This Saturday night, Swedish DJ and producer Carl Garsbo, better known as Kasbo, will be bring his “Places We Don’t Know” tour to the House of Blues. He will be joined by openers Vancouver Sleep Clinic and Ford.
After missing Kasbo’s Chicago show earlier this year, I’m looking forward to catching him this time around. Named for his debut LP, which came out in March of this year, this tour is the second part of his North American headlining debut. The LP was the DJ’s first lengthy release since his “Umbrella Club” EP in 2015, but was preceded by a series of remixes of songs you’ll surely recognize – “The Little Things” by Big Gigantic, “Monument” by Mutemath and “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap, to name a few. His music is hard to place genre-wise, though. It’s a subgenre of house in the same wavelength as ODESZA and Jai Wolf, with spacey tones, mellow builds and bright, high-energy melodies. The sound does make sense, considering Kasbo’s extensive work with and through ODESZA’s Foreign Family Collective. His LP, however, set him apart and truly showcased his personal sound. My favorites off the album include “Snow in Gothenberg” and “Your Tempo.” Combined with a smart, innovative light setup, Saturday has the potential to be quite ethereal and special.
On Friday night, Chicago native Paul Cherry played at a rather unconventional venue — Apple. The Michigan Avenue store, which opened a little over a year ago, hosts artists in a large, open space in front of the tables showcasing its products. People leaned against tables and sat on wooden blocks placed in a semicircle around Cherry and his band.
Cherry opened with “Hello Again,” the first song on his full-length album “Flavour,” which he released at the end of March. The jazzy song was a fitting greeting, as this was Cherry’s first show back in Chicago after a six-week tour.
“It’s pretty fun playing here at the Apple store,” Cherry said after a few songs. “I thought it was gonna be awkward because of the lighting.” With its bright lights, the store, which has two-story-tall glass walls that expose it to the street, seemed like a small haven from the cold and dark.During the performance, a screen behind Cherry and his bandmates projected clips of running water, swimming fish, and people walking across the beach. Cherry broke up his performance by joking between songs, which I thought was amusing, although his audience was largely unresponsive. “Apple store, you still with us?” Cherry asked about halfway through his performance, throwing up his hands. “It’s Friday night, come on! We could be at a bar. We’re at the Genius Bar.”
Cherry’s voice was smooth and clear, just as it is on his album, but what was most impressive about the performance was the use of instruments — both his own guitar technique and the playing of his bandmates. His newer music is an interesting mix of old and new, jazz and pop. Cherry used a loop machine at points, and in addition to more conventional instruments, one of his bandmates played a wind chime and maracas.The band ventured into improvisation during “The Comeback,” when Cherry stepped back to let two of his bandmates take a drum break. One of the drummers played bongos, which fit in surprisingly well with the synths in many of the other songs.
During “Minute,” a fun instrumental song in the middle of “Flavour,” Cherry played slide guitar while the screen behind him showed a snail moving along, followed by a plane ascending in slow motion. The song was the most exaggerated example of Cherry’s dream-like music. It felt like a brief stop in time.
On a cold and relatively quiet Saturday night in Logan Sqaure, Chicago’s first Windy Popfest opened at the Burlington Bar. The bar provided a small and intimate setting you wouldn’t often associate with the words “music festival” but it was the perfect backdrop for the performances of the evening. In between sets, various DJs filled the space with melancholy yet upbeat tunes, which seemed to be a theme.
Chicago is home to a massive independent music community, encompassing pretty much any niche genre you could think of. Windy Popfest itself was a collection of independent artists across the US centered around dreampop, a genre that has gotten really popular in recent years. Dreampop is loosely derivative of shoegaze, but rather than muddy, distorted guitar tones creating a monotonous dirge, it opts for simple melodic lines in reverb soaked sound, or floating synth arpeggios weaving in and out of the mix. The sound has been popularized by bands like Beach House, Alvvays, Wild Nothing, and M83.
Girl Valley opened the night with some simple yet heartfelt and catchy singer-songerwriter ballads. Her new EP Eternal Picnic reflects her very stripped down sound, but has some subtly catchy choruses and clever lyricisms. Following her brief set, Avishay, a singer-songwriter from Brooklyn brought a little more energy to the space with his earnest power-pop. The next set also featured solo artist Kevin Hairs but had a little more punch thanks to some interesting, improvised beat loops off an iPad. His new release Freak in the Streets, available on Bandcamp or via cassette, features a full band, has some memorable songwriting.
