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.
Courtney Barnett by Finn Hewes
Saba is just one of many Chicago-born-and-raised artists to be featured at the festival. After releasing several mixtapes, Saba made his debut with 2016’s Bucket List Project and collaborated with Chance the Rapper on “Angels” in homage to Chicago. On 2018’s Care For Me released in April, Chance returned the favor by featuring on standout track “LOGOUT.”
Listen if you like: Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Noname
Fav tracks: “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME,” “Photosynthesis,” “LIFE”
Even if she hasn’t been singing on them, it’s likely that some of your favorite R&B tracks were produced by Syd. Starting out as an audio engineer, she was apart of Odd Future until 2016, then becoming the frontwoman of supergroup The Internet with former Odd Future bandmate Matt Martians. Although she is often collaborating with Tyler, The Creator, Daniel Caesar, and Steve Lacy, Syd put out a solo album in 2017, Fin. Up next for Syd is the release of The Internet’s highly anticipated comeback album, Hive Mind, on July 20th – the very day she is set to perform at Pitchfork Fest.
Listen if you like: Odd Future, Steve Lacy, Daniel Caesar
Fav tracks: “Body,” “Dollar Bills,” “Come Over” (The Internet)
One of the scene’s most elusive rappers, Earl Sweatshirt is making his return to the stage at Pitchfork Fest after canceling most of his recent European tour due to his battle with anxiety and depression. Like Syd, Earl was also a member of Odd Future and has since collaborated with the likes of Frank Ocean, Flying Lotus, Tyler, The Creator, and Vince Staples. With his last studio release being 2015’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, rumors have been swirling for a while now about a possible new album in the works. His set at Pitchfork should prove to be quite telling on that front.
Listen if you like: Kevin Abstract, Frank Ocean, Vince Staples
Fav tracks: “Sunday,” “Wool,” “Sasquatch”
Alt-rock darling and Pitchfork favorite Courtney Barnett is making a stop at Pitchfork Fest after touring her new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, for the past few months. (We were fortunate enough to review her Chicago show in May, check that out here). Before her latest solo album, Barnett worked with Kurt Vile on a collaborative record, Lotta Sea Lice, released in 2017. The straight-to-the-point crooner is set to be a crowd pleaser at this year’s fest.
Listen if you like: Kurt Vile, Snail Mail, Angel Olsen
Fav tracks: “Over Everything” (with Kurt Vile), “Pedestrian at Best,” “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”
Known for their lo-fi beats and unique instrumentals, British duo Mount Kimbie came to be known from 2010’s debut Crooks & Lovers. 2013’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth saw collaboration with King Krule, and their most recent release, Love What Survives, features King Krule as well as James Blake on select tracks. Their chill vibe might prove perfect for laying on the grass and taking a breather from the fest.
Listen if you like: King Krule, James Blake, Bibio
Fav tracks: “William,” “You Took Your Time” (ft. King Krule), “We Go Home Together” (ft. James Blake)
Psych-rock legends Tame Impala are set to be headlining Pitchfork Fest’s Friday lineup. Amid a hiatus in 2017 and rumors of the band’s disintegration, Pitchfork will be Tame’s first show in the U.S. since last summer’s Panorama Festival. Although their latest album, Currents, came out in 2015, the band’s members have been keeping busy on side projects and released a collaborative single with ZHU titled “My Life” in March.
Listen if you like: Beach Fossils, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Pond
Fav tracks: “Yes I’m Changing,” “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” “Mind Mischief”
Another hometown artist, Paul Cherry’s bedroom-pop aesthetic is all the rage right now. On his first full-length work, Flavour, released in March, Cherry has seemingly become more experimental with his sound. Tracks like “Like Yesterday” and “This High” include jazz and pop influences while still sticking somewhat to his quirky roots. Cherry also appears to enjoy commentating on the struggles of everyday millennial life dealing with social media and relationships, which is portrayed perhaps most prominently in the final track of Flavour, “Cherry Emoji.”
Listen if you like: Triathalon, Clairo, Mac Demarco
Fav tracks: “Hey Girl,” “Like Yesterday,” “Cherry Time”
Although he only has one self-titled EP under his belt, Berhana has made a name for himself via his infectiously sweet voice and style. The LA-based artist recently released his own rendition of Wreckless Eric’s 1977 hit, “Whole Wide World,” giving it his own twist with slow, simple piano and delightful backing vocals. With several festival dates on the radar for him this summer, including Pitchfork, Berhana is definitely one to watch.
