While some might consider Pitchfork a more relaxed music festival compared to Chicago’s Lollapalooza or Tennessee’s Bonnaroo, the more-than-40 acts scheduled across three stages and three days brought top-notch performances and indulged attendees in incredible live performances from some of the best indie artists.
The third and final day of Pitchfork continued to showcase talent across numerous genres, from punk rock group black midi and rapper JPEGMAFIA to Charli XCX’s pop hits and Snail Mail’s dreamy vocals.
But it wasn’t without difficulties. For the second day in a row, impending thunderstorms came in the way of punctuality. Gates were pushed a little more than an hour as organizers waited for threats of lightning to disappear. Once sets were officially underway around 1:15 p.m., the drizzle began and festival-goers sported colorful ponchos and muddy calves.
Safe under the cover of tents, Flatstock Poster Fair lined Washington Avenue in Union Park with bright colors and countless designs to take in. Showcasing a variety of visual artists from both the Chicagoland area and around the country, each tent held a completely new set and style of prints, from incredible eye-catching detail to wonderfully childlike simplicity.
Artists sold copies of screen-printed gig posters that had been commissioned for concerts by everyone from Tyler, The Creator to Arctic Monkeys and Tame Impala. Vendors made sure to note posters for Pitchfork performers, even offering special deals in honor of the concurrence.
Fans who were able to pick up one of these art pieces could be seen carrying around a cardboard tube to keep their new poster crease-free while they jammed out with the masses.
The thinly dispersed crowd gathered at the start of the day for black midi’s 2:30 p.m. set quickly grew into a packed park highly anticipating Robyn’s closing set.
black midi — Green Stage
Being one of the first acts to perform Sunday, London-based punk rock band black midi brought high energy despite the drizzle in which their brightly dressed audience stood.
Those packed close to the stage did what anyone at a punk rock concert is expected to do: they raged, moshed and head-banged. Some crowd-surfed as lead singer, dressed head to toe in black with red shoes and socks, screamed into his microphone and slammed his guitar — an act seemingly more calm than what his audience did in response.
The four band members of Black Midi — lead singer Geordie Greep, guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin, drummer Morgan Simpson and bassist Cameron Picton — expressed themselves so physically it felt more like watching a melodrama unfold in a Broadway production rather than a punk concert. Kwasniewski-Kelvin was so expressional, as if he was in agony, shouting into the microphone in a foreign tongue.
The crowd fed off the emotion and channeled it into the spinning, jumping and shoving that happened in the pit. As the tempo of the music increased, so did the chaos, leaving most caked in mud. One fan was reunited with a lost and very wet shoe when a fellow mosher lifted it in the air. Unphased, he put the sneaker back on to continue raving.
JPEGMAFIA — Red Stage
Rapper JPEGMAFIA delivered a nonstop, action-packed set to a crowd that had no trouble keeping up. While many artists make going into the crowd a special treat, JPEGMAFIA couldn’t be kept on the stage. He spent nearly every other song jumping down to hug fans, crowdsurf and dance in the crowd.
When he was on the stage there was no keeping him still, no holding him back. The performer sprinted from one end of the stage to the other, crawled along the edge and jumped to the beat.
The rapper kept the energy up between songs through constant banter with the audience. He teased new music saying he’s got some “disappointing stuff” coming. Though he couldn’t perform any at the time he said he’d “send it to you later.”
JPEGMAFIA’s comedic efforts continued as he warned the crowd a white male produced the next song. He was referring to the track “How to Build a Relationship,” and that white male was EDM artist Flume. Fans formed a mosh pit during the track — one of many from a crowd seeking to match the rapper’s energy.
Clairo — Green Stage
Juxtaposing JPEGMAFIA’s set which had ended 15 minutes prior Clairo’s set at the neighboring stage, the quickly rising lo-fi artist, who’s full name is Claire Cottrill, treated festival-goers to her soft, dreamy vocals.
The 20-year-old Massachusetts native donned faded Calvin Klein jeans with renaissance art-printed mesh shirt layered under a white t-shirt. A rhinestone “C” decorated her right cheekbone, a motif her bandmates shared. Kicking off her show with “Throwaway,” a catchy love song by SG Lewis featuring Clairo.
Having risen to popularity after debuting “Pretty Girl” in 2017 — a single to which her Pitchfork crowd knew every lyric — Clairo has amassed a solid following of fans, one that will only continue to increase after her debut album drops Aug. 2.
Charli XCX — Red Stage
British pop star Charli XCX reveled in the spotlight as she danced around the stage without inhibition, posing for the cameras and singing her heart out.
The singer started the party off right: performing her 2012 hit with Icona Pop, “I Love It.” The fan favorite got the crowd just as invigorated as Charli was on stage. She commanded the stage with her authentic dance moves between two larger-than-life yellow transparent cubes.
For a little help occupying the space, Charli brought out Chicago-native rapper CupcakKe to perform their track “Lipgloss.” CupcakKe’s quick and provocative verses brought even more energy to the already hyped-up crowd.
Charli left the crowd with one last party with her single “1999.” Both the crowd and singer danced with reckless abandon to the nostalgic track.
As she waltzed off the stage her closing words of advice to the audience was to “make noise forever.” Fans did just that applauding her electric performance.
Robyn — Green Stage
Robyn’s headline performance can be boiled down into one word: ethereal. Ethereal to a level only Robyn can achieve.
The set, decorated with gauzy curtains and an outreached stump of a hand, enveloped Robyn — who’s given name is Robin Carlsson — in a cloud-like environment. After a weekend of uncooperative weather, the Swedish artist was an angel sent to bless an audience with upbeat, impossible-to-not-dance songs.
Robyn exuded an infectious energy, which trickled into every audience member — whether it manifested in foot tapping, head bopping, hands raised or all of the above.
As smoke billowed on stage, Robyn’s blissful voice echoed through the speakers as she began her set with “Send to Robin Immediately,” a song off her 2018 album, “Honey.” Festival-goers cheered, waiting for her to make her appearance on stage. She launched into an hour-long segment of house music, an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
Accompanied by a graceful dancer, Robyn shimmied and sashayed on stage, her audience following her rhythm. When she performed her classic songs — “Dancing On My Own,” “Missing U” and “Call Your Girlfriend” — no one was dancing alone.
Her performance was a culmination of everything the weekend had to offer. Her set was brimming with energy, ending the 14th annual Pitchfork in the best way and leaving attendees counting down the days until they can again dance to their favorite artists live.
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