7 Unforgettable Sets from Pitchfork 2016

By: Seth Johnson
Photos: Berto Campos

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We sent writer Seth Johnson and photographer Roberto Campos to cover Pitchfork Music Festival over the weekend. Here’s a roundup of what they liked most.

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Anderson Paak

Although his set overlapped with Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds set, Anderson Paak brought it on Saturday night, treating fans to several selections from his excellent 2016 album, Malibu. From one song to the next, Paak had an irresistible energy reminiscent of fellow California rapper Kendrick Lamar (who’s apparently a fan of Paak). Unlike Lamar, however, Paak is also a skilled singer and drummer, which makes his live show an absolute treat.

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Beach House

Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally closed out an unusually chilly July day in Union Park with a perfect set of tunes from the entirety of their career. From “Sparks” to “Walk In The Park,” the Baltimore duo captivated a field full of fans, even bringing some to tears. In particular, Legrand made a valiant point of speaking to the modern state of our world, saying, “Love is the key word, and fear is the bad word.”

Broken Social Scene

It’s not often that Broken Social Scene tours. But when they do, they make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. With this Friday set, Kevin Drew and company stayed true to form, flooding the festival with a massive wall of glorious sound. In addition to classics like “7/4 Shoreline,” “Cause = Time,” and “Fire Eye’d Boy,” Broken Social Scene also gave fans a taste of their forthcoming record, which has yet to receive a release date.

Kamasi Washington

Sunday was a day full of grooves at Pitchfork, with sets from Holy Ghost!, Miguel, Neon Indian, Thundercat and more. Out of all of these, I was anticipating Kamasi Washington most, simply based on the strength of his 2015 triple-album, The Epic. As expected, Kamasi did not disappoint, lighting up the stage with his phenomenal band of jazz wizards. To make things even cooler, the saxophonist even invited his dad up on stage to play a song with him too.

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Despite an early lineup slot, Porches were able to get Sunday off to an appropriately dance-y start, playing a set that consisted mostly of songs from their 2016 gem, Pool. During the set, Dev Hynes (a.k.a. Blood Orange) came up on stage and joined Aaron Maine on vocals for a song, putting the cherry on top of an overall awesome set.

Later on in the evening, Porches also impressed at a sold-out Empty Bottle after show that featured Bloomington’s Hoops and Chicago’s Varsity as opening acts.

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Sufjan Stevens

In typical Sufjan Stevens fashion, this set was an elaborate, all-encompassing experience that featured costumes, dancers, lights and more. Despite the recent release of his somber 2015 album, Carrie & Lowell, Stevens packed the set with upbeat tunes, too, including several from The Age of Adz. To cap off the night, the beloved indie icon closed out with a cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” sending crowds off into the Chicago streets wishing they could’ve had even more.

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Like many, my ears have been taken hostage by Whitney’s marvelous debut album, Light Upon the Lake. After seeing the band at Culture Shock in Bloomington, Ind., I knew they’d be great live, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, they even brought out a string quartet for the final four songs of their set, making their gleaming pop songs that much more enchanting.

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