A local band, Star Tropics, played the first full set of the night and their jangle-pop sound was infectiously happy. Having a full band in the space immediately changed the energy, and the crowd seemed to grow quickly. Their bouncy guitar riffs and sunny sound were simple and fun, a reminder that music does not have to be complex or overly intricate to be good.Everyone seemed to take notice of the stage setup in preparation for the following artist, Gloom Balloon. A blowup bottle of Miller Lite and an RV shaped tent sat in the corner as found footage from commercials played on a loop through the projector. After a couple minutes of this, the artist finally arrived, hopped on stage, and pressed play on his laptop. We were immediately transported into the absurdist world of Gloom Balloon, backed by choir of found sound samples and his own recordings. He spent most of the set sprinting around the audience and half-singing, half-imploring them to appreciate his stream-of-consciousness ramblings. It toed a line between unbearable gimmick and captivating performance art, and it was unsure which he truly intended but it was FUN.Panda Riot, another Chicago band rounded out the night with some cuts off their new, fantastic album Infinity Maps. Their performance almost felt choreographed but captured the exact same sound as their studio recordings, something I thought would be impossible. Definitely check them out if you are into dreampop, and keep an eye out for Windy Popfest in the future!
Get ready for a whiplash-inducing weekend of back-to-back-to-back sets, because Riot Fest is here! After much speculation about the festival’s lineup, scheduling and general occurrence, Sept. 14-16 are finally upon us. Daily schedules were released Wednesday morning and reflect headliner Blink-182’s recent replacement by Weezer, Run the Jewels and Taking Back Sunday. Regardless, we are all now swimming in a confusing sea of set times, stage names and conflicting performances.
To help, I’ve teamed up with Stella Frentress, who’ll be covering the festival with me, and WNUR’s Content Coordinator Finn Hewes to provide an extensive, jam-packed schedule of our picks that you can either follow, reference or scoff at. Your choice.
Hydrate and eat a big breakfast, kids, because this is going to be a big one.
Speedy Ortiz: 1-1:30 p.m., Roots Stage
This four-piece band, centered around singer and guitarist Sadie Dupuis, will kick off the weekend with her earnest voice to the tune of her band’s deep bass and lively arrangements.
Direct Hit!: 1:35-2:05 p.m., Riot Stage
For 11 years, this pop-punk band has been releasing a steady stream of upbeat anthems and guitar breaks with some serious drive.
Typesetter: 2:30-3:10, Rebel Stage
New song alert! This brash and loud band put out a new single, Monogamy I, last Friday, putting exactly one week between its release and this performance. Amazing.
The Aquabats!: 3:15-4, Rise Stage
Ska-punk gets big with this 8-piece (minimum) band. Get ready for a wide open sound from a ton of different overlaying instruments.
The Front Bottoms: 4:40-5:25 p.m., Riot Stage
The duo caught our attention with their interesting blend of pop, rock and punk influences and lyrics that ebb and flow in never ending waves.
Matt & Kim: 5:30-6:30, Roots Stage
This pair of Brooklyn musicians has been around for what feels like forever–which is not even close to a bad thing. Their sixth album, ALMOST EVERYDAY, came out this past May, adding to a long, happy history of quirky jams.
Bleachers: 6:35-7:35 p.m., Riot Stage
Built around the lyrical genius of Jack Antonoff, this rock outfit will have get you on your feet, shouting lyrics to anthems we love.
Young the Giant: 7:40-8:40 p.m., Roots Stage
In case you missed this whimsy and spirited band’s headlining set on Dillo Day (shame!), I’ll remind you: it was magnificent. Pouring rain and an animated on-stage presence ended the night with a bang.
Dropkick Murphys 8:30-9:30, Rise Stage
This is going to be a wild one, full of this band’s high-energy signature Celtic punk. I can’t even imagine how fun, weird and spirited this will be live.
Weezer: 8:45-10, Riot Stage
End your night by catching the last part of Weezer’s set, aka feel good, guitar-heavy pop rock. You’ll definitely be singing along.
The Districts: 1:05-1:50 p.m., Riot Stage
Start off your day with a softer, indie/anti-pop that feels genuine, intuitive and timeless. This one has the potential to be quite special.
The Frights: 1:55-2:40 p.m., Roots Stage
Don’t let the name feel you–you’ll enjoy a youthful set with a beachy vibe, and hear raw, relatable lyrics. Listening to frontman Mikey Carnevale on the band’s August 24th release, Hypochondriac, you get the feeling that he’s been through some shit.
Mannequin Pussy: 2:30-3:15 p.m., Rise Stage
Distinctly feminine vocals receive sharp contrast against a punk rock backdrop and thick guitar bridges.
