While music festivals continue to outdo each other with never-ending battles involving more stages, bigger lineups and greater headliners — Pitchfork separates itself from the pack by simply focusing on its format of music. Serving audiophiles as a breath of fresh air in today’s saturated festival market, this year’s offering may have lacked in a marquee act (no R. Kelly, Kendrick Lamar or Chance The Rapper on the bill) but Pitchfork still excelled in delivering quality music through quality booking and execution. Hell, say what you will about Pitchfork as an entity, but the roster of talent on the board was truly + undeniably unique and different from any other summer festival out there in the country. In addition to that, you would be hard pressed to find an event that provides local acts and developing artists an opportunity to make the journey to the Chi, and engage with the audience in a more affordable and accessible way.
On Friday, Okayplayer was on-hand to witness a couple of young-and-hungry artists of note start off the escapade, as Los Angeles based Moses Sumney kicked things off the right way. His beautifully looped vocals, at one time, once graced our own stage at Central Park, so it was a pleasant surprise to see his shine on the stage as he didn’t fail to dazzle at the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival. Much like many of the artists who performed this year, Moses exuded a tone of love and appreciation, as his voice moved in and out of falsetto, which soothed the crowd even despite competing stage noise from Twin Shadow. Some highlights included, “Seeds,” “Man on the Moon” and “Pleas”. Mick Jenkins, a local offspring of Chicago’s Southside area, further reinforced his hometown pride and stake in the rap game with his performance of “Drink More Water,” followed by some rhymes over Missy Elliott‘s “Supa Dupa Fly”.
After having the crowd deep in the palm of his hand, Mick pulled out his unreleased Coloring Book track, “Grown Ass Kids,” which elicited a healthy + happy response from the crowd. On the Blue Stage, Shamir, who represents Las Vegas, paired his unique countertenor voice with upbeat disco productions. One can only hope that the follow-up to his debut effort, Ratchet, will propel him to even greater heights and performance venues. Shamir worked the crowd like a respected veteran with singles such as “Call It Off” and absolutely peaked with the crown when “On the Regular” blared out the speakers, allowing him to totally own the set.
Fast forward to Saturday, and we were excited for the impressive performances the line-up promised us. From Blood Orange playing a mix of songs from Cupid Deluxe and his newest album, Freetown Sound, to Digable Planets returning to the public eye unified and backed by a full band — the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival was exhilarating and full of unexpected surprises. Such an occurrence was when Carly Rae Jepson stepped out to perform with Dev Hynes after classics like “Chamakay,” “You’re Not Good Enough,” “Best to You,” and “Hands Up” entertained the crowd. With Digable Planets joking to the youngsters in the crowd that they “weren’t born” when Reachin’ was released to the public, they still killed their set with “It’s Good To Be Here,” “Graffiti,” and, of course, their closing hit, “Rebirth of Slick” (Cool Like Dat). BJ The Chicago Kid followed afterwards, reminding the hometown crowd that he was a certified hitmaker on the rise. As he laced “Turning Me Up,” “His Pain,” “No Problem” from Chance’s Coloring Book, “Studio” from ScHoolboy Q‘s album and “It’s True,” the multi-talented artist proudly repped his city by showcasing his drumming styles.
BJ even did a rendition of D’Angelo‘s “Send It On,” which drove the crowd into a frenzy.
Following one of Chicago’s favorite sons was J Lin, who is considered Gary, Indiana’s preeminent juke-and-footwork artist. She killed the stage with a hard hitting DJ set and had some of Gary’s finest dancers representing the culture alongside her to the fullest. Over on the smaller Blue Stage, Anderson .Paak proved that he was one of the top performers on the bill through sheer hard work and energetic performing. While Malibu is one of the best albums of 2016 (so far), .Paak playing tracks from Malibu live is even better. Rocking a Milli Vanilli t-shirt and exuding confidence of a legend-in-the-making, Anderson jammed out with The Free Nationals, spending half of his set on his drum kit, singing cuts from all his past albums while performing his best songs from Malibu. “Come Down” was definitely peak .Paak and it is crazy to think that, despite undeniable skill, the journey to find his niche has taken so long to procure. He thanked all of his supporters along the way and shouted out Kaytanada, which led into “Glo’d Up,” making it extremely hard for others to top that performance throughout the night.
On Sunday, Pitchfork continued to bless the crowd with top ranking musicians like the one and only, Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. The long time friends and performers also had the young British upstart (and upcoming First Look Friday talent), NAO, on the bill. She really had the crowd in love with her from the jump. Her highly anticipated full-length debut album will be out in two weeks, and her stateside jaunt will do well to increase awareness and want. Jeremih, another Chicago star, raised the temperature quite a few degrees as the crowd enjoyed his “Airplanes” performance. Immediately following that, Chance The Rapper surprised everyone as he rapped a few verses from his stellar cut, “Angels”. Throughout the entirety of the weekend, artists like the aforementioned Digable Planets and Miguel made statements to the crowd, addressing the current wave of injustice, racism and violence plaguing our society. These comments made to the crowd were encouraging to hear-and-see, as the crowd stood up to take notice that music and social justice intersected to motivate them into action and change.