Pitchfork Fest 2015 Saturday Recap

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An occurrence I’ve only seen one other time in my many years attending Chicago music festivals happened Saturday at Pitchfork Music Festival. The festival grounds closed and the crowd was told to evacuate the park because of poor weather. It was reminiscent of the evacuation of Lollapalooza 2012 when massive thunderstorms forced thousands to leave Grant Park, but luckily today’s crowd didn’t empty out on to busy downtown streets. Instead, some left to local taverns for a moment, while many simply stayed in the park until the rain passed, which was only a few minutes later. Most fortunately, the storm subsided fairly quickly, and the crowd was let back in around 4:20 p.m. The short delay only caused a minimal dent in the day’s schedule, and much of it went off without a hitch. So with that, here’s our full recap of Pitchfork Festival 2015 day two.

1:12 p.m. – Jimmy Whispers
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


In one of the weirdest Pitchfork Fest sets in recent memory, Jimmy Whispers delivered a performance that seemed part stand-up act, part chillwave concert and part trolling. I guess we’ll never know the truth, but during second song in, which featured Whispers cavorting around the stage solo singing along to a warble-y prerecorded track, his backing band ran on stage and started throwing water balloons into the audience. The rest of the set followed suit, which saw Whispers in a dress, embrace the American Flag and conclude by pipping in “What A Wonderful World” over the PA and commanding the crowd to slow dance. While his lo-fi, chill-pop is fairly rough around the edges, at the very least, Whispers made an impression on early afternoon attendees. (Richard Giraldi)

1:55 p.m. – Protomartyr
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Protomartyr was my first set of the festival’s second day, and the band wasted no time kicking things off with a no­nonsense set that drew mostly upon last year’s Under Color of Official Right. The band clearly meant business, taking the stage dressed head to toe in all black in bold defiance of the sweltering afternoon heat. Frontman Joe Casey in particular donned a full black suit as he sing slash shouted his lines, with the band conjuring up an oppressive wall of sound around him. The band was quite economical on the ­stage banter save for “here’s another song…” But the serious approach was a perfect match for the brooding, bleak music. (Dan Henshaw)

2:19 p.m. – Bully
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Nashville’s Bully look, feel and sound like veterans of the festival circuit. Their grungy, biting pop songs are driven by frontwoman Alicia Bognanno. Her voice goes from a quirky squeak to a full blown Cobain-like growl on a dime. The band is definitely riding their current buzz as the relatively blue stage area was packed in tight, and the crowd was enthused throughout, which even included some crowd surfing if the music and vibe weren’t ’90s enough. The band played nearly all of their addicting debut record, this year’s Feels Like. But the highlights included the broken down melodies of “Trash” and the slacker riffs and Pavement-loose feel of “Too Tough.” Missed them at Pitchfork this year? Don’t worry – Bully’s current buzz-wave brings them back to Chicago for Lollapalooza in two weeks. (Richard Giraldi)

3:32 p.m. – Ex Hex
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


One of my personally most anticipated sets of the weekend was, unfortunately, cut short by rain. Ex Hex, the latest project from Washington D.C. singer-songwriter and American treasure Mary Timony, were fast approaching their scheduled 3:20 p.m. start time when the rain started to fall. The the crew scrambled to put plastic wrap over monitors and push the drums and guitar further back on the stage. The rain began to fall more aggressively. But finally, running about 10 minutes late, Ex Hex took the stage. “This is crazy!” Mary Timony said as she surveyed the falling rain and the soaked crowd. The band then ripped a short but very sweet set. It was a fun, in addition to extremely wet, experience. After about six songs, the crew told the band they had to stop. After Ex hex left the stage, an announcement came over the PA that the park was closing in 20 minutes. I left the park and waited out the storm at my friend’s car before returning to the park shortly after the 4:20 p.m. reopening. (Richard Giraldi)

5:35 p.m. – Parquet Courts
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


It’s was quite the scene when Parquet Courts blasted into their ferocious NYC stoner-punk and the sun emerged from behind the clouds. After which, it was an incredibly beautiful day save for the now completely muddy Union Park. Regardless, Parquet Courts’ really worked as a revival in the late afternoon as their machine gun riffage jilted awake a wet and cranky crowd. It was easy to get lost in singer Andrew Savage’s manic ramble, which takes the lead during the band’s long, one-note speed jams. An interesting thing about Parquet Courts is how much material they’ve released since their first performance at Pitchfork Festival in 2013. Only a couple of tracks from their absorbing 2013 debut Light Up Gold made it on the setlist, which favored songs from their two 2014 releases, Sunbathing Animal and Constant Nausea, and even a new song. Parquet Courts can get by on their brash energy alone, and that’s perfect for steamy summer music fests. (Richard Giraldi)

6:46 p.m. – The New Pornographers

A photo posted by Ben Seitelman (@bseitelman) on


After getting thoroughly drenched, it was actually nice to stand in the sun as The New Pornographers took the green stage. This is at least the third or fourth time I’ve seen the band and Neko Case and Dan Bejar have never been present, so I wasn’t surprised when they were once again absent for this festival set. As they always though, the rest of the band delivered a fantastic set that drew upon a large portion of their catalog going all the way back to their debut. Coming from a power pop band it should be no surprise, but this was an upbeat and exuberant set whose consistently high energy came at the perfect time to bring the day back from the rain-soaked brink. (Dan Henshaw)

7:55 p.m. – Future Islands

A photo posted by @suprefan on


I saw Future Islands open a small show at the Metro over seven years ago. It was a fine set, but I forgot about them shortly after, and I certainly didn’t envision them holding down the second to last spot at Pitchfork Fest all these years later. Clearly the band earned the high billing, they probably locked it down after their star-­making Letterman performance. Frontman Samuel Herring wasted no time launching into the demonstrative theatrics the world became familiar with after that late night appearance. It’s tough not to spend an entire Future Islands recap just talking about Herring. The man is a force of nature who seems to be alternately performing and undergoing an exorcism on stage. The chest beating, head slapping, and those dance moves all seem to be the M.O. of someone who is living and dying with each note, and as an audience member it’s a pleasure just to take the ride with him. (Dan Henshaw)

9:21 p.m. – Sleater-Kinney
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Sleater-Kinney are now on the victory lap portion of their No Cities to Love tour, but you couldn’t tell by taking in their set. When they announced their 2006 breakup, fans knew in their hearts that it would only be temporary – especially when Janet Weiss joined Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag. But now that Sleater-Kinney is a living, thriving band again, it feels so right. They still maintain that kick-your-teeth-in riot grrrl intensity – even on new No Cities songs like fanged rocker “Fangless” and the charging romper “Price Tag.” Still, the band remain dedicated to their back material playing a number of cuts from 2005’s The Woods, 2000’s All Hands On The Bad One and 1997’s Dig Me Out. Though the crowd grew smaller as 9:30 p.m. rolled around, those that stuck were bright eyed and excited to sing along with every Corin Tucker howl. During the encore, the band let the audience vote for the next song. It was hardly scientific, but the winner was a very unrehearsed “You’re No Rock n’ Roll Fun.” The fumbled on their first try of the smile-inducing, glittery guitar jam. A few laughs later, take two turned out far better. Sleater-Kinney took absolute command of the crowd, who were enthralled at every turn. Now, let’s just hope Sleater-Kinney sticks around for a few more Pitchforks. (Richard Giraldi)

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