Bully: 3:45-4:30 p.m., Rise Stage
Lead vocalist Alicia Bognanno adds a cheeky edge to this band, with a voice that could fit either gossip-filled brunch with the girls or sassy back talk to a mom that’s ~so~ uncool.
Wolfmother: 5-5:45 p.m., Radicals Stage
The gritty, leather-clad rock our parents grew up to gets psychedelic twists and turns under Andrew Stockdale’s distinctively campy voice.
Twin Peaks: 5:30-6:30 p.m., Roots Stage
This group of four Chicago natives is coming home, bringing along ‘60s influences and a snug sound that will create a buffer between you and the real world.
Elvis Costello & The Imposters: 6:35-7:35 p.m., Riot Stage
Elvis Costello, a man of many hats and many bands, is an absolute icon. Catch him now and you might hear unreleased tracks from his upcoming album, Look Now, set to be released in October with The Imposters. It will be his first in five years.
Interpol: 7:40-8:40 p.m., Roots Stage
I hate to do this to you–and to me–but it’s time to run. After hitting up Interpol, whose set should heavily feature their August 24th release, Marauder, make a break for the Rise Stage to catch the end of The Jesus Lizard’s set.
The Jesus Lizard, 8-9 p.m., Rise Stage
You made it, great! Formed in the late ‘80s, this Chicago band is authentic underground noise rock. They broke up, then got back together, then broke up again, and are now, well, together again. Once you’re done enjoying this band, run to the Riots Stage for Beck.
Beck: 8:45-10 p.m., Riot Stage
Colors, a seamless blend of alternative roots and today’s bright, electronic trends, was the first album I ever bought on vinyl. And with a discography going back 24 years, I doubt I’ll be the only one in my happy place during his return to Chicago.
Mom Jeans.: 12:20-12:50 p.m., Riot Stage
Fitting right in with any arrangement of ‘90s garage rock bands, this group will be a fresh, bustling way to start the day.
Beach Goons: 12:55-1:25 p.m., Roots Stage
Their Aug. 24th release, hoodratscumbags, showcases their energy-driven breaks overlaid with urgent and sincere vocals.
Calpurnia: 1:30-2:10 p.m., Riot Stage
The indie rock foursome is beachy, light and airy. We’re looking forward to jamming out with big smiles.
Spitalfield: 3-3:45 p.m., Radicals Stage
Started in Chicago, this punk rock band is melodic and smooth. They haven’t put out anything new since 2006, so I’m expecting their performance to feel more sophisticated and professional.
Bullet for my Valentine: 3:45-4:30 p.m., Rise Stage
This band a staple for any metalhead–which I’m not–but I can imagine it’ll be great to experience the adrenaline of their music firsthand .
Suicidal Tendencies: 4:40-5:40 p.m., Riot Stage
Keep the energy going with these quick-tongued punk rock pros, who’ve been producing music since the early ‘80s.
Dillinger Four: 5:45-6:45 p.m., Rebel Stage
Busy and strong, their arrangements are highly concentrated and fast-paced. Maximum amounts of headbanging is achievable here.
The Wonder Years: 7-8 p.m., Radicals Stage
Melancholy but hopeful, this punk rock band’s sound is dynamic and full. You’ll be able to both dance and wave a lighter during this set.
Father John Misty: 7:55-8:55 p.m., Roots Stage
No explanation needed. Just go. Please.
Run the Jewels: 9-10 p.m., Riot Stage
End the weekend with a bang. This legendary duo is the only hip hop group on our schedule this weekend, but I’m okay with that because of how incredible this will be live. Let’s GO.
Marketed as “summer’s last stand,” North Coast Music Festival was not only a celebration of the last rays of summer sun, but also of urban, tourist-free Chicago. From August 31 through September 2, Union Park was transformed into a lively stomping ground for downtown’s resident creatives and music lovers. Stages were filled with a good amount of local musicians, drawing crowds full of passionate listeners. Meanwhile, a curated lineup of artists created colorful installations with hip hop and street art themes.
But let’s not forget that nighttime performances were literal last stands against a never-ending mass of thunderclouds and pouring rain. Attendees missed out on two nights’ worth of heavy-hitting headlining acts. Despite an outstanding showing from those who did perform, the weekend’s exuberance took a heavy hit. However, a miraculous final day full of music brought both heat and proof of the city’s dedication to beating negativity with a good time.
Keep reading for my short notes on the sets I hung out at, and stay tuned for artist interview podcasts from Sonic Sanctuary’s Brennan White.
