Recap : Pitchfork Festival | Union Park, Chicago, IL | July 18th – 20th, 2014

After battling car trouble and visiting the best mechanic in Gary, we made it to Union Park just in time to catch Giorgio Moroder, the legendary Italian composer and producer of many disco era hits. He greeted the crowd with a big smile saying, “My name is Giovanni Giorgio, but you can call me Giorgio,” echoing what he says on the track “Giorgio by Moroder” on Daft Punk’s 2013 release Random Access Memories. Moroder carried the enthusiastic Pitchfork audience through a journey of some of the songs he wrote, produced or helped create, from “I Feel Love” to “Take My Breath Away.”

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Those in the crowd who were unfamiliar with his work were overheard commenting during his set:

“I love this guy. He’s so old. It’s amazing.”

“I feel like I’m watching my grandpa.”

“He’s actually not a DJ. He’s a composer, but just like, really famous.”

Giorgio thanked the crowd for their support and we prepared for the Friday headliner: Beck.

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Having never seen Beck, we were excited to see the unique songwriter and performer. The Scientologist rocker did not disappoint, opening up with the classic hit “Devil’s Haircut” followed by a variety of songs from his entire discography. After grabbing his acoustic guitar and playing some of his ‘softer’ material such as “Lost Cause,” Beck brought the energy level back up by paying homage to Giorgio Moroder with a cover of the Donna Summer hit “I Feel Love,” which Moroder had just played during his set.

The next morning, we enjoyed some much needed rest and brunch, and headed to the park early so we could capture the second day in its entirety. Our day of music started by catching the last half of a set by Brooklyn rapper Ka. His lyrics and presence are distinctly different from the ‘turn up’ style of the other hip hop acts who performed at this year’s festival.

Next on our agenda was Wild Beasts, a British band whose music provided an appropriately chill soundtrack to the early part of a warm and sunny Saturday.

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We ventured back to the Red Stage to see Cloud Nothings, which was originally a fake band created by lead singer and songwriter Dylan Baldi. The indie rock outfit from Cleveland rocked the stage with their straightforward, crisp post-punk sound, with drummer Jayson Gerycz acting like Animal from the Muppets.

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In an unprecedented move, rapper Pusha T arrived to the stage over 30 minutes late, but the crowd was quick to forgive him once his DJ started up. While running through his well-known tracks and feature verses, he followed the typical hip hop performance template of performing one-verse versions of tracks and repeatedly reminding everyone to make some noise. The mob of young females in mom jorts illuminated from their fascination with the former Clipse rapper.

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We headed over to see one of our most-anticipated shows of the weekend, tUnE-yArDs, the quirky project led by singer Merrill Garbus. I’m not sure why they use the alternating capital letters in their name, or where she got the hat Marty wore in Back to the Future II, or who did their makeup, but they put on an electric performance that had the crowd in a frenzy. Despite their appearance and sound, the lyrics are deeper than they might first appear. Songs such as Sink-O cover the broad topics such as ‘peace and love,’ though in a way that one would probably not expect. Garbus and the rest of the band delivered an incredibly enthusiastic performance that featured lots of fun, dancing, neon and wacky stage antics.

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We ventured over to the shaded Blue Stage to catch Kelela. Early in her set, she was thanking the crowd and acknowledging her being humbled by their presence and enthusiasm. She then sang original, chilling lyrics over the instrumental to the Jay-Z/Rick Ross track “F&%k With Me You Know I Got It.”

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Next on the Green Stage was Detroit native Danny Brown, the comical, light-hearted yet lyrically talented rapper. His DJ hyped up the crowd with a pre-show mini set of popular trap rap tracks before Danny came out, tongue sticking out and hair dyed green. He led the crowd through an energetic set of favorites such as “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” and “I Will.”

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While waiting to hear the next act, the highly anticipated performance from St. Vincent, we people watched for a bit as everyone shifted from stage to stage. In my opinion, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark was one of the most talent performers at this year’s Pitchfork Festival. She truly has everything a performer wants to have: beauty, dance moves, an incredible stage presence, a great voice and some sick guitar skills. One song featured elements of “Shout,” the pop classic from the 80’s synth pop group Tears For Fears. While our photographer headed to the next photo pit, I chatted with a group of cool folks for a few minutes, discussing our fondness for St. Vincent. The guy with whom I was chatting noticed my press credential and asked who we wrote for. I told him, “My Old Kentucky Blog,” and he responded by telling me that he religiously listens to @MyOldKYBlog Blog Radio show on Sirius XMU radio. Thanks for the conversation and kind words, and keep listening!

To wrap up the day, I headed back to the Blue Stage to meet up with our Ace with the Canon and catch part of FKA Twigs. New to me and fairly new to the scene, the London-based former dancer has a soulful, spacey and mystical style that somewhat resembles trip hop, but is also difficult to perfectly describe. Twigs, aka Tahliah Barnett, has a gorgeous voice and I’m hoping to get the chance to see her again in a smaller, indoor venue. Perhaps we’ll see MOKB bring her to Indy?

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Our third and final day started under a cloud of fatigue while catching the San Francisco-based post-metal group Deafheaven. This band is intense all around, from lead singer George Clarke’s piercing stares to their dynamic sounds that range from shoegazey mellowness to black metal screams.

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Next, we headed over to catch the quirky rapper Earl Sweatshirt. Clearly a part of the younger generation of rappers who have embraced an entirely different style from their hip hop forefathers, Earl instructed the crowd to sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” before beginning his set. He referred to his DJ as his “school shooter” and went into his song “Kill,” perhaps not the classiest of moves but the crowd grew even more hyped. After pointing out an unassuming person in the crowd he jokingly called “Brett,” he went into the song “Molasses” and had the crowd singing along to the hook. I laughed as people even older than me sat and watched Earl’s set.

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Next, we wandered back over to the Blue Stage to catch the pop rock sounds of Dum Dum Girls. They clearly have drawn inspiration from the punk era, as their name borrows from both The Vaselines and Iggy Pop. Their sound had me wondering if they may have some influence from the early work of the B-52s. We caught a few minutes of their set and headed back over to the Red Stage.

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I made my debut in the photo pit for Schoolboy Q, aka the ‘Man of the Year.’ His performance energy was top notch, constantly moving around the stage and keeping the crowd’s attention the entire time.

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We then walked over to wait for Real Estate. It seemed like there were some sound issues at first, as the audio was at a much lower level than the other acts, but they nonetheless sounded great. More on the mellow side of things compared to their co-performers at Pitchfork, Real Estate has recently gained my attention following their 2014 release, Atlas. Their sound is somewhat of a pleasant psychedelic affair, and mildly reminiscent of fellow New Jersey-ans, Yo La Tengo. Their set included a cover of The Nerves’ song, “Paper Dolls.”

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Our Pitchfork 2014 experience concluded with the one and only Grimes. The female crowd at Union Park flocked to the stage to see their indie pop hero, and she performed with non-stop high energy. One can only assume that her pink leg warmers were specifically intended to support the aerobics-like performance that was filled with dancing by Grimes as well as her Jazzercise backup dancers. While she sipped something from a coffee mug on stage, I could only think one thing: she needs more energy? Simply put, Grimes killed it, frantically turning effects knobs on her keyboard synths, rarely pausing for a break.

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Pitchfork 2014 was another one for the books, and we look forward to returning to Chicago for the festival in 2015!

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