Listen if you like: Yellow Days, Mac Ayres, Masego
Fav tracks: “Janet,” “Grey Luh,” “Brooklyn Drugs”
With an incredibly powerful voice and an even stronger sense of lyricism, Moses Sumney has all the makings of an up-and-coming R&B superstar. 2017’s Aromanticism has some insanely beautiful songwriting, and his newest single “Make Out in My Car” has been remixed by James Blake and Sufjan Stevens. Proving to be perfect for both emotional nights and sunny summer days, Sumney’s set is guaranteed to be breathtaking.
Listen if you like: Kevin Morby, Sufjan Stevens, serpentwithfeet
Fav tracks: “Don’t Bother Calling,” “Plastic,” “Make Out in My Car”
Punk duo Girlpool is known for their soft garage-rock sound, honest lyrics, and often raw vulnerability. Reminiscent of 90s femme rockers such as Letters to Cleo, Girlpool has two LPs already under their belt since forming in 2013. They returned in February of this year with single “Picturesong,” a collaboration with Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), a seemingly unlikely combination possibly signalling a forthcoming change in sound.
Listen if you like: Frankie Cosmos, IAN SWEET, Adult Mom
Fav tracks: “Chinatown,” “Blah Blah Blah,” “Picturesong”
Singer, writer, and producer extraordinaire Dev Hynes has collaborated with A$AP Rocky, Haim, Solange, and Willow Smith among others. His own solo project, Blood Orange, has seen success with its 80s electro-pop flair and political commentary. A set of two singles titled Black History released in February has been Blood Orange’s most recent solo endeavor since 2016’s Freetown Sound. Also an accomplished dancer, this set is guaranteed to be a full-out performance.
Listen if you like: Toro y Moi, Perfume Genius, TOPS
Fav tracks: “Christopher & 6th,” “Instantly Blank (The Goodness),” “You’re Not Good Enough”
Dad-rock favorites The War on Drugs, formed in the early 2000s by Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel, deliver consistently soft yet hard-hitting rock ballads. After Vile left the band in 2008 to pursue his solo career, Granduciel took over, releasing the critically acclaimed album Lost In The Dream in 2014. With their latest release, 2017’s A Deeper Understanding, The War on Drugs have continued to reign supreme amongst music fans.
Listen if you like: Dawes, Band of Horses, Deerhunter
Fav tracks: “Pain,” “Red Eyes,” “Thinking Of A Place”
Folk-rock champions Fleet Foxes are the headliners for Saturday’s lineup. Earning popularity and critical acclaim alike with their debut self-titled album in 2008, Fleet Foxes have since released two more albums, the most recent being 2017’s Crack-Up. Known for soothing vocals and harmonious instrumentals, their set should prove to be a calm end to Saturday’s madness.
Listen if you like: Iron & Wine, The Shins, Alt-J
Fav tracks: “Oliver James,” “Crack-Up,” “Lorelai”
Evanston’s own Kweku Collins has been a part of the Chicago music scene since 2015, producing music in high school and now having released an EP and two LPs – Nat Love and Grey – in the past three years. The singer and rapper seems to be a favorite of Pitchfork, having earned a rating of 8 on Nat Love and Best New Track for “Stupid Rose,” so it only makes sense that he’ll be playing their festival.
Listen if you like: Topaz Jones, Duckwrth, Jalen Santoy
Fav tracks: “The Continuation,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Love It All”
An alumnae of the Chicago High School for the Arts, 19-year-old Ravyn Lenae also started making music in high school. In 2017, she released EP Midnight Moonlight and featured on tracks with Noname, Mick Jenkins, Saba, and Smino. Collaborating with Steve Lacy, she put out EP Crush in February of this year and even stopped by Northwestern to preview it (check out the Daily Northwestern’s coverage of it here).
Listen if you like: Steve Lacy, Kali Uchis, Jamila Woods
Fav tracks: “4 Leaf Clover,” “Computer Luv,” “Free Room”
Japanese Breakfast, aka Michelle Zauner, provides a mix of lo-fi beats and indie pop accompanied by her sugary-sweet voice. 2016’s Psychopomp put her on the map, shortly followed by 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Zauner’s songwriting touches on themes of heartbreak, death, and celebrities, resulting in high levels of young-adult relatability.