Iris Temple: My favorite of the day! The Chicago-based duo gave a gorgeous sunset performance, even though it was only seen by two rows of people. A romantic change of pace from the edgier acts. Picture perfect lighting on a small stage, and vibier synths and vocals.
Snails: The complete opposite of Iris Temple, which allowed me to get my trap fix for the weekend. Killer first half, but cut short by the storm. Lots of spirited steppers and aggressive head-bangers, which was to be expected.
Robert DeLong: A crazy person, in the absolute best way. He ran around onstage with a Wii remote, used to control three different electronic setups, followed by a bouncing head of platinum hair.
RL Grime: I saw him in May, before the release of his third album, NOVA, and was thrilled to hear the new set. It went above and beyond my expectations. Some drops fell a bit flat, but hearing the album live with an entire sea of people made up lost ground–and then some.
Cashmere Cat: Unconventional drops, glistening pops and quirky arrangements. A nice change of pace. He opted out of using visuals, adding emphasis on the music, and ended up being an impromptu headliner when gates once again closed early due to storms.
Maddy O’Neal: A female in electronic music! O’Neal’s chill beats and heavy, pared down bass lines were right on brand. Compare to artists like Manic Focus.
The Midnight: So sweet! So soulful! I sat down in the grass with some friends for this one, swaying and vibing out.
Mura Masa: Alex Crossan, the reserved, artistic Brit known as Mura Masa hung back with his instruments, playing everything perfectly and causing a storm of dancing bodies. Crossan was joined onstage by Fliss, who handled most of the vocals and provided a welcome contrast with her power and liveliness.
Jamiroquai: Returned to the city for the first time in over a decade, and frontman Jason Kay proclaimed he would pick up right where he left off. Such a confident and eccentric performer. Truly entertaining and classic.
Special mention for the silent disco, which provided a necessary break from main stages and was the most consistently packed area of the entire park. Featuring local DJs, it maintained an anything goes, basement concert vibe.
Mura Masa playing at Concord Music Hall this past November. Photo by Yasmeen Wood
I hope you are having a great week!
North Coast Music Festival is nearly upon us, and that means it’s time for my preview of the event!
This weekend much of the Chicago music community will descend upon Union Park for the 9th iteration of the 3-day festival. North Coast has touted impressive lineups in previous year featuring names such as: Deadmau5, Gucci Mane, Zedd, Snoop Dogg, David Guetta, the Chemical Brothers, Moby, and many more. If that small sampling of past performers tells you anything, it’s that North Coast is willing to spend budget to bring in the big guns.
So, this year I expected no less. And I’ve gotta say, the lineup does not disappoint.
The weekend is shaping up to be fantastic and will offer everything from your mainstay headliners: Miguel, Axwell Ingrosso, DJ Snake, Vulfpeck, and co. to auspicious newcomers such as Chicago’s very own Ric Wilson and KAMI. I think North Coast has done a great job booking talent this year, considering there is a great deal of variety across genres. For the 21st century Soundcloud rap consumer you’ve got Juice WRLD, Smokepurpp, and Landon Cube among others, for the more seasoned millennial with a taste for synth-pop, indie-electronic and alternative, you’ve got the obvious picks: the Polish Ambassador, the Revivalists, Moon Taxi, Knower, and many more, for the more electronically inclined (bass heads!) you’ve got Snails, RL Grime, Crywolf, Midnight Conspiracy, and Chicago natives Porn & Chicken.
And for someone like me? Well, here are my picks!
This list will certainly include names you know, and perhaps a couple you might not. These are acts that I both appreciate for their artistry as well as their reputation as performers and people.
So with these picks, you can take it or leave it, but at least you will know where to find me 🙂
In order of date and time.
Monte Booker: 3:45-4:30 at the Coast stage.
Barclay Crenshaw: 5:00-6:00 at the Coast stage. Absolute legend in the house & techno scene. The Dirtybird boss, who also works under the alias Claude VonStroke, brings a funky style to the dance music scene, and is a must-see act for me this weekend. Also, I will hopefully conduct an interview with him for the Sonic Sanctuary show, so stay tuned.
Two Friends: 5:30-6:30 at the Attendee.com stage.
Juice WRLD: 6:00-6:45 at the North stage.
Snails // DVSN: Snails plays 7:45-8:45 at the Attendee stage while DVSN plays the same slot at the North stage. This one is a toss up for me so I will likely go to both.
