With thunderstorms still raging in Chicago, Pitchfork Music Festival’s Day three didn’t start until nearly 1:30, only kicking local Chicago rapper Dreezy out of the lineup.
Starting things off was experimental punk-rock band Black Midi. The band’s thrashing “953” set the tone for the rest of the set, as the band jumped right into the track’s thrashing intro. With the tight drumming display from Morgan Simpson, Black Midi shifted between frenzied and erratic riffing to tightly controlled grooves. Whenever the band opened things up, chaos ensued inside the audience as mosh pits wrecked bodies into the mud pits. The sets closer, “bmbmbm,” ended things on a particularly chaotic note as the muddied crowd made its way to the next high-energy set.
Keeping that same energy at the Red Stage was JPEGMAFIA. The crowd, unusually large for this early on a Sunday, had already started chanting “Peggy!” before the rapper ever took the stage. “I put on my good corduroys for you all today” JPEG said as he jumped his verse on Denzel Curry’s “Vengeance.” Outside of “smoke breaks” on his weed pen and loading up the next beat (he was his own DJ), JPEG was rarely on stage, instead preferring most of his time spent out in the audience moshing or crowd surfing with fans. Sensing the crowd might need a breather from all the moshing, Peggy asked something rather unorthodox of the crowd: “Can ya’ll sit down?” The first thirty or so rows of people instantly plopped onto the muddy ground, and JPEG went into the laid-back “Macauley Culkin,” sitting above his fans like a schoolteacher reading to a kindergarten class.
Ibeyi, the French sister act, was already underway in the shady Blue Stage. Even from far away, the duo’s powerful vocals could be heard crystal clear. Before the two jumped into “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms,” they told the crowd that the Michelle Obama-sampling track was a direct response to President Trumps comment about “grabbing women by the p***y,” which earned a series of both cheers (to the song) and boos (to the comment). Things slowed down during the low-key “Mama Says,” but Ibeyi’s sheer joy was prominent as they took turns dancing and grooving on stage.
Sundays typically tend to be the more mellow days of any music festival, but the energy at Pitchfork took a bit of a dive as Ibeyi was wrapping up. Once they finished, Clairo was in the middle of her recent hit, “Bags.” The toned-down bedroom pop hit had crowds gently swaying as the sun peeked out of the clouds to warm the grounds up. The set started flaming out a bit as Clairo leaned into even more lo-fi-y tracks like her viral YouTube hit, “Pretty Girl.” While Clairo’s music fits perfect for a late-night drive or a relaxing in your apartment, her lo-fi sound failed to carry past the immediate audience, though those that knew “Pretty Girl” danced along to the breezy keys riff.
Amen Dunes was getting started with their Tim Buckley cover “Song to the Siren” back on the Blue Stage, showcasing their airy, larger-than-life sound Tracks like “Freedom” and “Splits Are Parted” matched perfectly with the cool breeze that had started to move in, but those that weren’t napping were more interested in conserving energy (and getting a better seat) for Whitney.
Whitney was the first to bring back the energy, as there was a palpable excitement in the audience as the Chicago natives walked on to the stage. The band opened with “The Falls,” starting the set out on a cheery and upbeat note. “Polly,” the second in the band’s setlist, received particularly loud applause from the crowd. Whenever the band wasn’t playing new material, you’d be hard-pressed to find an audience member not singing along to “On My Own.”
Back at the Blue Stage, Neneh Cherry effortlessly wove between Afrobeat, hip-hop, and electronic during her bopping opener, “Shotgun Shack.” The veteran-singer moved with the same energy a young up-and-coming artist might display. “I’m an old bitch, but I still got some life in me,” she joked as she wrapped up “Faster Than the Truth.” Much like Neneh’s influences, the instruments on stage ranged from the normal to oddities like a giant harpsichord and a xylophone. Bringing things full-circle, Neneh Cherry ended the set with her 1989 breakout hit, “Buffalo Dance,” the perfect segue into Charli XCX’s energetic performance.
Festival-goers, especially the teenagers in attendance, quickly made their way over to the Red Stage to catch Charli XCX and her pop-megastardom take stage. The pop star jumped right into the hits, performing “I Blame It On Your Love” and “I Love It” back-to-back, sparking pure euphoria in the crowd as onlookers hopped up and down.
Sunday night’s penultimate act, Snail Mail, was by far one of the highlights on Day three. Lindsey Jordan and her band held no punches, as they opened with one of her biggest hits, “Heat Wave” (a fitting opener for an excessively hot week). The guitar shredding was relentless as she moved from “Golden Dream” to “Slug” to “Full Control,” all the while acting like a veteran rock star, flailing her bangs back and forth each time she hit a heavy chord. Just 20 years old, Jordan showcased a joy and comfort usually only seen in seasoned performers, and that joy was amplified when she brought out Clairo for “Speaking Terms.” As the two harmonized in and out of each other, they frequently shared looks and smiles as they hit songs climactic outro.
Robyn earns points simply for being Robyn, but she also earned them for having what was the most elaborate stage setup. White drapes swayed in the breeze as the band took the stage around what appeared to be a white statue of a hand. “Honey” opened with an extended intro, allowing the hype to build as Robyn imposingly stood center stage amid a pounding bass beat. Robyn’s heavenly vocals provided a hypnotizing start to Sunday’s closer. After a near-decade hiatus, Robyn returned last year with her critically acclaimed Honey, and the final headlining spot was a final victory lap. Not even a drape that had fallen on her could kill Robyn’s mood, who grabbed it and flailed it around her as “Beach2k20” finished up. As an encore, Robyn reached back to 2005’s “With Every Heartbeat,” and ended 2019’s Pitchfork Music Festival on a euphoric note.
Photo Credit Brett Padelford