After a tumultuous Saturday that smoothed out into a beautiful evening serenaded by Sleater-Kinney, Sunday brought back the heat and the sun, but that didn’t put a damper on some incredible performances. Additionally, Sunday featured the Chicago’s own Chance The Rapper making his big festival headliner debut. With that, here’s our full recap of Pitchfork Music Festival day three.
Though their name caused some controversy, Viet Cong are seemingly more interested in sonic explorations than offending anyone. Early Sunday saw the Canadian post-punk outfit mesmerized a sweaty crowd with with warped, disconnected melodies. Their set consisted solely of material from this year’s self-titled record, and most poignant was the epic, over 10-minute closer, “Death,” which shifts effortlessly from shimmering guitars to abrasive noise rock.
The sizable crowd that formed around the mud pit in front of the red stage Sunday was treated to a great set from Katie Crutchfield and her backing band. I was impressed with the range on display, the set was poignant at times and upbeat at others, drawing on songs from the two most recent Waxahatchee records. Catalog highlight “Waiting” from Cerulean Salt was a particular treat, as was simply seeing Crutchfield continue her rise after seeing her just two years prior on the smaller blue stage at the fest. The airy tunes were perfect for the warm weekend afternoon, and Crutchfield even graciously recommended the crowd go see The Julie Ruin, whose set began during hers, even dedicating a couple songs to Kathleen Hanna.(Dan Henshaw)
There might have been no set more inspirational the whole weekend than the Julie Ruin’s. Many flocked to the smaller Blue Stage for a chance to see Kathleen Hanna, who has become a feminist rock and roll icon from her days fronting a number of bands, but Bikini Kill most famously. Now at 46 years old, Hanna seemed comfortable with her her latest project, The Julie Ruin. Their music isn’t as ferocious as “Rebel Girl,” in fact much of it is reminiscent of the B-52’s in terms of its often surf-rock feel. Even Hanna manages to deliver highly melodic vocal lines between her more punk rock snarl and squeal. But between almost everyone song, Hanna took time to really engage with the audience – if not to tell them what the next song is about, then to give some advice and lessons learned in her time as a riot grrrl. The crowd simply watched and listened, still in awe of Hanna’s presence. It all made for a set that was a compelling as it was fun. (Richard Giraldi)
A pleasant mid-day surprise came in the form of Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett. While recent record, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, is quite excpetional, I was not anticipating just how much energy those songs would carry in a live setting. Performing as a trio, Barnett and her band traversed up-tempo Tom Petty-like roots rock to moshpit, early ’90s grunge territory in terms of sound. Closer “Pedestrian At Best” was reminiscent of prime-era Pearl Jam with the way she managed to connect with crowd on a very visceral level, and her black doc marten boots were just the icing on the cake. (Richard Giraldi)
Jamie xx delivered exactly what I was hoping for, a fun, mostly seamless DJ set that worked in tunes from his outstanding debut LP, In Colour. Smith could have just played songs from the record, and I think the crowd would have been content to just dance along, but instead we were treated to a carefully considered set that reconfigured tracks for that album to fit the overall mix. Album standout “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” got a great reaction. Smith essentially played the entire Persuasion’s track around which the song is based, using it as an intro to build anticipation. Other tracks like “Gosh” and “Loud Places,” the latter of which got a ton of time in the mix, were especially fun to do dance to, which was great as this was the first act of the weekend that really offered a chance to cut loose and move. (Dan Henshaw)
After Jamie xx’s set gave the festival crowd a reason to dance, Dan Snaith took the green stage and squandered none of that momentum. The set was chock full of the pulsing rhythms and shimmering melodies that Snaith has built a career on. I was particularly pleased with the setlist, which drew exclusively from Caribou’s last two albums, Swim and last year’s Our Love, arguably Snaith’s best two albums. For someone who had not seen Caribou live since those two LPs were released, I couldn’t have tailored the set any better, and the crowd seemed to agree, with songs like “Odessa” and “Can’t Do Without You” getting great reactions. The set featured few breaks, as Snaith and his bandmates looked to maintain a steady momentum throughout. All in all it was one of the most cohesive, danceable, and downright best sets of the weekend.(Dan Henshaw)
After seeing Run the Jewels deliver a great set at the fest in 2013, I was obviously hyped to see them again after the whirlwind two years the duo has experienced since. If their 2013 set was a coming out party of sorts, than this one was the victory lap. It was wonderful to see two such monster talents reveling in the fact that they found their peak together. Both Mike and El are clearly appreciative of where they are right now, and even two years in, the joy of hitting such a sweet spot this late in their careers has obviously not worn off. The result was a phenomenal set packed with the incredible songs the two have unleashed on their two LPs. That would have been more than enough, but the set was extra special due to some special guest appearances. Gangsta Boo came out for her verse from “Love Again,” Boots played guitar and sang on “Early,” and yes, Zach De La Rocha caused the crowd to utterly lose it’s shit when he ran out during “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” It was a triumphant moment in a set that was a triumph in and of itself. (Dan Henshaw)
Chance the Rapper’s festival closing set wasted no time exploding into a full blown spectacle, the likes of which I was not prepared for. The presentation was impeccable, with multiple screens on stage displaying all manner of crazy cartoon graphics, psychedelic imagery and video clips. Of course his band was present, and the full compliment of dancers, backup singers, and live instrumentation made for a show that was both visually and aurally incredible. The songs were a mix of Acid Rap and Surf cuts, and even some material from #10Day made it in. The communal energy and positivity that Chance has been cultivating and promoting was the essence of the set, he even cut the live feed so as to make the show just for those actually present. For something so big and bombastic, it felt remarkably intimate, which was impressive. This was a complete blowout of a set, one that was already feeling like a tent revival before gospel singer Kirk Franklin came out and led a brain melting version of “Sunday Candy.” The energy, musicianship, and presentation combined to create something that felt genuine and special, and I can’t think of a better way to finish the festival. (Dan Henshaw)