Headliner: Miguel // Axwell Ingrosso. : 8:45-10:00 at the Coast stage and Attendee stage respectively. I have seen both performers before, and I would weight my experiences close to being equal. I saw Miguel at Governor’s Ball in 2016 (partially rained out so didn’t get the full experience) and Axwell x Ingrosso at Governor’s Ball in 2014. These days I am much more of a fan of the live set than the DJ set at music festivals, so I lean heavily towards Miguel when considering which one to attend; however, Axwell Ingrosso does throw down one of the best mainroom / big room EDM sets you’ll hear, if that’s your flavor.
Ric Wilson: 2:45-3:45 at the Coast stage. Chicago native and homegrown talent, show some love!
Knower: 4:45-5:45 at the Coast stage. seasoned indie-electronic duo that makes some interesting noise…
The Polish Ambasssador x Diplomatic Scandal: 5:45-6:45 at North stage.
RL Grime: 6:45-7:45 at Coast stage.
Cashmere Cat: 7:45-8:45 at North stage.
Headliner: the Revivalists: 8:45-10:00pm at Attendee.com stage.
I picked the Revivalists over DJ Snake in the head to head main stage match-up because I think they offer more to the viewer in a live space. I have seen DJ Snake in the past, and while his dirty house style fused with Middle Eastern and Caribbean influences is great for your frat party or Saturday night pregame, I don’t think it is the best use of your time at a major festival. See the live band here. The 7-piece band (the Revivalists) features pedal steel guitar, your mainstay drummer, guitarist, keyboardist, bassist and vocalist, as well as saxophone and trumpet. And when a live band is mic’d and mixed well live, it is a sight to enjoy and a pleasure for your ears. I’m in.
NoMBe: 3:30-4:30 at North Stage.
KAMI: 4:30 – 5:30 at Attendee.com stage. Another hometown talent!
Jacob Banks: 5:30-6:30 North Stage. English-Nigerian singer songwriter. Fantastic voice.
Moon Taxi: 6:30-7:30 Coast Stage.
Mura Masa: 7:30-8:30 North Stage.
Headliner: Jamiroquai: 8:30-10:00 Coast stage.
Once again, the question between headliners Yellow Claw and Jamiroquai comes down to your attitude towards the final act of the festival. Are you trying to have a wild time, or are you trying to finish your weekend with a more mellow vibe? Jamiroquai made their name in the 90s with consistent success on the U.K. dance charts. They combine house sensibilities with funk and soul influences. I personally find that sound more appealing these days than some of the more drop-oriented electronic music that acts like Yellow dClaw tout, but to each his own. Sometimes it’s fun to let loose!
So this brings me to the end of my preview. I will leave you with this last word: I will be conducting interviews at this festival so you can expect on-air content as well as some additional material on the website and on WNUR’s socials. I am finalizing my interview schedule, but it’s shaping up to be fun. Stay tuned. I’m excited for you to hear these interviews!
Check out Brennan’s music coverage and interviews at www.sonicsanctuary.live
When it came time for her set, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast practically jumped her way on stage. Her undeniable energy was also exhibited in her outfit, consisting of a long-sleeved racing top, sparkly skirt, and space-buns hairstyle. Originating from Philadelphia, Zauner showcased her multi-instrumentalist abilities by switching from guitar to synths to just vocals throughout the show. Backing her up was her band, consisting of a guitarist, bassist, and drummer who provided vocals at times. The set was a good mix of Zauner’s dark, dreamy tracks (“Heft,” “Boyish,” “The Body Is a Blade”) contrasting with her happier, synth-driven songs (“The Woman That Loves You,” “Everybody Wants to Love You,” “Machinist”) that proved perfect for dancing. The band also surprised the audience with a hard-rock cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries at the end of their set, resulting in an entire-crowd sing along.
“Chicago! Wassup wassup wassup WASSUP?!” were the first words out of Noname’s mouth as she took her place on the Red stage. Announcing that she was “a little bit high,” Noname first played some new tracks off of her upcoming album, words coming out of her mouth faster than one could comprehend them. However, she soon stopped, saying that she had smoked too much and thus forgot the lyrics. After playing her hit “Diddy Bop” off of 2016’s Telefone, she stopped her set to ask for the photographers to clear out of the photo pit before continuing on with her set, rapping her verses on Smino’s “Amphetamine” and Mick Jenkins’ “Comfortable.” Throughout her set, Noname enjoyed using the audience to enhance her music, having them adlib various “oo’s” and playing some call and response games. For her last two tracks, Noname played “Forever,” during which Ravyn Lenae (who had performed at the fest earlier that day) and Joseph Chilliams came out. This was followed directly with “Shadow Man,” during which Saba and Smino (both performers at the fest as well) contributed their verses. Despite some hiccups, with Noname’s guest appearances and conversational demeanor, her performance had the crowd swelling with Chicago pride.
