Run The Jewels, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib + More Hit Pitchfork Music Festival [Exclusive Photos + Recap]
Recap courtesy of Ricecube. All photos by Gretchen Villaluna Baria/Moonhouse Productions for Okayplayer.
For 2015, Pitchfork continued its standard of providing the latest in emerging music combined with longstanding artists. What keeps distinguishing the festival from other gatherings of similar sizes is how manageable an experience it is while still providing a wide range of artists to take in, alleviating any sense of FOMO trying to get from one stage to another.
Things went up on a Friday with local favorite Wilco headlining and earlier performances by Tobias Jesso Jr, Panda Bear, and Ilovemakkonen, who later linked up with Lil B at a a packed Boiler Room (if you were there, you know).
Friday’s mugginess carried over to the next morning, resulting in major thunderstorms that forced Vince Staples and fans alike into momentary evacuation mode. Thankfully though, the music gods came through as the rain let up and Pitchfork Festival grounds reopened for a string of solid performances. The more intimate and more underground Blue stage got popping with A$AP Ferg‘s brand of trap productions and aggressive rhymes opening with the statement track, “Dump Dump” along with favorites like “Hella Hoes”, and of course culminating with mosh jumping madness with audience favorite “Shabba”.
Shamir followed with his highly textured productions and one of a kind voice opening with “Vegas” from his new release and getting the crowd hype with “On the Regular”.
Possibly the highlight of the night though was Chicagoan Vic Mensa closing the Blue Stage with a highly energetic and veteranesque performance. The young performer showed “star in the making” status as he burned through hits like “Feel That”, “Orange Soda”, “Down on my Luck” blending a silky voice with some complex lyricism rare in this day and age of the hip hop game.
Sunday is always, of course, Pitchfork’s biggest night boasting headliners Kendrick Lamar and R Kelly in 2014 and 2013, respectively. Pitchfork went all in this year on Chicago “superstar in the making” Chance the Rapper (more on that shortly). Prior to that, Madlib and Freddie Gibbs enjoyed a split/combined set showcasing Madlib’s DJ skills while bringing Freddie on for a heavy lyric-laced performance mixed with tracks from the rapper’s last two albums. Other highlights included Jamie XX‘s much anticipated set. Following in the footsteps of his highly-lauded album In Colour, Jamie showcased his knack for selecting the best damn tracks any DJ can put together for a set these days. He brought together long renditions of new fan favorites from his albums taking the original stems from sampled songs like the Young Thug collabo “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” as well as closing the set with the beautifully constructed “Loud Places” (ft Romy) over a five minute span the crowd didn’t want to stop.
The last two main stage sets, which probably were the highest of highlights for the festival were Run the Jewels and Chance the Rapper. Both included major special guest surprises much more rare to encounter at most concerts or festivals. While Killer Mike got Chicago riled up invoking recent Stanley Cup Champs the Chicago Blackhawks, the highlight of the set if not the highlight of the festival was when Zach de La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine took the stage, showing even two of the most experienced emcees what it means to be one of history’s greatest ever frontmen. Simply put, that fool KILLED IT and lord, are audiences dying to see Zach grace a stage again in some meaningful way.
And finally, as night descended upon Chicago, Chance the Rapper took the stage, full band brass section in tow, and some of his highest level production and performance he’s ever had in his career. Question is, did Chance represent the Pitchfork closing headliner slot the way past artists have? The jury may still be out and these are certainly big shoes to fill but if Chicago’s response was any indication, he sure seemed to play the part damn well bringing out special guests as varied as the Chicago Bulls bucket drummers as well as the legendary Kirk Franklin backed by one of Chicago’s most powerful gospel choirs. The highlight of the final closing set though came somewhere in the middle as Chance played through cuts off his new album Surf with Donnie Trumpet in the flesh spinning, dancing, and playing the trumpet all around the stage as Chance ceded floor to him. Chance followed with some “Acid Rap” classics and the crowd would never be the same. There’s clearly more in store for Chance the Rapper, and music fans are sure to be blessed with this (and likely even higher) level of performances for years to come. Chance’s star is shining bright and Chicago’s relevance seems at an all time high, brighter and brighter it’ll shine.