers — Green Stage
Pitchfork is known to book artists who’ve been around for decades. In 2018, Chaka Chan occupied that spot and this year it was the iconic funk and soul band The Isley Brothers Saturday.
The brothers’ 8:30 p.m. set Saturday was a celebration of their 60th anniversary as a band. Fuschia light strobes illuminated the stage as the group emerged in white bedazzled ensembles. Lead singer Ronald and guitarist Ernie Isley, along with the rest of their ensemble and jazzy dancers, put on a show-stopping performance showcasing a career’s worth of work.
All troubles of the day’s prior evacuation were gone with the wind, and Pitchfork engaged in a collective dance. From slower melodies such as “Footsteps in the Dark” to bops including “Fight the Power” and the classic “It’s Your Thing,” the thousands gathered reveled in songs spanning multiple decades.
Serving as an emcee, discussing the band’s career through the years — and casually mentioning his encounter with Bob Dylan back in 1961 — Ronald teased his crowd with the intro to “Shout,” only to abruptly stop and say he was actually saving the song for later.
When later came, marking the end of their hour-and-a-half-long set, the masses rejoiced. The Isley Brothers had festivals-goers young and old jumping, waving their hands and singing along.