(Sandy) Alex G and his band members walked on the Blue stage to the tune of Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is A Highway,” giving their set an ironic start. However, it soon got serious as singer Alex Giannascoli led the band’s moody instrumentals with his soft, melancholy vocals. After playing through “Forever,” “Proud,” and “Bobby,” which the crowd chanted and swayed along to accordingly, Giannascoli welcomed Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast on stage to sing “Brite Boy” with him. Harder songs such as “Brick” and “Horse,” played toward the end of their set, started a mosh pit in the middle of the crowd, but by “Sportstar,” the audience’s eyes were once again glued to the stage, bodies swaying along. After the last chords of “County” rang out, the crowd immediately demanded “One more song!” most likely because the band never played their most popular track, “Mary.” This was enough to get Giannascoli back on stage, but only to scream “HEY, SHUT UP! WE CAN’T DO ONE MORE SONG!” before mumbling a meek “Thank you” and exiting for good.
Although Japandroids are only two men strong – Brian King on guitar and vocals and David Prowse on drums – they built a wall of sound during their set at the Blue stage. Opening with “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” off of their 2017 album of the same name, the crowd began moshing and singing along immediately. King’s speak-singing and Prowse’s insane drumming skills made for the perfect environment for this. After playing straight through “International” and “Heart Sweats,” King announced that “The boys are back in fucking town!” and then dedicated “Younger Us” to their original Chicago fans. Basically every song in their set was melded together with seamless transitions and formidable breakdowns and builds, making it an exciting listening experience. Naturally, they ended their show with “The House That Heaven Built,” inspiring several crowd surfers and lots of head nodding.
Stopping at Pitchfork during her 20th anniversary tour of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ms. Lauryn Hill made sure that everyone was aware of her star power. Dressed in a wedding gown with a collared shirt over top and asymmetrical makeup, Hill sang through every song on the album, even though it meant going nearly 30 minutes over when her set was supposed to end. Her band consisted of a brass section, guitarist, bassist, drummer, two keyboardists, a hype man, and three backup singers with matching outfits down to their shoes. Perhaps the climax of her set was “Forgive Them Father,” during which videos of police brutality played on the monitor and Hill broke down crying. Also notable was when the cameras flashed to Chance the Rapper singing his heart out during “Nothing Even Matters,” drawing a large response from the crowd. Although Hill appeared to be having issues with her mic stand as well as her band – she kept on pointing to certain members and requesting that things be turned down or adjusted – nothing could stop her set from being as meaningful as it was. Before playing her hit “Doo Wop (That Thing),” Hill made a speech about the album: “There was a tremendous amount of resistance when I made this album… [but] I felt a responsibility to soldier through the adversity to speak for my generation… God and the universe blessed this endeavor and blessed people through this music. It was so huge that I had to step back from it… I just wanna thank you. Thank you for sharing this moment with us. If this album touched your souls, it’s because the universe gifted you this music and just used me as the medium.” Despite the slight technical difficulties, these words from Hill brought her down to earth and made for an awe-inspiring moment.
Chicago native Paul Cherry opened the second day of the festival. His yacht rock dream pop fusion of a sound provided good vibes and had the crowd swaying in agreement upon the first song, “Hello Again.” While Cherry played guitar, his extremely talented band backed him up on drums, bass, and keys. His set consisted of every song off of new album Flavour, except for an impromptu cover of John Martyn’s “Couldn’t Love You More.” Cherry’s excitement to be performing at Pitchfork was clear, and the crowd reciprocated his enthusiasm by jamming out, even to instrumental track “Cherry Emoji.” WNUR also got the chance to interview Cherry after his set – check that out here!
As soon as he walked on stage, Berhana’s raw talent was undeniable. Opening up the set with the groovy “Janet,” the crowd began moving and singing along immediately. His voice was incredibly smooth, running over intricate riffs with unbelievable ease. His DJ backed him up, playing intriguing samples before tracks and turning the bass up so high that you could feel it in your throat. With an infectious smile in between every song, Berhana played his cover of “Whole Wide World,” “Brooklyn Drugs,” and “80s,” intermixed with a few new songs including the just released “Wildin’.” He claimed he wanted to try out these new songs on the audience, and asked for everyone to put their “phones away for a second and just listen.” Berhana closed the set with his most popular song “Grey Luh,” sending everyone away with a smile and sense of relaxation.
