Once a year, the best current indie acts gather at Union Park in Chicago for the three day music festival put on by the online music magazine, Pitchfork. The self proclaimed, “Most Trusted Voice in Music,” assembled a diverse lineup that rivals some of the biggest festivals. Out of every great act, these sets stood out among the rest as the best at Pitchfork 2018.
Julien Baker always brings an emotional show wherever she goes. Her passionate and delicate set tackles heavy topics that many can associate with. Having experienced her set multiple times, I have come to notice a similar face on every audience member. A solemn, sombre, and prayerful expression unveils the true emotion of those who witness the concert.
Next to make the list is Courtney Barnett. The 30 year old Australian singer songwriter took the stage to an eager crowd who just wanted to hear her rock out for her whole set. Her apathetic vocal style and rock and roll guitars make for a unique sound that most enjoy.
I don’t even know where to begin with Tame Impala. Tame impala has been pushing the definition of Neo-Psychedelic music since their release of Currents in 2015. Their set heavily embraced the psychedelic nature of their sound with a trippy light show with lasers, projections, and beautiful motion graphics on three giant LED screens.
Front man, Kevin Kevin Parker, led the band by delivering an energy filled set that left the audience wanting more. I fed off of his energy while being surrounded in a sonic tidal wave.
Day two was by far my favorite. Zola Jesus started the day off with an eerie and almost frighting set. Her stage presence accompanied by her unique vocal style kept the festival goers on edge. Common themes of grief and pain echoed her style well and drove her point home through the music.
Moses Sumney is always a crowd favorite on the festival circuit. His beautiful falsetto and peaceful instrumentation hypnotizes all that see his show. Moses is joined on stage with his talented touring multi-instrumentalists. They seem to pick up a new instrument every song giving the set a fresh and new sound throughout the whole set.
Raphael Saadiq’s fresh R’nB sound gave all of us just a little more soul. Although I was pretty unfamiliar his music, I found myself dancing and singing along like he was my absolute favorite artist. I was incredibly impressed by his backing band who never missed a beat to his ad-libbing and improvisation.
The War on Drugs. Holy smokes. These dudes really know how to rock. From screaming guitar solos, to soft and emotional ballads, The War on Drugs preforms a wonderful medley of timeless rock-n-roll that feels fresh yet also nostalgic. Based off of the audience’s reception, they were a fan favorite. I would argue one that they had one of the strongest sets of Pitchfork 2k18.
Although Fleet Foxes had a closed pit for their show, I was able to snag an iPhone photo of frontman Robin Pecknold singing their beautiful song “Oliver James” as a short requested encore from the fans. Fleet Foxes never fail to amaze me with their complex song structure, difficult harmony arrangements, and their genuinely unique folk sound. What amazes me even more is their ability to flawlessly execute their sound in a live setting that not only does their recorded work justice, but adds a wonderful visual element into the mix.
Day three brought an incredible mix of newer bands to the festival grounds. Japanese Breakfast brought the entirety of the festival’s attendance to the smallest stage. Their alt-pop vibe resonated extremely well with the audience making for an energy filled set full of dancing and jumping. I haven’t stopped spinning their music since the festival.
Noname, the moniker of poet and songwriter Fatimah Nyeema Warner, blends carefully crafted rap lyrics with incredibly involved jazz and RnB instrumentation. Noname’s anthem is to bring attention and change to our countries current problems of inequality and capitalism. Her rage-filled political set called all to arms to bring change to this country.
The final best set of Pitchfork goes to Japandroids. This Alt-Rock duo from Vancouver was the hardest set of pitchfork. Their ear-drum piercing guitars and thunderous drums caused a riot in the crowd. Having not heard of Japandroids before their set, I was amazed to see this band on the Pitchfork lineup and not on Warped Tour or something along those lines. Although their sound was unexpected, I had such a great time thrashing around and moshing with the rest of the attendees.
Pitchfork Music Festival was by far my favorite festival experience to date. The camaraderie, openness, and love from all in attendance created a safe atmosphere where everyone could have a great time. The sheer amount of amazing music made for an incredible weekend. I hope to be able to attend again next year! See below for a full gallery of the weekend!