Listen if you like: Alvvays, Car Seat Headrest, Soccer Mommy
Fav tracks: “Till Death,” “Road Head,” “Everybody Wants to Love You”
Chicago-born R&B powerhouse Noname got her start performing slam poetry and made it big after featuring on Chance the Rapper’s “Lost” in 2013. Her one and only release, 2016’s Telefone, features fellow Chicagoan colleagues and Pitchfork festival performers Saba, Smino, and Ravyn Lenae. With it being two years since Telefone, Noname has been hinting at new album Room 25 on Twitter, but no release date has been given yet.
Listen if you like: Saba, NxWorries, Goldlink
Fav tracks: “Sunny Duet,” “Diddy Bop,” “Shadow Man”
Alex G, or Alex Giannascoli, already has an extensive discography, having released five albums within four years. His brooding,“sadboy” sound gained him a loyal fan base, and his undeniable guitar talent resulted in him playing on a few tracks off of Frank Ocean’s Blond. His latest work, Rocket, was released in 2017 via Domino Records.
Listen if you like: Spencer Radcliffe, Florist, Starry Cat
Fav tracks: “Mary,” “Sandy (Bonus Track),” “Forever”
Seasoned garage rockers Japandroids returned in 2017 after a five year hiatus with eight-track album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. Beforehand, they released three full-length LPs between 2009 and 2012. Known for their rowdy, DIY approach to live shows, Pitchfork fest is just one of many stops for Japandroids on their tour of the new album.
Listen if you like: Cloud Nothings, Wolf Parade, The Walkmen
Fav tracks: “The House That Heaven Built,” “Press Corps,” “Younger Us”
Queen of Soul Ms. Lauryn Hill is set to headline Sunday’s lineup at Pitchfork fest. Although it is her only LP, 1998’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill proved to be a smash success. Nominated for 11 Grammys and taking home five, the album soon became a classic. Hill has not put out any solo music apart from a MTV Unplugged live album in 2002, but listeners may recognize her song “Ex-Factor” as the sample on Drake’s hit single, “Nice For What.”
Listen if you like: Aaliyah, Brandy, Mary J. Blige
Fav tracks: “Superstar,” “Ex-Factor,” “Doo Wop (That Thing)”
To escape via daydreams from the Week Seven blues, Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival announced today the full lineup for the 2018 festival. Taking place in Union Park from August 31-September 2, “summer’s last stand” will be one to remember, with international headliners and a deep lineup that will keep you at the park all day long.
Starting out the weekend will be a pair of headlining names that made my jaw drop: Miguel and Axwell ^ Ingrosso. The former, Miguel, is well known for his hip-hop jam “Sky Walker” with Travis Scott, and his most recent album includes collaborations with Rick Ross, Kali Uchis and J. Cole, among others. One of my personal favorites is “waves – Tame Impala Remix” from his 2016 EP. The latter, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, is one of the biggest teams in electronic music today. Formerly members of the eternally important Swedish House Mafia, the duo has, both independently and together, played a huge role in shaping the genre for the up and coming producers of today.
Saturday brings DJ Snake in from France to headline. DJ Snake is a music festival favorite who has played Lollapalooza, Coachella, Ultra and the like. You’ll know him for both major throwbacks — “Turn Down for What” with Lil Jon (can you believe this came out in 2013??) — and slightly more recent throwbacks from his 2016 album “Encore” — “The Middle” with Bipolar Sunshine; “The Half” with Jeremih, Young Thug and Swizz Beatz; and “Let Me Love You” with Justin Bieber. DJ Snake will be joined Saturday by Vulfpeck, The Revivalists and RL Grime.
Finally, Sunday will close out the festival with U.K. legends Jamiroquai, a band that has been around since before I was born. They had a huge hand in the creation and exploration of the “future funk” genre, and will be returning to the United States for the first time in over a decade for a small grouping of tour dates, including North Coast. With a huge discography grown through decades of performing, be sure to check out Jamiroquai to get ready to get down on Sunday.
In addition, a heavy hitting group of four supporting headliners will help Jamiroquai finish the weekend on a high note. Yellow Claw and Gramatik are strong on the trap electronic music front, although Gramatik often brings out live musicians and has jazz roots in many of his tracks, while Mura Masa blends EDM with instrumentals and R&B influences. Finally, the band Moon Taxi will round out the group with upbeat hooks and a poppy, alternative rock sound.