London-based rocker Nilüfer Yanya started her set alone except for her mint green guitar, and was then met with her band – a saxophonist (doubling as keys) , keyboardist (doubling as bass), and drummer. Her rich Alanis Morissette-esque vocals complimented the jazz rock instrumentals nicely, providing soft jams and slow builds. Yanya played all of the tracks she has out, along with a few new songs (“Angels” and “Heavyweight Champion of the Year”) and a Pixies cover. Although her sound was intriguing, it did grow a bit repetitive over the course of the set – but for someone just starting out in the U.S., Yanya is well on her way to becoming an indie-rock darling.
Grunge-rock duo Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad took over the Blue Stage Saturday afternoon along with touring members Ross Wallace-Chait and Kevin Boog. As I listened to other audience member’s conversations, it seemed that the biggest topic in discussion was singer and guitar player Tucker’s current transition from female to male. Specifically, the group of girls next to me were wondering how Tucker’s voice change would alter their sound, once notable for the high-pitched harmonies between Tucker and Tividad. However, as they played through their set, it became apparent that Girlpool had not lost, but gained something. Tucker’s now octave-lower voice added a more rounded sound to their slow-building discography, introducing new harmonies and a pleasant rasp. More than anything, it was clear how much passion both Tucker and Tividad still had for their music, playing through “It Gets More Blue,” “123,” and “I Like That You Can See It,” “Ideal World,” and “Your Heart” as if it meant the world to them.
As soon as Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes stepped out in a Kangol driving cap and tiny glasses, it was apparent this performance was going to be old school. As vintage-looking footage of cars, an old interview with Outkast, and 90s music videos played on the screen behind him, Hynes proved that he is indeed a talent to behold. Switching from playing keys to guitar and back to keys, Hynes dove into his discography with the voice of a 70s crooner, à la The Commodores or early Prince. Highlights of his set included “Desirée,” “Best to You,” “You’re Not Good Enough,” and “E.V.P.” He also played a few tracks off of his forthcoming album that was just announced to be released on August 25th. However, the real star of Blood Orange’s show was his band – his two back up singers stunned with chill-inducing voices, and his saxophonist, drummer and bassist provided intricate funk-driven instrumentals. In addition, everyone on stage seemed to be having so much fun and bouncing off of each other’s energy. At one point, Hynes even broke out into dance, making the crowd – and his band – go wild. It was truly a feel-good set for everyone involved.
Seasoned rockers The War On Drugs seemed to bring everyone together. Teenage girls were in the crowd amongst married couples, 50-year-old men, and boys in their 20s. Frontman Adam Granduciel delivered his signature rasp and complicated guitar riffs in a leather jacket and Slowdive t-shirt, while the rest of his band followed along in perfect time. As they played through hits such as “Pain,” “Strangest Thing,” and “Brothers,” a combination of happy dancing and air guitar took over the crowd. Although not all of their lyrics can be described as joyous, The War On Drugs’ music seemed to put a look of peace and contentment on the faces all around me. The last third of their set was the highlight, playing “Red Eyes,” “Under the Pressure,” and “Burning” back to back. The combination of those three builds was enough to leave anyone in awe.
Our first set of the day was Tierra Whack, the rapper that Pitchfork booked after Earl Sweatshirt canceled on Monday. Whack was accompanied by her DJ, Zach, who warmed up the crowd by playing hits such as “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley and “Feel Good Inc” by the Gorillaz. After about 15 minutes, Whack came on stage, bursting with energy. Sporting a denim bucket hat and denim dress, she led the crowd in several call and response chants, including “Crack kills if it don’t get you Whack will” before playing “Toe Jam.” Her signature super fast flow was definitely impressive, but her efforts to get the crowd moving didn’t seem to be working. After playing “Pet Cemetery” off of her newest project Whack World to little response, she asked the crowd “Alright y’all, what do you wanna hear?” A group of people yelled back “Fruit Salad,” and Whack obeyed. Luckily, this helped to boost the crowd’s energy for the remainder of the set.
From the Westside of Chicago, Saba was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd (a “Saba” chant even broke out before he came on stage). Wearing his own merch and Adidas track pants, Saba flashed his charming smile and announced that this was “going to be a special show.” Saba opened with the first track on his new album Care For Me, “BUSY/SIRENS,” and the crowd sang along to the chorus. He then told the audience that this was his first time playing in Chicago this year, explaining why the show was so special. After playing a few more tracks off of Care For Me (“BROKEN GIRLS,” “CALLIGRAPHY,” “FIGHTER,” “SMILE”) he switched to his 2016 album Bucket List Project. “Stoney” was the highlight of the set, with Saba’s energy on stage being matched by the crowd. Towards the end of the set, he also made a tribute to his cousin and fellow member of Pivot Gang, John Walt, who was fatally stabbed last February. He ended the set with “LIFE,” which got the crowd jumping and yelling for more – resulting in him playing one more song to appease them.
