Another year of Pitchfork Music Festival has come and gone and it’s hard to believe how fast it passed us. I feel like I was just at the festival last year! This year brought HOT temperatures and even a couple weather evacuations causing shortened and canceled sets. Luckily for myself, I ended up going on the third and final day of the festival and I was able to avoid rain and hot weather altogether.
I always feel like there’s artists on the Pitchfork lineup spread out throughout the weekend that I like, but never enough on each day for me to buy a 3-day pass. I was however, totally into Sunday’s lineup this year and knew I wanted to go.
As silly as this sounds and I’ve mentioned it before – it took me a long time to feel comfortable going to Pitchfork. Everyone is so incredibly hip and there’s easily 1/3 of the lineup that I don’t know every year – especially as a music blogger, that’s embarrassing to admit! However the two times I’ve gone have been incredibly fun and welcoming and I’m really hoping next year I can go all three days to cover it for the blog.
This year I headed to the festival on Sunday to get in just in time to see Clairo perform on the main stage, but I found myself about 20 minutes early so I wandered over to the blue stage after what I could hear was quite intriguing. Turns out I stumbled upon Ibeyi – a French musical duo consisting of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. I only heard about 2 songs but they had beautiful harmonies and extremely political music: two things I can always get behind! I encourage you to check out their discography here.
Next up was Clairo: formally known as Claire Cottril. She’s a 20-year-old who rose to internet fame after her song “Pretty Girl” went viral on YouTube back in 2017. The majority of her music has been presented as very “DIY” though it has faced controversy. The success of “Pretty Girl” led to a handful of meetings with record execs, which led Clairo to sign a 12-song record contract with Fader Label – and it’s relatively important to note that Clairo’s father had extensive connections with said label.
Clairo has been releasing singles to promote her debut album, Immunity, which is set to be released on August 2. She’s also been working with Rostam, producer and musician best known for his time in Vampire Weekend.
I had heard mixed things about Clairo’s live performance, which stopped me from seeing her at Lollapalooza last year. After seeing her at Pitchfork this year, I think her live performance may not be for everyone because of a couple reasons. 1) Her music is slow, “lo-fi” and bedroom pop-esque (apparently Clairo hates that term, I’m sorry). Her music is not meant to translate into a lively performance and is probably best suited for smaller venues. 2) She’s also only 20 and will take time (which should be expected) to get more comfortable performing for large audiences. Her voice is definitely there, she is a decent enough guitar player. She walks the stage with ease and seems comfortable interacting with fans. These are all qualities that will continue to grow as she becomes more experienced on the stage. Pitchfork didn’t do her any favors by putting her on the largest stage at the festival.
Clairo ended up performing for about 45 minutes out of the 55 minute set she was given, and I think it was the smart decision. Overall I was entertained just fine but any longer I think it may have gotten a bit boring. I loved hearing one of her newer songs “Bags” live and hope that it’s an indication of how her album is going to sound.
I finally got to see Whitney for the first time after being a casual fan for a couple years. I was unsure of what their live show would be like since their music is so lax but I was pleasantly surprised and was really impressed with how large their turnout was.
If you don’t know, Whitney is a Chicago-based band who formed in 2015 after band members Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich’s band, Smith Western, broke up in 2014. Paul Lester of The Guardian described the band’s sound as “think Bon Iver, with elements of folk and country, only given a Chicago soul makeover.” It all make sense as to why the band is a Pitchfork favorite, am I right?
While the set was pretty laid back for the most part, Whitney did a good job captivating the audience despite having slower music. It was cool to see the band bring a handful of other performers like Tasha, Lindsey Jordan (Snail Mail) and Sophie Allison (Soccer Mommy) throughout moments of the set.
Whitney’s next album drops on August 30 on Secretly Canadian.
The next 90 minutes of my Pitchfork experience was up in the air as I was planning to bounce between the next two sets of the evening. I started the 7pm hour off with a visit to the red stage to check out Charli XCX. I had seen Charli THREE times last summer opening up for Taylor Swift on the reputation stadium tour – and had also seen her open up for Coldplay way back in the day – so I was planning to go check out Snail Mail for the third time in the past year. But let me tell you – seeing Charli play her own set at a festival is much different than what she performs as an opening act and I was definitely surprised! I knew that she was going to deliver an energetic set but I was impressed with it being 100% from start to end.
I think she did have some interesting song choices and wish she played a couple of older songs like “Break The Rules” and “Boom Clap” but they’re definitely not on the same level that Charli’s more recent releases are. It was amazing to hear her newest single, “Gone” ft. Christine and The Queens live – I was unsure if she would include it in her setlist or not since it’s such a recent release. I think it’s my favorite song she’s ever done.
It was interesting to see the difference between what she would play on tour with Taylor vs. playing to a crowd of Pitchfork – she definitely wouldn’t have brought out Chicago rapper Cupcakke to Taylor’s reputation tour stop at Soldier Field.
While Charli’s music isn’t necessarily my cup of tea on a daily basis and I probably wouldn’t go see her solo show, it was a great lead up to Robyn – two very mainstream yet left field pop artists – and I feel content skipping Snail Mail this time around.
It was finally time for the evening attraction: ROBYN. Though I had just seen her perform at the Aragon this past March, I was just as excited to see her again. I would have never imagined that I would be able to see Robyn perform not once, but TWICE in one year – considering she had been on a break for 8+ years. I knew I had to buy a ticket to see her perform again.
To get the gist of Robyn (if you don’t already), she’s a 40-year-old Swedish pop & dance artist who has been making music for as long as I’ve been alive. Robyn has released eight studio albums and was off the radar from 2010 to 2018, until her return with the album Honey, released last year. The album received widespread acclaim.
Besides the lack of “Hang With Me” in the setlist (my favorite song), the show was pretty identical to the first time I had seen her although I think the energy seemed more natural and palpable this time around. I think there’s something so special about an outdoor festival show that brings a different energy than one indoors – and the sound was definitely better.
While I had prepared myself by listening to Robyn’s discography for her previous show, this time I felt like I could enjoy it more without contemplating every other second if I had remembered the song or not. There was something really powerful and cool to see a 40-year-old woman closing such a weekend festival that’s different than anything else I’ve experienced while attending these sorts of things. While it’s great to see another female closing out Lollapalooza this year (Ariana Grande), it’s even more important to see someone who isn’t as commercially successful make a statement with their music and craft – not to mention she easily pulled the biggest audience I saw all day. I could talk about that transition from “Love Is Free” to “Dancing On My Own” to “Missing U” to “Call Your Girlfriend” for the rest of my life. ICONIC.
If you’re interested in checking out Pitchfork Music Festival but have never been, I highly recommend it. It’s very chill, less crowded than other festivals I’ve been to but still has that high quality musicianship – I don’t think I would would ever expect any less of Pitchfork from always putting together an impressively curated lineup. I think this year is my last of attending Lollapalooza all four days and I see myself making the jump to Pitchfork for all three days next year.
Side note: I apologize for not even attempting to take decent photos during my time at Pitchfork – I was contemplating even doing a review of it since I was just attending as a fan – but the performances gave me a lot to say!
Thanks for reading. Next up: Lollapalooza.
Click here to see all of my previous Pitchfork coverage.