Other artists I’m personally excited for include Snails, Two Friends and Bryce Vine on Friday; The Strumbellas, Robert DeLong, Cashmere Cat and Tauk on Saturday; and Jacob Banks, NoMBe, Maddy O’Neal and Cofresi on Sunday. The lineup also features Chicago-grown EDM favorites Porn and Chicken, 2FAC3D, Bentley Dean, Diz and more in a “Chicago’s Most Wanted” series of B2Bs. Tickets for the ninth-edition of the festival are on sale now, so proceed to checkout so you can check out this lineup of incredible artists with me this summer.
The Frequency Series began in 2013 as a weekly Sunday night show curated by Peter Margasak at Constellation focusing on Chicago’s burgeoning new music scene. Since that time both the scene and the series have grown and flourished with new venues, musicians and festivals continually popping up throughout Chicago. This year the Frequency Series Festival will take place over six days at three venues and feature the music of seven exciting and important artists in new music. The festival kicks off tonight with Chicago-based music/performance ensemble, Mocrep, at the MCA presenting a program of identity, chaos and translation. Tomorrow night the festival continues at the Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago with Denver contemporary pianist R. Andrew Lee. Thursday thru Sunday Constellation will host the Morton Feldman Players, Bill Orcutt & Austin Wulliman, Olivia Block & Quince, and Ensemble Dal Niente.
It’s an eclectic and well curated mix that in my opinion explores the relationships between performer, ensemble and composer while also presenting a wide scope of both acoustic, electric and mixed new music performance. No venue in my mind, presents consistently well-curated shows like Constellation and the Frequency Series Festival is a logical extension of that. Tickets are available for the individual shows, some are free and you can pick up a pass to all seven shows for only $40. More information on performers, locations and time here.
SATURDAY, BLUE STAGE, 6:45pm
Planet Mu’s Jlin came out the gate swinging with 2015’s invigorating Dark Energy, an eleven-track whirlwind of heavy synths and fast-paced percussion that breathe visceral meaning into the album’s title. The Gary-based RP-Boo mentee has since continued to carve a unique sound and space for herself as one of the few established female producers in the footwork scene (though she’s been producing since 2008).
The anonymity of female producers is inescapable despite Jlin’s feats, as illustrated by my ignorance of her womanhood for an embarrassing number of months after I first listened to Dark Energy, but she’s far from tokenized or humored in the scene. Her music evokes hyper-specific yet undefinable emotions and sensations (some combination of unsettling, thought-provoking, and physically stimulating), drawing on distinctive vocal samples that are both sourced and warped in unprecedented ways. The themes and track titles of her discography allude to a wide array of social and political issues without directly addressing them (or do they?), leaving the listener to marinate and interpret these themes in the absence of Jlin’s music. Her tracks contain a raw power that permeates everything it touches.
The producer’s eclectic catalog includes the unmistakable breathy vocals of fellow Pitchfork artist and experimental composer Holly Herndon on Dark Energy’s “Expand.” Jlin focused her recognizable style with late 2015’s Free Fall EP, adding elements noticeably rave-synthier and more suited for the club. She’ll be sharing a stage with multiple collaborators at this year’s festival, and you won’t want to miss any of them. Here’s to hoping a live collaboration is in store this weekend–perhaps a tri-performance with Holly Herndon and RP Boo? A DJ can dream.
The Year is 2013 and the electro/alternative R&B/dance vibe is arguably at its peak. I am in San Francisco visiting family and friends. It is summer. I’m sitting on a couch with Joe who i do not particularly like nor dislike but I find rather boring. Neither of us is really talking, so I pull out my phone and open my email. A blade of regret sears through my body and I sigh. On my screen is an email for will call tickets for The Range that night, but I decided to go to a dinner party instead. It was a bad dinner party, I later heard from my friend Dennis, who did go, that the Range was great and that the crowd alternatively swayed and danced.
“He brought mellow vibes to the club but still honored the purpose of the club. I bet he would be great at Pitchfork,” my friend Dennis said. Dennis has never led me astray before so I will be at the Blue stage at 7:15 on Saturday expressing myself through dance.