“Today is all about Chicago and all about The Internet,” Syd said as she came on stage, winning lots of applause from the crowd. Although she has her own solo music, Syd is also a part of the band The Internet alongside Steve Lacy, Matt Martians, Christopher Smith and Patrick Paige II, whose album Hive Mind came out yesterday. However, at the start of her set Syd focused on her latest album, 2017’s Fin. She dedicated “Got Her Own” to “all the independent women out there,” and crooned her way through “Bad Dream/ No Looking Back.” Her performance was simple and effortless, and she even sat down on stage at one point to sing “Shake Em Off.” She then focused more on her collaborative projects, which was something I was not expecting but was grateful for. She played her hit song with Kaytranada, “YOU’RE THE ONE,” and even sang a little bit of “Take Me Away,” her feature on Daniel Caesar’s album Freudian. But this was not the biggest surprise that Syd had in store – after singing “Come Over” off of the newest The Internet record, Steve Lacy came out on stage to perform “La Di Da” and “Roll (Burbank Funk),” during which the rest of The Internet joined them. It was an extremely exciting end to an already impressive set, making it one of my favorites of the day.
Mount Kimbie performed at the blue stage, which felt like a whole different world compared to the crowds at red and green. The people waiting to see Mount Kimbie were a little bit older and more serious looking than those I had seen at Syd or Saba. You could tell they were purely there for the music. Mount Kimbie had an extremely impressive set, their ambient beats casting a spell over the crowd that resulted in a lot of head bobbing and trance-like dancing. The highlight of the set was “You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure),” which was one of the few songs they played that involved vocals. The rest kind of all blended together, but in the best way. Their set definitely provided a much needed break from the crazy crowd that seemed to be the norm earlier in the day.
Speaking of a crazy crowd, pretty much everyone who was at the festival gathered shoulder to shoulder to see Tame Impala – and it was definitely a show. Tame Impala’s usual trippy visuals were heightened with lasers and strobe lights, and the band themselves played on a platform on the stage. They opened with “Let It Happen,” and an insane amount of confetti was released during the drop. However, after the excitement of that died down, some of the crowd began to get upset because the band’s equipment was pretty quiet. This sparked a “Turn it up!” chant that echoed throughout the crowd, but alas nothing was changed. As misty rain began to fall, they played “Mind Mischief,” “Elephant,” “Yes I’m Changing,” “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?” and “Eventually.” During this, I witnessed a fight, a person wearing a panda costume crowd surfing, and an adorable 6-year-old boy sitting on his Cool Dad’s shoulders. Although all seemed right again when Tame played “The Less I Know The Better,” I couldn’t help but feel a little disconnected from the band itself. They didn’t stray far from their recordings, and the extra platform on stage and poor sound quality didn’t help.
Photo by Eli Watson
Pitchfork announced on Monday that Earl Sweatshirt has canceled his set at their festival. The elusive rapper also called off his European tour in June due to his struggles with depression and anxiety. This change comes just days before Pitchfork Fest begins on Friday, July 20th.
As a result, the set times of Saba and Syd have been shifted and rapper Tierra Whack will now be taking Sweatshirt’s place at 4:15 on Friday. You can find the updated schedule here.
Whack released her first album in May of this year, Whack World. With 15 songs each lasting a minute, to say the project is a wild ride would be an understatement. One would think that with such short tracks the album would play more like one cohesive song – but surprisingly, each is different enough to stand alone. From the silly “Cable Guy” to the more serious shift found in the following song “4 Wings,” Whack is able to show off her versatility in just two minutes. In fact, placing contrasting songs next to each other is a pattern throughout the album. However, that’s not to say that the songs don’t flow together well; Whack provides several impressive transitions, most notably in between “Silly Sam” and “‘Fruit Salad.” It’s as if she is trying on many different hats, never quite deciding on which one to choose. Almost all of the songs are intriguing, making the minute they last somewhat of a tease – but perhaps that was Whack’s very intention. To make the project even more interesting, she also released an audiovisual version on YouTube (view it below).
Although festival-goers are sure to be disappointed about Sweatshirt’s cancellation, Whack stepping up to the plate is definitely something to be excited about.