Pitchfork 2021 Review: Day One
The indie festival has made a nice comeback at Union Park in Chicago.
On Friday September 10, the Pitchfork Music Festival returned to Chicago for the 15th time.
After a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19, the festival has drawn fans, artists and vendors eager to be able to revel in live music.
2020 would have been the festival’s 15th anniversary and was to feature some of the artists who performed at Union Park that first year in 2005.
However, the world had different plans.
The pandemic has changed many aspects of life and that meant attending concerts and festivals would have to be postponed until the situation was a little more under control.
A year and a half of waiting was worth it.
Almost all of the artists showed their appreciation to the fans by playing most of the hits in their catalogs. In turn, the fans returned the gesture by giving their bodies to the music and danced, shouted and clapped at every opportunity.
I arrived on Friday afternoon just in time to see the London black midi math rock outfit. After releasing his first album Schlagenheim in 2019 to rave reviews the band are fairly new to the scene, but you couldn’t tell by watching the crowd standing in front of the green stage on this pleasant late summer afternoon.
After listening to the last songs from their set, I walked around the park to get a feel for the terrain. One thing that immediately struck me was the number of accessible zones that the festival organizers have put in place. Metal ramps spanned nearly 100 feet or more, leading to elevated platforms that allowed people with disabilities to see and enjoy the festival. In addition, festival volunteers were positioned in front of the docks to ensure that someone who did not need them did not use them.
From there I went to find a water filling station to quench my thirst. It is commendable that Pitchfork has set up such stations, unlike most festivals. If, however, someone did not bring a water bottle with them, plastic water bottles were always available from vendors.
My only complaint was that the station was built from two-by-fours, garden hose and PVC pipes. I don’t know where the water came from, but it had a putrid smell that made it difficult to drink. That aside, it was great that the option was there.
Meanwhile, The Fiery Furnaces performed on the Red Stage. I had only listened to their song “Single Again” before the festival and that’s what they started with. More so, this was the first show they had played since their hiatus in 2011, so it made sense that they would open with arguably their most popular song.
Their sound is somewhere between the Detroit rock revival of the early 2000s where you had bands like the White Stripes and the Detroit Cobras that revived the garage-rock sound. Mix that with some rock synth from bands like Devo and even the Talking Heads and you have The Fiery Furnaces.
Animal Collective performed on the Green Stage immediately after the Burning Stoves ended. It was sort of a fluke that they played that night. Avey Tare, one of the members of Animal Collective, had performed solo the first and only time I went to Pitchfork in 2015, so it was exciting to be able to see him and the rest of the band together on stage six. years later.
I grew up listening to Animal Collective in high school and seeing them ten or twelve years later was very nostalgic. However, I only stayed two or three songs because Kelly Lee Owens was playing at the same time on the Blue Stage not too far away and I really wanted to see her set.
Owens is a Welsh DJ who has released two albums in the past four years, but who caused a stir on the electronic scene. She was heavily influenced by Daniel Avery’s debut album in 2013 Drone logic and from there he became one of the most creative DJs of the past five years. His presence on stage was remarkable. She got the crowd involved on many songs and when she wasn’t behind the mixer she would dance like a spring tulip in an April breeze.
Big Thief was the next act to perform on the Red Stage. A large group is a group of talented members who contribute to the whole, rather than stealing the show from one of the other members. Big Thief is just that; they work as a single unit. I would like to say that Adrianne Lenker, on guitar and vocals, is what makes this band really special, because she writes amazing lyrics, but she’s only part of it. Big Thief’s sound is definitely Midwestern.
It’s both folk rock and indie rock. Lenker’s lyrics mention things like “cattails swaying in the wind” and “your hands are like artifacts in my mind”. She has a remarkable talent for creating a visually compelling song. For me, Big Thief was the headliner. The crowd wasn’t electric like it had been for other acts, but it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t until the end of each song that you heard a sound from someone in the crowd, but during the set everyone was quiet and their attention was rightly focused on what was in front. them.
Phoebe Bridgers was the official headliner, but soon after she left I made it to the record show where I spoke with a number of sellers about what they were up to. Some were locals who ran small record companies. Some made their own clothes and others offered hundreds of second-hand records at reasonably low prices. I bought three for less than $ 25.
Sensing the show was drawing to a close, I tried to head out to the outings before everyone else, but didn’t and was engulfed by the massive exodus of this year’s Pitchfork attendees. .
After a year and a half of hiatus from live music, I felt good.