– Ben Shear
Releasing on average a single per year since 2012, it’s unclear whether LUH. is artistically detached or maybe just exceedingly careful. Whatever the case, the singles they do release, such as “Unites” and “l&l”, typically generate quite the buzz. Created by former WU LYF frontman Ellery Roberts, the arrival of LUH. was accompanied on YouTube by what could only be considered a break-up note à la Laura Palmer mixed with some Matrix-level doom, reading, “I am gone. This isn’t the end. This is the beginning.” Since that fateful day, Roberts has gone on to collaborate with visual artist Ebony Hoorn and The Haxan Cloak to create sensitive odes cautiously masked as powerful anthems. LUH.’s debut album, Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing, marks a sharp divide from their smatterings of past singles, with EDM elements driving the undercurrents rather than their typical guitar fallbacks. Catch them on Saturday at the Blue Stage for what will surely be an emotional dance fest.
– Lauren Ball
Carly Rae Jepsen
The following declaration may shock you: Carly Rae Jepsen is cool. Yes, the chick from “Call Me Maybe” has successfully subverted the mainstream and been embraced in force by hipsters. This transformation is due to the critical success of Jepsen’s third album “ E•MO•TION ,” which was released in June 2015. The album smartly plays off 80s pop tropes with the help of musicians with major indie cred like Dev Hynes (aka fellow Pitchfork performer Blood Orange) and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. The resulting sound is intoxicating and emotionally overwhelming, a pure sonic boost of euphoria. The critical success and “underground” embrace of Carly Rae Jepsen showcases a longing for earnestness, a deviation away from conceptions of apathy as the peak of cool. You can expect to find me in the front row of Carly Rae’s Pitchfork show having a deeply uncool emotional experience—join me.
– Aliza Abarbanel
BONUS: Oneohtrix Point Never
Last time I went to an oPn show I came face to face with the ghost of Earth’s future and witnessed the result of all the technological detritus we leave behind and it was so beautiful that I fainted. Really a special artist at the peak of his game. And the visuals are not to be missed.
– Ben Shear
FRIDAY, BLUE STAGE, 5:15pm
Click this. Now look at me.
There’s a certain kind of sound that is avoided when a musician forgoes formal training. It’s a sound of tired melodies, recycled structures, trite lyrics. Too many proficient musicians box themselves in to produce derivative works, while others put forth great effort to unlearn their conventions and perfected techniques so that they may explore musical space for themselves. We respect them for it. Their work stands out.
Moses Sumney is one of these artists. Self-taught in the guitar, and often self-recorded with looper pedals, his singles released this past year have been inventive and caught the ears of those craving new sound to break into. A beautiful voice adds to the experience, and Sumney puts it up front on all his tracks.
In interviews, Sumney reveals a career built as much on listening as performing. He discusses strong influences from Amy Winehouse in nearly all of his interviews, and from his miraculous O Superman cover, which was improvised live, one can gather that he’s listened to a fair amount Laurie Anderson as well.
On Friday, Moses Sumney will be among the first acts to perform at Pitchfork Music Festival. Unless a lot has changed in the past week, he will wield guitar and mic and not much else to create a unique and raw artistic experience just for you. Dip out of work early and be there.
SATURDAY, GREEN STAGE, 1pm
I do not speak french, nor am I particularly good at intuiting french pronunciations, so when I see this band name I think “circus du Sux.” Turns out that is not the case and the French pronounce “Yeux” like “You” but with a french accent, and Haley Fohr, the mastermind behind Circuit des Yeux, pronounces “Circuit” the way it is pronounced in American English (sir-cut). So what we have is this band whose name sounds like “Circuit du You” and if “Yeux” means “eye,” which it does, then we have a band whose name sounds like a connective route to YOU, specifies a connective route to the phenomenal (sight) and suggests a connective route to the I. And circuits always connect.
The music of Circuit des Yeux does not swerve from its own lane because it does not have to. Fohr and her cast of music makers keep the pedal to the metal on this metaphysical roadtrip, stopping to rest in the pleasant meadows of hushed fingerpicked guitar, treading with caution through dark, dark forests where by some act of black magic the wind in the trees sound like bassy drones that layer until they are monolithic, and hauling ass down the intergalactic psychedelic highway as Fohr, white knuckling the steering wheel, opens her throat and channels the spirit of a long gone alien eulogizing it’s planet. This planet that used to be a fact, a home, a collection of ten million songs. Now all that remains is this mournful voice and its host, driving through the dark. I imagine the car is otherwise silent.
All the while they circle this turnstile called “Folk”, centrifugal force pulling them closer and closer with each rotation until the connections between YOU and I and THE REST disappear due to inutility and YOU and I and THE REST are around a campfire passing around an acoustic guitar and a harmonica and experiencing a sense of communion.
In conclusion, “circus du Sux” more like, “circus du ROX!”
SATURDAY, RED STAGE, 3:20
If the fact that Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler named Digable Planets after reading through works by Jorge Luis Borges doesn’t convince you to see them at Red Stage on Saturday afternoon, I don’t know what will. After releasing just two albums since 1993 and disbanding in 1994, the Planets are back together after a quarter of a century hiatus for a momentous summer tour. The Brooklyn-based jazz/hip-hop trio (who certainly deserve all of the overtly sensational hype they can possibly amass) are especially relevant this year, as their tracks typically carry politically-charged messages such as a celebration of black power on “Jettin’” and a woman’s right to choose on “La Femme Fetal.” There’s a good chance that this will be Digable Planet’s last tour as Butler has since dedicated most of his musical energy towards his new project, Shabazz Palaces, so be sure to catch this integral part of hip-hop history before they’re just that.
WNUR and Pitchfork have at least two things in common. We’re longstanding media outlets based in Chicago, and we’re both regularly accused of being pretentious music snobs (a decade later, we still hear you, Jason Bolicki). The partial validity of this criticism (depending on your perspective) is beside the point: the fact remains that our organizations have earned this reputation by exposing and booking artists who typically aren’t being heard elsewhere in the Chicagoland area. Of course, we have our occasional qualms with Pitchfork’s reviews like anyone else–and I’m sure they’d have a thing or two to say about our programming. But when it comes to Chicago music festivals, Pitchfork is leagues beyond any other in supporting musicians who align with WNUR’s mission and have seen regular airplay on our station across the genre-spectrum (though Big Ears still takes the cake on a national level). This year, we’re embracing that commonality more than ever.
Does this mean we’ll start celebrating and/or playing Carly Rae Jepsen on our station? No, but we will give you a rundown on the artists we’re most excited to see at the festival in two weeks, and why we think they deserve the shine. Keep an eye on our website in the days leading up to Pitchfork as we give individual, in-depth assessments of some of this year’s performers (and listen to WNUR this week for your final chance to win passes to #P4Kfest).
Kamasi Washington seems an almost-obligatory place to start this preview; this guy has been everywhere in the past year. First, he was part of the studio band that performed on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Then, his aptly-named, three-hour debut album The Epic dropped on Brainfeeder in May 2015, earning an 8.6 and “Best New Music” classification on Pitchfork. All of this was preceded by a lengthy career touring and collaborating with established artists like Lamar and Snoop Dogg–but his momentum has only snowballed in the past six months. Some of our staff first got a taste of his (or should I say, his group’s) live performance at Big Ears in April. I caught them again at an overpriced-though-worth-it 2AM after-show in New Orleans post-Jazz Fest, so this set will be my third time around.
This collection of musicians is comprised of childhood friends from the LA area (as you’ll learn during their performance, unless they change things up; there was a fair amount of repetition in the banter and format of the performances I’ve seen). It quickly becomes evident that their performances are more about the group than they are about Washington himself–the collective spent a year dedicating all their time to recording and playing on each other’s projects, and the group mentality that results is palpable. The buzz is credited to Washington because his album was the first to be released (and likely also, of course, because of his involvement in TPAB), but they’re still sitting on the rest of the musicians’ projects. That knowledge puts things in perspective: though he’s undoubtedly talented, Washington’s live saxophone-playing isn’t really what makes the show something special. The dynamic between the musicians is paramount, and the key lies in Washington’s recognition and mediation of that. He’s generous with sharing the spotlight on the stage, and he exudes a warmth and calm in his demeanor that structures the entire experience–and makes it into a just that, a genuine experience. He brings out his dad (who turns out to be pretty killin’ on the flute and clarinet) for the better half of the performance, which proves both endearing and impressive while adding to the familial vibe. Add in two (yes, two) exceptional drummers and a funky keytarist and you’ve got something undoubtedly unique. Keep an eye on the bassist, Miles Mosley, who manipulates an upright in ways you’ve likely never seen (or even considered). And in the meantime, give a listen to “Re Run Home” and “Final Thought.”